Sunday, April 09, 2006

Disco Delivery #14:
Suzi Lane - Ooh La La (1979, Elektra)

Suzi Lane - front cover Suzi Lane - back cover

Suzi Lane - Ooh, La, La
Suzi Lane - Givin' It Up
Suzi Lane - No One Home In The City
Suzi Lane - Harmony
Suzi Lane - Morning, Noon and Night

First off, sorry for this late post, I usually post the Disco Delivery entries earlier than this, but it's been a busy week with term papers due and finals coming up real soon, but I guess better late than never..

Anyway, with that out of the way... This week I'm putting up one of my favourite and possibly one of the most overlooked Giorgio Moroder productions out there.. I got turned on to this album several years ago by a guy I met at Recordland here in Calgary. He was from out of town and was also checking for disco records, so we struck up a little conversation about what we were looking for and so on, and among other things he strongly recommended this album. Immediately after finding it, I was struck by that amazing cover shot; quite possibly one of the most sexy, stunning cover photos I've ever seen and for sure one of my favourite album covers period..

Cover aside, once I got home and listened to it, I was immediately hooked after hearing the first few minutes of the title track.. Those sparse, yet intense synths building and pulsing with those sharp, layered drum beats and handclaps; classic Moroder right from the start. One other thing I found interesting about this song was this amazing sound, it seems to be either a prominent synthesized or manipulated, multi-tracked horn progression that they use throughout the song to great effect.. I could really go on and on, but to put it simply, everything about this song is exquisite; from the diverse arrangement, seamlessly combining electronic elements with light strings and horns; to Suzi's cool, yet willowy voice and even to the excellent lyrics. Those lyrics are probably some of the most well-written, poetic odes to love on the dancefloor that I've ever heard.. That said, I decided to put up the side one medley in it's entirety, but 'cause I love this song so much, took "Ooh La La" out into it's own stand-alone file, just in case anyone wants to hear this one by itself.

The second track in the medley, "Givin' It Up," is another great piece of songwriting; a gently hopeful yet melancholy song about new beginnings, culminating in a sharp, self-affirming chorus. Here's a sample of some of the lyrics:

take out your picture
and throw out your mail..
open the curtains
and let in the sun..
add up the bills
and divide them by one..

get out my best dress
and brush back my hair..
look in the mirror,
that's me standing there.
put on my make up
to face something new..
clear up the spaces
left empty by you..

Talking about the lyrics, one thing I noticed about the songwriting credits is that on all the side A tracks, Moroder protégé Chris Bennett (who is now an L.A. based jazz singer) is co-credited on all of them, which seems to explain the lyrical style of these songs. Bennett, in my opinion, seemed to write some of the best lyrics that were ever put to Giorgio's music. The vocal version of the Midnight Express theme and "Burning The Midnight Oil" from the Giorgio & Chris album to name two of my favourite examples..

Moving on to the final song in the medley, "No One Home In The City," which is probably self-explanatory.. After the hopeful "Givin' It Up" comes a song about the lonely city life, no one to call, afraid of the night's darkness with nowhere to go. A song that, as far as theme goes anyway, probably would have fit with the concept on Donna Summer's "Once Upon a Time" album..

The side B opener, "Harmony" was the single and the major hit off this album, reaching number one on the Billboard disco charts in 1979. In actuality, while "Harmony" was the A-side, it was listed together with it's B-side "Ooh La La" on the chart, so technically both were at number one at the same time, but since "Harmony" was the A-side I'll give it the distinction.. One thing they say on her otherwise barren Wikipedia entry is that this song reached number one partly because many seemed to think it was a Donna Summer track. Not hard to imagine I guess, given the gospel-esque vamps and heavy synth-driven production.. Nevertheless, it's a great song on it's own terms, yet it also seems to prove just how much weight Donna Summer's name carried at the time, that even the notion of it possibly being a Donna Summer record would be enough to carry it to the top..

The last track I included here, "Morning, Noon and Night" is another favourite of mine from side B. Just to give a frame of reference, it's one song that I think could have probably fit on Donna Summer's "Bad Girls," or perhaps "The Wanderer" albums quite easily.. It's disco with a few rock elements thrown in, plus a great melody and a nice, dramatic horn and string driven buildup halfway through..

About Suzi's voice, one thing I will say is that, unlike the Madleen Kane album Giorgio produced, this time around Giorgio manages to bring out the best quailties in Suzi Lane's voice.. That soft, graceful and sexy quality that seems to shine despite her limitations, which, after listening closely, do become apparent from time to time.. Which also makes me wonder who exactly sings that gospel-ish vamp in "Harmony".. It sounds vaguely like Suzi, although I suspect probably not. If it is indeed her, I guess that would pretty much cancel out anything I say about her limitations. Whatever the case, no one is specifically credited for it on the album..

Another thing the gentleman at the record store told me was that this album had evidently came out at the beginning of the disco backlash, which had pretty much killed it's chances. I suppose that was probably the reason why the album seemed to sink without a trace on the charts... Speaking of sinking without a trace, in disco circles Suzi Lane herself remains, to this day, one of the most enigmatic disco singers that has ever come along. Who she is, how this album came to be and what ever happened to her are, so far, complete mysteries. The one tidbit I did find was that she was a former model, which would be easy to imagine anyway given her stunning looks, but that's about it really. So if there's anyone, by chance, who knows anything about Ms. Lane or what ever happened her, I'd love to find out..

LINKS:
SUZI LANE - OOH LA LA LP @ DISCOMUSIC.COM
SUZI LANE - HARMONY 12" @ DISCOMUSIC.COM
GIORGIO MORODER COVER GALLERY: SUZI LANE - OOH LA LA
SUZI LANE @ WIKIPEDIA
CHRIS BENNETT BIOGRAPHY


CATEGORIES: DISCO DELIVERIES

16 comments:

JungleRed said...

I love Suzy's album! "Ooh La La" and "Harmony" are thrilling tracks, but I agree with you about the melancholy beauty of "Givin It Up'". This could've been sung in a more aggressive "I Will Survive" manner, but there's a bit of self-doubt in her delivery which makes the song more interesting.

Great choice!

And, yeah, whatever did happen to Suzy -- certainly one of the most elusive disco divas ever!

Tommy said...

Thanks JungleRed! :-)

Yeah I agree, her subdued delivery definitely makes things more interesting..

I think I'm going to post a thread on discomusic.com about her one of these days.. Maybe someone there might know a thing or two..

Darryl, NZ said...

Jesus - Harmony and Ooh La La are astounding slices of disco just as a like it.
Thanks for making my night with these. :-)

Tommy said...

Thanks Darryl! Glad you enjoyed 'em :-)

shavedgermanhead said...

I'm 44 and still do this day play the LP loud and clear...I'm sure like alot of disco diva's she turned to god and and does not want to remember the days of disco....But I truly would love to tell her that her LP is one of the best

Anonymous said...

I am 39 and I had been listening to this record since 1986. Last few yesrs I lost track of this LP as its not so ewasily available nowdays on the Bombay streets. I look forward to have the album back on my ipod to have it playing whenever I can.

Anonymous said...

I have info! I met Suzi back in the 90's when she was working as a "plus" or large size model (same beautiful face). Same first name, different last name. She had been in a car accident while working on second Giorgio produced album, which she had already recorded "On the Radio" for. Donna heard it, and the rest is history. The album never was finished, due in part to her recovery from the accident. She told me how she had been so overwhelmed performing at Studio 54. She was quite young at the time and was suddenly on stage with drag queens! Well this is what I know, and from Suzi herself! I had been a fan of hers back in '79, and it was so surreal learning the woman I was working with was Suzi Lane! (As I said, different last name and extra pounds). She even sang a few lines of Harmony for me! All true, and a fun memory to share.

Anonymous said...

Oh! And she still had the extra long fingernails that she had been "known" for. And this part is fuzzy in my mind, but I think she told me that had shot to photos for the second album art and it had a tigeress theme (her makeup).

Johnny said...

Anonymous May 26th 2009 says Suzi had been working on a second album with Giorgio and had already recorded "On The Radio" before being involved in a car accident. And then supposedly Donna stole the song. Like hell, Donna wrote "On The Radio." Need to do your research better before making up stories. Giorgio wrote the music for her before the Bad Girls album, but it took her many months to come up with the lyrics for it.

The car accident story also sounds suspiciously similar to the real car accident Anita Ward was involved in shortly after her one-hit-wonder. Suzi's wiki page also mentions the car accident, but has "citation needed" after it. Since anonymous May 26 was dead wrong about Donna stealing "On The Radio" from Suzi, I question the accident story as well.

Anonymous said...

Johnny: Donna has writing credit on "On the Radio". Whether it existed and was recorded in a prior form before Donna recorded it is something you cannot possibly know. I have no doubt that she wrote some lyrics for it, but since she doesn't have sole credit, she may not have come up with the hook or the title. I wasn't there and you weren't there either.

Johnny said...

Boy you're just full of misinformation, aren't you Anonymous. Donna has sole credit for the lyrics of the song. Here's the wiki page for the song, note: "All vocals and lyrics by Donna Summer."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_the_Radio_%28Donna_Summer_song%29

Foxes Soundtrack:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foxes_%28soundtrack%29

1. "On the Radio (Extended Soundtrack Mix)" Summer (lyrics), Moroder (music)

Giorgio Moroder, the only other credited writer, never wrote a lyric in his life. His partner Pete Bellotte was his lyricist, just as Elton John never wrote a lyric in his life, and Bernie Taplin was his lyricist. When they met up with Donna, Donna and Pete collaborated on the lyrics. Belotte/Moroder/Summer were one of the most successful writing teams of the 70s, and as such, it is well documented what roles they played individually.

I remember Donna was on a tv show in the 80s for songwriters, to discuss the writing process for some of the famous songs they wrote. Donna said Giorgio had written the music for her, which she loved, but it took her some time to come up with the lyrics. She explained: "I was looking at a Stephen Stills album cover, and thought how would he put it? He'd probably say "it must've fallen out of a hole in your old brown overcoat." After I had that line, the rest of the song fell into place."

Back to the subject of this post, Suzi's album is making its CD debut on the Gold Legion label in a few weeks.

Johnny said...

Actually Donna said she was looking at a Stephen Bishop album. Giorgio was on the same short-lived show a few episodes later, with the white grand piano he wrote Flashdance and many of his other hits on.

Anonymous said...

Johnny:

I'm Anonymous because I haven't registered.

Nothing I have said is misinformation, because the only things I said were (a) you have no first-hand information and (b) it may have existed in a prior form. The fact that Giorgio handed the music to Donna proves it already existed. No one has ever said there were no previous lyrics written for the track. It's common for multiple writers to write lyrics to a track. Nothing you have said negates the fact that Suzi Lane could have recorded a prior version. She could be telling the truth or lying. But there is no way you can know, especially if your key sources based on TV interviews. You're getting a little crazy with your fanboy act.

Anonymous said...

I'm a newbie, rather a young gay man who recently fell in love Suzi Lane. I found her/this album on iTunes after going through tons of 1970's artists and one hit wonders. What a great album.

For the life of me, I CANNOT get infos on her via internet. I've modeling agencies records (models) on Google, done images searches and nothing came up. Which leaves me wondering, where the hell is she and what she is doing? There in nothing on Facebook about her except for the name and album.

Anonymous said...

I know her, and i know where she is, and what happened to her - if she wants you to know, she'll tell you herself. And i don't mean to be nasty in that, it's her story and she wants to be the one to tell it..

Tommy said...

Late reply here, but to Anonymous, just want to say thanks for the info! Very interesting and much appreciated! My apologies for Johnny's abrasive fanboy tone. I'm no stranger to it, myself. Anyway, Suzi is still very much around and is on Facebook, so I may just come around and confirm this with her.. Although the CD reissue isn't out yet, I'm looking forward to reading about her and about this album's story in the liner notes..

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