Friday, February 10, 2006

Disco Delivery #6:
First Choice - The Player (1974, Philly Groove/Bell)

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"..cold blooded son-of-a-gun, that's what he is.."

First Choice - The Player (LP Version) | LINK TWO
First Choice - Guilty | LINK TWO
First Choice - Hustler Bill | LINK TWO
First Choice - Imagination | LINK TWO

I hadn't pulled out these ladies' early stuff in a little while, until last week when I heard "The Player" on Mac Daddy's latest mix, and it's been running through my head ever since.. In case anyone's not familiar with these ladies - First Choice (Rochelle Fleming, Annette Guest and Ursula Herring) were one of the premier female groups to emerge from disco. While not strictly disco (they had just as many excellent, straight-up Soul/R&B records) they had some of their biggest and most consistent success among disco audiences, from their early hits like "Armed & Extremely Dangerous" in the early '70s to their records on Salsoul towards the late '70s like "Doctor Love," "Double Cross," "Love Thang" and "Let No Man Put Asunder" among others (the latter most recently covered by Mary J. Blige)..

The first three tracks that I put up are off their second album, "The Player" produced by Stan Watson and Norman Harris. Mind you, I'll buy almost anything with Norman Harris' name on the credits, he's got to be one of my favourite producers, almost always a guarantee of quality Philly disco.. The first selection, the album's title track is a great slice of early disco. James Brown, Isaac Hayes and Norman Whitfield aside, I'm guessing this might have been one of the first songs with it's tempo (and with it's disco appeal) that went up to 7 minutes in length (7.10 to be exact) and with a large, prominent instrumental break. The structure of the extended track with the instrumental break would really catch on in a few years and become the prototype for future disco mixes. Just love those catchy refrains in there "...he's a player, he'll get next to you.. he's a player, this is what he'll do...he'll shoot you down..right down to the ground.." right along side those punchy horns; not to mention the extended break with that superb, percolating percussion. The whole thing sounds like it could been a theme for one of those many "Blaxploitation" films from the period, which is probably what inspired this song in the first place.. Recently Philly Groove Records put out a Tom Moulton mix of this song, extending it even further to 10 minutes, which is something I'd like to hear. Seems like the kind of mix that would have been done, had the 12" single been invented at the time..

The next two probably aren't as disco friendly as the first one, but are probably uptempo enough to be considered "early disco," so I'll include them here anyway.. The second song, "Guilty" is another favourite of mine with that great melody and those bright, wonderful string and horn sections.. The next one, "Hustler Bill" follows in a similar vein to "The Player," though not quite as heavy, but with another catchy refrain "...Hustler Bill... give me a thrill.. ridin' around in your automobile.." and a great vocal from Ms. Fleming..

For the last one I decided to use one of their non-album (and possibly unissued) tracks; a cover of "I've Got To Use My Imagination" originally by Gladys Knight & The Pips from their 1973 "Imagination" album. Aside from shortening the title, their version has a faster tempo and a busier arrangement; an early disco cover version, if you will..

A little bit about the sources of these tracks.. I actually took them from a great 2-CD compilation called "First Choice: Love & Happiness - Greatest Hits" from 1994 on the Japanese P-Vine label (not Unidisc like the allmusic review says). Perhaps "Greatest Hits" is a bit of a misnomer; aside from the bonuses, it only covers the material from their first two albums: "Armed & Extremely Dangerous" (Philly Groove/Bell, 1973) and "The Player." Regardless of that, it's still an excellent compilation. Tom Moulton was involved in the production and mastering of the collection and the sound quality is excellent (all selections from the original masters). My only gripe is with the liner notes, which are extensive but completely inaccurate, giving recording and release info for their Salsoul singles, when the material on the collection predates their Salsoul period by several years.. Unfortunately this set is out of print now, but it's the best collection of their early material that I've found so far..

** note: I apologise for being a little bit late with this update.. To potential users of File Lodge, I've just had the most aggravating, time consuming uploading experience ever.. grrr!!.. Just so you can be warned about them..




JMG said...

I'd have to put "Let No Man Put Asunder" in my Top 20 all time disco list.

Anonymous said...

filelodge laughs at me. you wouldn't consider a switch to zshare?

Anonymous said...

I lived in Philly from 1977 to 1981 and loved going to TSOP and checkin out the vinyl. Then dancing at Steps, the Allegro, Equus and the DCA. My roomate called himself Dr Love. Thanks for the great memories!!

Tommy said...

"Let No Man.." is great! Mary J. Blige's cover was competent, but it couldn't touch the original, IMO..

Thanks jbpeevish for recommending zShare, I'm gonna try them out!

Glad you liked it danny pressure, love those brass sounds too :)

Glad those brought back some great memories, jerry.. Sometimes I wish I was around then to experience it all..

Sexbox said...

i had no idea Mary's song was a cover! I LOVE that song! Mary really should do a 70's soul/disco album one day, she has covered several tunes from that era and done very well. I will have to look into this First Choice group now :)

Sexbox said...

hey, I jsut noticed Amazon has a 28 track Anthology set that supposedly covers the first THREE albums. Is this not the one you recommended? I'm confused.....

Tommy said...

Oh no that Anthology is different, that one covers their three Salsoul albums from '76-'80.. The one I was referring to covers from '73-'74 and has about 25 tracks.. Amazon has a page on it, but they're out of stock. :( has some info on it though.. In any case, sorry for the confusion..

Yeah Mary's done quite a few covers! I'm willing to bet it'll only be a matter of time before she does an entire covers album.. Hell, there's probably an entire album's worth if you compile all of the covers she's already done..

Anonymous said...

Well I see there really was a good chance to see a First Choice post... :)

Thanx a lot, man, and don't forget to keep the funk alive!

Tommy said...

No problem dja!

Rest assured, the funk is alive and well in my collection :)

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