Black Box (later Blackbox) was a house music group popular in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The members of the group included a trio made up of a club DJ (Daniele Davoli), a classically trained clarinet teacher (Valerio Semplici), and a keyboard and electronic music "wiz" (Mirko Limoni). The three had previously joined to form a group called Groove Groove Melody, producing dance music under names such as Starlight (who had a UK Top 20 hit in January 1990 with "Numero Uno") and Wood Allen. They went on to record music under many other aliases, most notably the alias Mixmaster, which scored a UK #9 hit in November 1990 with the song "Grand Piano".
In 1989, the trio teamed up with singer/model Catherine Quinol (a.k.a. Katrin) and formed Black Box. By early 1990, Martha Wash was engaged to perform vocals on a number of tracks which, Ms. Wash was apparently told, were for club consumption and were not for mass-release. One would be "Everybody Everybody" which would become one of their two top-ten hits in North America. The album Dreamland was released.
The first single "Ride on Time" was an international hit, making Top 10 in many countries and No. 1 in the UK, soon becoming the UK's best-selling single of 1989. The song heavily sampled "Love Sensation" by Loleatta Holloway, a 1980 disco hit. The Black Box title is derived from a misunderstanding of the lyrics "Cause you're right on time".
Dan Hartman's permission was not sought for the sampling of the vocals to his song and soon after the international success of "Ride on Time," questions arose as to the true vocalist on the song. Legal proceedings revealed that Loleatta Holloway actually sang the vocals on "Ride on Time" from the "Love Sensation" samples and Black Box surrendered a large percentage of the royalties from the song to Dan Hartman and Loleatta Holloway. The song eventually did make it onto the Dreamland album when it was released later in 1990 as well as the Hits and Mixes compilation, and numerous other compilations. A new version of the track with vocals by Heather Small appeared solely as a single. Subsequent releases, as well as the album tracks, also featured a then-uncredited Martha Wash as vocalist. Quinol lip-synched the vocals in "live" performances and in music videos. Martha Wash sued Black Box, RCA and then C+C Music Factory for performing vocals on their respective songs and not receiving due credit. These legal actions led to the legal recognition of vocalists who perform songs for other artists, including samplings. Wash received full vocal credit upon the single release of "Strike It Up", but the music video still featured Quinol lip synching the lyrics.
A megamix featuring cuts already released and entitled "The Total Mix" performed well in the charts towards the end of 1990. Various minor hits followed in the UK throughout the decade. In America, they are best remembered for their early '90s singles "Everybody Everybody", "I Don't Know Anybody Else", and "Strike It Up", their biggest hit in the United States, where all three of their hits are still heard on rhythmic radio and in clubs on a fairly regular basis to this day. They were also featured in two Jock Jams albums respectively.
Black Box remains one of the few piano-house groups to reach success. Dreamland earned a gold disc in both the UK and the US and achieved double-platinum status in Australia where it spent eight weeks at #1 during early 1991. Along the way, it also spawned six massive hit singles, both on the mainstream charts and in the clubs.
Black Box is now widely considered to be the major single force to instigate the digital remastering of the Salsoul Records catalogue (which began in the early 1990s and has led to an entire British website devoted to an extensive catalogue of vintage Salsoul albums, remix compilations, and rare/unreleased material). It is highly unlikely this work would have proceeded without the public interest sparked by the success of "Ride on Time".
Dreamland was the debut album of Italo house band Black Box. It was released in May 1990, and was preceded in 1989 by the international hit single, "Ride On Time". The album was certified gold in both the U.S. and the U.K..
When the album was originally released, the credits listed the band members as Mirko Limoni, Valerio Semplici, and Daniele Davoli (as the producers, songwriters and musicians), as well as Katrin Quinol on vocals. "Ride On Time" had been released as a single prior to the album's release, and musician Dan Hartman and vocalist Loleatta Holloway had threatened to sue Black Box, as well as label RCA Records, claiming that the song contained heavy sampling of an earlier recording by the two (the 1980 #1 dance club hit "Love Sensation"), although no credit had been given to them upon the release of the single. Subsequently, Hartman was given songwriting credit for this track, and Holloway was listed as the featured vocalist prior to the relase of the album. However, American R&B vocalist Martha Wash actually sang the lead vocals on six of the other eight tracks on the album, although she was not credited in any way. The songs sung by Wash were: "Everybody Everybody"; "I Don't Know Anybody Else"; "Open Your Eyes"; "Fantasy"; "Hold On"; and "Strike It Up". Many of these songs were released as singles and achieved significant success on radio airplay and dance club charts across the world. Wash claimed in a lawsuit filed soon after the success of the album's release that she was paid a flat fee as a "session singer" to record demos of the tracks that would eventually appear on the album, but that those songs would be re-recorded with a different vocalist. She reached a settlement with RCA Records that led to her recording contract with the label, as well as an undisclosed monetary compensation. Wash's courtroom efforts spurred legislation in the U.S. making vocal credits mandatory on albums and music videos.