Friday, March 17, 2006
Disco Delivery #11:
Phylicia Allen - Josephine Superstar (1978, Casablanca)
Side One Medley: St Louis, Broadway, Star Of Paris
Around The World
Side Two Medley: J'ai deux amours, Josephine Superstar
If you have an aversion to all things camp, you might want to skip today's entry. Then again if you did, you probably wouldn't be looking at a disco music blog..
In case you're wondering, yes that is in fact Mrs. Huxtable AKA Tony Award winner Phylicia Allen Bowles Willis Rashad imitating one of Josephine Baker's iconic images on the cover. Essentially this album - "Josephine Superstar" (a play on "Jesus Christ Superstar" perhaps?) is a kind of truly over-the-top, broadway style, discofied musical tribute to Josephine Baker herself.. Was Ms. Baker turning in her grave? I'll let you be the judge..
Mind you, I'm not sure what they were thinking when they decided to do this album. Looking at it now, I don't think something like this would stand a chance of being released today. It's about as likely as, say, a hip-hop tribute to Nat 'King' Cole, if you will. Perhaps they were trying to pitch this as an actual musical but decided to make an album first, similar to how Evita came about (thanks to JungleRed for this tidbit).. Whatever the case, it was a moment of camp genius from the mind of Jacques Morali. Equating Morali with camp is perhaps a tad redundant, but this is easily the campiest thing he's ever produced, and that's really saying a lot.
Jacques Morali, as you may already know, was the producer and brainchild behind such groups as the Village People and The Ritchie Family. Phylicia was married to Village People member Victor Willis at the time this album was made, which was perhaps what brought her to Morali's attention. The album starts off quite dignified, with Allen speaking softly and sincerely about the honor of paying tribute to "the first black female international star," within a few seconds it all descends into some serious fromage.. Instead of covering Josephine's songs disco style, which is perhaps what one might expect, they decided to throw any pretense out the window and do an original narrative of her life sung mostly in first person.. Starting with side one chronicling her life in disco medley style, from her beginnings in "St. Louis," to "Broadway" to becoming the "Star of Paris." Side one ends with the rousing "Around The World," which is, you guessed it, a discofied chronicle and travelogue of her international fame.. They do manage to cover at least one of Josephine's original hits though; side two begins with an excellent disco version of her hit "J'ai deux amours," followed by the title track "Josephine Superstar," which mostly consists of the backup vocalists chanting "Josephine.. Superstar! She's the star of the stars!" At one point Phylicia replies, in true 70's fashion "She's a mighty mighty mighty foxy lady!" Yes, indeed she was Phylicia, indeed she was... The story draws to a close with the Diana Ross-esque "Colors" and "Don't Cry Mommy," complete with fake sobbing and a children's choir.
Just in case the lyrics themselves weren't literal enough, on the back cover they even wrote a little bit about the songs and what they mean.. Check it out for yourselves.
Gotta thank Chicago Sexbox for prompting me to pull this album out again. To be honest I really do enjoy this album, for sure one of my (very) guilty pleasures. I'm not sure how this compares to, say, the Ethel Merman Disco Album, but I'm guessing it's pretty damn close. I remember reading recently on the discomusic.com message boards about an interviewer who once asked Ms. Rashad about this album. You'd probably expect her to be a bit embarrassed and to maybe shrug it off, but instead she outright denied it's existence (or at least denied that she'd actually done it) and promptly ended the interview. Can you say "diva"? Somehow I imagine this album won't be on Ms. Rashad's CV anytime soon..
A little bit of trivia: both the Village People and the Ritchie Family do the backing vocals on this album..
PHYLICIA RASHAD BIO @ HOLLYWOOD.COM
WIKIPEDIA: PHYLICIA RASHAD
PHYLICIA ALLEN @ DISCOMUSEUM.COM
PHYLICIA ALLEN - JOSEPHINE SUPERSTAR LP @ DISCOMUSIC.COM
THE LOUD BASSOON: PHYLICIA ALLEN - JOSEPHINE SUPERSTAR LP REVIEW
CATEGORIES: DISCO DELIVERIES