Sunday, September 17, 2006
Disco Delivery #25:
Rinder & Lewis - Warriors (1979, AVI/Quality)
Rinder & Lewis - Love Potion #9
Rinder & Lewis - Blue Steel
Rinder & Lewis - Willie and the Hand Jive
Rinder & Lewis - Arabella/Home
Rinder & Lewis - Harlem Shuffle
File links updated 10/26/08
Finally, it's here..
I've been wanting to showcase something from these guys for a while now. Laurin Rinder & W. Michael Lewis were, in my opinion, one of the best disco production duos of the disco era. Probably not one of the most recognizable as far as the mainstream goes, but certainly one of the most prolific and popular among disco enthusiasts. Rinder and Lewis were pretty much the principals behind El Coco, Le Pamplemousse, Saint Tropez, Tuxedo Junction, Discognosis as well as the soundtrack to the TV show "In Search Of.." (which I used to love as a kid) among others.. According to a 1980 article (see links section), by then they had apparently been involved in some twenty nine albums. Laurin Rinder admitted in a recent interview with Discopia, that they pretty much lived in the studio during the late '70's, in his words: "we really had cots, beds and the whole thing, we were just pumpin’ them out. 7 days a week, 3 different projects at the same time. I played drums on everything but had to play a little differently. I had to ask the engineer 'What’s the name of this group?' " Not surprisingly cocaine figured quite prominently in the madness of those days. Another thing Laurin Rinder admitted in that same interview was: "The amount of coke we did to do all this you can’t even imagine. $300 a day. I had to have plastic inserts in my nose so I could do more." I wonder if ol' Rick James needed plastic inserts..
What makes their output even more remarkable is that they played the majority of the instruments themselves. Despite that, as musicians they didn't credit themselves on some of their earlier works, instead giving false names to false musicians on the back of their records; In part I guess to give the appearance of being a real group. One other reason, as Rinder admitted in his discomusic.com interview, was to remain fairly anonymous, so as not to tarnish their reputation as "legit" rock and jazz musicians. In recent years, Laurin Rinder has been the most forthcoming with tales of the day, having done at least two interviews with disco websites in recent years. Prior to disco he already had a long history as a session and journeyman drummer, having played on countless records since the 1950's, including a stint as a session player at Motown, often without credit.
"Warriors," as mentioned earlier was their second album as Rinder & Lewis, and is probably among some of the best stuff they've released. Even the cover they used, an actual picture of their fathers on a fishing trip, made a clever statement. Overall, I love the sound they went for on this LP, with great musicianship coloured with some amazing, lush, smooth synthesizer effects. The cream of the crop as far as the tracks on this album goes, and as good as everything is, is probably the closing track "Blue Steel." Forget Zoolander (please), this track is, to me, the culmination of that excellent balance of synthsesizers and live musicians that they achieved throughout the album. Those amazing, equal parts calm and crazy synths at one point blending seamlessly with the violin solo is, for me, one of the best things about this track. Dark, haunting and sexy at the same time, it's one of the most atmospheric disco instrumentals I've yet to hear. It almost recalls one of their standout tracks, "Lust" from their "Seven Deadly Sins" (1978, AVI) project. So much so that one internet review even described this track as "Lust, part II." One of those tracks that one just needs to luxuriate in to really appreciate..
The two covers on the album are also well worth listening to. The LP opens with a synth driven cover of Johnny Otis' "Willie & The Hand Jive," which as I recently learned is actually about an innocent 1950's dance/clap game, not that other kind of hand jive, but I digress.. Opens with a great I-Feel-Love-esque robotic beat which by the middle of the track becomes a kind of dark, crazy, paranoid synth workout.. It would be this song paired with "Love Potion #9" that would chart at #20 on the Billboard disco charts in 1980.. Their other cover, a Lieber & Stoller song (they'd been known to cover a few in their time) "Love Potion #9" opens side 2. Equal parts playful and sexy, with a great hypnotic beat to it, the cheeky lyrics make an interesting contrast with the dark soundscapes that colour this album.
According to a 1980 interview with Rinder & Lewis, "Arabella/Home" (or at least the 'Arabella' part) was originally done eight years prior to this album as a rock song, recast as a disco track for this project. Great string section on this one, also love that pounding bass drum on the "Home" section of the track.
The lightest, most playful track on the album is probably "Harlem Shuffle" with guest vocalist Carmen Twillie up front. Not quite as dark in mood, no crazy synth effects and much more vocally driven than any of the others. It probably comes closest to recalling the vibe of many of the El Coco projects.
Anyway, for this one I put the entire album up. It's a pity (as usual) but much of the AVI label's disco output, particularly Rinder & Lewis' productions are pitifully underrepresented on CD.. Aside from a recent Japanese reissue of El Coco's "Let's Get It Together" (1976, AVI) album, there is one budget CD of El Coco hits and a now out of print CD called "Disco 54: The AVI Collection," which most notably contained the nine minute version of "Lust." I'd hope that Universal, who owns the AVI catalogue, will give much of Rinder & Lewis' classic AVI output proper reissue treatment one day. Until then, vinyl hunters will keep on hunting..
Not surprisingly, after disco, Rinder & Lewis burned out. All that coke had to take it's toll sometime, I suppose. Much of their post-1980 AVI output has been considered largely sub-par by many disco fans (though personally, I haven't heard too much of the post-1980 stuff, but I'm curious to).. In addition, they had started to focus more on TV music composition after getting tired of dealing with record labels in trying to get their proper royalties. After doing an album for Eloise Whitaker, Laurin Rinder would leave the music business, while Michael Lewis would continue on.. Despite, at least in the beginning, not really being familiar with disco, doing it based on their record label's suggestion; they managed to build up an excellent and impressive canon of disco material under their many guises...
Also, for those who are interested, be sure to check out the links below to the interviews with Laurin Rinder and Rinder & Lewis together..
Next week: another taste of something sweet and smooth..
RINDER & LEWIS - WARRIORS LP @ DISCOGS
RINDER & LEWIS @ DISCOMUSEUM
LAURIN RINDER & W. MICHAEL LEWIS 1980 INTERVIEW: PART ONE | PART TWO
LAURIN RINDER INTERVIEW @ DISCOPIA
LAURIN RINDER INTERVIEW @ DISCOMUSIC.COM
DISCO 54 - THE AVI COLLECTION @ AMAZON.COM
CATEGORIES: DISCO DELIVERIES, INTERVIEWS