Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Disco Delivery #29:
First Choice - Breakaway (1980, Gold Mind/Salsoul)



First Choice - Pressure Point
First Choice - Can't Take It With You
First Choice - Breakaway (12'' Version)
First Choice - I Can Show You (Better Than I Can Tell You) (Extended Version)
First Choice - Sittin' Pretty

I apologize for repeating myself somewhat, this is the second time I've posted a First Choice LP, but it's one that I've been listening to quite a bit lately. I first got this LP back in 2002, the first LP of theirs that I ever got. I remember at the time playing the hell out of "Pressure Point," but believe it or not, it's only recently that I've managed to really listen to the whole LP continuously. On the whole, my impressions are that it's perhaps not their best album, but nonetheless one with some overlooked gems on it.. For one thing, I think "Pressure Point" is one of their most infectious records; those tense, exquisite strings at the opening, great horn section and those drums, which are just plain bumpin'. It seems unfortunate that this doesn't seem to have been released as a 12'' single.. Produced by Norman Harris, but mixed by Tee Scott, Scott's mix teases you with series of brief breaks which, if anything, just hint at the potential greatness that an extended 12'' mix could have been..

One of the tracks that I sort of 'discovered' while revisiting this album was "Can't Take It With You." Not a strictly 'disco' song, but probably one of the best songs they did. To me it seems to recall some of the storytelling style of some of their earlier material.. A great lyric delivered with extra feeling by Rochelle Fleming herself; it's really the chorus though that brings it home, with the other two ladies, Annette Guest and Debbie Martin carrying it like a mantra when they sing "...can't take it with you, no you can't, when you're gone..gone..gone...". Let me just say, for the record, Rochelle and Loleatta Holloway (I really need to do an entry on her sometime) were two ladies that put the 'soul' in 'Salsoul.' Seriously, these women could sing the phone book, the dictionary even, and make make it sound genuine and soulful. Rochelle, particularly, just seemed to have a certain comforting warmth in her voice, which I think this song captures particularly well.

The single off the LP was the title track, "Breakaway," backed with "I Can Show You (Better Than I Can Tell You)". The former, written and produced by their long time producer Norman Harris along with Love Committee member and future Temptation Ron Tyson, has an overall sound that probably comes closest to that of their biggest hits. The understated break half-way through is probably my favourite part of that song, along with those straight-outta-Philly rhythm arrangements.. "I Can Show You.." was one of a couple of tracks on the album written and produced by the team of T.G. Conway, Allan Felder and Cary Gilbert. For this one particularly, it seems like the overall production style was perhaps somewhat dated by 1980, recalling a more earlier disco sound than anything that was to come in the 1980's, although that can probably be said for most of the album as well. Also, I've always thought the title was a little too wordy, since for one thing, the ladies barely manage to enunciate it in the chorus. That said, I've actually really grown to like this one, especially towards the second half when those accented horns are given a little more room to shine..

All of the tracks posted above were mixed by the late Tee Scott, a DJ pioneer who got his big start as a DJ in 1972 at the New York club Better Days. By the late '70s and into the early '80s Scott was starting to gain recognition as a mixer, his first mix was First Choice's own "Love Thang" from their previous album, "Hold Your Horses" (1979, Gold Mind/Salsoul). These days, Scott seems to be one of the more underrepresented DJ's/mixers of the time.. With the recognition given to Tom Moulton, Larry Levan and Walter Gibbons in recent years, maybe like the others, Scott will be one of the next to have his work anthologized.

As for the album, while "Breakaway" was a decent LP overall, they seemed to have played it fairly safe with it, opting to stick with familiar collaborators and a tried and true sound. It would have been nice to see how or if they would have branched out with their sound in the early 1980s if they would have continued on. Although it doesn't seem to have been intended as such, unfortunately this would be the last First Choice LP. In a 1987 interview (paraphrased from discomuseum.com), Rochelle mentioned that the early 1980's had seen the group mired in legal disputes with management (the nature of which I'm not completely sure of) that, to quote Rochelle, "knocked the spirit out of the group". According to the same interview, the group broke up amicably after that point, with Rochelle continuing on her own, releasing singles sporadically throughout the years, most notably "Love Itch" (1985, Prelude), "Danger!" (1994, Cutting Records), "Suffer (The Consequences)" (1995, Cutting Records) and most recently "Get It On (Summer Love) (2002, Equal) and "Are You Ready For Me" (2006, D:vision). She still performs occasionally, and apparently had an album in the works with Cutting Records at one point, though I'm sure that project has long been shelved. In any case, Rochelle's timeless voice has fronted many a disco classic and it's my hope at least, that we'll hear her grace some fresh, new grooves once again in the near future...

Note: "Breakaway" and "I Can Show You.." were both taken from CD, the other files were taken from vinyl.. Also, the "Breakaway" album was recently released on CD by Unidisc as part of their Salsoul reissues series, which has been spottily distributed, for whatever reason (territorial issues with other Salsoul licencees perhaps?).. Nevertheless, it is available and in print (see the purchase links below..). I haven't bought it yet, so unfortunately I can't speak for it's quality..

PURCHASE:
FIRST CHOICE - GREATEST HITS (2 CD) | CDUNIVERSE.COM | AMAZON.COM | AMAZON.CO.UK | AMAZON.DE | AMAZON.FR
FIRST CHOICE - ANTHOLOGY (2 CD) | CDUNIVERSE.COM | AMAZON.COM | AMAZON.CO.UK | AMAZON.DE | AMAZON.FR
FIRST CHOICE - BREAKAWAY CD | SAMTHERECORDMAN.COM | AMAZON.CO.UK | AMAZON.DE | AMAZON.FR

LINKS:
FIRST CHOICE - BREAKAWAY @ DISCOGS
FIRST CHOICE @ DISCOGS
FIRST CHOICE @ ALL MUSIC GUIDE
FIRST CHOICE @ DISCO MUSEUM.COM
FIRST CHOICE @ JAHSONIC
FIRST CHOICE @ EVERYTHING2
ROCHELLE FLEMING @ JAHSONIC
ROCHELLE FLEMING @ WINTER MUSIC CONFERENCE 2000
TEE SCOTT @ JAHSONIC
TEE SCOTT @ DISCOMUSEUM.COM
TEE SCOTT @ DISCOMUSIC.COM

PREVIOUS RELATED ENTRIES:
DISCO DELIVERY #6: FIRST CHOICE - THE PLAYER (1974, PHILLY GROOVE/BELL)


CATEGORIES: DISCO DELIVERIES, PAST REISSUES

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