Funk with a dash of old school soul, a hint of Latin percussion, and a pinch of jazz: that recipe results in "All the Way Live," Lakeside's breakthrough 1978 hit. Members of the Ohio funk wave of the late 1970s, Lakeside is forever connected to hip hop through their classic "Fantastic Voyage." Yet their second album yielded this irresistible single featuring popping bass, an unusual drum beat, impeccable harmonies, and lead vocalist Mark Woods' gritty vocals.
Lakeside's roots trace back to 1969, when guitarist Stephen Shockley formed the group the Young Underground in Ohio. Woods, who had previously been with another local group, joined Shockley. First renaming themselves Lakeside Express (after the Chicago newspaper), by 1974 the name "Express" was dropped from the group. At this point they had also gained a crucial member: Fred Alexander, Jr., a drummer who had played with rival group Liquid Funk. Now based in Los Angeles, Lakeside first signed with Motown, but soon left the label; next they released a single through ABC Records, but the company failed. Their big break came when they met Dick Griffey, founder of Solar Records. After signing them to his label, he wisely paired the group with producer Leon Sylvers for their Solar debut, 1979's Shot of Love. The mix of funk and ballads propelled Shot of Love to number ten on the Billboard R&B charts, with the single "It's All the Way Live" peaking at number four on the R&B singles chart.
By this time, the classic Lakeside lineup was established: bassist Marvin Craig, Alexander, percussionist Fred Lewis, Shockley, keyboardist Norman Beavers, guitarist/multi-instrumentalist and lead vocalist Otis Stokes,Woods, and background vocalists Tiemeyer McCain and Thomas Shelby. The album also kicked off a memorable Lakeside trademark: dressing in elaborate costumes for the cover. Shot of Love found the band members in Robin Hood-type garb, bows and arrows poised to fell their enemies.
Primarily written by Alexander, "It's All the Way Live" derives from a drum pattern he played during rehearsals and soundchecks. The drum beat immediately draws the listener's interest, enticing him or her to the dance floor. Once establishing the steady beat, the song next brings in the slapping bass, guitars, and spacey keyboards, with the band harmonizing on the title phrase. Woods briefly takes over on lead vocal, inviting fans to join the fun: "If you wanna party / Come on in and party hearty," he rasps. The rest of the group joins in, singing the unexpected, jazz-tinged chord changes: "Where the people get together / And don't care about the weather." The entire group then delivers the song's key line (and arguably a Lakeside motto): "We're proud to say 'Welcome to the party.'"
Perhaps hinting that the group members were George Clinton enthusiasts, the deep chanting and grunting of the line "Huh, it's live, it's all the way live" (as well as the loose jamming feel of the track) recalls P-Funk classics such as "Up for the Downstroke," "Hit It and Quit It," and "One Nation Under A Groove." In the bridge, Lewis introduces yet another element to the track: Latin percussion. The song does contain disco elements, particularly with the lyric "All you wanna do is boogie / When the music's in the groove." Yet its intricate arrangement, unusual chord changes, and perfectly blended harmonies suggest a level of sophistication not always present in late 1970s dance music.
While "It's All the Way Live" and the Shot of Love album performed well, the followup Rough Riders failed to capitalize on their newfound success. However, they would regain their groove through 1980's Fantastic Voyage, which featured both the title track and the romantic yet danceable "Your Love Is on the One." The road grew bumpier after that, but Lakeside had already established themselves as one of the premier funk bands to emerge from Ohio, right alongside the Ohio Players, Slave, and Zapp. "Fantastic Voyage" remains an important single in the history of hip hop, but "It's All the Way Live" plays a significant part in funk's long story.