Sunday, December 30, 2007

BBC Radio 2: Classic Singles - I Feel Love



Listen: BBC Radio 2: Classic Singles - I Feel Love


Just a couple of things to acknowledge before 2007 draws to a close. First of all, Donna Summer, the Queen of Disco herself turns, believe it or not, 59 on the 31st. Although some of her fans on the message boards out there might fuss about her weight and her wigs lately and, perhaps rightly, lament her recent snub by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame; by all accounts, at nearly 60, the lady still sounds remarkable in concert. Not to mention, if there was ever a poster girl for "black don't crack," she'd be it.

Secondly, although I'm around eight months late for this, her seminal classic, one of the most iconic Summer/Moroder/Bellotte compositions, "I Feel Love" also turned 30 this year.. Although it was an anniversary that went relatively unacknowledged, its influence certainly has not. Reportedly called "the sound of the future" by Brian Eno upon hearing it for the first time, "I Feel Love" was one of the touchstones of not only disco, or even Donna Summer's career, but of the pop music landscape in general. Along with all the other groundbreaking electronic records of its time, its success seemingly opened the floodgates for all manner of electronic experimentation (and imitation) on the dancefloor and beyond, solidifying the legacy of its producer Giorgio Moroder, perhaps just as much, if not moreso than Donna herself. Arguably much of what could be considered 'electronic music' today owes a debt to its legacy...

Released in May 1977 and included on Donna's "I Remember Yesterday" (1977, Casablanca) LP, "I Feel Love" was, in my opinion, the one shining moment on what was likely the weakest of Donna's otherwise excellent string of disco concept albums. Although not necessarily a bad album, one couldn't help but feel that the whole time travel/nostalgia concept probably sounded much better on paper than on record. Between the cover and its unflattering deer-in-headlights photo of Donna, and a largely unconvincing mish-mash of disco styled nostalgia, "I Feel Love," the album's 'song of the future', with its powerful, pulsing sensuality, placed right at the end of the record, effectively obliterated everything else..

Granted, most people reading this are likely well aware of its significance, so consider this a little bit of preaching to the coverted, so to speak.. However, in honour of its 30th anniversary, I thought this might be a good opportunity to put up the audio from the Classic Singles documentary on "I Feel Love" by the good people at BBC Radio 2. The broadcast, which originally aired November 2005 (which I'd been holding on to ever since), runs approximately 30 minutes and gives what is probably one of the most recent and comprehensive overviews/tributes to this song that I know of. Hosted by the one and only Alison Goldfrapp, herself no stranger to the Moroder influence, the program runs like a documentary on not only the influence and making of "I Feel Love" itself, but also of Giorgio and his evolution as a producer up to that point.

Although not nearly as detailed and in-depth as Radio 2's "The Record Producers" doc on Nile Rodgers from nearly a year ago, they manage to cover a good bit of ground in its 30 minutes, with much of the program being devoted to Giorgio speaking in his own words. Although unfortunately Donna herself didn't take part in it, they included some choice confessionals from the likes of Jimmy Sommerville, Debbie Harry and the Scissor Sisters' Ana Matronic, who manages to sneak in the best quote in the whole thing. I'm sure they could have easily gone an entire hour, but even within the 30 minutes, Giorgio still manages to shed some light on some pretty interesting points regarding the making of "I Feel Love" and his own feelings about its influence..

Although it has been argued that Giorgio could have had anyone sing "I Feel Love" and made it a hit, given the feel of Donna's essential yet often dismissed vocal stamp combined with her immense popularity at the time, it's doubtful whether any other combination could have made quite the same impact or created the same magic. Although not among her most explicit, "I Feel Love" still remains one of Donna's sexiest moments on record, with the effortlessly sensual caress of her voice providing the perfect counterpoint to the cool, mechanical precision of the music. Aside from groundbreaking, it's nonetheless a wonderfully sublime moment of shiny, glittering electro-eroticism; the hypnotic, throbbing pulse of its unforgettable bassline resonating today, just as it did thirty years ago.

Also, just in case anyone's in need of additional visual aid after all that, here's a wonderful vintage live performance of "I Feel Love," complete with synths and robot dance:




Donna Summer - I Feel Love (Live)
Uploaded by DonnaSummerVEVO


..and here's yet another, more recent (and more polished) live performance from her 1999 VH-1 "Live & More..Encore" special:




Donna Summer - I Feel Love (Live & More..Encore! - 1999)
Uploaded by EndlessDonna


PREVIOUS RELATED ENTRIES:
DISCO DELIVERY #40: MUNICH MACHINE - A WHITER SHADE OF PALE (1978, CASABLANCA) (SUNDAY APRIL 29, 2007)
BBC RADIO 2 - THE RECORD PRODUCERS: NILE RODGERS (SATURDAY JANUARY 6, 2007)
NEW DEAL FOR DONNA (THURSDAY AUGUST 3, 2006)
DISCO DELIVERY #14: SUZI LANE - OOH LA LA (1979, ELEKTRA) (SATURDAY APRIL 8, 2006)
DISCO DELIVERY #5: GIORGIO MORODER - FROM HERE TO ETERNITY (1977, OASIS/CASABLANCA) (FRIDAY FEBRUARY 3, 2006)
DONNA SUMMER - I GOT YOUR LOVE (MONDAY JANUARY 16, 2006)

PURCHASE:

DONNA SUMMER - THE DANCE COLLECTION CD (INCLUDES 'I FEEL LOVE' 12'' VERSION)
CD UNIVERSE | AMAZON.CO.UK | AMAZON.COM

DONNA SUMMER - BAD GIRLS (DELUXE EDITION) (2 CD) (INCLUDES 'I FEEL LOVE' 12'' VERSION)
AMAZON.COM | CD UNIVERSE

LINKS:
DONNA SUMMER TRIBUTE SITE
DONNA SUMMER - I FEEL LOVE @ WIKIPEDIA
DONNA SUMMER - I FEEL LOVE 12'' @ DISCOGS
DONNA SUMMER - I FEEL LOVE (PATRICK COWLEY REMIX) 12'' @ DISCOGS
DONNA SUMMER - I FEEL LOVE (PATRICK COWLEY REMIX) 12'' @ DISCOMUSIC.COM
DONNA SUMMER - I FEEL LOVE (REVIEW) @ ALL MUSIC GUIDE
DONNA SUMMER - FEEL LOVE @ ROLLING STONE
DONNA SUMMER - I REMEMBER YESTERDAY LP @ DISCOGS
DONNA SUMMER - I REMEMBER YESTERDAY LP (REVIEW) @ WARR.ORG
GIORGIO MORODER @ WIKIPEDIA
GIORGIO MORODER INTERVIEWS
GIORGIO MORODER @ ALL MUSIC GUIDE
AND WE DANCED - I FEEL LOVE
SONGFACTS - I FEEL LOVE

CATEGORIES: MINI DELIVERIES, ARTICLES & RAMBLINGS, INTERVIEWS, DISCO NEWS, VISUAL DISCO

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas!

Photobucket Photobucket

Montreal Sound - Silent Night Suite (1977, NSB/Promo-Son)

With Christmas being the most disco-fied holiday of them all, I couldn't possibly let this year go by without putting up some Christmas disco. After all, if I'm going to hear another damn Christmas carol this year, might as well make it disco..

This years selection is from a rather interesting Canadian disco album by Montreal Sound, entitled "Christmas Disco Party." Montreal Sound, perhaps best known for their single "Music", was largely a guise for producer Gerry Bribosia. Bribosia was a pretty well traveled musician/producer in Quebec who had been in a group called Les Miserables and as far as disco goes, had released some singles under his own name. One of those was a little novelty record called "Dracula Disco," which also involved (at least in it's French version) a popular (and these days infamous) Montreal DJ and TV personality, Alain Montpetit.

This record though was apparently a pretty big deal, with the album credits noting: "this album took six months of work and more than 400 hours of studio time". Among the 60 different musicians involved, the album also featured some notable Quebec singers such as Charles Linton, Raymond Berthiaume, Suzanne Beausoleil and Ranee Lee on lead vocals. In addition to all that, this album had evidently been released under at least two other editions, in French as "Noël Disco" and in English as "Canadian Christmas," which also used a different album cover (which nonetheless also involved a sexy, blonde model cavorting with a hilarious fake-bearded Santa)..You can view the cover shots of the initial release here and here

Although I initially bought the album just for the awesome, cheese-tastic cover, the album's actually grown on me somewhat over the last week. Of all of the songs though, my favourite would have to be the Side Two opener "Silent Night Suite" featuring Ranee Lee on lead vocals who begins the song with a brief, but expressive, soulful vocal that immediately sets this one apart from all the others. Overall, it's a rather nice respite from the overly bright, overly cheery sort of thing one would normally associate with a Christmas disco record. Not that it isn't all of those things in it's own right, but with Ranee Lee's vocals setting the stage among the exquisite orchestration, and the track bring largely instrumental, there's a slightly gentler, even sublime pace and feel to it, which is especially evident on the nice "Ave Maria" in the middle of the medley..

Both producer Gerry Bribosia and Ranee Lee are still active these days, with Bribosia still active on the studio side of things, and Ranee Lee having become one of Canada's top jazz vocalists. Still recording, performing and even teaching, Lee became a member of the Order of Canada, Canada's highest civilian honour, in 2006.

Anyway, with all of that said, enjoy, and to everyone out there: Merry Christmas and happy holidays all around..

LINKS:
MONTREAL SOUND @ DISCOGS
CANADIAN POP ENCYCLOPEDIA - GERRY BRIBOSIA
GERRY BRIBOSIA @ DISCOGS
RANEE LEE @ ALL MUSIC GUIDE
JUSTIN TIME RECORDS - RANEE LEE

CATEGORIES: MINI DELIVERIES, CAN-CON DISCO

Friday, December 21, 2007

Disco Delivery #49:
Grand Tour - On Such A Winter's Day (1977, Butterfly/RCA)



Grand Tour - The Grand Tour
Grand Tour - Let's Go Boating
Grand Tour - Still I'm Sad
Grand Tour - Flight From Versailles
Grand Tour - Late November
Grand Tour - California Dreamin'


Updated and re-uploaded 1/15/09

I had originally gotten a few requests to cover this back in June, when I had posted about Guenther/Morrison's excellent Southern Exposure LP. Given the feel and the title of the album, plus the fact that it was the beginning of summer at the time, not to mention also that I didn't really have a decent copy of it then, it never really became a priority at the time. Now that it's December and close to Christmas, with the season much more in tune with the mood and the music of this album, I figured now would be a much better moment for this..

The disco off of this album, in so far as one could classify it as typically so, is perhaps the sort of disco that's unlikely to be trendy these days.. For one thing, it's a fairly moody record; no heavy, driving four-on-the-floor beats at the top of the mix; the orchestration, while extensive, isn't in the dramatic, collossal style of Costandinos nor of it's sister production THP Orchestra; there are no heavy electronics à la Moroder or Soccio, nor are there any extended bass or percussion breaks funked up and ready for harvesting.. There's just a kind of gentle, low-key approach to everything on here, with parts of the album sounding perhaps slightly MOR in that old time pop orchestra kind of way (not that that's a bad thing), and given the background of one of it's producers, perhaps slightly arty/folk-influenced in others (not that that's a bad thing, either).. Even if calling some of these tracks folksy might be stretching things a bit, this is anything but a typical disco album.

Regardless of how one approaches it, there's a sheer artistry and musical beauty to this record that's absolutely undeniable. It's just another reason why I've come to respect the work of it's producers, Toronto-based duo Ian Guenther and Willi Morrison (AKA Three Hats Productions/THP) so much.. The cover, looking like the front of a Christmas postcard paired with the overall winter mood and theme of the songs make this one of the most, if not the most conceptual disco record ever produced by Guenther and Morrison.

Given the theme and the fact that Guenther and Morrison are, at least in my mind, one of the most celebrated Can-Con Disco producers, it's no small irony that an album like this one was not recorded in Canada, but for their American label, Butterfly (as opposed to their Canadian one, RCA) in Hollywood, California (at Rinder & Lewis' home-base, Producer's Workshop), no less. It's somewhat lamentable in a way, that this wasn't recorded in Canada, since it would have made such a great mythology.. An exquisite piece of orchestral disco, recorded in the middle of a cold, grey Canadian winter, evoking the hopes, dreams, wishes and moods that such a season brings. Fantastic dreams of escape, faraway travel, and ultimately resignation and surrender to it's inevitable realities. A perfect winter soundtrack. Perhaps their working jaunt to California gave them a unique perspective on those things.. Regardless of the circumstances behind it's recording or whether my own imagined mythology doesn't quite fit, musically, as a perfect winter soundtrack, the album is faultless.

The opening track, "The Grand Tour," appropriately sets the stage for things, as perhaps one of the most exquisite things Guenther & Morrison ever did. With a beautiful, understated string section opening what would be one of the most memorable, dreamlike melodies I've heard from them, with a heavenly vocal (unfortunately anonymous and uncredited) so light and airy, it makes the perfect compliment to the strings and lyrics. The sweet, gentle interpretation in those vocals - like the lyrics, evoking love and pain and ecstasy and sun, rain and mystery, it's enough to seduce even the coldest of hearts to her beautiful, romantic fantasies ...

"The Grand Tour" was also released as a 12'', however the 12'' version identical to the album version, in this case (thanks to commenter Erik Kuyl for the confirmation).

Between the horns and castanets, the instrumental richness of "..Grand Tour" is elevated to new heights on "Let's Go Boating." An absolutely sublime instrumental, it's melody is so beautifully memorable, you'd swear you could have heard it somewhere else.

Aside from those, some of the most exceptional tracks on the record would have to be the two closing tracks, a cover of The Yardbirds' "Still I'm Sad" (thanks to the anonymous commenter for this info.) on Side A and yet another cover, their faithful, sublime version of the classic pop standard "California Dreamin' " on Side B. Nothing quite exemplifies the melancholy mood of this album quite like these two tracks.. "Still I'm Sad" is perhaps the most stirring of the two, as the track with the most sparse, moody, atmospheric arrangement on the album. It's an intriguing piece, elegantly complimented by it's wonderful lyrics and especially the haunting female vocals, which interpret the mood of the song with such graceful, ethereal feeling, that it even exceeds the original (not to mention Boney M's cover version, as well).

Having peaked on the Billboard Disco Charts at #9 in early '78 (along with the other two tracks on Side B), and having been the first to appear on CD, the Side B opener, "Flight From Versailles" is perhaps one of the better known tracks on here. Opening with a light popping synth and those exquisitely swirling strings, it's perhaps the closest thing on this album to the epic orchestral productions that likely come to mind when one thinks of THP's best known work. A kind of disco odyssey, there's a real fantastical, adventurous quality to this as well, with they way the track takes one through various changes, highs, lows, peaking with an exquisite string solo/break at the 4.30 mark.. Truly a standout on the record. Curiously, on both the Canadian and US pressings I have, it's mislabeled as "Flight To Versailles" on the sleeve, but entitled "Flight From Versailles" on the label. Since the latter seems to be the more common usage, I'll just go with that..

The track that follows it, "Late November" is perhaps one of the more unassuming, but ultimately one of the most rewarding on the record. Yet another instrumental, it starts off decievingly sparse and basic, all the while gently building, completely engaging the listener once the refrain kicks in.. The organ (?) and those understated, stirring strings totally carry this track, subtly weaving together an engaging, peaceful atmosphere...

The album is beautifully closed by their cover of "California Dreamin' ", the de-facto title track, which effectively recreates the longing of the original, complimenting it with some wonderful extended instrumental passages. With it's moody elegance, it's the perfect conclusion to an album like this, summing up the feelings, moods and sounds of the album in one single production..

Overall, this album is ultimately one of the finest things the THP duo ever put together. Even compared to their other work, there is a feeling, an atmosphere about this record that totally separates it from practically every other disco production they ever did. Perhaps the change of locale had something to do with it? Either way, it's unfortunate that the credits are rather economical, with no credits for musicians, vocalists or otherwise, which would most likely shed some light on the record's sound.. That said, a great deal of the credit for this record's sound would likely have to go to the album's prolific, award-winning arranger and conductor Jimmie Haskell, whom they apparently used in place of their usual arranger/conductor, Pete Pedersen. Having worked on records by the likes of Simon & Garfunkel, Etta James, The Moody Blues, Dusty Springfield and many many others, this seems to be the first and last time Haskell would work with Guenther and Morrison.

As well, Jim Taylor, who is somehow credited on the 12'' of "The Grand Tour," but nowhere on the album, is yet another person who likely deserves credit for the finished product here. A producer and mixer, Taylor was apparently a major contributor to many of Butterfly's releases. Taylor, according to his posting on Discomusic.com's interview with Butterfly Records' founder A.J. Cervantes, claims he worked on half of the product released by Butterfly in the late 70's. Evidently, in an unfortunate, but all too common music industry story, Taylor was left largely uncredited for some of his major contributions, such as the sixteen minute version of THP Orchestra's "Two Hot For Love," and as well, for the final mix of this very album.. Taylor later produced his own project for Butterfly entitled "Bernadette," as the J.T. Connection.

Although Grand Tour is rather earlier on in their canon of disco productions (one of the first outside of the THP Orchestra), it amazes me how Guenther and Morrison were able to go from orchestral disco like this, Southern Exposure and the early THP Orchestra, to club flooring fare like Sticky Fingers, rock disco like the Skatt Bros. all the way to cold, epic electro like The Immortals and beyond. Despite this record being anything but your typical four-on-the-floor disco album, it's quite nice to know that it wasn't passed over at the time, with a good half of the record charting quite well in the US discos. In my opinion, it's records like this which speak highly, not only of the talent involved, but of disco at it's best, as a genre of unparalleled diversity..

Gentle and emotional, yet exquisite and intricate with it's winter disco theme, this album is nothing less than a truly sublime record.. Looking at my Canadian pressing here, I remember being intrigued by the writing on the cover when I had picked it up.. I usually hate seeing writing scrawled on the cover like that; in this case however, it couldn't have described things more perfectly.. Night Magic, indeed..

Note: This album was evidently released on CD in Italy (which I don't have yet) by a label called Vintage Classics. That label also did a CD reissue of another Can-Con Disco album, the John L. Usry, Jr. production Stratavarious, which, from what I recall, was of somewhat marginal sound quality. So no telling how good the quality of this reissue was, however it is out there (albeit somewhat hard to find) should you ever decide to track it down.

PREVIOUS RELATED ENTRIES:
DISCO DELIVERY #42: SOUTHERN EXPOSURE - HEADIN' SOUTH (1979, RCA) (MONDAY JUNE 4, 2007)
DISCO DELIVERY #25: RINDER & LEWIS - WARRIORS (1979, AVI/QUALITY) (SUNDAY SEPTEMBER 17, 2006)
DISCO DELIVERY #23: DUNCAN SISTERS (1979, RCA) (SUNDAY JUNE 25, 2006)

LINKS:
GRAND TOUR - ON SUCH A WINTER'S DAY LP @ DISCOMUSIC.COM
GRAND TOUR - THE GRAND TOUR 12'' @ DISCOMUSIC.COM
GRAND TOUR @ DISCOGS
IAN GUENTHER @ ALL MUSIC GUIDE
IAN GUENTHER @ DISCOGS
WILLI MORRISON @ ALL MUSIC GUIDE
WILLI MORRISON @ DISCOGS
WILLI MORRISON & IAN GUENTHER @ DISCOGS
JIMMIE HASKELL @ ALL MUSIC GUIDE
JIMMIE (JIMMY) HASKELL @ DISCOGS
JIMMIE HASKELL - OFFICIAL WEBSITE
JIM TAYLOR @ DISCOGS
INTERVIEW WITH BUTTERFLY RECORDS' A.J. CERVANTES @ DISCOMUSIC.COM

CATEGORIES: DISCO DELIVERIES, CAN-CON DISCO

Friday, December 14, 2007

The one I love takes me down, takes me there..



Linda G. Thompson - Flight To Fantasy (1980, Ariola)
Linda G. Thompson - Midnight Rendezvous (1980, Ariola)

*Special thanks to DungeonDJ for the beautifully retouched photo.

A little something I'd picked up in Vancouver earlier in the year, there are a couple of pretty fabulous sides on this single, courtesy of the German singer Linda G. Thompson (AKA Linda Übelherr/Uebelherr). Thompson had performed in groups such as the Les Humphrey Singers, The Hornettes (which featured a few prolific session singers from many a German disco production) and perhaps most prominently (albeit somewhat briefly) in the first lineup of Silver Convention, having appeared on their first two albums, but having sung on only their second. After leaving Silver Convention in 1976, Thompson would release a few solo singles (as well as a few with Jerry Rix), including this one in 1980, produced by Krautrock veteran Uve Schikora.

In the early 70's, Schikora and his group, having released an album, "Das Gewitter" (1972, Amiga) (their first and only which, I believe, translates into "The Thunderstorm") and having backed artists like Frank Schöbel, were apparently one of the leading figures in the East German (DDR) rock scene (at least judging from some of the websites and message board postings out there). After defecting to West Germany in 1976, Schikora would go on to become a pretty prolific producer and arranger having gone on to work with German super-producer Jack White (no relation to he of The White Stripes) along with the likes of Placido Domingo, Engelbert Humperdinck, Al Martino, Paul Anka and yes, even The Hoff himself..

As far as this single is concerned though, both sides are excellent, with each track taking the singer into two different styles. The A-side "Flight To Fantasy," opening with grand, spacious synths, captivating chord progressions, clean electric guitars and an excellent hooky chorus, "Flight.." is a stellar piece of big, epic, Euro-pop.. The beautiful piano sound on here is the probably the key element of this song. Those grand glissandos, and especally the combination of the gliding piano scale and guitars right after the chorus, along with Thompson's processed vocals, despite being muffled with reverb (I believe that's the term) and almost incomprehensible in places, all add a great deal to the big, epic feel of this track...

Even though the spindle marks on the B-side seem to indicate how well-loved the A-side was, the B-side "Midnight Rendezvous," is nothing to sleep on either.. Somewhat shorter than the A-side, "..Rendezvous" is like the Euro-funk flip side to the textbook Euro-pop of the A-side.. Dominated by guitars, horns, handclaps, and that unmistakable funky strut right at the top of the mix, which seemed to be a signature element in some of the earlier German disco (see Silver Convention's "Get Up And Boogie"), this track cuts a pretty sharp groove.. In fact, the production in general seemed, in a way, to reference that earlier Silver Convention sound, having more in common with the feel of the classic German disco (albeit with a slightly harder edge), than that of the A-side..

For me, the peak of this track would have to be right at the break at around the 2.30 mark. With it's jagged guitar lead-in and those drums and horns, it's a pity that it's so short. Although ripe for a little extension, it's definitely my favourite part of the track..

Apparently, judging from the Linda G. Thompson fan site at the Girl Groups Fan Club, this appeared to be the final solo single she had released. Schikora had evidently produced a couple of sides for Thompson prior to this, "Never Get Over You/Harmony," which I'm now curious to hear..

Although she evidently never released an album under her own name, so far, this is definitely one of the better singles that I've heard from any of the former Silver Convention ladies.. Having performed with the Hornettes throughout the 80s, these days, Thompson reportedly makes her living as an interior designer.

LINKS:
LINDA G. THOMPSON - FLIGHT TO FANTASY/MIDNIGHT RENDEZVOUS 12'' @ DISCOGS
LINDA G. THOMPSON @ THE GIRL GROUPS FAN CLUB
LINDA G. THOMPSON @ WIKIPEDIA (IN GERMAN)
LINDA G. THOMPSON @ DISCOGS
LINDA UEBELHERR @ DISCOGS (SEPARATE ENTRY)
THE SILVER CONVENTION STORY @ THE GIRL GROUPS FAN CLUB
SILVER CONVENTION @ WIKIPEDIA
SILVER CONVENTION @ THE ALL MUSIC GUIDE
UVE SCHIKORA @ DISCOGS
EASTERN ROCK: UVE SCHIKORA UND SEINE GRUPPE (IN GERMAN)

CATEGORIES: MINI DELIVERIES

Saturday, December 08, 2007

R.I.P. Mel Cheren


I just want to take a moment to acknowledge the passing of Mel Cheren, the 'Godfather of Disco,' who passed away earlier today, from AIDS complications. I just confirmed the details, and sadly, the news is true. Having had health problems for several months, his HIV status was only confirmed last month, by which point it was evidently too late.

Founder of West End Records, as well as philanthropist, activist, artist and all-around disco pioneer; Mel Cheren was also, at least in my mind, one of the leading figures in disco's resurgence and ongoing recognition today. Although I never knew or met him; from records by Karen Young and Taana Gardner, to his championing of Larry Levan's life and legacy, he had indirectly played a huge part in my own (and I'm sure, many others') serious introduction to disco.

I suspect more articles and tributes will be forthcoming in the following days, but for now, Logo Online has a brief interview with him from the end of November, where he talks frankly about his illness. Considering his history and his activism, it's a sad and unfortunate irony that he ended up going the way many of his friends did...

As sad as Mel's passing is, he nonetheless leaves a lasting legacy in the world of dance music and beyond, that will surely live on..

Rest In Peace, Mel.

PREVIOUS RELATED ENTRIES:
THE GODFATHER OF DISCO (FRIDAY JUNE 15, 2007)
DEEP CUTS (WEDNESDAY APRIL 18, 2007)

LINKS:
LOGO ONLINE: AIDS ACTIVIST MEL CHEREN SHARES HIS STORY (VIDEO) (NOVEMBER 29, 2007)
DISCOMUSIC.COM FORUMS: R.I.P. MEL CHEREN
DJ HISTORY FORUMS: MEL CHEREN
DEEP HOUSE PAGE FORUMS: R.I.P. MEL CHEREN
DISCOGS FORUMS - ELECTRONIC MUSIC: LET'S KEEP MEL CHEREN IN OUR PRAYERS
ABOUT.COM - DANCE MUSIC/ELECTRONICA BLOG: WE MOURN THE PASSING OF MEL CHEREN
THE GODFATHER OF DISCO
DISCO-DISCO.COM: INTERVIEW WITH MEL CHEREN
IN DA MIX WORLDWIDE: INTERVIEW WITH MEL CHEREN
AMAZON.COM - MY LIFE AND THE PARADISE GARAGE
WEST END RECORDS

CATEGORIES: IN MEMORIAM.., DISCO NEWS

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Free your mind and your heart will follow..



Air Power - Be Yourself (1978, Stage Productions/AVI)
Air Power - Welcome To The Disco (1978, Stage Productions/AVI)

Quite simply, the two tracks on this single are the things my disco dreams are made of.. Heavy bass and congas; grand, graceful strings; a rich horn section, a cooing chorus of uplifting female vocals, spacious mixes filled by a host of stunning breaks. Like a virtual ride through disco paradise, what more can one ask for?

I had originally come across a Canadian pressing of this about a year ago at a used shop here. The B-side was flawless, but after flipping it over, for some reason, it looked like someone had intentionally (and repeatedly) dragged an old nail through the grooves on the A-side, making it completely unplayable.. I remember being almost crushed after seeing that, after thinking I had myself a real find.. it's hard to fathom why would someone exact such cruelty on a harmless, charming record like this? Whatever the case, I had pretty much passed on it until recently when I had come across this US pressing.

One cool little thing about the US pressing of this is it's 'Q-Mix" mastering. Apparently it was AVI's version of the Motown pioneered/trademarked Eye-Cued 12'' single, which put spaces in the grooves to identify the major breaks.. Apparently it never really took off, but I thought it was a neat little innovation..

Although it seems the B-side "Welcome To The Disco" is perhaps the better-known of the two tracks these days, having been included on the excellent Joey Negro compilation "Disco Spectrum 2" (2000, BBE), the A-side, "Be Yourself" is just as stellar. Given the strength of both tracks, I almost wonder why they didn't make it into a double A-side.

The start of "Be Yourself" pretty much summarizes the sound of these two tracks. Opening with a stunning horn/hi-hat/string intro, each element seemingly succeeding the other in perfect order, escalating beautifully into the beat; it promises many good things and delivers on every one of them.

After the generous intro, things really kick into gear when the vocals start (a full two minutes later), with the ladies singing in chirpy unison, their charming, if slightly trite "positive thinking" PSA, adding just the right amount of sweetness to the groove without overpowering anything else.. Vocals aside, the ultimate for me, however, would have to be right around the five minute mark when the whole thing suddenly escalates into a climactic frenzy with a break that is just awesome, awesome, awesome! Ushered in by an orchestra hitting all the marks in rhythmic unison, with strings taking flight and bass moving along right up front; there's just no other way to describe it.

The B-side, "Welcome To The Disco" has a slightly more stripped down sound than the A-side, seemingly using the same congas, but cutting a more rhythmic groove, even more percussion heavy than the A-side.. There's not a lot of singing on here, but the dialogue on here, minimal as it is, complimented by the sexy strings, is totally priceless.. Not so much for any intentional hilarity, but for the sheer fantasy of it all, with these two very sexy sounding ladies welcoming a man to a disco, every compliment and remark, dripping with coquettish flirtatiousness. Between the dialogue and the fantastic instrumentation; raw rhythm perfectly juxtaposed with refined elegance, nothing sums up disco bliss the quite like this. Going on for some ten minutes or so, it's a groove fantasy that never gets tiresome..

Produced by Willie Nance, arranged by Donald Burnside and written by both Nance and Burnside, I'm guessing Air Power might have been a moniker for just the two of them. Although there are practically no other credits for Willie Nance that I could find, from what I've found, Donald Burnside would go on to arrange and produce for another AVI act, Captain Sky, as well as Elaine & Ellen and later on The Chi-Lites, Gene Chandler (of "Get Down" fame), Yvonne Gage and others for Chycago International Music (yes, 'Chicago' spelt with a 'y' for some reason). Although there probably some major gaps in his Discogs and All Music Guide entries, Burnside seems to have been involved with a couple notable things in the early 90s, including an album for Jerry Butler and an act called Romeo and You on the Elektra label.

Production aside, a great deal of the credit for the great mixes of these tracks likely goes to Rick Gianatos, who is perhaps one of the more unsung disco mix masters out there these days.. Gianatos, a pioneer DJ, mixer and producer who had been a DJ in both New York and Chicago (another Chicago connection) and had been one of the principals behind one of the earliest disco remix services (Disco Queen Records) before getting involved with AVI Records..

Along with his work for AVI (as an A&R Administrator and mixer on records by AVI acts like Lowrell, Eastbound Expressway, Evelyn Thomas and many of their Ian Levine productions) he was also behind the mixes of some disco biggies like Gene Chandler's "Get Down," Front Page's "Love Insurance" and Shalamar's "Right In The Socket," among others.. Aside from mixing, Gianatos also scored some high-profile production gigs for the likes of Shirley Bassey (one of the two disco remakes of "This Is My Life" along with an incomplete/unreleased album), Scherrie Payne (of The Supremes), D'llegance and later, a production associate of Ian Levine's on many of his 'Motorcity' recordings in the 80's. Although I'm not as familiar with Gianatos' work as I am with some of the other disco mixers out there, I'm a major fan of the sound he had on some of the records he mixed, namely this one the and the awesome El Coco "Cocomotion '79" remix. Full and elegant, yet not at all cluttered or overproduced, both sound like prime examples of a spacious and highly effective "less is more" approach to things..

Gianatos evidently returned to the music business in 2006, having produced a single for Pattie Brooks, a remake of her disco classic "After Dark." It seems to have been full steam ahead since then with Gianatos working on projects with not only Ms. Brooks, but other back-in-the-day disco divas like Linda Clifford; Hodges, James & Smith and The Former Ladies of The Supremes (a trio including former Supremes Lynda Laurence and Scherrie Payne) on endeavours such as the recent "Dreamgirls Dance Project". Apparently there's another forthcoming project uniting many of these disco ladies, entitled "Desperate Divas," which is appropriate enough, I guess, given some of these divas' lack of recording in recent years. More information about his recent efforts can be found on his own website RickGianatos.com. In addition to that, Rick himself had also posted on a thread at the discomusic.com forums about a year ago regarding some of his work with AVI and others. A great read with an interesting look into his background and discography, for those who are interested.

All of that aside however, as far as this single is concerned, with it's flawless combination of rhythm and beauty; sexiness and simplicity, it rarely gets any better than this..

PREVIOUS RELATED ENTRIES:
DISCO DELIVERY #37: MIDNIGHT RHYTHM (1978, ATLANTIC) (WEDNESDAY MARCH 14, 2007)
DISCO DELIVERY #10: LINDA CLIFFORD - IF MY FRIENDS COULD SEE ME NOW (1977, CURTOM/WARNER BROS.) (FRIDAY MARCH 10, 2006)
DISCO DELIVERY #1: THE SUPREMES - MARY, SCHERRIE & SUSAYE (1976, MOTOWN) (MONDAY JANUARY 10, 2006)

PURCHASE:
DISCO SPECTRUM 2 (2 CD) (INCLUDES "WELCOME TO THE DISCO")
CD UNIVERSE | AMAZON.COM | AMAZON.CO.UK

LINKS:
AIR POWER - BE YOURSELF/WELCOME TO THE DISCO 12'' @ DISCOGS
AIR POWER - BE YOURSELF/WELCOME TO THE DISCO (UK 12'') @ DISCOMUSIC.COM
DONALD BURNSIDE @ DISCOGS
DONALD BURNSIDE @ ALL MUSIC GUIDE
RICK GIANATOS @ DISCOGS
RICK GIANATOS @ ALL MUSIC GUIDE
RICK GIANATOS @ DISCOMUSIC.COM FORUMS
RICK GIANATOS' OFFICIAL SITE
RICK GIANATOS' MYSPACE
DISCO MUSEUM HALL OF FAME: RICK GIANATOS

CATEGORIES: MINI DELIVERIES

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Disco Delivery #48:
Asha - L'Indiana (1979, Dash/TK)



Asha Puthli - I'm Gonna Dance (Richie Rivera Midnight Mix)
Asha Puthli - Mr. Moonlight (Richie Rivera Midnight Mix)
Asha Puthli - Music Machine (Dedication to Studio 54) (Richie Rivera Midnight Mix)
Asha Puthli - I'll See You Around
Asha Puthli - Legend Of Thais
Asha Puthli - There Is A Party Tonight

Asha Puthli - I'm Gonna Dance (Original Version)
Asha Puthli - Mister Moonlight (Original Version)
Asha Puthli - Music Machine (Dedication to Studio 54) (Original Version)
Asha Puthli - Dancin' Dandy

Although I'm sure those of you who read this blog fairly regularly are used to it by now; I've been pretty occupied with other things recently, so again, I apologize for the lack of entries lately. Also, to those who've emailed recently, sorry if I haven't gotten back to you right away. If I haven't replied to you yet, I'll make sure to do so very soon.. Anyway, about this entry: I had written a brief overview of this album on discomusic.com a few years back, but after getting a suggestion for this from a commenter on a recent post, I figure now would be a good time to finally do a little something on this excellent record... So without further ado, here it is..

Asha Puthli - one of the most eclectic, and in many ways, under-recognized vocalists of her time, often called the "Indian diva of Jazz, Funk and Soul", seems to have been gradually getting her due in recent years. With the rediscovery of her work, in large part through sampling (by the likes of The Notorious B.I.G., Jay-Z etc..), Puthli's work, once resigned to obscurity, has become increasingly recognized as of late.. After leaving her native India for New York to pursue her dream of singing jazz, one of her earliest, and most prominent notices was on Jazz innovator Ornette Coleman's "Science Fiction" (1971, Columbia) album. While much of her own work didn't follow in quite the same vein, it seemed, in a way to set the stage for the direction she would take in her own work. Unquestionably contemporary, yet somewhat experimental; informed by her Indian roots, her jazz background and occasionally bordering on the avant-garde, Asha always seemed to chart a rather distinctive course in her own music. It's a uniqueness that's especially apparent when listening to her 70's albums, particularly her stunning third LP, " The Devil Is Loose" (1976, CBS). A record that seemed to defy strict categorization blending soul, funk, early disco and early electronics, rendered through her own unique sensibility; listening to it, it's no wonder why legendary Columbia Records talent scout, John Hammond, once hailed her as nothing less than "a genius."

While her uniqueness had perhaps rendered her something of a wild-card in her time, particularly in the States (where her career never seemed to take off the way it had in Europe); that very same quality, seems to have ensured that her records, particularly her highly sought-after mid 70's albums: "Asha Puthli" (1973, CBS), "She Loves To Hear The Music" (1975, CBS) and especially "The Devil Is Loose" (along with her first, largely considered her best, from what I've gathered) have held up especially well over the years.. While those three are perhaps the best known of her own albums, her unique experimental approach is also evident on this record, her excellent fourth album, "L'Indiana".

Originally released 1978 by the Italian arm of CBS (CBS Dischi), it would gain an American release the following year through TK Records' Dash imprint. Although just as defiantly original as it's predecessor, it was perhaps her most obviously disco-influenced record up to that point. In addition, looking at the credits of the album, it's also easy to see why, among other things, Puthli is often considered a pioneer of 'world music.' An Indian singer, signed to an Italian label; recorded in both Brussells and Philadelphia with a French arranger (Jean-Luc Drion), a Belgian producer (Jean Van Loo), and a combination of variably notable European and American musicans, among them concertmaster Albert Speguel of the Paris Symphony Orchestra, Philly notables like Jack Faith and Richard Genovese on the horn section along with the ever-reliable Sweethearts of Sigma on the background chorus, "L'Indiana" is perhaps one of the most international disco records I've come across...

Speaking for myself, I had originally found this record some five years back at the used record shop, where I had stumbled across a Canadian pressing of the album. Not knowing anything about the mystery artist on the cover, the record looked strange, intriguing, and in good enough shape (sealed, with a cutout), and not to mention cheap enough, that I just had to buy it. Not really expecting all that much to begin with, I ended up enjoying the entire album much more than I had expected. Dark and sultry, sexy yet esoteric, it's one of the more interesting disco albums I've heard. In other words, anything but your average get-down-and-boogie record.

The Canadian pressing, released on Columbia, was pretty much identical to the original Italian pressing (minus the fold-out poster), with the same tracks and even the original album cover, which sported a dark, purple-hued and strangely unflattering photo of Asha on the front (thankfully rectified on the US release) along with all the original credits on the back, still written in Italian, even. While credited simply as 'Asha' on the front and back covers, the spine and label on the Canadian pressing still credited her full name - Asha Puthli, giving me enough to do a search on her. Through that, I later found out more not only about Asha herself, but about the album's later US release (which I eventually had to obtain for myself). Substantially different from the Canadian/European version with it's much-improved album cover, following in the practice of other labels like Salsoul, for instance, of remixing European-licenced disco records for the American market, the label evidently brought in New York DJ Richie Rivera to do his trademark "Midnight Mix" on the first three tracks on the album: "I'm Gonna Dance," "Mr. Moonlight," and "Music Machine," which, despite not being typical, were some of the most disco-palatable tracks on the record.

The lead-off track, "I'm Gonna Dance" was also the single in the US (the 12'' being identical to the US album version), reaching #67 on the Billboard disco charts. Originally clocking in at a tighter 3.30 on the original album, Richie Rivera's "Midnight Mix" just about doubles it's duration. Adorned by dramatic stabs of strings and anchored by a light, yet prominent pulse of clicking, machine-like synths in the background, along with Asha's subtle, yet effective performance, strings adding a hint of Bollywood; it plays like a misty, exotic and (if the lyrics weren't quite so innocuous) dark disco dream sequence.. The Midnight Mix spaces things out somewhat, making the synths sound a little less frantic, giving a little more time to the intro and adding a great break half-way through giving ample showcase to those synths and cascading drums..

Introduced by a spare piano and augmented later by a familiar horn refrain, the following track; "Mr. Moonlight" with it's slower tempo and it's lyrics, distinguished by a distant yearning perfmed in a decidedly un-disco fashion, not only continues but furthers the almost solemn vibe set by the previous track.. Going into decidedly moody territory here, the Midnight Mix, extending things by around a minute takes the mood even further with the break it added, practically spotlighting all of the atmospheric instrumentation in the mix.. It plays almost like late-night/after-hours disco mood music in places, a kind of down-beat disco classic, if you will. Apparently, "..Moonlight" was also released as a single in Italy..

The final track on Side A (at least on the US version), "Music Machine" (Dedication to Studio 54) is perhaps one of the most intriguing tracks on the record. Lifting things up somewhat from the yearning of the previous track, but continuing in the almost foreboding vibe of the previous tracks, "Music Machine," with it's lyrics and atmosphere, plays like a kind of chronicle/critique of the nightlife.. "..With poppers and strobes I am drunk to your beat, in this laser-lit glow, night people meet... to keep away tomorrow.. to keep away tomorrow...," it's as if the subject is, on one hand marveling and partaking in it, yet at the same time distantly observing and criticising the hypnotized masses seduced by the beat, dancing to 'keep away tomorrow,' completely high and completely addicted, staving off the inevitable, all the while begging for more ("...give me your music, give me your love, dance with me.. forever.."). With all that, I'm left wondering if perhaps the sub-title 'Dedication to Studio 54' is intended an an actual dedication or is simply an alternative title, implying it as an expression of one's dedication. Perhaps both?

Either way, out of all the remixed tracks, The Midnight Mix of "Music Machine" is the one which perhaps differs the most from it's original version. The remix used a slightly different vocal on the intro and, perhaps most obviously, replaced the ubiquitous manipulated/processed vocals on the original with a more straightforward one. The remix also added a great break (of course) to the track highlighting the bass and all the other excellent guitar work, practically buried on the original..

The original album also had a fourth track on Side A, "Dancin' Dandy." With the extended mixes of the other three Side A tracks, this was evidently no room left for this on the US version. With it's brief duration, acoustic rhythm guitar foundation, atmospheric synth touches and really, little else; it plays in an innocent, decidedly un-disco fashion, despite it's dancing theme. Although not quite at the same level as the other tracks, it's a half-way pleasant track, a nice respite from the heavier vibes of the other tracks. Adding a little bit of diversity to the record, without deviating from things entirely, it's one that I go back to more often than I thought I would. If anything, it's at least better than it's cutesy title might suggest it to be...

Side B starts off by going a little further away from the disco, opening with "I'll See You Around." Written by Timothy Touchton and Rainer Pietsch (an arranger/producer who has appeared on some prominent German disco productions) it's perhaps the closest thing to a ballad on the album. However, the most intriguing, if not somewhat perplexing track on Side B would be the one following it, "Legend Of Thais." Backed by what must be some of the Sweethearts' most angelic vocals, it opens with a chant, "Kyrie Eleison, Christe Eleison.." seemingly right out of a Catholic mass, followed by verses invoking drugs and disco: "..cocaine and opium were things I did for fun, but dancing was my joy..." Not sure if the title is a reference to something way over my head, but as intriguing as the lyrics and contrasts are, damned if I know what it's all supposed to mean..

"There Is A Party Tonight," the album's closing track, goes back into disco territory, bringing things full circle, in a way. Written by the trio of Dan Japlin, J.M. Willa Roza and Carlene MacLinen, who all contribute to a few prominent Pierre Jaubert productions (Chantal Curtis, Brenda Mitchell etc..). The excellent production on here, with the cold, synthesized opening, right out of "I Feel Love," along with the gleaming synth stabs, jagged guitars and of course, Asha's performance end up taking what would probably be a rather rote, uninspired disco filler track into the stuff of high-flying disco decadence. Personally, I think a great deal of that is due to Asha's great, and appropriately tipsy "glass-of-champagne" ad-lib (at around the 1.40 mark). A bit hilarious, but effective nonetheless..

Although I'm not as personally familiar with a lot of his work, the producer behind this record, Jean Van Loo (sometimes credited as Jean Vanloo), is perhaps best known for his work on albums by the studio group Chocolat's (misspelled with the apostophe for some reason, don't ask me why) and perhaps most prominently Patrick Hernandez' disco mega-hit "Born To Be Alive." In other showbiz lore, Van Loo is also notable as one of the first people to 'discover' Madonna. Having initially recruited her as a dancer for Patrick Hernandez, he and his associate, Jean-Claude Pellerin ended up bringing her to Paris for a brief, and fairly unfruitful stint where they tried to turn her into their own disco protégé with a song, infamously entitled "She's A Real Disco Queen." Ms. Ciccone reportedly hated it so much she refused to record it, thus ending her little stint in Paris with Hernandez' people. Jean Van Loo, having been a noteworthy figure in the music business since 1961, particularly in Belgium and France, passed away in 2000, at the age of 61.

Arranger Jean-Luc Drion was also a fairly notable figure, having been a regular collaborator of Jean Van Loo on some of the Chocolat's recordings and a prominent arranger and producer in his own right. DiscoStyle.com has a great story about him, "In Search of Jean-Luc Drion" written by an old friend of his, Bobbie J. Pemberton. An interesting and rare look into a fairly prolific, yet not-as-well known name in disco. Drion along with Dominique Régiacorte would later end up having a hit as Magazine 60 with "Don Quichotte" in 1985.

In recent years, Asha Puthli has been on a comeback trail of sorts. Spurred by the recognition of her work, Puthli, a long time resident of New York, has started actively performing and recording again, singing at events such as New York's Central Park's SummerStage in 2006, getting glowing write-ups in publications from the New York Times to India's Verve Magazine, and cultivating collaborations along the way with the likes of Bill Laswell and the Dum Dum Project among others. Although apparently working on a new album (reportedly with the French label Kyrone GP Music) unfortunately, Sony/BMG have yet to reissue any of Puthli's hightly sought-after CBS albums (the first three are widely availiable on vinyl 'reissues', however). In the mean time, Asha herself has taken the initiative in making her albums (including this one) available through her own website and even a couple of them through iTunes. A compilation, "Space Talk: The Best of Asha Puthli - The CBS Years", was evidently announced and even reviewed (see the All Music Guide), but as of this writing, has yet to be released.

Although this, along with her later albums, is perhaps among her lesser recognized works these days; to me, this record remains one of the more intriguing albums to come out of the Euro-disco spectrum. An album which synthesizes Asha's own distinct sensibilities with an elegant, at times even somewhat sombre Euro-disco sensibility, "L'Indiana" stands as a stunning example of Asha Puthli's distinctive artistry.

PREVIOUS RELATED ENTRIES:
DISCO DELIVERY #37: MIDNIGHT RHYTHM (1978, ATLANTIC) (WEDNESDAY MARCH 14, 2007)

PURCHASE:
ASHA PUTHLI'S OFFICIAL WEBSITE - SOLO ALBUMS

LINKS:
ASHA - L'INDIANA LP @ DISCOMUSIC.COM
ASHA - L'INDIANA LP @ DISCOGS
ASHA - I'M GONNA DANCE (US 12") @ DISCOGS
HIT PARADE ITALIA - 1978 ALBUMS

ASHA PUTHLI'S OFFICIAL WEBSITE
ASHA PUTHLI'S OFFICIAL MYSPACE
ASHA PUTHLI @ ALL MUSIC GUIDE
ASHA PUTHLI @ WIKIPEDIA
ASHA PUTHLI @ DISCO MUSEUM
VERVE ONLINE - JAZZY DIVA (BY VINOD ADVANI) (MARCH 2007)
THE HINDU - ALL THAT JAZZ (BY VIJAY SAI) (OCTOBER 15, 2006)
OVERSEAS INDIAN - US TO HONOUR ASHA PUTHLI (SEPTEMBER 19, 2006)
THE NEW YORK TIMES - MUSIC: ASHA PUTHLI, AN INDIAN SINGER WHO EMBRACES COUNTLESS CULTURES (BY JON PARELES) (AUGUST 12, 2006)
JAZZ NEWS - ASHA PUTHLI'S USA COMEBACK
ENCYCLOPÉDISQUE - JEAN VANLOO
JEAN VAN LOO @ DISCOGS
JEAN-LUC DRION @ DISCOGS
DISCOSTYLE - IN SEARCH OF JEAN-LUC DRION (BY B.J. PEMBERTON)
RICHIE RIVERA @ DISCOGS

CATEGORIES: DISCO DELIVERIES

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Disco Delivery #47:
Hot Blood - Disco Dracula (1977, Dynamo)



Hot Blood - Soul Dracula
Hot Blood - Sex Me
Hot Blood - Terror On The Dancefloor

Okay, so it's Halloween, and aside from Christmas, no other occasion has inspired more strange disco novelties.. Needless to say, I thought I'd be putting the novelties away with the last post, but with this thing arriving at my door yesterday (perfect timing!), it appears I've got one more to put up..

Perhaps best known for "Soul Dracula" (included here, naturally), Hot Blood was a rather anonymous German disco production, featuring a number of notable Munich session players, like Keith Forsey, Gary Unwin and Pepe Solera, to name a few.. The record is so anonymous in fact, that the production credit is given as 'Produced by Hot Blood,' which doesn't exactly illuminate things, although looking at the credits, one could speculate that the major player behind this was arranger Stefan Klinkhammer. Klinkhammer is perhaps best known for his work as both arranger (and sometime songwriter) on the majority of Boney M's albums along with a few other Frank Farian productions.. There doesn't seem to be much information on Klinkhammer available in English, but former Boney M member, Marcia Barrett has a couple of pictures with him on her official website. Unfortunately, I can only speculate from her captions that Klinkhammer has since passed away..

As far as the record itself goes, don't be fooled by the lipstick lesbian vampiress action on the cover (the vampire is apparently Calvin Klein model Lisa Taylor, thanks to Enrique for this tidbit.). This thing is a far cry from any Saint Tropez disco sapphic soap-opera.. The major track on the record, "Soul Dracula" has every cliché one would expect from a novelty 'dracula' track: maniacal laughing drrrracu-la with exaggerated Bela Lugosi-esque accent, catchy/annoying background gimmicks that drill themselves into your head, cheesy sexual overtones, not to mention a bit of pointless appropriation in the song title. I mean, somebody tell me what's so soulful about the 'Soul Dracula," anyway..

Still though, cliché's aside, this track is probably one of the better, more enjoyable Halloween disco records I've come across.. Unusually (although some might say mercifully) short at just around two and a half minutes, ironically enough, it's the shortest song on the album. Apparently there's a slightly longer version out there running at least 3.57 (thanks Kenneth!) which they didn't put on the album, for some reason...

Although this was released on a rather obscure indie label in the US two years following "Soul Dracula's" original single release, apparently, judging from what I've come across, "Soul Dracula" was a pretty sizeable hit in parts of Europe. I suppose it had to be, to have been 'performed' on TV. And as intriguing as the song is on it's own, I personally think it's best enjoyed with a little visual aid. Check out one of the performances archived on good ol' YouTube, complete with masked dracula and hilarious choreography:


Hot Blood - Soul Dracula
Uploaded by Kommog

Okay so the quality is shit, but you get the idea.. I could say more about that craziness, but I think one of the commenters on YouTube, brightonbits, summed it up best: "If Vampires sucked blood exclusively to get the cocaine in your system, I suppose this would be the logical theatrical interpretation.." That's right, move over, Thriller!..

Anyway, the rest of album is not all cheesy dracula tracks, there are actually a couple of half-way pleasant instrumentals, like "Even Vampires Fall In Love" and "Dracula Does Dreamy." Aside from those, the one track here that somewhat rises above the kitsch would have to be "Sex Me," the final track on Side 1. Instrumentally speaking, it's a nice sleazy, sexy slow-burner complete with a moaning female, sly guitar and string arrangements. If weren't for the ol' "Soul Dracula" getting in on the action, repeatedly whispering: "sex me.. sex me.. give me satisfaction" and my personal favourite: "do it..right there.. I like it.. I need it fresh!", it would probably make for a seriously substantial track on it's own. I suppose if Vampires can fall in love, they can get horny too, I guess..

Another bit of craziness that I also had to include here was the last track on the album, "Terror On The Dancefloor" (evidently released as a 12" in the US) which basically consists of our "Soul Dracula" mentioning a few of the other song titles over a litany of screams and a template Munich disco backing. With those catchy basslines and those strings (courtesy of the Munich Philharmonic) chased by some killer horn arrangements, it's quite possibly the best damn thing on the album..

Overall though, "Disco Dracula" is your typically harmless, fun novelty record, firmly entrenched in the realm of kitsch and camp, yet not without it's moments of inspired musicianship. Not something to break the bank for, yet nothing to pass on either..

Anyway, that's my Halloween post for this year. Happy Halloween!

And just a final note: by popular demand, I've also re-uploaded (for a limited time) last year's Halloween Post as well.. Enjoy!

PREVIOUS RELATED ENTRIES:
LOVE IN SPACE AND TIME.. (WEDNESDAY NOVEMBER 8, 2006)
I WANNA SUCK YOUR..OOOOH! (TUESDAY OCTOBER 31, 2006)

LINKS:
HOT BLOOD - DISCO DRACULA (US LP) @ DISCOGS
HOT BLOOD - DISCO DRACULA (US LP) @ DISCOMUSIC.COM
STEFAN KLINKHAMMER @ ALL MUSIC GUIDE
STEFAN KLINKHAMMER @ DISCOGS
SCANNER: 'THRILLER' OVERLOAD? PERHAPS YOU SHOULD TRY 'SOUL DRACULA' (OCTOBER 31, 2007)
THE A.V. CLUB: WE DRINK BLOOD: 14 SONGS ABOUT VAMPIRES (OCTOBER 26, 2007)
THE ESSENTIAL GHOUL'S RECORD SHELF: SOUL DRACULA | HOT BLOOD (JULY 14, 2005)

CATEGORIES: DISCO DELIVERIES, VISUAL DISCO

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Disco Delivery #46:
Guy Lafleur - Lafleur! (1979, Unison Sports)



Lafleur! - Face Off (Song)
Lafleur! - Skating
Lafleur! - Checking
Lafleur! - Power Play (Song)
Lafleur! - Power Play (12'' Version)
Lafleur! - Shooting
Lafleur! - Scoring

Lafleur! - Vas-y (Chanson) (Face Off)
Lafleur! - Savoir Patiner (Skating)
Lafleur! - Mettre en Echec (Checking)
Lafleur! - Y'a Rien Pour M'arreter (Chanson) (Power Play)
Lafleur! - Lancer (Shooting)
Lafleur! - Marquer Un But (Scoring)



Edited & Re-uploaded 03/03/10

I was originally thinking of putting up a more substantial disco record for this post, but given that we're in the beginning of Hockey season up here, I figure now would be a good time to put up one of the ultimate, if not the ultimate Can-Con disco novelty record. First of all though, I have to thank Disco Delivery reader Luke Barker for kindly sending me some files from this album nearly a year ago now. I couldn't get enough of them then and I just had to track the real thing down.. I'm finally getting down to doing something on it, so special thanks to Luke for getting me acquainted with this!

At the risk of having my Canadian citizenship revoked, I have to admit that I rarely, if ever follow hockey. In fact, for me, 'Hockey Night In Canada' might as well be Don Cherry bellowing in Swahili, for all I care.. Granted, the excitement that sweeps much of the country when a Canadian team ends up in the final stretch of the playoffs or in an Olympic gold medal game can be pretty infectious, even for me. Being lousy at hockey (and at most sports generally, for that matter), I've never actually sustained any interest in following it with any degree of seriousness.

With that said, a little primer for those who (like me) may not follow.. Most famous for his stint with the Montreal Canadiens from 1971-1984, during that time, particularly in the 70's, Guy Lafleur was undoubtedly one of the NHL's brightest stars.. With that status came the requisite endorsement deals and in his case, a taste for the high life. During his time in Montreal, Lafleur eventually became quite taken with Montreal's nightlife, being something of a regular at many Montreal discos, even reportedly known at one time as the "King of Crescent Street" in certain circles (at least according to Mark LePage's essay in "Remembering Guy Lafleur"). A hockey superstar in a city that quite famously loved both it's hockey and it's disco (much like the man himself, apparently), it's perhaps not surprising that this sort of project came along when and where it did..



A forgotten novelty for the most part, the legend of the "Guy Lafleur Disco Album" has had something of a resurgence lately, with the CBC dredging up some great old footage of the album's release party at Regine's (Regine Zylberberg's Montreal franchise?) discotheque ("reportedly the pinnacle of local disco society" as the reporter, Melvin McLeod quipped) out of it's archives.


RetroBites: Disco Guy Lafleur
Uploaded by CBCtv


It's rather hilarious looking at the footage itself, since one can't help but notice two things: the cameraman scoping out the ladies and the reporter's apparent scorn for the whole thing in his voice-over: "Guy Lafleur, the Baryshnikov of the hockey rink, doing... a disco album.." The tone of "disco album" pretty much says it all.. Although the clip shows people getting down on it at a lavish disco, judging from the clips' tone and from what I've had people tell me, there likely weren't too many clubs playing selections off of this record - the album ending up, it seems, just as much of a joke and a curiosity then as it is now.

Being that it was the late '70s and "going disco" was the thing to do (although perhaps less so, by the end of '79), the Montreal disco indie, Unison Records, which had been behind the original Canadian release of a couple of notable Gino Soccio projects among others - namely Witch Queen and Gotham Flasher, decided to gamble $100,000 on this little gimmick, apparently expecting to sell a copy for every dollar they sank into it.

Although there is no year of release on the record, judging from the CBC news clip, the record was apparently recorded in just five days and released at the end of 1979, just in time to capitalize on the Christmas market. Combining disco, a hockey superstar, the spendthrift Christmas market and having been recorded in both English (UNE-2000) and French (UN-7907) editions (the English being the rarer of the two, in my experience), it seemed a sure bet. Despite that, I'm not even sure if Unison made any money off of this, since, at least for me, copies haven't exactly been that easy to find. In fact, I wonder whatever became of the Unison label since this album's release, anyway..

Granted, as absurd as the concept may seem, the results are actually not quite as unwieldly and disastrous as one might expect, in fact the album's actually quite the hoot, if I do say so myself... Contrary to what some seem to have thought or expected at first glance, the record is actually not Lafleur's attempt at singing; in fact he, quite wisely, doesn't sing a note on here. Instead, the album is something of a discofied spin on the old instructional LP. Lavishly packaged in a gatefold sleeve, complete with instructional booklet and fold-out poster of a shirtless Lafleur, much of the album consists of Guy's own personal hockey tips set to a disco beat with Lafleur speaking over the bass-thumping grooves, backed with a chorus of cooing, catchy female vocalists, adding encouragement and emphasis on Lafleur's key points. Just to add broader disco appeal, the album was padded with a couple of hockey-themed disco songs on the beginning of each side. Rest assured, most, or at least part of the background chorus of notable Montreal session singers, among them Laurie Niedzielski (AKA Laurie Zimmerman) and Heather Gauthier (both also of the disco group Toulouse) along with Ranee Lee and Gina Watson (later of Watson Beasley) take the vocals on those two tracks, with Lafleur nowhere to be heard...

As far as the production goes, the album itself was produced by a duo of Can-Con notables: Jack Lenz, and Peter Alves. While Lenz wasn't exactly a well-known disco producer, Lenz was and remains a highly profilic composer for film and television, with his compositions having appeared on a number of productions (both Canadian and otherwise), like the 1980's cartoon "The Raccoons" (one of childhood favourites), and more recently Mel Gibson's controversial "Passion of The Christ" and the CBC series Little Mosque On The Prairie among many others. Jack Lenz' own website has a partial, though pretty comprehensive list of his credits (which not surprisingly, exclude this album).

Alves, on the other hand, was much more prolific, at least, as far as the disco scene was concerned. Presumably a major player behind the Unison label, Alves seems to have prominent credits on practically all of the Unison releases I've come across so far (namely Witch Queen, Soirée and Gotham Flasher), two of them with Alves given equal production credit alongside Gino Soccio. Aside from the Unison releases, Alves had produced records for the likes of Toulouse, the late Boule Noire (AKA Georges Thurston), and for Watson Beasley (best known in the US for their club hit "Breakaway"). On a related note, with Gina Watson on the vocal chorus, interestingly enough, the other half of Watson Beasley, drummer Albert Beasley also appears on this record..

In addition to the primary producers, perhaps the most notable credited name on here is Gino Soccio himself, who along with France Smith is also credited as an associate producer on this record. Not sure if he was actually involved with the studio work, since his credit seems somewhat secondary (as if more of a production consultant as opposed to an actual producer), yet one can't help but hear traces of his own signature sound on here, namely in those horn arrangements, synth parts and even the vocals (although that may be because two of the vocalists, Niedzielski and Gauthier, also appear on many of Soccio's own records).

As far as the tracks go, truth be told, I actually find the two 'songs' off the album, "Face Off" at the beginning of Side 1 and "Power Play" at the beginning of Side 2 to be my own favourites. The fact that production-wise they're more conventional disco tracks, undoubtedly helps. With the vocalists singing an arresting chorus, taking hockey metaphors into the realm of dancefloor cruising, particularly on "Power Play": "...if it ever gets down to it, baby you know, I'll get my way with my power play..," both tracks make for instant guilty pleasures. Perhaps they would have been better remembered disco tracks on their own, had they been associated differently.. "Power Play" even got a 12'' release - extended to around 8 minutes and mixed by Alves and engineer Gabriel Boucher (both of whom also mixed the entire album).

Out of the instructional tracks, the second track, "Skating" with it's hefty bass, piano and synth intro, manages to get off on a pretty tight groove. With catchy piano lines and horn fill-ins augmenting "Uncle Guy's" charming, fatherly Quebecois accent along with the backup vocalists' encouraging emphasis: "stand straight!" "turn around!," it's perhaps the ultimate guilty pleasure on an album already full of them. I'm not sure if any kids actually genuinely used this thing to get hockey tips, but if I was a kid trying to get hockey lessons, I'd probably be too busy trying to sneak in a few dance moves to care about "Uncle Guy's" little skating lesson...

The track following this one, at the end of Side One, "Checking" actually isn't bad either. I confess to laughing a little to myself when "Uncle Guy" gets to my favourite line: "never put a stick where a body will go.. 'de stick was made to handle the puck, 'de body is built for CHECKING!" Again, I don't know why, but somehow his emphasis on 'checking' never fails to give me a cheap laugh..

Speaking of cheap laughs, the last track on the album, "Scoring," is probably the best known track from the album these days, having made the rounds on the 'net for quite some time now.. Starting from the title and the references to 'shooting it high' and 'curved sticks', etc.. made for some hilarious, if not, completely unintentional double-entendres, judging from one of the blog entries out there..

Although this didn't exactly launch "disco sports" into the stratusphere like the CBC news report had predicted/feared, the likes of Jane Fonda and Jayne Kennedy would later take a variation of this instruction-meets-disco concept and do fairly well for themselves with it, not that it makes either any less cheesy or ill-conceived either, for that matter. While aerobics might have been more conducive to this concept than hockey was, perhaps the producers weren't completely off on cocaine and disco fever when they dreamt this thing up.


Inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1988, officially retiring from the game in 1991, these days Lafleur himself has apparently settled into the restaurant business with his own resturant/bar Mikes Signature Guy Lafleur in the town of Berthierville, Quebec. More publicly however, Lafleur has also become a spokesman in recent years for battery recycling and perhaps more infamously for the likes of Hairfax and Viagra (despite apparently not needing the latter), which have not surprisingly rendered him the butt of a few jokes (I suppose the disco album was only the beginning).. Although his legacy remains largely intact, unfortunately, more recently, Lafleur's name has been in the press, not so much for his sports legacy or his endorsements, but for the troubling circumstances surrounding his 23 year-old son, which early last year, would also land Lafleur himself in hot water.

Reading what I've just written though, I can't believe that I'm about to praise something this desperate and ill-concieved, but have to admit that overall, being something of a disco die-hard (if that wasn`t obvious already), I actually found this record to be much more enjoyable than it probably could or should have been. True, it was easy ammunition for the 'disco sucks' crusade and was as crass as crass disco cash-ins representing, ultimately, the nadir of the disco genre - the 'bandwagon effect' that gave rise to absurdities like the "Ethel Merman Disco Album," for example.. Taking it out of it's late 70's commercial context for a minute, the album is actually a fun listen, charming, even; as well-produced musically as such a thing could be and not to mention good for a few cheap laughs as well.. Although perhaps something of a miscalculation (too bad there was never an instrumental version of the album to go with the English and French editions), one has to give props to Guy Lafleur for not taking himself too seriously and providing the unsuspecting masses with a one of a kind piece of kitschy nostalgia in the process..

All things considered, the "Guy Lafleur Disco Album" at the very least is not only an intriguing piece of Canadiana but perhaps one of the ultimate guilty pleasures in the Can-Con constellation. If Gary Genosko's piece on this album, "Hockey And Disco" is any indication, I suppose I'm not the only one to plead.. Anyone up for a reissue?

PREVIOUS RELATED ENTRIES:
DISCO DELIVERY #9: KAREN SILVER - HOLD ON I'M COMIN' (1979, QUALITY/ARISTA) (FRIDAY MARCH 3, 2006)

LINKS:
HOCKEY AND DISCO (BY GARY GENOSKO)
OTTAWA CITIZEN - WINTER'S FLOWER STILL FLOURISHES (BY CHRIS YZERMAN) (MONDAY OCTOBER 29, 2007)
JACK LENZ @ WIKIPEDIA
JACK LENZ @ IMDB
JACK LENZ @ ALL MUSIC GUIDE
JACK LENZ @ DISCOGS
JACK LENZ WEBSITE
PETER ALVES @ DISCOGS
PETER ALVES @ ALL MUSIC GUIDE
GINO SOCCIO @ DISCOGS
GINO SOCCIO @ DISCOMUSEUM (ARCHIVED)
ONE-TIMER: GUY LAFLEUR - DISCO KING (AUGUST 13, 2007)
AWFUL ANNOUNCING - BEST. DISCO. HOCKEY. ALBUM. EVER. (AUGUST 13, 2007)
NEATORAMA: THE GUY LAFLEUR DISCO ALBUM (FEBRUARY 20, 2007)
MONTREAL GAZETTE - HABS INSIDE/OUT BLOG: LAFLEUR SCORED, SORT OF, WITH DISCO ALBUM (FEBRUARY 21, 2007)
WFMU 365 DAYS PROJECT - GUY LAFLEUR - SCORING (SEPTEMBER 23, 2003)

CATEGORIES: DISCO DELIVERIES, CAN-CON DISCO, VISUAL DISCO

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