Monday, August 04, 2014

Don't let it go..

Ray Vista - Don't Let It Go
Ray Vista - Don't Let It Go (Extra Time Mix)
Ray Vista - Don't Let It Go (Instrumental)

Note (8/5/14): Corrected Instrumental link

Sometimes I bristle whenever I hear late disco records from Quebec offhandedly lumped in as Italo, however with the melodic, synth-based (not quite as heavy on the arpeggios as actual Italo, but still there) production and the Italian names in the credits, one would be hard pressed to actually deny the similarity and continuity between a great many of them. Will Straw, professor of Art History and Communications Studies at Montreal's McGill University wrote a journal article on the very subject in 2008 called "Music from the Wrong Place: On the Italianicity of Quebec Disco" (pdf file), which is fully available online and well worth a read for anyone interested in the subject. To steal a quote from a ten year old Todd Burns review (which Straw had used in his article), "if the pedants are going to call it Canadian Disco, no one is listening.."

That aside, this single here by a one Ray Vista is perhaps one such example of that Quebec-Italo continuity. Have to say that this is one record that I had long been after, which I'd finally found recently at a local record fair. With an emotional vocal sung over a gently arpeggiated synth backing, whoever Ray Vista is; between the vocals (which are sung much more proficiently than a lot of Italo, though still with a slight giveaway on the accent), credits and producers (both of whom have Italian surnames - Biagio Farina and Dominic Sciullo) - if one didn't read the copyright on the label, this could have been easily situated in firm Italo territory. It should be noted that one of the producers here, Dominic Sciullo had also produced Nancy Martin's (AKA Nancy Martinez). "Can't Believe," also on the Neige label and one of the greatest examples of the same Quebecois/Italo sound. Going a little further back, Sciullo had also been involved in Carol Jiani's first record (covered here earlier - see Disco Delivery #35: Montreal featuring Uchenna Ikejiani (1979, Salsoul)).

Biagio Farina, the song's writer and co-producer posted the song YouTube not long ago, along with an iTunes link, for anyone who wishes to make a legit purchase (although both seem to be mastered a lot faster than the original 12").. These days, Farina leads a band called the Remix Orchestra, which judging from their website, plays quite a few corporate gigs and weddings in the Montreal area...

Though I can't say this record came particularly cheap, definitely one Can-Con sleeper that I'm happy to finally have in my collection.

discogs: ray vista - don't let it go (12" single)
discogs: biagio farina
discogs: dominic sciullo
discogs: neige records
mcgill institute for the study of canada - will straw
music from the wrong place: on the italianicity of quebec disco (by will straw) (pdf file - journal article - criticism, winter 2008)


Saturday, June 28, 2014

Disco Delivery Mix #4:
Disco Pride '14 - Street Talk

NYC Pride, 1977. Photo from Autostraddle.

So Pride season is upon us here (WorldPride in Toronto, to be exact) and like last year, I had to make myself a little mix to listen to. Have myself a bit of a full dance card this weekend (Horse Meat Disco and Dimitri From Paris both playing at Toronto Pride's disco event, to name a couple of big bookings) so made this little mix rather quickly - in one try, which means this has a few more rough patches than usual. Hopefully that doesn't detract from the whole thing too much.. Should also say. didn't really choose too many obvious 'gay anthems' for the most part, barring at least a couple of selections or so, but all have a certain thematic relevance (or, at least I hope so). May decide to tighten this up in a few days or so, but for now, enjoy..



Friday, June 06, 2014

Liner Notes:
Patrick Adams Presents Phreek (1978, Atlantic / 2014, BBR/Cherry Red)

 I'm sure many of the disco heads reading this were aware of the great RBMA Larry Levan street party in New York that happened nearly a month ago now, right outside the former Paradise Garage (in conjunction with the Larry Levan Way initiative). Covered heavily not only by Red Bull Music Academy themselves, but by Rolling Stone, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, it promised to be a landmark event not just for that weekend, but for the legacy of Larry and the Garage itself. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to be there, but watching the amazing livestream on their website (which unfortunately is not archived - though at least now the audio is), I have to say for those of us, like myself, who weren't around to experience it in its day, or for those who may not have completely understood the draw of the Garage, it was a chance to really witness the power of its legacy and what it meant to the people who were a part of it (and to those who weren't). To see not just the Garage veterans, but generations of people - gay, straight, black, white (and beyond) - dancing together in that kind of joy (under clear sunny skies, no less) it was a truly beautiful thing to witness. Even if it did have to end earlier than planned (on account of crowd concerns from the police - some 20 thousand people in attendance, a number of them stuck in the lineups to get in), from most accounts, RBMA managed to pull off a truly special event that everyone could be proud of..

With all that happening, I suppose it was kind of timely that my promo copies of this reissue (which had come out in February) arrived in the mail just a few days before. Perhaps best known for "Weekend," which by many accounts, had been one of the biggest Paradise Garage anthems (and which of course was played at the recent street party), Patrick Adams Presents Phreek had long been one of my favourite disco albums and when the opportunity presented itself, I pretty much jumped at the chance to write the liner notes for this release..

On a personal note, I remember this being one of the first albums I'd sought out when I first became aware of Patrick Adams' productions. I had already bought the Musique albums, as well as the first Disco Juice compilation (which included some of his Cloud One material). Not long after, in 2001 (some 13 years ago now - yikes!), at my local record haunt at the time - I had found a lone sealed, but unfortunately water damaged copy of this album. Checking it over carefully, debating with myself whether it was worth the dust and mould, I'd ultimately decide to leave it behind that time. I'd go back and repeat that exact scanario several more times before one day deciding that enough was enough - I had to have it, in whatever condition it came in. After all, it was the music that counted and since it was still sealed, any water damage could probably just be cleaned off anyway, right? Sure enough, the day I make a point of going there to buy it, I go to find that somebody had beat me to it! Couldn't believe it at the time, that someone else - in Calgary, Alberta no less (not exactly somewhere where you'd think you'd have been in competition for disco albums, certainly not back in 2001) would have been after this record and after it enough to buy one in that condition. Goes to show perhaps, as anecdotal as that impression may be, a sign of the cult following that this album probably already had at the time. Luckily, not too long after, a much nicer copy would find its way into their bins, which I quickly bought and which I still have and treasure today.

Phreek - May My Love Be With You (Vocals: Donna McGhee)
Uploaded by DJ Amine Bebito

Several years after, in 2007, I had written a Disco Delivery entry for this album and I pretty much jumped off some of what I had written then when I began the liner essay for this. One thing about this album that has always stood out for me is that I've always found it to be the bridge between Patrick Adams' experimental side on his productions on the P&P label, like Cloud One and the more slick, sophisticated arrangements that he was also known for, especially on his major label work. You've got a light string arrangement on "Weekend," you have the heavy moogy freakiness, the sweet, sublime and soulful sides ("May My Love Be With You") and of course, the lascvisious side as well ('I'm A Big Freak (R U 1 2)"). It's like a summary of the many angles of Patrick's musical approach at the time and in the credits, a gathering of many of his closest associates.

Disco Delivery #38: Patrick Adams Presents Phreek (1978, Atlantic)

It had actually taken a little while to do so, but last summer I was fortunate enough to get in contact with this two of the album's leading figures - Patrick Adams himself and Leroy Burgess (who co-wrote "Weekend" and "Much Too Much" with James Calloway and co-produced both tracks with Patrick) and interview them over the phone for this. Prior to doing so, I was expecting to rely a great deal on both of their RBMA lecture sessions, which both Patrick and Leroy had done some nearly 10 years apart. As informative as those conversations are, it was no replacement for speaking to them personally about the album, their working relationship and how certain songs on the record came to be. Still, both of their RBMA lectures are highly recommended viewing for anyone even halfway interested in their work..

Lecture: Patrick Adams (New York, 2013)
Uploaded by Red Bull Music Academy on Vimeo.

Lecture: Leroy Burgess (Rome, 2004)
Uploaded by Red Bull Music Academy on Vimeo.

From there, I dug a little deeper and also managed to contact Issy Sanchez, who was Atlantic Records' Director of Disco Promotion and A&R at the time and who had also done the highly sought-after 12" remix of "Weekend." Issy was not only able to give insight into that 12" mix and some of workings within the label, but given that he was fairly tight with Larry Levan and the Paradise Garage organization, was able to give some insight into how well "Weekend" had been received there and just how much of a classic it had become for Larry and the Garage crowd.

Phreek - Weekend (12" Disco Mix by Issy Sanchez, Vocal: Christie Shire)
Uploaded by tmontyb10011

Another key player I contacted for this was Christine Wiltshire, the lead vocalist on "Weekend," on both this and the Class Action cover version that came later. Credited as both Christine Wiltshire and Christie Shire on the album credits, Christine was not only one of Patrick's main backing vocalists and his vocal contractor but also his girlfriend at the time (they have a daughter and were together - personally and professionally for over a decade). I'd have to say that finding Christine was one of the greatest revelations in this process. The now Oscar winning documentary 20 Feet From Stardom had just come out at the time, and hearing her story, she could have very easily been one of the film's subjects. Given how prolific she was as a background vocalist (and not just on Patrick's material), I was surprised to hear that she hadn't really been interviewed in depth about her work before our conversation. Her beginnings in the music business go back well before her disco work, when she sang in a trio called Something Different, with two childhood friends - Angel Coakley along with a certain Jocelyn Brown, who'd become a prominent and prolific vocalist in her own right (and who also appears here on Phreek and on quite a few of Patrick's major productions).. As a trio, Something Different had sang with Zulema, Bill Withers and even John and Yoko (getting a featured billing on Yoko Ono and The Plastic Ono Band's "Feeling The Space" album, no less). Apart from the trio, Christine herself would sing with Lou Reed and with Luther Vandross' group on his very first album, as well. While I was only able to use a small part of our interview for the liner notes, it was without a doubt one of the most valuable conversations I'd have in this whole process..

A Correction:

At one point I quote Leroy Burgess talking about "Much Too Much" being the "first suggestion of the boogie sound" which it definitely is, especially if you listen to his later work as Convertion and Logg (he is widely crowned the king of boogie, after all). However he also goes on to say in doing it he wanted something with "a dance feel, but not as fast as what traditional disco is." Well, checking the BPM, it's not exactly slower than the rest of the record or even standard disco, but given that its got a funkier, more spacious arrangement than some of the others on the album, I think most people can see what he was getting at anyway. Still, something I should have caught earlier on.

Earlier Japanese reissue:

Although Phreek had been out of print physically for some time, it had been legitimately available on iTunes for a few years before. Just as I came into this project however, Warner had evidently released this in Japan as a basic, low-priced CD reissue some months before this UK reissue could came out. Given that it was released as part of a budget-priced series (which also included another release BBR had licensed - Gwen McCrae's 1982 album), it was also a lot cheaper than your usual Japanese reissue (selling in some places for just over $10 US - and that's as an import). Whether that was intentional or not,(in pricing it in order to appeal to international buyers), it certainly ended up stealing some thunder from this release. That being said, (aside from the liner notes, of course) the UK BBR reissue includes two bonus tracks - Issy Sanchez's original 12" mix of "Weekend" and its B-side - a longer version of "Have A Good Day" which aren't included on the Japanese reissue.

A note about "Weekend" and chart positions:

Patrick once posted on his Facebook about how some of his records have only become more and more popular as time has gone on. I believe he'd been referring to one of his P&P productions at the time, but I think this applies just as well to Phreek and "Weekend" too.. Right on the heels of "In The Bush," and right around the same time as a couple of other albums he'd produced on Atlantic - for Narada Michael Walden and Herbie Mann, even though this didn't chart quite as well as either of them, it seems out of his work for Atlantic,"Weekend" and the Phreek album have been the ones that discophiles today consistenly cite as one of his essential records. While I'm sure subsequent covers, remixes and samples along with its attachment to the Larry Levan/Paradise Garage legacy have played a significant part in that, it should also be noted that at the time of its release, despite positive reviews from Vince Aletti in Record World (see the December 9, 1978 entry - pg. 448 in the The Disco Files) and Stereo Review, this didn't chart anywhere on Billboard, including their disco chart. That said, I should also note that at the time of this album's release, Billboard's National Disco Action chart only went up to #40. It was only several months later in April 1979, that it would expand to 60 positions, (then 80 and eventually 100), so whether "Weekend" would have actually charted had that expansion come several months earlier is perhaps anyone's guess, but also goes to show whether or not a record is remembered years later, sometimes has little or nothing to do with its initial chart positions.

Covers and remixes:

Although "Weekend" has been covered and remixed, most famously covered by Class Action and later Todd Terry(which was a #1 Billboard dance record, nearly ten years after the original's release), remixed by Tommy Musto in the late 1990s and also covered recently by the current edition of Odyssey, have to give a shout out to Joey Negro's recent remix of "May My Love Be With You." Although not a part of this reissue, it was included on his Remixed With Love compilation and is undoubtedly one of my favourite songs from this album. True to its claim, done lovingly and faithfully in that old school style (ie. no added bells and whistles here, aside from what was already on the master), it only makes me love it even more.

patrick adams presents phreek (remastered cd) (1978, atlantic / 2014, big break records)
dusty groove | | | big break records

come put out the fire.. (tuesday july 24, 2007)
disco delivery #38: patrick adams presents phreek (1978, atlantic) (thursday march 29, 2007)

facebook: big break records
facebook: patrick adams producer (fan page)
big break records: patrick adams presents phreek
patrick adams productions
leroy burgess - official website
discogs: phreek
discogs: patrick adams presents phreek phreek - weekend/have a good day (12" single)
discogs: phreek - weekend/have a good day (12" single)
discogs: phreek - weekend (gonna find someone) (7" single)
discogs: patrick adams
discogs: leroy burgess
red bull music academy - new york 2013: patrick adams lecture
red bull music academy - rome 2004: leroy burgess lecture
the second disc: big break's round up: label "phreeks" out with patti labelle, isaac hayes, gwen mccrae, more (by joe marchese) (april 11, 2014)


Saturday, May 24, 2014

Disco Delivery Interviews Robert Ouimet

This is a conversation that I'd been sitting on for quite some time now, but thanks to the boys of A Digital Needle, I had the privilege to speak to Montreal's DJ Godfather, Robert Ouimet last November, before he played at a special edition of their monthly event, Beam Me Up here in Toronto. Before that, he played at Toronto Pride last summer, where he impressed not only myself, but by the looks of it, just about everyone else in Cawthra Square Park (AKA the 519 Green Space) that night..

It's a rarity these days, when many have either died, or have long left the music scene, to come across someone like Robert, a leading figure in the Montreal and Canadian disco community, who has not only stuck around (interesting fact: he won a JUNO award in 1994), but who remains as musically sharp, open and active as ever. That November night in Toronto, he proceeded to show the crowd - by and large, young enough to be his children, why they called him 'The Godfather.'

This evening he's back in Toronto for yet another round, so I figured this was a good time to finally post this up.. We talked about his days at the Limelight, Montreal's leading disco back in the day (which, interestingly enough, is now a strip club called Chez Paree); how disco people rediscovered him and how he too would end up rediscovering disco.

I read that you started at a place called 'Love'


How old were you?

I was 24. It was the first year that I came to Montreal. I went to Montreal University in English Studies, and what happened is that I got fed up and at the same time I found a job, because I didn't have any money.

So it was out of necessity, then..

Yes. I was going at the club and the manager knew..

Knew you?

He didn't know me, he knew me because I was there and I was bugging him..

Ah, because you were persistent!

Yeah! And I wanted to try at least one night and then the owner liked me a lot so what happened is that he hired me.

Okay.. And you said this was right at the end when, you know, when live bands were giving way to DJs..

Yeah, downstairs was live bands; R&B, soulful stuff and upstairs was the club.. but it was a hole! But it was fun! It was kind of mixed up – black, gay, straight.

So, no pretension.

No, no, no.. The owner was always there making sure everybody behaved..

I read somewhere that this was a place where a lot of hip soul bands would play too..

Yes! A lot of bands from the states, soul bands from the 60's early 70's..

Which ones do you remember?

When I came there, it was kind of the end of that stuff, so I'm not sure exactly which bands, but I know it had a good reputation..

So, how did you build from there, from Love?

The thing is, is that the Limelight was already open..

When did it open? 72, 73, something like that?

73.. End of 73, around that.. I'm not good with numbers and years, but what happened is that the DJ that they had was George Cucuzzella, who would later become the owner of Unidisc, and they wanted another DJ because George didn't like to work afterhours. They heard me and everybody was talking about me at that time, a lot of people – the underground people, because when I was playing I didn't play commercial stuff so what happened is that they came over, they heard me, I tried it and they liked it a lot..

So you just stayed..

I stayed there. I worked downstairs first because there was no upstairs, everything was downstairs at the time..

Okay, well tell me, because I was reading that it was like three levels or something..

That was a long time after..

Oh, okay. So it started small at that time?

Yes, second level only, that was a nice place.. really, really nice.

Yvon LaFrance, was it him who hired you?

There were two owners, another guy and Yvon. It was Yvon that heard me, that was more in charge of the DJs

So tell me how it evolved, because I didn't know this, it started out with just the one level and then there was the second level, I heard called Le Jardin, for the gay crowd?

Okay, what happened is that they built up the third floor, the Limelight was the second floor and we went upstairs, so the music was going from upstairs to downstairs when they opened up the third floor. That's before Le Jardin..

Okay, before?

Yeah, a lot of gays used to go downstairs, but they wanted a place of their own, so there was a lot of gay people upstairs too, but they all had the same music, the problem was that I didn't see the crowd, it was hard to control and to work with. What happened is that they built it out and made Le Jardin with a DJ downstairs, and me, I kept the third floor, which had more people.

So, it wasn't really a gay venue, it was a mixed crowd?..

It was always a mixed venue, but toward more of a gay crowd. Let's say the gay guys and their fag hags [both laugh] all the girls with them.

For you, I heard in that interview with CBC, the first dance music for you was really Motown?

That was my youth, my teens, you know..

So in 73, when you started, when you played at Love, that's what it started with?

There was a continuity with all of that, it was kind of a R&B, early, early Barry White, early Bohannon, mostly Funk and Soul. The early Limelight was that too, funk and soul on 45s, album cuts..

And you were mixing at this time too, right?

Yep, yep..

Because I remember hearing about some other places like, you know, I think I read about in the UK, it took a while for mixing to catch on..

I was blending, it was not really mixing, because that was hard in those days, especially those records.

So, was the Limelight was a lot more discriminating than Love? Because I read somewhere that it was a Studio 54 kind of place, where if you didn't look right, you could not get in..

Yes, it was very fashion oriented, very 'in' place, it was kind of a hidden secret – a word-of-mouth place..

Would you say that it was the most important disco in Montreal at the time?

Yes, it was the main club, Dance club.. There was nothing besides the Limelight for five years after. It started later, the other clubs... There was a little club right beside the Limelight that tried to do something, a place called Lorelei, but it didn't work. It was nicer than Limelight..


Yes! But, it never worked..

Were they also very discriminating about who they let in also?

Yes, that too.. Crescent Street was the gay village at the time.

What was your relationship with the owner, Yvon LaFrance? Was there ever any tension there?

No, not in those days, that came later.. It was quite good. He trusted me and I had confidence in him too, he let me do whatever I wanted..

He gave you freedom..

Yes, I was able to do anything I wanted. He gave me the opportunity, and I proved that I was a person that you can count on, because I was always there, I was never sick, I was never out of control. I might be drunk [laughs] but not out of control, no drugs.

And you were playing on the busy days, was it, the weekends?

Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday..

And so they had other people fill in during the week?

In the beginning, it wasn't open during the week.

I was thinking, how you went to find records, as a DJ. You think of it today, it's easy going online and you can easily find out's new and what's playing where, I read that in those days, you'd go to New York regularly..

I used to go to New York, I read the magazines. I had Cashbox, I had Billboard, I knew ahead of time what was coming out, I knew what I wanted and I knew when, and there were some people at the time, who were travelling back and forth to Montreal and New York to buy records..

I heard that it was both ways, people from New York going to Montreal, as well, I'm getting ahead of myself here, because Montreal had a lot of imports.

Yeah! And I was friends with one of the guys, so he always gave me first choice, because he knew me, he knew I knew my music, and I was coming from the 60s, I knew all my shit and I was the first one in the truck, no store was getting there before me, and I had an unlimited budget so I was buying everything! [laughs] Sometimes I had a pile that high [hand in the air] of records, three hundred dollars a week of records. In those days, that was a lot!

Even today that's a lot! Around what time was this? What year? Before 12 inches still?


And before Record Pools and that kind of stuff?

It was a bit before the Record Pools. But the Record Pool, the first one from New York – For The Record was around the same time - '74.

That's when they started in Montreal too, okay. I mean, you started with soul music, but later on there was a lot of European stuff coming to Montreal first before it ever went to the US...


And so even today, you look back at some of the top 10 lists from the time and Montreal's always looks different, compared to all the other ones..

I was playing for Montreal, not for a New York crowd, so I didn't mind what they were playing in New York. The culture [in Montreal] is a very mixed culture. I know French, you know, all kinds of different kind of music in Quebec, Latin stuff, stuff coming from Europe, it was easy for me to put together and insert all that with the disco that I was playing, it was working. I would play Tabou Combo, and people would go nuts over that!

Going a bit later in the 70s, going from being a DJ, I guess they start getting DJs in the studio, to be consultants, or to remix the records, how did that begin for you?

I got friends with a few people who were working at a record company, and they were bringing me promos and things like that and that's what happened, talking with them.. and I was very hard with them! [both laugh] I didn't play anything they wanted me to play! I played the things I wanted to play. I was really hard at it, they hated me! A lot of them!

Because they'd give you promos and you wouldn't play them? I mean, I know as a DJ, you don't want to be force-fed..

I was not their bitch! [laughs] I mean, I have a mind of my own, I know what I'm doing.. When I see a crowd, I can read it. Without me even noticing it, I know. I feel it. So, I see a crowd, I know what to do with them. And if I don't, I'll stop the thing and play something else..

Okay, going from that how did you break new records to your crowd? I heard that when you liked a new record and you would introduce it by playing it next to one they already loved to make it acceptable. Because if a crowd hears something they don't know..

They will go away..

But you play it with something that is familiar..

And each time they got away, they'd leave the floor, I'd replay the same track! I'd come back to the old track, they were coming back on the floor, and I'd replay it again!

Ah, that's how you sent the message.. Like, listen to it first..

It always worked! Everybody was freaking out 'cause I was doing that.

What was the first record that you – actually, let me go back a little, did it start with you doing edits for yourself?

No, I never did edits in the 70's, never..

I know it would have been really hard, because you had to tape it, and cut the tape..

I had guys who were doing that for me. Their name was PAJ.

Okay. And they were DJs too, right?


No, okay..

They loved the music..

I should ask them, but do you remember how they started?

I don't remember .. They started giving me edits, they said 'listen to it' and I liked what I was hearing, and a few times, I stopped playing the original completely, I played their mix. Like [Denise LaSalle's] "Freedom To Express Yourself.” My crowd knew only that mix, they don't know the original.

Okay, because today, everyone does re-edits. DJs will make re-edits for their own sets, you know, to make it easier to mix and that kind of thing, but way back then, it would have been so much harder.. What was the first record that someone actually hired you to say 'can you mix this record'? The first one you actually mixed, I guess..

The first one I mixed? That was Francine McGee. I'm not sure if it was Gino, or Francine.. it was '77, anyway..

So, it was for RCA Records? Or the producer?

No, no, I think it was the producer. I did that for the producer, the guy who composed everything, I did that in his basement!

[laughs] So, obviously he knew you from the Limelight at this point..

Yeah, yeah..

So, that started the whole thing, you did things like Gino Soccio and all of it from there..

That's because of Quality Records, because of the promotion man who was friends with me, he got me involved with all of that, those people..

Yeah, because I saw your name as a 'Disco Consultant' on another Gino Soccio production, that was Karen Silver..

Yeah, from Toronto, also..

So, explain what that was, a 'Disco Consultant'..

A Disco Consultant is like telling 'yes' or 'no' to what they're doing..

Okay, cause I saw that old 60 minutes segment, and they had this producer, it was John Ferrara, who brought a bunch of DJs in the studio, and he would ask them 'do you like this?' 'do you like that?' Was it kind of like that?

Yeah! To do this and that and maybe check out the mix they had, the bass, or the sound, the drums.. That's where I started. That's how I started working with Gino. He was bringing me his acetate and I tried a few things and I went to the studio to remix my first twelve-inch with him – “The Visitors.”

The Visitors – yes!

That was done in the studio, with the 16-track.

And you were there with him, or by yourself?

Yeah, with the engineer.

So Gino brought the acetate to you, to the club, to test it out?

Yeah, I had the acetate..

Before anyone else did?

A lot of it, yeah, but he was also testing it in the States too..

Right, I guess he had his record company there testing..

Because at the time, Gino got mixed up with RFC, which was a big thing for Warner Brothers/Atlantic at the time! They put a lot of money into it ..

BTW, I Listened to the ATOMIX, the first one, and there is a Sylvester re-edit of of “(You Make Me Feel) Mighty Real”, what was that?

That's fucking good! Love it! It's not out yet..

It's unreleased, oh okay.. Was it Tom Moulton, or was it someone else?

It's a guy from Germany.. He sent it to me, he didn't want to send it to everybody. When I gave it away, I had to ask him.. That was the last track I played last summer..

Oh, at Pride!

That's the last track I played and I got people coming up to see me, because of that.. because they were freaking out!

That was amazing! Whoever he is, he's very good!.. Well, this leads into my next question, because the re-edit stuff, that's another world for me that I haven't even fully explored. My thing has been going to record stores and digging for whatever 12” singles or albums I find, or whatever looks interesting. I was really slow to latch on to all of that, but what's your take on disco re-edits today?

I love it!.. The thing is, I was there at the beginning, and we're 40 years later, I don't want to play the same records..

Because you knew them the first time around, you played them for weeks on end..

I know them and got fed up with them, most of them.. It's not because they're bad. After a certain time, you get fed up, because it's the same music you hear and play all the time, so you wanna move on into something else.. There are some good re-edits coming out, some great remixes, also, that kept the feel of the original and that got me back into playing disco again, otherwise I wouldn't have played any..

So, hearing re-edits, the remixes that kept the feel of the original..

Yes! That's what got me back into playing disco, because I was ready to quit two years ago!


Completely! I didn't wanna do it anymore.

What happened two years ago that made you want to quit?

I couldn't get work in Montreal because of my age, people thought I was kinda washed out, but without hearing what I was doing, even though I had radio shows.. You know how people are with age and stuff like that, you're not supposed to be good for a long time.. And I think I'm way better than I was in the disco days, for what I know and what I've experienced. I feel I mix a lot better than before..

That's another thing, so many people have left, either they've died, or they're not involved in music anymore, but you're still around, you're doing re-edits as well, you're doing your own shows, you're more tuned into a lot of this stuff than I am.

It's been a part of me, all the time, even in the 70s, I was very curious about music.

To maintain that for as long as you have is impressive!

It's still there! That's why I have four different shows and types of shows on web radio.

So for you, re-edits gave it new life.. When did you feel people were re-visiting disco, because every ten years or so, someone says 'oh, disco's back!'

It's been happening for a while though, It's been happening with House, sampling disco. That, I was not too crazy about. That for me was kind of a hit-and-miss, but I think now, it's a step in the right direction. I think people want to go towards real music, but it's a movement that's a lot bigger in Europe than here and the States.. I find that Europe has better musical dance culture than here..

You were mentioning it last night, things move a lot faster today, tracks they would come and go in a matter of weeks, but you said, a track like Karen Young – Hot Shot, you were so sick of it, you had to play it for months and months.

A lot of tracks we used to play for 9 months, to a year, because nobody was playing it. The only place you could hear it was at the club.

It hadn't crossed over to radio..

Radio didn't play that stuff. I think Radio killed it, killed a lot of disco hits, because of that. Because it was better to play at the club. People came for that..

To hear it in a club atmosphere .. They always talk about in New York, Frankie Crocker at WBLS, playing a lot of disco on the radio, was there anything like that in Montreal?

Yeah, there was CKMF They were playing disco. More commercial stuff..

And of course, the radio station that played you live..

Yeah, every Saturday night..

How long did that go on?

Two years..

Another thing we discussed last night, on the record. You weren't really one to tape yourself and listen back to your mixes..

No. For me, I never prepare a set. I know my music, but I never prepare a set ahead of time. It's in my head, and the crowd and the way I read the crowd. That's where it goes. I was never really interested in hearing what I was doing, because for me, it didn't make any sense, to hear what you were doing after it was done. “How come I did that!?”

You'd be criticizing too much?

Yeah! But it worked for the crowd at that time, and when you re-listen, you wonder, you're not sure. So for me, to be better in the way I worked, I would prefer to never record what I was doing.

Having started with R&B and Soul, how did you feel about Eurodisco, later on, as you started getting more of that, how did you feel about that?

I found soul in that stuff too. I mean, the first track I played like that, like Kraftwerk and the Donna Summer – I Feel Love, they were bringing something else. That was bringing another colour, that's why I liked it.

So there was no resistance from you, as far as that was concerned?

Not at all!

Because sometimes I hear about that, that some people who favoured the soul and R&B side of disco, couldn't really identify with that, with Eurodisco, or the more electronic side of it..

No, no, I was really open-minded..

Something I heard was that you were one of the first people to play Donna Summer's “I Feel Love” in Canada, when they were promoting the record. It was on the flipside at the time and the A-Side was a ballad..

Casablanca/Polygram at the time, gave me a gold record because of that!

Oh! For breaking that record!


So, how many gold records, or whatever certification, did you get, for breaking records?

Oh, I got one for Boney M..

Which one?

"Daddy Cool".. I got one for Gino Soccio - “Dancer,” I got one for Musique – “Push, Push, In The Bush,” I got a big one for Saturday Night Fever, I got something on, I can't remember his name, the rock guy, we don't hear about him anymore...

What other DJs did you respect, because you were, I guess, the Godfather, as they called you in Montreal, but who else would you say - in Montreal or elsewhere?

Michel Simard, He was at Limelight after..

After you, right.. You also mentioned New York, when you went to New York, you said your favourite place was Barefoot Boy (presided over by DJ Tony Smith).

It was Barefoot Boy, yeah.

When did you start going there?

Early 70s. Like 74, 75. Like I said, I'm very bad with numbers.. I remember it was kind of a..

It was a gay club?

It was a gay club.

With a name like that, I suppose so.. [laughs]

It was a gay club and it was fun to go to, the music was always great. It inspired me a lot!

It was the very soulful stuff at the time?

It was early disco and the good stuff, only the good stuff!

You already started at the Limelight at that point?

Yeah, I was learning to mix properly and that really helped me a lot! Hearing what they were doing, how they were doing it. You know, disco is not easy to mix. It's very up and down, it's really hard to do.

Would you describe disco as more feeling than technical, when you want to mix? You have to feel the music in a different way?

When you mix something like disco, it has to be very technical, because the beats are going up and down, so you use your fingers on the turntable or the pitch, know exactly when to go up or down. Nowadays, you don't do that, or mostly not.

Because 120 BPM is going to be just that.

That's it! But disco is not the same, it would be starting at 107, and sometimes finished at 117, that's a ten beat difference, that's a lot! And sometimes when you mix, the beat was fluctuating between 107, and 110, so you had to know when to go up and down on the pitch.

So, at what point was disco starting to get played out for you? Like you were starting to say, 'okay, this is enough', like you didn't like the new records coming out?

It started in 79..

Was there a single record that you can say people were really hyping up that you just couldn't get behind?

I don't really remember, but I mean, you spend 7 years of your life playing the same type of music, I mean, after a while, even though you like all that stuff, you need to branch out and do something else. At the same time that happened, new wave was beginning, so for me, new wave was kind of a breath of fresh air, compared to disco. It was different. Disco was getting very sophisticated at the time, and that was kind of raw, it was very interesting!

It was the feeling you had when disco kind of started, something new and exciting?

I think so. I had the same spark I had with disco at the beginning.

So, someone said that you were one of the first people to really bring new wave to the Montreal audience, that true?

Yeah! All the disco people hated me for that, really hated me! But I knew it was something that was coming.

What was the reaction? People would just walk off?

Okay, the first time I played “Rock Lobster” by the B-52s there were 1500 people in the place, everybody on the dancefloor. When I played “Rock Lobster,” nobody.

Nobody danced?

Nobody! So, I let the 45 go, and I restarted disco after. Everybody said, “you're nuts, you're crazy!” and two weeks after, half the crowd was on the floor, and a month after, it was packed!

So it took off! So, it started with that, “Rock Lobster..”

And at the same time that it happened, the crowd changed.

Was it still kind of a gay crowd or was it..?

Kind of a gay crowd still, but it changed, the regular disco, really really disco people kind of left and got replaced by another crowd.

So you left Limelight in 82 was it?

I left Limelight the first time, early 80..

What happened after that?

He [Limelight owner Yvon LaFrance] gave me my own club!

He gave you your own place!?

He gave it to me, the club downstairs.. In three weeks, because there was not a lot of people, he closed it and got rid of me.. that's all he wanted..

Oh, an excuse..

An excuse to get rid of me, because he couldn't do it.

Okay, going back to the Limelight, every level was a different concept, different sound by now..?


So, he gave you the underground, for the new wave at one point. So, when he shut that down, somebody else picked you up? You found another job right away?

I found another job right away!

They knew you and everything..

And I worked every night, four nights a week, it was packed like crazy, a small, small club..

What was it called, you remember?

Uh, Studio One.

Studio One, okay. There was also a Studio One in LA that I hear about too.. So they gave you free reign?

It was great there, because I was able to play such a vast range of music.

So you mixed everything in there..

No, not mixed! Unmixed! I loved it because I was not able to mix.

You were not able to?

I didn't mix! In-and-out. Fade in-fade out! I think that mixing is overrated.. I believe in music! Mixing is an extra.. But you don't need to mix together to play good music. David Mancuso proved it. He's still doing it!

I agree, and I've never heard him play, but selection always trumps mixing..

Yeah, very important, the selection and as long as you have it, good!

Because sometimes I'll hear a perfectly mixed set and it's all a bit monotonous..

It's boring!

Going back to your longevity, what would you attribute it to? Being around music for so long, what keeps it exciting for you?

I think that music keeps me young! Music excites me. There's not a lot of things in life that excite me, music does!

And I guess that curiosity that you're talking about..

It's still there. It never went away and I don't think it's gonna go away, that's what made me..

And you're still editing yourself now..

Yeah, I'm doing some new stuff also. I'm restarting everything again..

So the re-edits have really re-energized you creatively, not just in disco, but more broadly?

What really rejuvenated me was, it has to do with Lil' Dave [Montreal DJ Dave "Lil' Dave" Godin]. A lot! Because he came at a time when I was going down and he was up. And he pushed me and he made me realize that a lot of people knew about me, a lot of people that were worth knowing! He introduced me to all these people and that gave me a big fucking boost! Sorry about the 'fucking' part, but that's what it was! Because I thought I was alone, and that put me in contact with people that went through the same thing I went through, that they are going through at the same time as me, now too. And they heard about me and are aware of what I did, so that was great for me! Because I thought I was alone and completely forgotten.

Alone, how?

Alone, like.. what I did, I did, and that only me and a few people remembered..

Like you were something of the past..

Yeah, and those guys were freaking out that I was there, and they treated me like I was an icon! I didn't expect that!

So, like you were saying, the ageism sometimes, that was part of that feeling alone?

I kind of doubted for a while, all of this, what I did and all that, but they made me realize that I did something great, something good, and they talked about it and they knew about what I was doing and what I did.. That was great!

And that was just in the last couple of years, really?


I guess, before I end it, talking about this past Pride, here in Toronto. I was really impressed by what I heard from you and the crowd, you know. I was wondering how many people would be interested, like myself. I grew up thinking, I enjoy disco, but I wasn't sure how many other people around me would, you know.. So to see all those people really into everything was great!

Yeah, I was very happy with that! I had a lot of fun that night! I had a nice compliment from the sound man, he said he never danced to disco, he said I made him dance all night!

And that's really the ultimate compliment, making somebody dance, that never danced! Well, I think on that note, we'll end it here for now.. Thank you very much for being open to this!

No problem!

To keep up with Robert Ouimet, his web radio shows and his latest edits, follow him on Soundcloud.

disco delivery mix #1: disco pride (saturday june 29, 2013)
funkytown, montreal (wednesday october 21, 2009)
sunshine on my mind... (sunday january 7, 2007)
disco delivery #9: karen silver - hold on i'm comin' (1979, quality/arista) (friday march 3, 2006)

soundcloud: robert ouimet
discogs: robert ouimet forums: montreal clubs
deep house page forums: canada's disco scene?
deep house page forums: a little canadian disco history
cashbox canada: godfather of canadian dj's robert ouimet (interview) (by michael e. williams) (february 7, 2013)
montreal gazette: disco flashback: funkytown resurrects memories of montreal in the 1970s (by andy riga) (february 7, 2011)
montreal gazette: legendary dj robert ouimet on disco's heyday, spins "pure disco" one-night-only at mtl club (by richard burnett) (october 6, 2012) clubs - limelight (1254 stanley street, montreal, canada)
limelight montreal
paj disco mix
discogs: paj
million dollar disco: paj disco mix


Friday, May 02, 2014

Disco Delivery Mix #3:
Happy 'Bout the Whole Thing

After taking a bit of a break from the turntables, (a six month gap to be exact, between recording the last one and this one) decided to come back for another.. Recorded this just last week, did three takes of this mix to try and tighten things up. Ended up going with my second try, which wasn't the most polished of the three but the one that I kept going back to while listening back.. Just had the right energy and the ideal amount of polish and spark so here it is, out of my ipod and on to the interwebs..

For this, just decided to work a bunch of songs I'd been enjoying lately into a basic mix. The first two selections don't strictly conform to disco necessarily, but they were two that I'd often found myself dancing to anyway, so figured I'd fit them onto here somehow. This one's a little funkier than the last, but still tried to keep things moving at a swift disco pace (someone else can count the BPMs).


Etta James - Woman (Shake Your Booty)
Bonnie Pointer - Ah Shoot
Willie Hutch - Come On and Dance With Me (Disco Mix)
Lalomie Washburn - Man Power (Can You Do It) (12" Version)
Merry Clayton - Cryin' For Love
Dee Dee Sharp - Happy About The Whole Thing
David Christie - Don't Stop Me, I Like It (A Tom Moulton Mix)
Rozalin Woods - Whatcha' Gonna Do About It
John Davis & The Monster Orchestra - Up Jumped The Devil
Final Edition - No Limit
Rhyze - Free
Rose Banks - Right's Alright
Isaac Hayes Movement - Disco Connection


Friday, April 25, 2014

Disco Delivery Mix #2:
A dive into the neon lights

Not that long ago (six months back, to be exact), I decided to get a couple of DJ turntables, so I could finally put some the vinyl I've accumulated to some constructive use (at long last). I have a lovely Technics 1600 already, which has served me well for home playing and archiving, but I figured I needed something better suited for DJing, if I wanted to start doing some mixes. Ended up getting me a second-hand Technics 1210, (basically the black version of the classic 1200) and a cheap knock off of one (still on a budget here), which I suppose will do until it breaks down or I get the funds for a proper 1200, whichever comes first. I've done it on digital before, even recorded a mix of sorts last year for Pride, but I figured since I have a collection of records already, there's no better way to start dipping my toes into a little amateur DJing than with the standard, time-honoured vinyl and turntables.

Back in October, I uploaded a few of my tries on the turntables on my Soundcloud. After some takedown issues there, I've decided to archive them on Mixcloud instead. You can hear some of those earlier tries here and here. Out of the three that I had done and uploaded, this is probably the tightest one, which might not be saying much, since there are still some rough moments here and there. Overall though, quite happy with it. A little heavy on the divas (as tends to be my preference), but hope some of you out there will be happy with it too..


Mary Wilson - Red Hot (12" Version)
Jean Wells - I Just Can't Stop Dancing (Remixed)
The Ritchie Family - Put Your Feet To The Beat (12" Version)
Queen Samantha - Mama Rue (C'est Moi)
Diana Ross - Lovin' Livin' and Givin'
Disco Circus - Over and Over (Peter Frost Remix)
Karen Silver - Hold On I'm Comin'
Tempest Trio - Do You Like The Way That It Feels
Sarah Dash - Low Down Dirty Rhythm
Claudja Barry - Trippin' On The Moon


Thursday, April 03, 2014

Frankie Knuckles (1955-2014)

With all the incredible tributes that have been pouring out for Frankie Knuckles since his death this past Monday, I'm not sure I can really add all that much to the many eloquent, heartfelt ones out there - from Michaelangelo Matos in Rolling Stone, Alexis Petridis in the Guardian, Rich Juzwiak at Gawker, Barry Walters at NPR, his old friend and mentor Nicky Siano at Thump/Vice, to name some of the best ones that I've read so far. I'm perhaps one of the least qualified to write about him now, I obviously never knew him personally, nor would I ever profess to be the biggest of househeads. Granted, while there are classic house records that I do love (some of them directly attributed to Frankie), my introduction to Frankie had less to do with "Your Love," "The Whistle Song" or "Tears," classics that they are, but moreso when he became just about everyone's go-to remixer (his mixes of Chaka Khan's "Ain't Nobody," Alison Limerick's "Where Love Lives," Michael Jackson's "Rock With You" and a different "Your Love," for the 1992 Chic reunion are firm favourites). Still, when it comes to exploring dance music, my focus had always been and still remains largely tied to disco. Even with that, I couldn't possibly go on here without acknowledging not only Frankie Knuckles' roots in disco, but his importance as a seminal figure who until his death, had been that living link between disco and house, to their origins (and indeed their survival) in the black and gay communities. With a musical lineage that went beyond The Warehouse, all the way back to David Mancuso's Loft, to Better Days, to Nicky Siano's Gallery, to the Continental Baths with his old friend Larry Levan, to Salsoul, which released his first mix - (of First Choice's "Let No Man Put Asunder" in 1983, which had been relegated to the B-side of Shep Pettibone's remix), those were disco roots than ran deep and wide. Speaking to house and disco's ties to gay culture, as Rich Juzwiak had pointed out in his Gawker article, it's something that at the very least, feels both far removed and taken for granted in the current EDM music culture, but Frankie was someone who was not only there, but right at the forefront.

As he recalled in his 2011 BBC 6 Mix interview with Dave Pearce (hear it below, or on Youtube, or on BBC 6 where they'll re-broadcast it this Friday April 4th), what was called house was largely just a term for what he played at The Warehouse, which by the early 80's largely consisted of older disco and R&B records and newer imports. Even though the backlash had little impact on him or his audience, as Frankie recalled, the major labels in the US had already backed off of disco and the pool of records was beginning to dry up, "there were no more disco records being made, nothing with any real kind of energy, other than what was coming out of Europe and out of Canada...It wasn't anything that was premeditated, or trying to create something.. it all came from me, just basically trying to keep my dancefloor interested in coming to that club every week after disco was declared dead... I figured I would do well to just work with what I knew. There was a lot of music that I was already playing, which was a lot of philly soul, I was beginning to learn how to edit and cut tape.."

BBC 6 Mix - Frankie Knuckles with Dave Pearce (May 15, 2011)

A listen to his "Choice: A Collection of Classics" (2000, Azuli) set as well as the many archived recordings of his early 80's Warehouse and Power Plant sets at Gridface and The Deep House Page are proof enough of the heavy disco presence in his mixes, even as late as the mid 80's. Some recently unearthed footage from the 1986 opening of the Power House (including a brief interview with a young Frankie) emphasizes that disco link even further.

Frankie Knuckles at Power House club, 1986 opening night
Uploaded by MediaBurnArchive

While re-editing had been a part of disco and DJ culture well before and well after (as the current proliferation of disco re-edits indicates); even if it was far from the only musical branch to come out of the influence (and to a certain extent, the manipulation of) disco, house remains perhaps one of the most potent and lasting examples of its influence. Perhaps also one of the many testaments to how culture is often created at the margins, in this case, both out of a marginalized people, (thinking about the layers of marginalization in being both black and gay in the already segregated racial climate of Chicago) and out of the cultural scraps (read: disco, post-backlash, in the very city that declared it dead) that no longer carried any currency or supposed "relevance," until they're eventually reevaluated, recontextualized and given value again, as the cycle goes. "Disco's revenge." as Frankie had famously put it.

Aside from the BBC 6 interview, his lecture from the 2011 Red Bull Music Academy with Jeff Mao is another one that I've given a lot of play to recently. I always had the impression, coming from some of his earlier interviews, that he was completely over all of the constant questions about the past - the 70's, his youth with Larry Levan, The Warehouse etc.. Perhaps it's the effect of both seeing and hearing him, or the setting - having an audience before him and being the storyteller, but once he gets going, whatever initial hesitation he may have had seems to fade completely as he gets deeper into the conversation. Now that he's no longer around to personally go over the finer points of his history anymore, both of these interviews are even more valuable in their candid, detailed, (and especially in the case of the BBC 6 interview), animated recollections.

Red Bull Music Academy (Madrid 2011) - Lecture: Frankie Knuckles

I love listening to these not only for the music and memories, but also for the wisdom he imparts and the class and grace he displays. There's no false modesty there, yet no egotism either. I suspect if you could have got him in private, he could have kiki'd for ages and spilt plenty of tea in the process.. I know that I would have loved to have had the chance.

While 59 still feels too young to die, it's remarkable to think that Frankie had remained active for what must have been about 40 years in total, right up until the very end. Whether as Nicky Siano mentions, that may have had as much to with survival as with inspiration, it's nonetheless an incredible feat to have remained active and present the way he has for as long as he has. If all the love pouring out with his passing is even just a small reflection of the love he cultivated while he was alive, his legacy in life and in music is one with few equals.

Rest in peace, Frankie Knuckles. Godfather of House.

npr - the record: where love lives: frankie knuckles and the dance floor (by barry walters) (april 2, 2014)
new york times: frankie knuckles, 59, house pioneer d.j., dies (by daniel e. slotnik) (april 2, 2014)
thump: "frankie was one of the kindest, gentlest people i've ever known" (by nicky siano) (april 2, 2014)
gawker: frankie knuckles, disco's revenge, and gay black music's triumph (by rich juzwiak) (april 2, 2014)
rolling stone: frankie knuckles 'godfather of house music,' dead at 59 (by michaelangelo matos) (april 1, 2014)
the guardian: frankie knuckles: godfather of house, priest of the dancefloor (by alexis petridis) (april 1, 2014)
los angeles times: remembering a house music legend: why frankie knuckles mattered (by randall roberts) (april 1, 2014)
chicago tribune: frankie knuckles, house music 'godfather' dead at 59 (by greg kot) (april 1, 2014) - frankie knuckles dies at age 59 (april 1, 2014)
chicago sun-times: chicago icon, 'godfather of house music' frankie knuckles dead at 59 (march 31, 2014)

facebook: frankie knuckles official fan page
facebook: def mix productions
gridface: frankie knuckles mixes
deep house page: frankie knuckles mixes
media burn independent video archive: house music in chicago (1986 mini-documentary)
red bull music academy - madrid 2011: lecture: frankie knuckles
bbc - 6 mix: frankie knuckles meets dave pearce (may 15, 2011)
djhistory: frankie knuckles interview
defected: interview - frankie knuckles (january 4, 2014)
xlr8r: podcast 336 - frankie knuckles (march 25, 2014)
resident advisor - features: the warehouse: the place where house got its name (may 16, 2012)
boiler room: frankie knuckles 60 minute mix (may 12, 2013) frankie knuckles interview (by dayna newman)
red bull music academy: the kids call it house music (frankie knuckles interview) (by jerd janson) (january 11, 2011)
faithfanzine: frankie knuckles interview (april 19, 2011)
the couch sessions: interview: godfather of house music frankie knuckles (december 9, 2010) interview with frankie knuckles


Sunday, February 23, 2014

Vintage Articles:
Sean Lawrence's Discaire Column -
Supply Without Demand // Christopher Street - May 1979

Recently, while doing a bit of research, I had come across some old issues of Christopher Street - a long defunct gay magazine published from 1976-1995, often referred to as "The Gay New Yorker" in its time. Finding out about Christopher Street for the first time felt, quite honestly, like uncovering a treasure. While perhaps quite a bit more highbrow and New York-centric next to other gay offerings on the newsstands of its day (and certainly compared to what exists now), I'd have to rank Christopher Street, at least what I've seen from this period, as easily one of the best gay magazines that I've read. While the quantity and accessibility of information available online can compensate somewhat for the beleaguered state of print media these days, reading something like Christopher Street, one can't help but feel a touch of nostalgia for a time when something as culturally literate and intelligent as Christopher Street had a solid place in newsstands and in gay culture at large.

Being the sophisticated cultural arbiter that it was, aside from covering society, politics, literature and the arts; given the times and their audience, that usually meant that the topic of disco was weaved into their general coverage fairly regularly (record labels pushing their disco product were some of their biggest advertisers at the time, which probably helped too). One column that stood out in that regard was Sean Lawrence's Discaire, which debuted in May of 1979 as their "on the disco scene" column. It was never really 100% exclusively disco and not so much a look at the 'scene' as much as a record review column, and quite honestly, I wasn't even really familiar with the term 'Discaire' before this, (a slightly disused term for a DJ, or anyone who plays, selects and comments on music) but unfortunately given its timing, the column would be relatively short-lived. Debuting right around the time of the great disco backlash in America (which the column would at times make reference to), Discaire would run, barring a couple of issues, from May 1979, until February 1980.

While Christopher Street had carried record reviews before this, Discaire came across as a much more personalized take on things than your standard record review column. Although Sean Lawrence was not nearly as prolific as, say, Vince Aletti; armed with sharp prose that was generally clever and witty without being merciless; given that he came with a well-cultivated gay sensibility (obviously) and knew his way around disco - even if I didn't always share his opinions, they're always a pleasure to read. While Lawrence is hardly breathless and uncritical about disco (as the title of this very installment proves), I have to admit how refreshing it is to find record reviews from this time, and specifically coverage of disco that isn't loaded with the usual (dare I say - straight white male) rock critic biases, where even a positive disco review usually has the writer twisting themselves into some sort of awkward, apologetic stance just for doing so.

Anyway, for now, here's the first Discaire column, Supply Without Demand - pans for Patti LaBelle and Gladys Knight, praises for Johnny Mathis, Montreal's Alma Faye Brooks and Ferrara, among others..


Supply Without Demand 

Sean Lawrence
B Songs reveal more than we want to know about the record industry: they sound as if the company needed more product, or the artist needed more money, or the disco/radio station needed more anything to play. When B songs appear on the albums of performers we like and whose work we have followed, they spoil the neighborhood. What, we wonder, can the performer have been thinking when the decision was made to record that junk? And who really made the decision?

         Let's talk about Patti Labelle.

         To those of us who have trekked with the hordes of urban renaissance gays and Bloomingdale's blacks to just about every concert Patti Labelle has given in the New York metropolitan area, her new album, It's Alright With Me (Epic JE 35772), is at once a delight and a disappointment. “Music Is My Way Of Life” is a disco upper if ever there was one, with a full, unstoppered sound of happiness. It's the kind of song that moves swarms of people to rush Labelle on stage when she sings it at the end of a concert – and it almost carries this album. But someone has surrounded this gem with B dross and should be charged with artist abuse.

         Another performer who deserves better packaging is Gladys Knight, and she'd better get it soon. Waiting for an A song on Gladys Knight (Columbia JC 35704) is like waiting for Godot. Knight's efforts on Buddah (Miss Gladys Knight [BDS 5714] and The One and Only ... Gladys Knight & the Pips [BDS 5701]) at least had bonbons such as “I'm Still Caught Up With You” and “It's A Better Than Good Time” (which had a nifty retro-disco quality). Yes, there is life after the Pips, but not much. Like Linda Ronstadt, Gladys Knight is best when she sings about lost or remembered love. Gladys Knight is a collection of mediocre songs that neither departs from nor enhances this terrain, and a waste of time for such a gifted performer. Knight herself is listed, with Jack Gold, as co-producer; insofar as she may be responsible for the selection of material on this album, she deserves a better producer.

         Jack Gold, on the other hand, can't be faulted for his work on Johnny Mathis's new release, The Best Days of My Life (Columbia JC 35649). This is a surprisingly fine album, including the now requisite disco hit (“Begin the Beguine”) and the predictable heterosexual duet (“The Last Time I Felt Like This” from the film Same Time Next Year, sung with Jane Olivor and not awful at all). The rest of the songs on the album are smarter and more authentically moving than the stuff Mathis sings on the Tonight Show just before Johnny Carson starts asking him about his love life.

On the heavy disco scene, “Disco Nights (Rock-Freak)” (Arista SP-38) is an elegantly mellow hit containing disco roller-skating rhythms (they skated to it at Manhattan's Twelve West at the opening of the Disco Convention) that some people have been adapting to non-roller-skating dancing. Although disco roller-skating is not the hottest thing to hit the gay community since typhoid, it seems apparent that Arista Records is serious about trying to get its share of the disco market.

         Whereas “Disco Nights” embodies Andrew Holleran's definition of “light disco,” Madleen Kane's “Forbidden Love” (Warner Bros. 8772) marks the entrance onto the scene of Erotic Funeral Disco. It's about time that intercourse had a new song. (“Hold Your Horses” by First Choice is already worn from play.) “Forbidden Love” is full of dark sexual exhortations that will surely make it the national anthem in the darker corners of the baths. It even smells like poppers.

         From the “Why Not?” Department comes a new disco album based on a Victorian novel, and produced by John Ferrara, Wuthering Heights (Midsong International 0798) is one of the more inspired of the recent disco releases. Three acts on its title side build to a danceable frenzy with the same kind of fervor and calculation we remember of Donna Summer's classic Love Trilogy album. How, you ask, can an album be based on Wuthering Heights? Just keep singing “Heathcliff” over and over, with lots of strings, congas, and orchestra bells in the background. Can War and Peace be far behind?

Two of the latest releases from Casablanca, the mogul disco label, introduce new performers. Alma Faye's Doin' It! (NBLP 7143) indicates that she has promise as a disco diva (we've heard her touted as the Aretha Franklin of disco). On “Don't Fall In Love” her voice overwhelms the normally pushy instrumental, thus breaking new ground for disco. One of the songs even proves that disco is ecology-minded - “It's Over” sounds like a recycled “I'm A Victim of the Very Songs I Sing.”

         Dennis Parker's Like An Eagle (NBLP 7140), produced by Jacques Morali, sounds like a California album about New York. One of its longer cuts (“New York By Night”) contains references to tricking, hustling on 53rd and Third, dancing at Studio 54, and eating gossip at Elaine's, but sounds as if it's being remembered from inside a soundproof limo cruising an L.A. Freeway. Parker is clone-attractive and has been packaged for disco j.o.


         Now that everyone is coming to the realization that “Disco Saves” (careers, homes, marriages), Paul McCartney has turned to it for salvation. Too bad. His “Goodbye Tonight” [sic] (Columbia 23-01940) is the disco turkey of the year. It makes us look forward to Ethel Merman's “conversion” ■

wikipedia: christopher street (magazine)
facebook: newmanology - christopher street magazine
arbery books: christopher street back issues
ephemera forever: christopher street

discogs: patti labelle - it's alright with me lp
discogs: gladys knight - s/t lp
discogs: johnny mathis - the best days of my life lp
discogs: gq - disco nights (rock-freak) 12" gq - disco nights (rock-freak) 12"
discogs: madleen kane - forbidden love 12" madleen kane - forbidden love 12''
discogs: ferrara - wuthering heights lp
discogs: alma faye - doin' it! (us lp)
discogs: dennis parker - like an eagle lp dennis parker - like an eagle lp
discogs: wings - goodnight tonight 12" wings - goodnight tonight 12"


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