Following on from the success of ‘Paul Parker – The Definitive Collection’ comes the first ever compilation of music from Fantasia Records. Comprising a double album plus bonus disc packed full of classic tracks and rarities this is truly the Definitive Collection of the 80's Hi-NRG label!
Fantasia Records is a dance music label owned by producer and songwriter Ian Anthony Stephens, who has written and produced records for disco divas Hazell Dean, Madleen Kane and Kelly Marie. Achieving success in the mid 1980's the label also worked with artists such as Paul Parker, Marianna, and The Flirtations!
Ian Anthony Stephens came to London in 1982 to pursue his dream of becoming a record producer, selling his house in Durham and investing the funds into his future career. Once in the capital, the first record he worked on was Cheri Lewis’ ‘I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself’, a cover of the Burt Bacharach classic. Anne Plaxton, who went on to work with Ian through successive labels Passion Records and Klone, released the track on Creole Records in 1982! Having had his first taste of producing success he then went on to write and record his first song ‘Searchin’ (I Gotta Find A Man)’. Teaming up with Proto Records for this release gave Ian his biggest UK hit making the UK top 10! The song was originally planned for Kelly Marie but her complicated contractual obligations meant this wasn't possible so Ian approached Hazell Dean to record ‘Searchin’’. He considered Dean’s voice to be similar to Marie’s and was a fan of her 70’s disco records.
Originally released in June 1983 the song meandered around the lower reaches of the charts, but a re-release the following year catapulted it to a UK number 6 with an estimated quarter of a million sales! The song was crafted at London’s Scorpio Sound studios in the Euston Tower, which later became the home of Capitol Radio. Keyboards were performed by session musician Winston Sela, who continued to work with Stephens on many follow-up compositions and is co-writer on Gina Lamour's ‘I’m Gonna Make You Want Me’. The keyboards on "Searchin'" took two days to track, whilst the vocals only took a couple of hours, and the mix was produced in the same session! Working through the night, the released mix of ‘Searchin’’ was never meant to be the final version but the label loved it just as it was! Stephens later revisited the song, remixing it with top London-based DJ Ian Levine!
Ian’s next move led him to Passion Records and Norma Lewis for the follow-up composition ‘Catch Me’. More contractual difficulties meant that Norma’s artist name couldn’t be used. Passion suggested recording it with Marsha Raven but having already tried out the song with Hazell Dean and Jill Saward Ian was reluctant to record another vocal on the song. A compromise was reached, Norma's vocal was retained but Marsha would front ‘Catch Me’ and in 1983 Passion Records proceeded to release it. Marsha recorded a follow-up single ‘False Alarm’ as well as two other previously unreleased tracks, one of which ‘SOS’ appears on this collection for the first time ever! Having been a fan of soul group The Flirtations Ian was delighted to work with them on his next single ‘Earthquake’, which itself was later to be remixed by Almighty!
Ian continued to write and produce throughout the early 80’s, which led to a meeting with vocalist Paul Parker at the famous Embassy club in London. The two collaborated on a large catalogue of music, much of which is available on the Fantasia album ‘Paul Parker – The Definitive Collection’. First single ‘Desire’ was released on Technique Records in 1984, a joint venture with Passion handling the record’s distribution. This gave Ian his first experience of running his own record label, which would lead onto the creation of Fantasia Records. Paul’s partner Ken Cravello initially helped set up the label and established links within the industry.
Ian started his own label due to a growing desire to have more control over what he wanted to release, the style of music he wanted to pursue, and the financial benefits that would come with this. Licensing music to other labels had proved profitable in the case of big hits, but tracks with less significant success would often be left by the wayside with nothing to show for the work put in. The name Fantasia was suggested by a friend, with Ian using it as an artist pseudonym for his release of ‘Evergreen’, originally produced for Hazell Dean. Andrew Christian designed the iconic flower logo, with the purpose of creating something that would ‘still look good in 20 years time’ – an objective that has been realised with the stunning artwork for this 2014 release. The first release on Fantasia was Paul Parker’s ‘Don’t Play With Fire’ backed with ‘Without Your Love’.
During the mid 80’s Ian spent a lot of time in America producing Paul Parker, which led him meeting artists including Marianna, Pamala Stanley, Jo-Lo and Linda Imperial with whom he would work on further Fantasia releases. The label also went on to work with Kevin Power, Robin Wright and even the future voice of Obsession’s first releases Amanda Abbs! Many of these tracks remained unreleased before the compilation of this album.
Throughout his career Ian was never afraid to experiment, trying out many vocalists on the same song and producing alternate mixes to those that were released. Disc three of this album features such alternate versions as The Flirtations take on Kit Rolfe’s ‘One More Hurt’, which itself was also a hit for Paul Parker.
Because of the conflict between the creative side of making music and the realities of running a business, Ian decided to fold the label in 1988. He continued producing under the Fantasia banner till the 90's. There has been no compilation of Fantasia Records until now, with this album being the first complete collection of its kind!
Highlights of this album include the original 12” mixes of mega hits ‘Searchin’ (I Gotta Find A Man)’ by Hazell Dean and ‘Desire’ by Paul Parker, The Midnight Shift’s ‘Stop Me Now’, as well as ‘SOS’ by Marsha Raven which is exclusive to this compilation!
Further stand-out tracks are Stephens’ compositions ‘Spellbound’ by Kelly Marie, ‘Eathquake’ by The Flirtations, and ‘Temptation’ by Hazell Dean!
The tracks for this album have been taken from the original tapes and meticulously remastered for a superior sound quality, with many having never before appeared on CD! 'Ian Anthony Stephens Presents: Fantasia Records - The Definitive Collection [Volume 1]' is an unmissable treat for all fans of Hi-NRG and 80’s dance music!