Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Disco Delivery #27:
Noel - Is There More To Life Than Dancing? (1979, Virgin/Polygram)
Noel - Side One: Dancing Is Dangerous/Is There More To Life Than Dancing?
Noel - Dancing Is Dangerous (stand alone edit)
Noel - The Night They Invented Love/Au Revoir
Noel - I Want A Man
Updated and re-uploaded July, 2007
dancing is dangerous...gently embraces us.. then won't let go 'til the end of our days..
Since I started the blog in January, I've gotten quite a few suggestions and requests.. Let it be known that I may not get to them right away, in fact there are many that I have yet to get to, but I do keep every single one of them. This is one of those suggestions I got some eight months ago in March. So, thanks to reader James McClure for turning me on to this fabulous piece of vinyl.. Lately, I've had the opportunity to go crazy and really stock up on my 12" singles and albums these past few weeks (I'm gonna have to post a list of my finds sometime). Let's just say out of all the purchases I've made recently, this is probably one of my favourites out of them all.. If anything, certainly one of the most interesting disco albums I've come across..
Entirely written and produced by Ron & Russell Mael, better known as Sparks, this one came right after their amazing Giorgio Moroder-produced "No. 1 In Heaven" (1979, Elektra) LP. One of those albums that seemed to cross boundaries between rock, disco and new-wave. Although that album was criticized by some as the Sparks "going disco," that same album also seemed to give them a rather timely creative and commercial resurgence. So much so that in an interview promoting it, Russell Mael had said they would be saying "goodbye to guitars" from then on. It was to be a fairly short-lived goodbye, but nevertheless during that period their work with Moroder seemingly influenced and inspired them enough to crank out a more fully-fleshed disco project of their own, which brings us to this album...
To be honest, I've been putting this off, because I was a little unsure how to approach this album.. It's disco, but then again it's not.. By that, I mean certainly not your average get-down-and-boogie type of album. If anyone was under the impression that the Sparks' "No. 1 In Heaven" was disco, then this album goes much further, easily the furthest they ever went into disco. While at the same time barreling down the disco trail, they almost seem somewhat subversive when it comes their approach. They seem to be grudgingly giving in on "Dancing Is Dangerous," an epic electronic hymn to dancefloor surrender if there ever was one, yet follow it up with the thinly veiled cynicism of "Is There More To Life Than Dancing?" As far as the timing, I'm not sure exactly when they released this album; either way, the title of this album and the tone of the title track just seemed especially timely and appropriate for 1979.. Just when disco had reached it's peak of popularity, creative experimentation and it's quick fall from prominence, how appropriate is it that something like this comes out.. Was it a reaction or were they just slightly ahead of their time?
While on that note, if there's any track that seems to capture how far ahead they were, it would probably be the side two opener "The Night They Invented Love." That track is, to me, the absolute peak of this album.. The quirky seductiveness of the lyrics and delivery are absolute brilliance. That aside though, I really can't talk about this track without mentioning that breathtaking, sexy, haunting sax.. It's right up front in the mix and is really the one key musical element which takes this song right over the top. It almost sounds like the sort of thing which would have come from a big 1980's movie soundtrack as opposed to a 1979 disco album. If there's any frame of reference to this, for me this album would be like a precursor to the experimental, sometimes avant-garde disco-not-disco stuff that Ze Records was putting out in the early 80s..
As much as this album is not your average disco album, Noel herself, looking like a tarted up post-punk waif certainly didn't look like your regular disco diva either. Looking less like a Madleen Kane or an Andrea True, and more like Courtney Love in disco drag, it just adds another layer of intrigue to this album. Who was this Noel woman and where did she come from? How did she hook up with the brothers and where in the world is she today?.. Whatever the answers, none of the Sparks websites, nor any of my intensive Google searches are forthcoming with anything substantial.. Although what I have found out is that she was apparently from Los Angeles and is regularly (and annoyingly) mixed up with another Noel, a male freestyle singer who had a hit with "Silent Morning" in 1987. The most significant tidbit that I did find was from the discomusic.com forums, with one user mentioning that she did in fact release material after this LP. That then led me (thanks to eBay) to a record by a group called Noel & The Red Wedge and their only album, "Peer Pressure"(1982, Scotti Bros.). I haven't heard that record yet, but I'm assuming it's the same woman, given the name and the picture on the cover...
Despite his influence, it would hardly be giving the brothers credit to just classify this as their version of a Giorgio Moroder album, since this is undoubtedly an original piece of work on it's own terms. On the surface there are the technical similarities (the synths, segued tracks etc..), but there are certainly enough stylistic differences to set this apart from just another Moroder knock-off.. In essence, the vocals, arrangements and lyrics individually and combined are a bit further out of left field than almost all of the things Moroder was involved with. Those spaced out synths paired with the Mael's trademark witty, clever lyrics and the enigmatic nature of this project give this album a feel all it's own. Listening to this LP over the last little while and pondering the lack of details about this album, it's singer and the approach they took; I've sometimes asked myself whether this was an outsiders genuine disco embrace, the Mael's version of a cynical disco cash-in, or perhaps all the above? Regardless, in either case, what remains is a cool, elegant, deftly original piece of twisted disco for it's time..
NOEL - IS THERE MORE TO LIFE THAN DANCING? LP @ DISCOMUSIC.COM
NOEL - IS THERE MORE TO LIFE THAN DANCING? LP @ DISCOGS
NOEL @ DISCOGS
SPARKS ALBUM DISCOGRAPHY
INTERVIEW WITH RUSSELL MAEL (CAPITAL RADIO, 1979)
EXCLAIM!: INDISCREET ECCENTRICS (OCTOBER 10, 2000)
CATEGORIES: DISCO DELIVERIES