Friday, March 03, 2006

Disco Delivery #9:
Karen Silver - Hold On I'm Comin' (1979, Quality/Arista)

Karen Silver - Hold On I'm Comin'
Karen Silver - Hot Stuff
Karen Silver - Make Me Feel Alright
Karen Silver - Can't Stop Dancing

Ever since I started this blog, waaay back in January, I've gotten some suggestions about artists and songs to cover; one of the names that has come up a few times was Gino Soccio, so I figured now would be a good time to do a post on one of his productions.. Aside from his own solo efforts, Soccio was involved in quite a few disco projects in the late '70s like Bombers, Kebekelektrik, Witch Queen and even hockey star Guy Lafleur(!) to name a few. Another one of his major outside productions was Karen Silver.. Silver was a Toronto based singer who was previously a vocalist on the John Driscoll disco project Star City. Their big single was a cover of "I'm A Man," a song which had been covered at least two other times during the disco era, most successfully by the Petrus/Malavasi-produced group Macho.

This Karen Silver album was co-produced by Soccio and Star City producer John Driscoll, but Soccio's unique electronic stamp is (at least to me) what is most striking about the sound on this album. The lead off single and title track "Hold On I'm Comin' " is an excellent cover of the 1966 Sam & Dave hit; taking the R&B classic and turning it into a euro-style driving, pulsing, electro-disco experience. Soccio's style is especially obvious on this track in the sharp, minimalist synth sounds and slight rock influence on the breaks.. This version, in my opinion, does what an excellent cover version should do; take the original song and bring it into a completely different context, a kind of reinterpretation in a way. It's the sort of thing that many of Grace Jones' efforts succeeded so well in doing, and one of the reasons why this, so far, is one of my favourite Gino Soccio productions.

The other cover included here is a version of Arista labelmate Ray Parker, Jr's "Hot Stuff," originally on his group Raydio's "Rock On" album (also from 1979). This one is also quite synth driven, especially compared to the funk workout that the original was. Even after I heard the original, this version reminded me more of Donna Summer's "Bad Girls," with it's similar tempo and those guitars in the background..

"Make Me Feel Alright" was a slight change in tempo on the album; a sort of dark, slow-burning disco track; with those minor chords and pleading vocals on the chorus, it has an almost dizzying, desperate tone to it. Strangely enough, this is also another one of those tracks that was part of my introduction to disco, way back on my parents' old disco 8-tracks. I say strangely because I'm not even sure whether this was a single, but nevertheless still have fond memories of this one.. The last selection, "Can't Stop Dancing" is a bit of change in tone, a little less darker than the other tracks. The lyrics are minimal for sure, but catchy.. "(boogie nights) all night.. can't stop dancing!." Can't go wrong with a disco song about disco itself and dancing all night. A much more prominent bassline on this one and a hot sax towards the end, one of those instruments which seems so under used these days..

Even though "Hold On.. " managed to peak at #15 on the Billboard Disco Charts; somehow none of the songs off this album managed to cross over, nor did the album make any of the charts in the US. I'm not certain how this did here in Canada, but Arista in the US probably hoped for better. Karen Silver would release another album a couple of years later called "Set Me Free" (1981, Quality/RFC) produced solely by Gino Soccio this time, but with more new-wave and funk influences. Her biggest hit, "Nobody Else" would come out of that album. She would release some stand alone singles after that, including another Gino Soccio produced cover, this time of Betty Wright's "Clean Up Woman." Unidisc has put most of her material on a compilation CD also called "Hold On I'm Comin'" using the cover shot from her "Set Me Free" album. I don't have it yet, but I hope to one of these days..

Also, one last note about the files.. I just installed a new sound card on my PC so I can rip some of my vinyl properly. Unfortunately, the original built-in sound card on my PC seemed to only record in mono, which is probably why my last rips turned out a little muddy.. Anyway, these files above are my first rips using this sound card. I'm just sort of getting the hang of things, but hopefully these sound allright for all of you out there..




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