Friday, March 31, 2006

Disco Delivery #13:
Move your body all around..

I decided to do something a little different this week.. Instead of posting about a particular album, I just decided to post a bunch of songs that I'm digging at the moment..


Madleen Kane - Rough Diamond

Madleen Kane - Let's Make Love (1978, Warner Bros.) | LINK TWO

This one is from Madleen Kane's first album "Rough Diamond" (1978, Warner Bros.). A former model from Sweden, she would be a fixture in the disco/club scene right into the mid '80s. The production team of Michaële, Paul and Lana Sebastian produced this song as well as the entirety of her first two albums, which included some of her biggest hits like "Rough Diamond" and "Forbidden Love." She would later work with Giorgio Moroder and UK Producer Ian Anthony Stephens, yet none of them would really capture her as well as the Sebastians did. With their full, classy, and (at times) almost orchestral production they managed to capture a certain willowy charm and sexiness in what seemed to be an otherwise limited voice (just see her album with Giorgio Moroder)..

This song wasn't a single as far as I know, but is just a great example of that certain pure, carefree sexiness that many disco records captured so well.. Check out that light wah-wah guitar (I believe that's what it is) chugging along in the background..


AKB - Stand Up, Sit Down 12''

AKB - Stand Up, Sit Down (1978, RSO) | LINK TWO

A great piece of piano-driven disco from the production team of Andy Kahn and Kurt Borusiewicz, who were best known for producing Karen Young's big disco hit "Hot Shot" (1978, West End). Hot off the heels of their hit with Karen Young, they put together this studio group, named AKB after their combined initials. AKB would put out only one album called "Rhythmic Feet" (1979, RSO) on which this song is included. Not much in terms of lyrics and vocals, which basically consist of "..stand up, sit down, you gotta move your body all around.." But it's got a great backing, with a hot drum pattern, handclaps and those great piano riffs.
LINKS:
AKB @ DISCOMUSEUM.COM



Hank Crawford - I Hear A Symphony

Hank Crawford - I Hear A Symphony (1975, Kudu) | LINK TWO

Noted Saxophone player Hank Crawford dipped his toes into disco territory early on with this cover of the 1965 Supremes hit. Such an exquisite blend of soul, funk and a bit of smooth jazz into what was then the emerging disco sound.. Interesting fact: Patti Austin is the main vocalist on this song, which also made the disco charts for some 9 weeks in 1976.
LINKS:
HANK CRAWFORD - I HEAR A SYMPHONY LP (REVIEW) @ ALLMUSIC.COM



Prelude's Greatest Hits, Vol. 5

Wardell Piper - Nobody (Can Take You From Me) (1984, Prelude) | LINK TWO

Fast forwarding into the early/mid '80s for a bit of that post-disco, pre-house electro-funk sound.. Earlier on, Wardell had released a dynamite disco album in 1979, which yielded a couple of minor dancefloor hits. Into the early 80s she continued to release singles sporadically. One of those being this one for the once-mighty Prelude label; one of the leading independent disco labels of the time. By 1984 they weren't pumping out as many singles or hits as they once did and would close two years later in 1986, this also being among the last singles they would release. This song, produced by the relatively unknown James Batton, was later included on a CD called "Prelude's Greatest Hits, Vol. 5, yet I don't even think it charted on any of the Billboard charts. Still, this song just has a really great groove with it's sharp, minimalist synth-driven production and Wardell's smooth, controlled vocal. To me this song is just cool as ice..


CATEGORIES: DISCO DELIVERIES

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

More Disco Fun with YouTube

Back again with more videos.. Some are actual promo videos, most seem to be lip-synched TV performances..

Among all the others, a couple of Cerrone classics which I'd never seen before, and a couple more Donna Summer videos. Seems like the Donna fans have really caught on to YouTube for some reason, tons of Donna videos up there. One of these days I could probably do an entire entry on just Donna Summer videos..

Cerrone - Supernature

One of my favourites.. Men in masks.. Be afraid! Any guesses on how much this one cost to make?

Cerrone - Cerrone's Paradise

A little more polished this time around.. Sequined dancing ladies! Yes! All clamouring for a piece of that hunk o' man that was Cerrone (Cerrone's Paradise indeed!).. One of two videos the Monty Python crew did for Cerrone (the other was "Take Me")

Shalamar - Take That To The Bank

One of their earlier hits.. Pre-Howard Hewitt plus a glimpse at an early Jody Watley workin' those dance moves..

Amanda Lear - Follow Me

Another favourite of mine.. A classic from what is perhaps one of Euro Disco's greatest enigmas..

Double Exposure - Ten Percent
Double Exposure - My Love Is Free

Love love love these songs, especially "My Love Is Free." Classic soulful Salsoul disco.. Both videos from Soul Train; "My Love Is Free" has a brief interview with Don Cornelius at the end..

The Ritchie Family - American Generation (on Musikladen)

Yes, another video of The Ritchie Family doing "American Generation," but this time in those infamous outfits from the album cover (yes, those outfits)..

The Trammps - Where Do We Go From Here

From Soul Train. A really really great tune from The Trammps.. Love how they even lip-synced that spoken part. There's a little interview with Don Cornelius at the end of this one also..

Chic - Le Freak

How can anyone not love this song.. The clearest video I could find of "Le Freak."

Donna Summer - On The Radio

"On The Radio".. live on TV..

Donna Summer - Bad Girls

Live from 1979, looking and sounding great!

Candi Staton - Young Hearts Run Free

One of the great soulful ladies.. A disco song with such personal, painful lyrics. Nobody can do this song like Candi Staton..

Rufus & Chaka Khan - Masterjam

A great track from their "Masterjam" LP.. Not to mention Chaka's looking great in this one!

Cookie Monster - Cookie

Cookie Monster does "Shaft" believe it or not.."He's shaggy, he's blue and he knows how to chew.. Cookie!"... Love the costume! I was about to post a video of Cookie Monster doing "I Lost Me Cookie In The Disco" instead, but they had taken it off YouTube for whatever reason..

Anyway, that's all for now..

CATEGORIES: VISUAL DISCO

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Victor Willis update

Victor Willis

Just got an email from a reader notifying me that Victor Willis was arrested this past Sunday in South San Francisco.. He appeared in court earlier today, so we'll see what else will be reported..

My earlier blog posting on his troubles is here, in case anyone's interested..

Here's a portion of a news article from CBS 5 - Bay City News Wire:

'VILLAGE PEOPLE' COP ARRESTED IN SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO
03/27/06 2:10 PST

A man who helped make famous the songs "YMCA" and "In the Navy" was arrested Sunday by South San Francisco police following a months-long search for the ex-singer after he failed to appear on charges stemming from a July arrest in Daly City.

Victor Edward Willis, 54, the cop in the musical group The Village People, will appear in a San Mateo County courtroom Tuesday for his initial arraignment. Willis was arrested on Sunday during a routine traffic stop near the 700 block of Airport Boulevard in South San Francisco, according to police.

Both Willis and Staci Brandt, a passenger in the car, were found to be in possession of cocaine and drug paraphernalia, according to the South San Francisco Police Department. Upon his arrest Willis reportedly told police officers that his name was Markus Duty. Brandt allegedly gave officers a false name as well. Willis has been missing since Oct. 20 after he failed to appear at his sentencing on charges stemming from a July arrest in Daly City.

Willis was pulled over around 11 p.m. on July 11 in Daly City for an unspecified traffic violation in the area of Bayshore Boulevard and Geneva Avenue, according to police reports. After being stopped, Willis was found to be in possession of 3.23 grams of cocaine and a loaded .45-gauge, semi-automatic handgun, according to the San Mateo County District Attorney's Office. When questioned by officers, Willis reportedly gave a false name -- his brother's -- and had a fake license, the district attorney's office reported.


According to the assistant district attorney he'll mostly likely be going to jail for up to five years now..

And so the downward spiral continues..

Oh and also, the reader who sent me the tip also suggested that I pass on this link to a Passover parody of "Macho Man" called "Matzo Man" on the American Comedy Network site.. I'm not really hip to all the Kosher references, but check it out if you're interested..

LINKS:
CBS 5 - BAY CITY NEWS WIRE: VILLAGE PEOPLE 'COP' ARRESTED IN SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO
SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE - WANTED VILLAGE PEOPLE OFFICER ARRESTED ON NEW COCAINE CHARGE
CNN - EX-VILLAGE PEOPLE SINGER FACES JAIL
BBC NEWS - VILLAGE PEOPLE 'COP' IN CUSTODY
AOL ENTERTAINMENT - EX-VILLAGE PEOPLE SINGER FACES JAIL SENTENCE


CATEGORIES: WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO..

Friday, March 24, 2006

Disco Delivery #12:
Damon Harris - Silk (1978, WMOT/Fantasy)

Damon Harris - Silk (front)Damon Harris - Silk (back)

Damon Harris - It's Music | LINK TWO
Damon Harris - Silk | LINK TWO

Let me just say, before last week's Disco Delivery, I never knew just how (apparently) popular Phylicia Rashad is.. Not sure that I can top that this week, but for what it's worth, I figured it was time for a little break from the divas..

Damon Harris was a member of The Temptations from 1971 to 1975, as original member Eddie Kendricks' replacement. At the time he joined the group, he was 20 and by far their youngest member. He had been such a big fan of the group even before joining that he had previously been a part of another group called The Young Tempts who had released a few singles on former Motown group The Isley Brothers' T-Neck label. Not surprisingly, Motown filed suit and they changed their name to The Young Vandals. Fast-forward to 1975, after a four year tenure Harris was ousted from the Temptations, apparently because of issues with group leader Otis Williams. After leaving the fold, he reformed the Young Tempts/Vandals under the name 'Impact.' They would end up releasing only a couple of albums and neither were big sellers, but both have become quite highly regarded today.

After the breakup of Impact, he did this one solo album in 1978 on the WMOT (We Men Of Talent) label, which at the time was California based Fantasy Records' Philly outpost. The album was produced by the late James "Budd" Ellison, who until his recent passing this past October 2005 was Patti LaBelle's longtime musical director.. While the album was quite good; commercially speaking, it didn't exactly fare any better than any of Impact's albums, yet did yield at least two notable songs..

The lead off track, "It's Music" was one song that I had loved even before tracking down this album. I had originally heard it on the Larry Levan Live at the Paradise Garage set. It worked so perfectly on his mix, with Damon's vocal drawing you in, gently urging you to "feel the music.." Such a great way to build up the mood, I thought. Needless to say, I was so glad to find that full 7.40 album version when I did. The best way I can describe the sound of this record is just as a straight ahead, percolating, sexy, and polished sound.. Those funky guitars and horn section are (as usual) some of my favourite parts about this record, along with Damon's gentle, yet assertive vocal and the strong backgrounds which really build this one up.

The rest of the album was quite good as well; some really classy, melodic R&B especially on "Funday," "Actresses," "I Fell In Love," and "My Love For You," but the only other notable disco track on the album was the title track "Silk." A song about a lady "who got her name from the way she plays the game," who is "every inch a lady, ain't no man can call her 'baby'." After seeing her with her "lady friends," he realizes that "there's no lover and there's no man," hmm... In any case, it's one of my favourites on the album; the lyrics, though simple, are paired with a wonderful melody, anchored by the those great horn and string sections. It's the type of tune you can have running through your head for days on end, at least in my experience anyway..

As far as I know, Damon Harris hasn't released any other solo albums. These days though Harris is involved with his own Damon Harris Cancer Foundation (remove exclamation point in new window) which he started after his successful battle with prostate cancer. He also still performs as "The Temptations Revue featuring Damon Harris," one of several former Temptations members with their own 'revues' of Temptations hits..

A note about the cover photo on the top.. No, I did not make that thing myself. I'm not an expert, but I'm sure even I could do a better job. That cover is the hack-job of the original that they used on the now out-of-print 1995 Hot Productions CD reissue of the album (mastered from the original vinyl no less!). Unfortunately I couldn't find a pic of the original cover, so that had to do for now..

Some trivia: Patti LaBelle is credited for 'Background Vocal Arrangements' on the album, which were performed by the ubiquitous Sweethearts of Sigma: Barbara Ingram, Carla Benson and Evette Benton.

Also, if anyone plans to buy this CD at Amazon.com, beware of sellers who are selling CD-R copies of out-of-print Hot Productions CD's like this one. I haven't bought any from there, but I've heard this from others who have..

LINKS:
DAMON HARRIS' OFFICIAL WEBSITE
DAMON HARRIS - SILK LP (REVIEW) @ ALLMUSIC.COM
JAMES 'BUDD' ELLISON @ SOULFUL DETROIT FORUM
JAMES 'BUDD' ELLISON HOMEGOING SERVICE @ SOULFUL DETROIT FORUM

PURCHASE:
DAMON HARRIS - SILK CD @ AMAZON.COM


CATEGORIES: DISCO DELIVERIES, CONSUMER ADVISORY, PAST REISSUES

Thursday, March 23, 2006

June Pointer of the Pointer Sisters suffers stroke

June Pointer circa. 1983
June Pointer circa 1983

I was debating whether to put this on my blog, whether it was relevant enough or too gossipy, but whatever, here it is..

I was reading through the Soulful Detroit (link corrected 4/12/06) forum over a week ago when I found news that June's sister Bonnie (who’s been very close with her in recent years) had called an LA radio station and reported that her sister had suffered a heart attack, which caused a stroke. The Pointer Sisters’ official fan-maintained website (remove exclamation point in new window) had a brief mention about it on the top of the page: “Former member of The Pointer Sisters, June Pointer has suffered a heart attack, which subsequently caused a stroke. June is currently recovering in the hospital. Please pray for a speedy recovery...

I know the Sisters weren’t strictly disco (though sis Bonnie certainly was when she went solo); their biggest dance hits came later on in the ‘80s, yet I think they occupy a special place for many disco fans, myself included, which is why it’s sad to report this..

As some of you may or may not know, June Pointer, the youngest of the sisters, seems to have had drug problems on and off for years. In a People Magazine feature from August 2000, she said drugs have been a part of her life "every day since I was 13…. [I] started with pot, went to cocaine, booze, Valium and Xanax” and confessed to finally getting hooked on crack in the late '90s. That article from 2000 was about her newfound sobriety, yet after a couple of years or so she would be kicked out of the group after falling off the wagon again and subsequently missing performances. She had been booted out of the group prior to that for short periods of time, but this time around it seemed like it was more permanent. The much longer absence for one, and finally her official replacement by niece Issa (daughter of Ruth Pointer and Dennis Edwards of the Temptations) pretty much said they were serious about it this time.

By 2003, officially removed from the Pointer Sisters' lineup, she resurfaced as part of a duo with her sister Bonnie, which only seemed to expose the rift between the two groups of sisters. It was reported shortly after that a lawsuit from the “official” Pointer Sisters (Anita & Ruth) had been placed regarding June & Bonnie, not on them, but on their promoters for falsely promoting June & Bonnie as “The Pointer Sisters.” Nevertheless as the cliché goes, “no publicity is bad publicity;” they went on to have a fairly busy summer that year performing on the gay pride circuit and on a North American touring disco revue. I hear for the most part they put on a really great show, although one of the more scathing amateur reviews that I found said, in part: "...they looked like a cracked out Whitney and a cracked out Mary J." (source)… Ouch!

The next year in April 2004, it seemed (at least then) that June had reached her lowest point after being arrested with several others for possession of cocaine and drug paraphernalia outside Bonnie’s Hollywood apartment. The news was broadcast on celebrity gossip columns all over; many of the articles stressing that Bonnie had been not been charged in the case, yet I can imagine it probably cast suspicion on her too. As if that weren't low enough, later that year in July she would be arrested yet again and charged with battery for attacking her boyfriend (limo driver Joel Coigney) and trying to scratch his eyes out after a binge of crack cocaine, pot and margaritas. A year ago the National Enquirer did an “exclusive update” on June and her boyfriend’s reconciliation; it was a pleasant little spread with the happy and smiling couple professing their new found happiness and Coigney even hoping to marry her. In the “exclusive” June had mentioned how she hoped to reconnect with her sisters and hopefully get back in the group..

I’m not sure if she had fell off the wagon again at the time of her stroke, perhaps she was keeping things together and staying clean, but I'd imagine after all those years the damage had already been done. It’s just sad and unfortunate to see a woman in her fifties, one with so much talent and opportunity all squandered on crack, of all things. She was really the dynamo of the group in many ways, vocally and otherwise. Just goes to show that ol' Nippy was right, Crack IS wack!

One look at the Pointer Sisters' official guestbook shows that there's still so much love for her out there. Among all the messages, there was even a touching message of support from one of one of June's former sisters in law.. In any case, it seems that the drugs have finally caught up with June. Here’s hoping that it’s not too late for her..

Here's a link to a short video file of June's court appearance in May '04 from the defunct show "Celebrity Justice"..

June Pointer on Celebrity Justice (1 minute 54 seconds, Real Media) | LINK TWO

April 10/06 Update: On the Pointer Sisters' official site (www.thepointersistersfans.com), the notice at the top of the page now reads: "Ruth and Anita have cancelled their shows on 4/8 and 4/9 to be by the side of their gravely ill sister June, former member of The Pointer Sisters." I guess things this means things aren't looking too good.. I hope, for a change, we'll hear some good news sooner or later..

LINKS:
NNDB - JUNE POINTER
WIKIPEDIA - THE POINTER SISTERS
T-BEST TALENT AGENCY - JUNE & BONNIE POINTER
T-BEST TALENT AGENCY - JUNE & BONNIE POINTER PHOTO GALLERY
JUNE & BONNIE POINTER PHOTOS @ NEW YEARS RESOLUTION PARTY (San Diego, CA - December 30, 2005)
link corrected - go to page 4

BILLY MASTERS FILTH (May 6, 2004)
go to 4th paragraph
E! ONLINE - POINTER SISTER BUSTED (April 27, 2004)
LAPD PRESS RELEASE - ILLEGAL DRUG SALES INVESTIGATION RESULTS IN FIVE ARRESTS (April 27, 2004) link corrected 4/10/06
GOOGLE GROUPS - POINTER SISTER FLEES DRUG REHAB (FROM NATIONAL ENQUIRER June 2000) alt.gossip.celebrities


CATEGORIES: WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO..

Friday, March 17, 2006

Disco Delivery #11:
Phylicia Allen - Josephine Superstar (1978, Casablanca)

front coverback cover

Side One Medley: St Louis, Broadway, Star Of Paris
Around The World
Side Two Medley: J'ai deux amours, Josephine Superstar

If you have an aversion to all things camp, you might want to skip today's entry. Then again if you did, you probably wouldn't be looking at a disco music blog..

In case you're wondering, yes that is in fact Mrs. Huxtable AKA Tony Award winner Phylicia Allen Bowles Willis Rashad imitating one of Josephine Baker's iconic images on the cover. Essentially this album - "Josephine Superstar" (a play on "Jesus Christ Superstar" perhaps?) is a kind of truly over-the-top, broadway style, discofied musical tribute to Josephine Baker herself.. Was Ms. Baker turning in her grave? I'll let you be the judge..

Mind you, I'm not sure what they were thinking when they decided to do this album. Looking at it now, I don't think something like this would stand a chance of being released today. It's about as likely as, say, a hip-hop tribute to Nat 'King' Cole, if you will. Perhaps they were trying to pitch this as an actual musical but decided to make an album first, similar to how Evita came about (thanks to JungleRed for this tidbit).. Whatever the case, it was a moment of camp genius from the mind of Jacques Morali. Equating Morali with camp is perhaps a tad redundant, but this is easily the campiest thing he's ever produced, and that's really saying a lot.

Jacques Morali, as you may already know, was the producer and brainchild behind such groups as the Village People and The Ritchie Family. Phylicia was married to Village People member Victor Willis at the time this album was made, which was perhaps what brought her to Morali's attention. The album starts off quite dignified, with Allen speaking softly and sincerely about the honor of paying tribute to "the first black female international star," within a few seconds it all descends into some serious fromage.. Instead of covering Josephine's songs disco style, which is perhaps what one might expect, they decided to throw any pretense out the window and do an original narrative of her life sung mostly in first person.. Starting with side one chronicling her life in disco medley style, from her beginnings in "St. Louis," to "Broadway" to becoming the "Star of Paris." Side one ends with the rousing "Around The World," which is, you guessed it, a discofied chronicle and travelogue of her international fame.. They do manage to cover at least one of Josephine's original hits though; side two begins with an excellent disco version of her hit "J'ai deux amours," followed by the title track "Josephine Superstar," which mostly consists of the backup vocalists chanting "Josephine.. Superstar! She's the star of the stars!" At one point Phylicia replies, in true 70's fashion "She's a mighty mighty mighty foxy lady!" Yes, indeed she was Phylicia, indeed she was... The story draws to a close with the Diana Ross-esque "Colors" and "Don't Cry Mommy," complete with fake sobbing and a children's choir.

Just in case the lyrics themselves weren't literal enough, on the back cover they even wrote a little bit about the songs and what they mean.. Check it out for yourselves.

Gotta thank Chicago Sexbox for prompting me to pull this album out again. To be honest I really do enjoy this album, for sure one of my (very) guilty pleasures. I'm not sure how this compares to, say, the Ethel Merman Disco Album, but I'm guessing it's pretty damn close. I remember reading recently on the discomusic.com message boards about an interviewer who once asked Ms. Rashad about this album. You'd probably expect her to be a bit embarrassed and to maybe shrug it off, but instead she outright denied it's existence (or at least denied that she'd actually done it) and promptly ended the interview. Can you say "diva"? Somehow I imagine this album won't be on Ms. Rashad's CV anytime soon..

A little bit of trivia: both the Village People and the Ritchie Family do the backing vocals on this album..

LINKS:
PHYLICIA RASHAD BIO @ HOLLYWOOD.COM
WIKIPEDIA: PHYLICIA RASHAD
PHYLICIA ALLEN @ DISCOMUSEUM.COM
PHYLICIA ALLEN - JOSEPHINE SUPERSTAR LP @ DISCOMUSIC.COM
THE LOUD BASSOON: PHYLICIA ALLEN - JOSEPHINE SUPERSTAR LP REVIEW


CATEGORIES: DISCO DELIVERIES

Thursday, March 16, 2006

one, two.. cha-cha-cha!

another cha-cha

Santa Esmeralda - Another Cha-Cha (1979, Casablanca) | LINK TWO

Just recently discovered this great track.. I'm honestly not too familiar with Santa Esmeralda's output aside from their first LP "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" (1977, Casablanca) and "Sevilla Nights," but this is one excellent piece of latin-inspired disco. Some hot drum breaks on this track with some wonderful Costandinos-esque passages (check out those horns at 4.45). Apparently this also made the top 10 of the dance chart in 1979, so something of a follow-up hit for them as well. Ironically some of the "latin disco" acts I've come across lately (Santa Esmeralda and Two Man Sound particularly) seem to be produced largely by either non-Spanish/Spanish-speaking or non-Brazilian producers. It probably clouds their authenticity a bit, but this song certainly gives a few more points in Santa Esmeralda's favour. This version that I posted is only 6.56, but there is a fourteen minute suite out there that I'll hopefully get my hands on one of these days..

LINKS:
SANTA ESMERALDA - ANOTHER CHA-CHA LP @ DISCOGS
SANTA ESMERALDA - ANOTHER CHA-CHA LP (REVIEW) @ ALLMUSIC.COM


CATEGORIES: MINI DELIVERIES

Disco reissues update (March 17th - April 12th)

A couple of new reissues from Japan I just found out about.. Yes, I know they're insanely expensive, but they're included, just for the sake of reference..

That said, I decided to make this new list of reissues instead of adding to the old one, since many of those have already just been released. To make things a little more orderly, I'll be transfering some of the items that were on the old list to this new one.

3/19/06 update: Added a new double-disc Grace Jones compilation to the list..

March 17th:

Denise LaSalle - I'm So Hot
(1980, MCA / 2006, P-Vine)
pre-order @ HMV Japan
A Japanese reissue of Denise's highly underrated "I'm So Hot" album.. The 12" of the title track has become highly sought after. Original copies of the 12" have been known to fetch over $700 (!!!!) on eBay. That inevitably prompted it's inclusion on the 2002 BBE/Urban Theory "Disco Spectrum 3" compilation, not to mention a bootleg reissue of the 12" itself.. I mean it's a great song, but the 12" is the same as the album version. So I'm not sure it justifies a price of $700, but I guess some people just have to have it on 12".

That aside, this is one great album that I'm looking forward to having on CD. Another disco favourite on this album is the sultry "Try My Love" and the disco-space-funk of "Coma Ta Ya Ha Dance (We Came To Earth To Dance)."
DENISE LASALLE @ ALLMUSIC.COM
DENISE LASALLE @ DISCOMUSEUM.COM

Vernon Burch - Get Up (1979, Chocolate City/Casablanca / 2006, P-Vine)
pre-order @ HMV Japan
I haven't heard this album but I hear there are some disco nuggets on this LP from the former Bar-Kay's guitarist. As I said, I haven't heard the album though I have heard the title track, and that is one good piece of disco-funk! The break from "Get Up" was also sampled by Deee-Lite on their mega-hit "Groove Is In The Heart," and has subsequently been included on numerous "breaks compilations," so I guess it's about time they reissued the album..
VERNON BURCH @ ALLMUSIC.COM
VERNON BURCH - GET UP LP (REVIEW) @ ALLMUSIC.COM

April 3rd:

Various - A Tom Moulton Mix (2006, Soul Jazz Records)
pre-order @ amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | dustygroove.com
Okay I've mentioned a lot about this already... Originally supposed to be released this past March 13th, this has apparently been delayed until March 27th. According to Amazon UK though, it won't ship it until April 3rd, so I decided to put that down as the release date. Much more info on this on the previous list of releases.

April 4th:

Thank God It's Friday DVD (1978)
pre-order @ amazon.com
At last on DVD (widescreen) Motown & Casablanca's attempt to get a piece of the "Saturday Night Fever" pie.. Looks like a budget release with no bonuses and slightly misleading cover, but at least it's something.. Mind you, I haven't seen this movie (some really good stuff on the soundtrack though), but I do intend to..
THANK GOD IT'S FRIDAY @ IMDB

April 6th:

Grace Jones - The Grace Jones Story
(2006, Universal)
pre-order @ amazon.com | amazon.co.uk
A new two-disc Grace Jones anthology, probably the most complete so far. This seems to be the first one to cover all the dominant phases in her recording career; from her late 70's disco records to her cutting-edge early 80's material as well as her more pop-oriented late 80's period and right into the early 90's with "Sex Drive." One of the surprises on the tracklist is the inclusion of a few selections ("Don't Mess With The Messer," "Sinning," and "Saved") from "Muse" (1979, Island), the last of her disco albums. None of the songs from that album have ever been on CD before; apparently Island founder Chris Blackwell, when he was at the helm of the label, hated them so much he refused to reissue them. Unfortunately, with all the other stuff they included, they didn't include "Slave To The Rhythm," which is odd considering it's one of her definitive works; not sure that you can really do the "Grace Jones Story" without it.. In any case it's nice that they finally did a fairly comprehensive anthology for her. Still, I would've preferred if they'd have reissued and remastered her Island albums instead of just putting out yet another compilation..

This is a UK release as far as I know, yet Amazon US has a release date of April 6th and Amazon UK has the release as May 29th, which is odd.. I guess we'll see which one is right soon enough..
GRACE JONES @ ALLMUSIC.COM
GRACE JONES @ DISCOMUSEUM.COM


April 10th:

Various: Journey Into Paradise - The Larry Levan Story (2006, Rhino/Warner)
pre-order @ amazon.com | amazon.co.uk | dustygroove.com
I've mentioned Larry a few times on here before and his legacy has become pretty well known, so it's good to know his name has enough drawing power for a major label to put out a compilation. This one's a 2-disc collection of songs that were regular plays during his residency at the Paradise Garage as well as some that were mixed by Larry himself. The message board thread at discomusic.com and the Rhino press release (remove the exclamation point in new window) both have the tracklisting. One exclusive on this set is Gwen Guthrie's "It Should Have Been You" (the Larry Levan 12" Vocal Version); although the majority of the selections are still available on other CDs or at least were on CDs that have since gone out of print. All things considered, it looks like a bit of a cash-in, but I guess it's nice to have some of these available again and in one place.

CATEGORIES: REISSUES & RELEASES

Friday, March 10, 2006

Disco Delivery #10:
Linda Clifford - If My Friends Could See Me Now (1978, Curtom/Warner Bros.)

 front cover front cover
(click to enlarge)

Linda Clifford - If My Friends Could See Me Now (LP Version) | LINK TWO
Linda Clifford - Runaway Love (12" Version) | LINK TWO
Linda Clifford - You Are, You Are | LINK TWO
Linda Clifford - Gypsy Lady | LINK TWO

Chicago's own Linda Clifford had her breakout disco hit with a cover of "If My Friends Could See Me Now," originally from the musical Sweet Charity. I know for some (myself included) the thought of bringing musical theatre to the dancefloor just screams "CAMP." So perhaps this song might be a bit campy for some, but in my opinion it's nothing short of a disco tour-de-force. Excellent, layered production with strings, soft synths, lively vocals and just a tremendous buildup. In a way this song couldn't have been more appropriate for Ms. Clifford; the singles off this album pretty much cemented a prominent place for her in dance music and paved the way for several more disco hits. Prior to this, she had released some singles on the Polydor and Paramount labels before signing to Curtis Mayfield's Curtom label. Her initial singles on the Curtom label were classy, soulful R&B as was much of her first album (1977's "Linda") but none quite hit the way this did.

The biggest hit off this album would be "Runaway Love," which would reach not only the top of the disco charts, but the top of the R&B charts as well. "Runaway Love" was a move away from the style of the title track and into a more solid groove, highlighted by a sassy, slightly Millie Jackson-esque spoken word section towards the end. In this song Ms. Linda goes on telling off her broke, jive-talkin', cheating no-good dog of a man to run out of her life once and for all 'cause she "ain't got no heartaches to spare.".. What can I say? Once again, I just can't resist a sassy disco diva.. The Jim Burgess 12" mix brings it all the way up to 9.45 with a slightly extended spoken portion and a generally more layered mix. Some of those background instruments get brought up front a little more on the 12", particularly some of that awesome percussion two-thirds of the way through. To me this is one of those songs that really captured her voice at it's best. While Linda was never a multi-octave wailer, she seemed to make the most out of what she had. At her best, her voice was like on this track, a flawless blend of sass, soul and class all in one.

Another highlight of the album is her version of Curtis Mayfield's "You Are, You Are," produced by Mayfield himself. For sure one of my favourites by Curtis Mayfield just because it's one of those songs that seems to radiate pure love and happiness from every note and lyric. That said, for me Linda's version is the definitive one. Her interpretation just has a certain grace and sincerity to it. That's not to say that Mayfield's own version isn't sincere, but Linda's vocal just seems to resonate more strongly.

The album ends on a high note with "Gypsy Lady," another great disco track. Produced by Motown veteran Gil Askey and Curtis Mayfield, it's another song about hitting the big time and jet-setting the world like an international gypsy. Sort of a sequel, at least in theme, to "If My Friends Could See Me Now." It's not as all-out as the title track, but it's got a great prominent popping bassline and a dramatic Spanish flamenco flavour in those horns.

The bulk of the album (aside from "You Are, You Are" and "Gypsy Lady") was produced by Gil Askey, who would also go on to produce her follow-up album "Let Me Be Your Woman" (1979, Curtom), on which they would kick up the disco quotient considerably. This album though, as a whole, is just one of those excellent, cohesive records that's completely listenable from beginning to end. Personally, I don't think Linda has released a bad album, but among all of them, this has to be one of her best.

A little bit of trivia: The backup vocals on this album are by none other than The Jones Girls, who, in the following year, would have a hit of their own..

If anyone wants to have this album on CD, I'd recommend tracking down the 2-in-1 album sets that were released by Sequel Records in 1999 as opposed to the recent stand-alone reissue of this album. All of Linda's Curtom albums were released on these double-sets so they're well worth tracking down if you like her stuff. Unfortunately they've gone out of print, but copies still show up on Amazon marketplace, eBay and GEMM from time to time..

** Fresh new link: Visit Spicy Pimps... Thanks for linking me!

LINKS:
LINDA CLIFFORD @ DISCOMUSEUM.COM
LINDA CLIFFORD - IF MY FRIENDS COULD SEE ME NOW LP (REVIEW) @ ALLMUSIC.COM
LINDA CLIFFORD - IF MY FRIENDS COULD SEE ME NOW LP @ DISCOMUSIC.COM
LINDA CLIFFORD - IF MY FRIENDS COULD SEE ME NOW 12" @ DISCOMUSIC.COM
LINDA CLIFFORD - RUNAWAY LOVE 12" @ DISCOMUSIC.COM

PURCHASE:
LINDA CLIFFORD - LINDA/IF MY FRIENDS COULD SEE ME NOW 2 CD @ AMAZON.COM
LINDA CLIFFORD - IF MY FRIENDS COULD SEE ME NOW CD (2005 REISSUE) @ AMAZON.CO.UK
LINDA CLIFFORD - IF MY FRIENDS COULD SEE ME NOW CD (2005 REISSUE) @ AMAZON.COM


CATEGORIES: DISCO DELIVERIES, PAST REISSUES

Thursday, March 09, 2006

The Queens of Disco with Graham Norton on BBC One

Look like there's going to be an interesting one hour doc on BBC One this coming Friday (March 10th at 22:35). Unfortunately I can't get BBC here, but I'd love love love to see this.. Hopefully someone puts it on BitTorrent *fingers crossed*

Here's what the listing says:

Profiling the leading ladies of the disco era, Graham Norton guides us through the colourful careers of Gloria Gaynor, Donna Summer, Grace Jones and Chaka Khan, as well as 'honorary disco queen' Sylvester and Madonna, who's recently gone back to her musical disco roots. With contributions from the queens themselves, plus seventies TV star Antonio 'Huggy Bear' Fargas, choreographer Arlene Phillips, songwriters Ashford and Simpson, and disco artists Verdine White from Earth Wind and Fire, Bonnie Pointer of the The Pointer Sisters and Nile Rodgers of Chic.

Sounds like a good lineup.. Madonna is sort of the odd one out here, although it's quite timely considering she's been channeling the disco image more blatantly than ever. Not to mention it probably won't hurt the ratings either; as far as I'm concerned, her first album was essentially early '80s disco anyway. Maybe she'll even talk a little bit about her brief stint in France with disco star Patrick Hernandez' producers..

CATEGORIES: DISCO NEWS

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The fugitive cop

Victor Willis c. 1979

In one of those sad ironies, the former cop in the Village People, Victor Willis is now officially a fugitive. Recently he was profiled on America's Most Wanted (February 25th episode) for skipping a recent court appearance, which was scheduled as a "surrender" from a prior missed appearance. Apparently this was in relation to a drug arrest this past July 2005, where cops in Daly City, California had stopped him at a traffic light and caught him with crack cocaine and a loaded gun.. If that wasn't bad enough, at the time of his arrest he was on probation for a prior drug conviction in 2003.

What makes it even more sad, is that this was only the latest in a very long history of drug problems. Apparently, among other things, he was ousted from the Village People in 1980 because of his escalating cocaine problem. He was said to have "indulged in a generous hit of freebase prior to each performance" (source) during the VP's heyday. Originally a broadway singer/actor, Willis was, in a way, the original member of the Village People. Originally, like many disco groups they had started as a producers studio project. In this case, the Village People were the product of the production team of Jacques Morali and Henri Belolo who also had success with The Ritchie Family and Patrick Juvet among others. Like many studio groups, the first Village People recordings were done with anonymous studio singers; it was only after the success of their first singles that a genuine group of regular members was assembled. Willis was one of the original studio singers who sang on their first album and was the only one of those studio singers to become part of the assembled group. He would later assume a fairly dominant role in the group not only as the primary lead vocalist but apparently in the creative process as well. Willis was credited as a co-writer for many of their releases including some of their biggest hits like "Y.M.C.A.," "In The Navy, " "Macho Man" and "Go West" among others. VP member Felipe Rose in a 2002 interview recalled that Willis had even wanted the group to be billed as "Victor Willis and The Village People." In the late '70s Willis had also married actress/singer Phylicia Allen (later known as Phylicia Rashad), best known for her role as Mrs. Huxtable on the Cosby Show. During (and perhaps as a result of) their union, Allen would release a disco album of her own; the camptastic "Josephine Superstar" (1978, Casablanca), also produced the VP's producers. Willis was later ousted from the group "by mutual agreement" in 1979 just prior to the filming of the group's celluloid disaster "Can't Stop The Music." Shortly after, his marriage would end in divorce.

Since then Victor Willis' credits have read more like a rap sheet than a discography. Aside from the drug charges, there have been charges of rape, false imprisonment and robbery (though to be fair, he had been acquitted of the rape charge, and the other two were later dropped). Reportedly in the late '90s, at what was probably his lowest point, Willis was discovered living in San Francisco as a homeless squatter. While he seems to have moved up from that (his last known address was a trailer park in Daly City, CA), it's hard to believe someone could nurse a drug addiction for so long, fall so far and still be alive...

LINKS:
AMERICA'S MOST WANTED: FUGITIVE DATA FILE - VICTOR EDWARD WILLIS
BBC NEWS - VILLAGE PEOPLE 'COP' FACES PRISON (January 26, 2006)
USA TODAY - VILLAGE PEOPLE 'POLICEMAN' TWICE FAILS TO SHOW UP FOR DRUG SENTENCING (January 25, 2006)
BBC NEWS - VILLAGE PEOPLE 'COP' FACES ARREST (October 21, 2005)
GOOGLE GROUPS - VILLAGE PEOPLE COP IS SQUATTER (FROM SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE January 11, 1999) alt.gossip.celebrities
GOOGLE GROUPS - VILLAGE PEOPLE 'COP' ARRESTED (FROM NEW YORK POST February 16, 1997) alt.showbiz.gossip

CLASSIC BANDS - THE VILLAGE PEOPLE
ROTTEN.COM - THE VILLAGE PEOPLE


CATEGORIES: WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO..

Friday, March 03, 2006

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

Karen Silver front coverKaren Silver back cover
(click to enlarge)

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

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..

LINKS:
KAREN SILVER DISCOGRAPHY @ DISCOGS
KAREN SILVER @ DISCOMUSEUM.COM
GINO SOCCIO @ DISCOMUSEUM.COM
KAREN SILVER - HOLD ON I'M COMIN' LP @ DISCOMUSIC.COM

PURCHASE:
KAREN SILVER - HOLD ON I'M COMIN' (COMPILATION) CD @ AMAZON.COM


CATEGORIES: DISCO DELIVERIES, CAN-CON DISCO

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Disco reissues & releases update

Just to let everyone know, I just updated the reissues and releases list with a couple of items. Added some new details and pre-order links for the Tom Moulton anthology CD and details about a new Larry Levan compilation..

Update (3/16/06): Items transferred to the new list

CATEGORIES: REISSUES & RELEASES

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