Saturday, April 29, 2006

Disco Delivery #17:
Tantra - Mother Africa (1981, Unidisc)

Mother Africa (front cover)Mother Africa (back cover)

Tantra - Get Ready To Go | LINK TWO
Tantra - Top Shot | LINK TWO
Tantra - Side A Medley: (Su-Ku-Leu, Mother Africa, Hallelujah) | LINK TWO

Some more Tantra, as promised last week.. This album was originally released in much of Europe by Philips, but licensed here in Canada to Unidisc. From what I've come across, Unidisc seemed to do that quite often, licensing in-demand product from Europe, sometimes before it reached the US (though not in this case). In the US, this album was released 1980 by the Importe/12 label on their 2 LP Tantra compilation called "The Double Album" combining the contents of this album with the "Hills of Katmandu" 12".

Continuing in the travelling theme, but without the dark, eerie sounds of "Hills of Katmandu," this LP opens with "Su-Ku-Leu" an intro track of spirited African chants, which segues into the sunny title track, "Mother Africa." The final part of the medley is another uplifting track, "Hallelujah, which, along with "Mother Africa" contain very prominent, soul-styled vocals which seem to contrast the relatively anonymous vocals on the flipside.. Side A as a whole seemed to have a brighter sound to it, from the title track to the closer, "Get Happy," which would seem to summarize things pretty well.

As opposed to side A, it's only on side B where things start to resemble the dark, menacing sound that began with "Hills.." In fact, side B doesn't really seem to have any connection to the "Mother Africa" concept on side A. Case in point being "Top Shot," one of my favourite Tantra tracks, opening with a crunchy electric guitar and subdued, yet eerie vocals and synth arrangements. There are even some light string arrangements on the track, as well as a prominent guitar and bass solo break in the middle of the song. The dark themes continue into the lyrics, though I can't make all of them out, they seem to contain references to both suicide and drug use if you can believe it..

Also on side B was the track "Get Ready To Go." One of my favourite things about this one are those dark, exotic synths that open the track. Also check out that great break two-thirds of the way through; great string and horn arrangements and a great bass. One other interesting thing about this song are the lyrics:

"As high as the Seagull that's far from land
the spirit that moves in the night
his muscles are bursting, his breath is long..
And there's no place to hide
the capture is near
like a light in my mind
the pain in my heart
never hears what they say..

A man should be born with the right to see
and not with his face to the wall..
You feel like a man that has lost his way..
"

As with some of the other lyrics on the album (like those in "Top Shot"), they're undeniably intriguing, yet completely perplexing. In other words, they're great, but just what the hell is it all supposed to mean (if anything at all)? I'm almost tempted to say it's another song about escapist drug use, but that would just be me guessing again. Given how esoteric and impenetrable some of them are, those lyrics almost bring much of the material into prog-rock territory. As the critic of critics, Robert Christgau says in his review, "...Travelogue esoterica, Africanisms to shame Brian Eno, guitarisms to shame Earl Slick....plus a whole side (or maybe two) of meaningless, enervating throb."

As mentioned last time, Tantra was a product of producer Celso Valli, who went under the alias Quelli Del Castello-La Drogueria di Drugolo. Valli would later go on to be a pretty prominent producer, arranger, conductor and musician working with the likes of Andrea Bocelli, Eros Ramazzotti, Laura Pausini and Filippa Giordano. Aside from Tantra, around this time he was also involved with other disco records like Azoto's "San Salvador" and Macho's second album, "Roll" (or "Macho II"), which also involved super-producers Jacques-Fred Petrus and Mauro Malavasi. Along with Petrus/Malavasi, Claudio Simonetti and La Bionda, Valli was probably one of the pioneers of "Italo Disco" before it was even branded as such..

After this LP, there was at least one more 12" of Tantra material; Importe/12 in the US released a collection in 1982 called "The Journey Continues" containing "The Ma-Cum-Ba Suite" and "The Tarot Suite," both of which I haven't heard yet. Also, as a commenter on my previous Tantra post had brought up, there was a Spanish Tantra 12" called "Tantra en Español," also on Importe/12 containing Spanish versions of "Hills of Katmandu" ("Las Colinas de Katmandu") and "Wishbone" ("Camino Al Destino"). With how sought after Tantra's material is these days, and the fact that all of it remains out of print, it's too bad no one's managed to do a comprehensive CD collection of their material yet. Apparently, in an interview with DJ Danny Howells (who included "Hills of Katmandu" in one of his compilations), it was mentioned that the present copyright holders are almost impossible to track down, which would probably explain why. In any case, enjoy these files for now; I hope to put up some more Tantra material in the future..

PREVIOUS RELATED ENTRIES:
FLY WITH YOU TO THE MISTY HILLS OF KATMANDU.. (APRIL 21, 2006)

LINKS:
TANTRA - "MOTHER AFRICA" LYRICS
TANTRA @ DISCOGS
CELSO VALLI @ DISCOGS
CELSO VALLI CREDITS @ ALLMUSIC.COM
TANTRA - THE DOUBLE ALBUM (2 LP) @ DISCOMUSIC.COM
ROBERT CHRISTGAU REVIEW: TANTRA - THE DOUBLE ALBUM


CATEGORIES: DISCO DELIVERIES

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Disco Delivery #16:
Brenda & The Tabulations - I Keep Coming Back For More (1977, Chocolate City/Casablanca)

front cover back cover

Brenda & The Tabulations - I Keep Coming Back For More | LINK TWO
Brenda & The Tabulations - Superstar | LINK TWO
Brenda & The Tabulations - Everybody's Fool | LINK TWO
Brenda & The Tabulations - Let's Go All The Way (Down) (Album Version) | LINK TWO

I've only had this album for about a week now, but it's quickly become a favourite of mine. From the grooves, to that great cover shot, with Brenda looking fabulous (mink by Halston, no less).. But really, as far as the music goes, I wouldn't have expected anything less; with a great lineup of top-flight producers, namely John Davis, Norman Harris and Bobby Eli, who have all been a part of many a disco classic. Some of you might remember a few months back, when I put up an extended mix of "Let's Go All The Way (Down)" in one of my random track postings. That was probably the biggest hit off the LP, but since obtaining the actual album, my personal favourite would probably be the title track, "I Keep Coming Back For More." It's got an unmistakable Philly/Salsoul flavour to it, with those kickin' drums, the unique Philly style horn and string orchestral combo, just an all around excellent rhythm section behind it. Lately I've even found myself spontaneously humming that melody, singing those lyrics to myself (Yes, I love it that much).. For the most part, it sounds like a Norman Harris production, but is actually produced by Bobby Eli, who, I have to say has been behind quite a few great disco records that I've been discovering lately. Namely many of Jackie Moore's disco classics like "This Time Baby," "Take A Stand," "How's Your Love Life, Baby," and also "Just Can't Shake The Feeling" for Ava Cherry just to name a few..

The next track "Superstar," from what I've heard, was another relatively well-received disco track off the album. Produced by John Davis, who is probably best known for his own studio outfit, John Davis & The Monster Orchestra. For the most part, the theme is a bit on the cliché side, to quote a couple of lines.. "now I'm at the top of the world, it proves anyone can go far.. you can be a superstar just by being what you are.." etc.. etc.. On the plus side though, it's got one hell of an arrangement. Punchy in all the right places and a pretty catchy chorus to boot "look at me now, look at me now, I'm a superstar!".. Kind of reminds me of a certain Saturday Night Live skit from several years back..

"Everybody's Fool" is not exactly what I'd call a straight-ahead disco track. I'd probably call it a disco ballad, if you will. Compared to the non-disco tracks on the album, it's unmistakably disco in it's production, but probably not something I could hear a DJ spinning. One thing that I noticed when I heard it was the striking similarity it had to a Grace Jones track off her "Muse" (1979, Island) LP, the last of her disco albums. The song on Grace's album is "Don't Mess With The Messer," which pretty much recycles much of the musical portion of "Everybody's Fool," albeit with a faster BPM and cheekier, less melancholy lyrics. "Everybody's Fool" was also produced by John Davis; who also happened to be the arranger on the Grace Jones song. Oddly enough, despite the similarities and connections, the songwriting credits on both songs are completely different (things that make you go "hmm..").

In any case, while I enjoy much of John Davis' output, he did have a tendency to repeat himself at times; which reminds me, I'll have to put up more of his stuff in the future.. Overall though, if I had to compare, I'd probably prefer Grace's track. "Everybody's Fool" is pleasant and enjoyable in it's own way, but perhaps just a little bit on the pedestrian side for me..

As I mentioned earlier, "Let's Go All The Way (Down)" was the big disco hit off the album. Since I put up the extended version back in February, just to be faithful to the album, I put up the shorter 3.43 album version this time. Overall, this mix is a little tighter, but just as sexy and funky as the extended, complete with those great ad-libs.

Unfortunately one of my favourite producers, Norman Harris doesn't produce any of the disco tracks, but he does produce a couple of ballads on the album. One of them being Melissa Manchester's "Home To Myself," also done by Dusty Springfield a few years earlier. Another being "Leave Me Alone," probably my favourite among the non-disco tracks.

Gilda Woods, the woman who discovered Brenda & The Tabulations and who basically released most of their records through her labels (Dionn and Top & Bottom) is credited as a co-producer on almost all the tracks. From what I gathered though, despite that credit, her role was mostly as an executive producer, who left most of the actual producing "to the pros," so to speak. Also, I'm not sure who exactly the Tabulations were on this album. There isn't any group photo or even any credits for musicians or backup singers so it's a bit of a mystery. From what I read, Brenda & The Tabulations never really had a solid lineup. Early on they were a quartet with Brenda as the sole female, by 1970 they were a classic female girl-group trio. Judging from an interview with former member Maurice Coates, he and Brenda Payton were the principals, but even he had left by the time this album was released. I suppose the Tabulations just happened to be whomever was backing her at this point, which probably changed with every producer or something. Regardless, it's my hope that this album will get revisited sometime with a CD reissue. Hopefully Universal will pay more attention to the Casablanca catalogue one of these days. Given their prolific output, disco and otherwise, there are surely tons of rare or overlooked classics like this one just waiting to be rediscovered.

Interesting fact: Susan Munao, one time Casablanca PR chief and manager for Donna Summer is credited for Art Direction on the album..

PREVIOUS RELATED ENTRIES:
GET UP AND BOO-GIE (FEBRUARY 1, 2006)

LINKS:
BRENDA & THE TABULATIONS - I KEEP COMING BACK FOR MORE LP @ DISCOMUSIC.COM
BRENDA & THE TABULATIONS @ ALLMUSIC.COM
SOULFUL DETROIT FORUM - BRENDA & THE TABULATIONS - A FINE PHILLY SOUL ACT
SOULFUL DETROIT FORUM - BRENDA & THE TABULATIONS
SOULFUL DETROIT FORUM - THE VARIOUS ADVENTURES OF B. ELI
BOBBY ELI @ DISCOMUSIC.COM
NORMAN HARRIS @ DISCOMUSIC.COM
JOHN DAVIS @ DISCOMUSEUM.COM



CATEGORIES: DISCO DELIVERIES

Friday, April 21, 2006

Fly with you to the misty hills of Katmandu..

Hills of Katmandu

Tantra - Hills of Katmandu (1979, Philips) | LINK TWO

In case anyone's wondering, this week's disco delivery will be up either later tonight or sometime tomorrow, rest assured, I'm working on it.. In the meantime, I figured why not put something up, instead of leaving you all hanging. A short while ago, I got a suggestion to put up some Tantra, I figured why not just put it up now..

"Hills Of Katmandu" would easily be Tantra's biggest hit. It's one of those amazing, epic tracks that just seems to go beyond classification. An Italian production by Celso Valli (under the alias Quelli Del Castello) it could probably be described as an excellent example of European electro-disco, even an early example of both Hi-NRG and Italo Disco.. Often times it's those tracks which are in genre limbo, so to speak, that seem to be the most timeless and enduring. It was originally released in 1979, yet it would reach the States by 1980 in the early part of that oft-neglected post-disco period. Though, in my opinion, essentially a product of disco, it also seemed to encapsulate the increasingly underground direction that "disco" (as it was no longer being called) would seem to take, even foreshadowing the emergence of Hi-NRG. For me, "Hills of Katmandu" still sounds as fresh and futuristic today as it must have in 1979. It's probably no wonder why, even today, there are contemporary DJ's (Danny Howells and the Idjut Boys to name a couple) that still play this track .

Just to give an idea, at over 16 minutes, the track starts off dark and menacing; with electronic guitars; bold, layered, echoed percussion; eerie moans and those exotic synth effects. Following the intro, a female voice comes in softly, yet aggressively chanting.. "I fly with you to the misty hills of Katmandu.." The next couple of verses come in after an instrumental break.. "Packed my case, gonna leave behind this human race.. come with me, where your spirit and your mind are free.. " With a dreamy, blissful interlude following that, the drug/escapist metaphors start to become pretty obvious, particularly with those lyrics and the shifting musical themes.. After that interlude, it lapses back into it's original dark, rhythmic pattern and then back again later on. It all seems sort of symphonic in it's structure, albeit in a druggy, electronic, disco-esque sort of way.

Patrick Cowley later did a megamix of this, slightly shorter at 13 minutes (which I have yet to hear). I even heard that the hacks at Klone Records did a cover of this (for shame!). In any case, hope you enjoy this classic. Either next week, or the week after I'll have some more Tantra up on here..

LINKS:
"HILLS OF KATMANDU" (LYRICS)
TANTRA @ DISCOGS
TANTRA - THE DOUBLE ALBUM @ DISCOMUSIC.COM
DANNY HOWELLS - GLOBAL UNDERGROUND: MIAMI CD @ AMAZON.COM


CATEGORIES: MINI DELIVERIES

Upcoming Reissues & Releases (April 25 - May 30)

Another month, another list.. Kicking off with a slew of KC & The Sunshine band reissues.. To be honest, I don't have many of their albums (I think I have only one so far), but with these reissues, I just might try them out..

April 25th Update: Added listing for an upcoming reissue of Sheila & B. Devotion's Chic-produced album.. Further updates to this listing on January 19, 2007

April 25th:

KC & The Sunshine Band
KC & The Sunshine Band - S/T (1975, TK / 2006, Collectors Choice)
buy @ cduniverse.com | amazon.com | dustygroove.com
Starting off this round is a reissue of their second album, containing some of their big hits like "Get Down Tonite" and "That's The Way (I Like It)." Ten years ago Rhino reissued this album as "K.C. & The Sunshine Band .. and more." That issue contains six bonus tracks, while this reissue is just the basic original album. So, even though the '95 reissue is now out of print, it's probably still the definitive one.
ALLMUSIC.COM ALBUM REVIEW

The Sound of Sunshine
KC & The Sunshine Band - The Sound of Sunshine (1975, TK / 2006, Collectors Choice)
buy @ cduniverse.com | amazon.com | dustygroove.com
Also released 1975, this one is an instrumental album. Also included on this album is a instrumental remake of George McCrae's big hit "Rock Your Baby," which Sunshine Band principals H.W. Casey and Richard Finch originally wrote and produced. As far as I know, this is the first time this has been on CD..

Part 3
KC & The Sunshine Band - Part 3 (1976, TK / 2006, Collectors Choice)
buy @ cduniverse.com | amazon.com | dustygroove.com
The All Music Guide gives this one a glowing review, with four and a half stars out of five. The review mentions this as their best and most successful album. Like their self-titled second album, this was also reissued in 1995 by Rhino, with 8 bonus tracks, most of them being solo tracks from K.C. AKA Harry Wayne Casey from the early '80s. So again, this upcoming reissue is just the basic original album. That said, if you're a stickler for the bonuses, the 1995 reissue is probably preferable to this one..

Who Do Ya Love
KC & The Sunshine Band - Who Do Ya Love (1978, TK, Collectors Choice)
buy @ cduniverse.com | amazon.com | dustygroove.com
Not as successful as the previous albums, even the All Music Guide seems to give it a mixed review. Just like "The Sound of Sunshine" reissue, this seems to be the first time this album has been released on CD..

May 2nd:

Les Années Disco
Dalida - Les Années Disco (2006, Barclay/Universal)
buy @ cduniverse.com | amazon.com | amazon.co.uk | amazon.fr
A long-awaited collection of the late French legend's disco work. I'm not too familiar with her output, but her strong, cult-like following is well, legendary.. Her first disco song "J'attendrai" became a hit in 1976, so apparently this was released in time for the 30th anniversary of that song's debut. I must admit, I've been curious about her "Gigi In Paradisco" album for a little while now, so I might take a chance on this collection. This CD was already released this past March in France, but May 2nd marks the international release. Lots of info about Dalida on her Wikipedia entry..

May 11th:

Sheila & B. Devotion
Sheila & B. Devotion - King Of The World (1980, Carrere / 2006, Warner UK)
buy @ cduniverse.com | amazon.com | amazon.co.uk | amazon.fr
(Added 4/25/06) I have to thank a kind reader, Maurice, for alerting me to this.. Absolutely can't wait for this one! One of my favourite Chic Organization productions (then again, I think all of them are great). In my opinion, "Spacer," the big hit off of this album, is one of Chic's greatest efforts. Some of you might remember it being the basis of Alcazar's hit "Crying At The Discotheque" from several years back.. As for the rest of the album, I'd say it's one of Chic's more interesting and somewhat experimental efforts. Songs like "Charge Plates And Credit Cards," "Cover Girls," and "King Of The World," see them introducing more new-wave elements into their signature sound. Something of a pre-cursor to the album they would do for Debbie Harry ("Koo Koo") the following year. Then again, I suppose with Sheila's charming, yet thick French accented English, they probably didn't have much choice but to experiment a little bit. In any case, I'm so glad this is being reissued now; copies of the long out of print budget CD reissue from the 90s often go for upwards of $100 US on eBay believe it or not..
Update 1/19/07: I know this is a very late update, but I just found out about the French release of this reissue, released June 12th. It has a bunch of bonus tracks (six in total) that the UK release doesn't have. Included are five bonus mixes of "Spacer," four of them from a "Spacer - Remix 1992" release. Although I'm not so crazy about early 90's "disco updates," another one of the bonus tracks is the original US 12" Mix of "Your Love Is Good," which I never even knew existed.. Anyway, that said, I just wish I had found out about this release earlier.. Oh well.
INFO @ CHIC TRIBUTE
KING OF THE WORLD LP @ DISCOGS


May 15th:

LaToya Jackson
LaToya Jackson - S/T (1980, Polydor / 2006, Cherry Red)
buy @ amazon.co.uk | play.com | dustygroove.com
At last! The UK release of my favourite Jackson's debut album. I had posted a little bit about this back in the first reissues and releases post, but it seems now there's finally a definitive release date. This album contains, among other things, the dancefloor hit "If You Feel The Funk," and "Night Time Lover," a great track written and produced by Brother Jacko himself, and "Are You Ready" written by Billy Ocean.
INFO @ LA TOYA HAVEN FORUM
ALLMUSIC.COM ALBUM REVIEW


May 23rd:

In The Night/Instant Love
Cheryl Lynn - In The Night/Instant Love (1981, 1982, Columbia / 2006, Collectables)
buy @ cduniverse.com | amazon.com | dustygroove.com
Another release from Collectables, who've really been cranking them out lately.. A two-in-one set featuring one of my favourite Cheryl albums, "In The Night" (which includes her hit "Shake It Up Tonight"), along with her 1982 album "Instant Love." I haven't heard the "Instant Love" album yet, but it seems that it was produced by the late, great Luther Vandross. After being a tool for a number of producers during the 70s, by the early 80s, Luther was starting to build a pretty impressive resumé as a producer in his own right (see Aretha Franklin's "Jump To It"). It's a pretty timely release because until now, I've been wondering how I was going to get my hands on the out of print (and expensive) Japanese CDs of those albums..
CHERYL LYNN @ ALLMUSIC.COM
CHERYL LYNN @ DISCOMUSEUM.COM


May 30th:


Salsoul Presents Disco Trance and Cosmic Flavas (2006, Salsoul/Suss'd)
buy @ dustygroove.com
Another release in the long line of attractive, comprehensive "Salsoul Flavas" compilations from Salsoul's UK licencees. Unfortunately the only place with any info on this is Dusty Groove. The Suss'd/Salsoul site (www.salsoul.co.uk) is no help either. Update: At some point the title changed from "Oddities and Electro Flavas," to the current title. While it is released, for whatever reason, Amazon US or UK don't seem to have a proper listing for the double CD version.

CATEGORIES: REISSUES & RELEASES

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Housekeeping

I really should be studying for my exams, but instead I decided to procrastinate by cleaning things up around here, particularly with the category tags. The lack of category tags is probably THE main drawback of Blogger, but by the time I figured that out, it was a bit too late.. Initially, I decided to make my own tags and link them to a Google Blog Search, but that didn't work out so well; some pages showing up, others not, mostly in the wrong order etc.. I later found out about Labelr, which is a new tool especially for Blogger accounts, but alas, it's still in beta and they aren't accepting any new subscribers at this time either.. So instead, I decided to improvise a little bit and do something completely different from either of those..

So with that, feel free to try out the new and improved category tags. Here's how it breaks down..

DISCO DELIVERIES, SIDE DELIVERIES

ARTICLES & RAMBLINGS, CAN-CON DISCO, VISUAL DISCO

REISSUES & RELEASES, PAST REISSUES, DISCO CD COMPILATIONS,
CONSUMER ADVISORY, DISCO NEWS, NUDISCO

WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO.., IN MEMORIAM.., MISC. DISCO


Hopefully, this will make navigating the archives much easier..

Also, I've added a few new links in the past several days; the new ones are denoted by a white asterisk.. Check 'em out sometime..

Anyway, I'm out for now..

CATEGORIES: MISCELLANEOUS

Friday, April 14, 2006

Disco Delivery #15:
A tribute to June Pointer

Baby Sister front Baby Sister back

(links corrected 4/21/06)

June Pointer - Ready For Some Action (1983, Planet/RCA) | LINK TWO
June Pointer - I Will Understand (1983, Planet/RCA) | LINK TWO
June Pointer - I'm Ready For Love (1983, Planet/RCA) | LINK TWO

In lieu of June's recent passing I've been listening to my Pointer Sisters records a lot lately. I figure, since this is an mp3 blog, there is probably no better time or place than here and now to post an audio tribute to June. Instead of dwelling on some of the sad circumstances of her life, like my previous two entries probably did, I wanted to do something to celebrate her life. That said, I decided to post a few tracks from her first solo album "Baby Sister" (1983, Planet/RCA) as well as a few of her greatest moments with Pointer Sisters..

In their early recordings June was often underused by their producer David Rubinson compared to the other three sisters. By the late 70s with Bonnie going solo, the group leaving both ABC/Blue Thumb and their producer David Rubinson, that would change with their new producer Richard Perry. Perry would end up using June quite a bit, particularly on many of their uptempo tracks, namely some of their biggest hits like "Jump (For My Love)," "Dare Me," and "He's So Shy" to name a few. As well as being the Pointers' primary producer, Perry would also produce June's first solo album. The first single from "Baby Sister" was "Ready For Some Action," a song who's theme seemed to compliment the album title pretty well. The music and lyrics were both written by the great Norman Whitfield who also co-produced the song with Richard Perry. It's got a relatively synth-heavy pop sound, but with a bit of an edge to it in the lyrics and production. That edge is perhaps partly due to Norman's contribution, like those genuine(!) strings which strike me as somewhat unusual for that time, not to mention a wonderful compliment to the all the synthesizers. Also, those lyrics have that typical Whitfield-style storytelling narrative, very similar in style to some of his other songs like "Papa Was A Rolling Stone," "Law Of The Land" etc.. The song's lyrics are about a little girl rebelling against her strict parents, who are intent on sheltering their precocious young girl and making her "forget about them boys," to quote one other line: "Momma, I know about my A-B-C's, now I want to know 'bout the birds and bees.." Somehow I doubt that line would have helped Momma loosen up..

The second song, "I Will Understand," has, like the rest of the album, Richard Perry as the sole producer and adding a few things up, namely, the early '80s + Richard Perry = loud, buzzing synths everywhere! Not that that's really a bad thing, it's a great track, with a funkier edge than much of the stuff he was doing for Pointer Sisters at the time. In a way it seemed to foreshadow the direction Perry would take the sisters in the following year on their "Break Out" album..

The other track I included from the "Baby Sister" album is a cover of Martha & The Vandellas' Motown classic "I'm Ready For Love," a Holland-Dozier-Holland track given an 80s update with a great vocal by June. There was one other great track off her album that I wanted to post, called "New Love, True Love," written by June, sis Anita and Trevor Lawrence. The song also has June, Anita and Ruth on backup vocals, essentially making it a Pointer Sisters track in everything but name. Unfortunately, my rip didn't turn out so well, so it's not up here, but well worth tracking down if you like the other tracks..

Break OutDare Me

Pointer Sisters - Jump (For My Love) (12" Long Version) (1984, Planet/RCA) | LINK TWO
Pointer Sisters - Dare Me (12" Version) (1985, RCA) | LINK TWO

A couple of the Pointers' biggest hits, both of them with June giving some gutsy, sassy lead vocals. "Jump.." was originally on their smash album, "Break Out" (1984, Planet/RCA) and "Dare Me," from their successful follow up album "Contact" (1985, RCA). I'm sure many of you have probably heard a good chunk of "Dare Me" as the basis of Junior Jack's "Stupidisco," one of THE biggest international club hits of 2004. Included here are the 12" versions which are also on the CD version of their 1989 Greatest Hits set.

So Excited

Pointer Sisters - All Of You (1982, Planet/WEA) | LINK TWO

This is one great album track from their underrated "So Excited" (1982, Planet/WEA) LP. That album's sound was like the bridge between their earlier soft-rock, pop-lite material like "Slow Hand," "He's So Shy" etc.. to the more aggressive synthesized dance pop that followed. This song starts off slightly slow and sensual but picks up considerably about a quarter of the way through. Overall, it's got a great, punchy arrangement with those prominent horns and June's clear, strong vocals.

Goldmine

Pointer Sisters - Goldmine (12" Version) (1986, RCA) | LINK TWO

This was the lead off single from their "Hot Together" (1986, RCA) album. By this time their commercial popularity started to wane somewhat. Neither the album, nor any of it's singles did as well on the charts compared to some of their previous efforts, but it's a very strong album in my opinion and this song was a great showcase for June. This 12" version was mixed by none other than Shep Pettibone, who adds some of June's great spoken ad-libs towards the end. Overall, it's a real uplifting song with an equally joyous vocal by June. For me, this is the way I'd like to remember her.

Anyway that's it for my little tribute here.. There were others that I wanted to include, particularly from her second solo album (which I've heard, but don't have yet), but I figured that would be pushing it a little bit. Listening to these songs, it's hard to believe such a lively, powerful voice has been silenced, but I hope these bring back good memories, or at least bring some good vibes...

Update: Some other great tributes to June at A Passable Ear, Lil' Mike's and Habitat 67, who has a great link to the Pointer's "Pinball Number Count" from Sesame Street.. It's been ages since I've seen that one!

PREVIOUS RELATED ENTRIES:
DISCO DELIVERY: THE POINTER SISTERS' JUNE POINTER PASSES AWAY (APRIL 12, 2006)
DISCO DELIVERY: JUNE POINTER OF THE POINTER SISTERS SUFFERS STROKE (MARCH 23, 2006)

LINKS:
JUNE POINTER @ ALLMUSIC.COM
WIKIPEDIA: JUNE POINTER
THE POINTER SISTERS LONG ROAD TO SUCCESS
POINTER SISTERS @ DISCOGS

PURCHASE:
POINTER SISTERS - GREATEST HITS (1989) CD @ AMAZON.COM
POINTER SISTERS - PLATINUM & GOLD COLLECTION CD @ AMAZON.COM
FROOGLE: POINTER SISTERS LISTINGS


CATEGORIES: DISCO DELIVERIES

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The Pointer Sisters' June Pointer passes away..

June Pointer 1953-2006
June Pointer: 1953-2006

Sad news to report..

EURweb and others are reporting that June passed away yesterday April the 11th at the UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica, CA. She was 52 years old.

Things weren't looking good when her sisters had cancelled some of their appearances over the weekend, I guess now we know just how bad things were. In a way, it's not really shocking, after all, the chances for a full recovery from something like that (a heart attack + stroke) are probably slim, but still very sad to see it all end this way for June.. I suppose now the prospect for a complete Pointer Sisters reunion is off the table for good, but even beyond that, it's sad to know that she had passed away while going through what seemed to be a long, hard battle with substance abuse, especially in the past several years.

June is now front and centre on the Pointer Sisters' official site (remove exclamation point in new window). It seems they recently released an official statement and the news media are already picking it up (see the links below). Part of the release said: "[She died] in the arms of her sisters, Ruth and Anita and her brothers, Aaron and Fritz, by her side... Although her sister, Bonnie, was unable to be present, she was with her in spirit."

Earlier I posted about her suffering a heart attack and stroke, which was originally mentioned on the Pointer's official website, but the most recent news articles are reporting that she died of cancer, so the exact details are a little uncertain. Evidently, Michelle Visage from The Mix 102.7 FM in New York mentioned her cancer on yesterday's Entertainment Scoop (sorry, link expired). The "scoop" said: "June Pointer of the Pointer Sisters is days away from death. The singer has had a troubled history of drug and alcohol abuse, and suffered a stroke on Feb. 27, 2006. While in the hospital Pointer was also diagnosed with breast cancer, colon cancer, liver cancer and bone cancer.." I'm told Wendy Williams at WBLS had also reported the same thing. I'm not sure how reliable either of their sources are, but whatever the case, their reports do seem to piece things together. With a stroke and later the discovery of four(!) different cancers, it looks like things were much worse than was originally thought..

Listening to a Pointer Sisters record, June's voice was always identifiable. Her presence and her bright, gutsy and powerful voice were such a big part of the Pointer Sisters sound and image. It's no wonder, especially in the 80s, why their producer Richard Perry had used her quite often.. Her voice and presence had always conveyed a certain daring, free-spiritness about her.. My heart goes out to her sisters and the rest of her family during this time. I can imagine it's been a tough ride for them; fans can only know so much, but her friends and family have probably seen this all unfold like no one else has. At the very least, her spirit will live on in the great music that she was a part of. Rest in peace June.

Update 4/15/06: There are some newer articles and obituaries popping up with some words from her family. The San Francisco Chronicle's obituary has some revealing comments from older brother Fritz Pointer. Also, Starpulse has an article about June's last days, with comments from her sister Bonnie (which seem to support what Michelle Visage and Wendy Williams had reported). Links added to those articles and others below under "new articles."

PREVIOUS RELATED ENTRIES:
DISCO DELIVERY: JUNE POINTER OF THE POINTER SISTERS SUFFERS STROKE (MARCH 23, 2006)

LINKS:
THE POINTER SISTERS' OFFICIAL GUESTBOOK
SOULFUL DETROIT: JUNE POINTER R.I.P.
SOULFUL DETROIT: JUNE POINTER IN THE HOSPITAL
JUNE POINTER INTERVIEW (1996)
THE POINTER SISTERS @ WIKIPEDIA

NEW ARTICLES (APRIL 13, 2006):
SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE OBITUARY: JUNE POINTER - YOUNGEST SISTER IN FAMED OAKLAND SINGING GROUP
STARPULSE: JUNE POINTER'S FINAL DAYS WERE PAINFUL, SAYS SISTER
247GAY.COM: JUNE POINTER DEAD IN LOS ANGELES AT 52
EURWEB: JUNE POINTER DIED IN HER SISTERS' ARMS

ARTICLES:
USA TODAY - JUNE POINTER OF THE POINTER SISTERS DIES (APRIL 12, 2006)
E! ONLINE: TROUBLED POINTER SISTER DIES (APRIL 12, 2006)
GOOGLE NEWS: JUNE POINTER
GOOGLE BLOG SEARCH: JUNE POINTER


CATEGORIES: IN MEMORIAM.., WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO..

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

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