Saturday, September 30, 2006

Disco Delivery #26:
A Taste Of Honey - Another Taste (1979, Capitol)



A Taste Of Honey - Dance | LINK TWO
A Taste Of Honey - The Rainbow's End | LINK TWO
A Taste Of Honey - Do It Good | LINK TWO
A Taste Of Honey - I Love You | LINK TWO
A Taste Of Honey - Take The Boogae Or Leave It | LINK TWO
A Taste Of Honey - Race | LINK TWO

How great is that album cover?.. Love the colour scheme and the neon lettering..

Anyway, everybody's probably heard A Taste Of Honey's "Boogie Oogie Oogie" at some point.. Only one of the most ubiquitous disco songs out there, and speaking for myself, one of my first favourite disco songs as a kid.. It wasn't until around 2000 when I really started to collect disco records, that I checked out the rest of their output. For the most part, every single one of their albums is exceptional, but this one, along with their final album, "Ladies of the Eighties" are probably their most overlooked LPs.. Despite nothing but favourable reviews (at least that I've come across), "Another Taste" was to be a classic case of the sophomore slump, commercially speaking at least. The opening track, "Do It Good," continuing in the same "get on the floor" vein, with it's bass/guitar driven groove and catchy refrain was to be the first single from the LP. A great track on it's own terms, it was no match for their mega-hit from the previous year; peaking at a respectable #13 on the Billboard R&B charts, but only managing #72 and #79 on the disco and pop charts, respectively (although I do hear it's one of their biggest hits in Japan). Commercial slump notwithstanding, I'm with the critics on this one. Once again produced by jazz-funk legends The Mizell Brothers, Alphonso (Fonce) and Larry; even if there wasn't an instantly catchy single like "Boogie Oogie Oogie," the album as a whole was a definite improvement over their debut. The grooves are smooth and sublime, and as an LP, always consistent and engaging. While undeniably still disco, they seemed to be bucking some of the trends by continuing with the Mizells on this album. At least from my perspective, not having been around at the time, it seemed like the sound and the vibe they went for was in total contrast to the harder, faster more rhythmic sound that seemed to colour much of the disco from 1979. The album instead being full of light, sunny, uplifting, mellow grooves. Perhaps it may have limited the album's appeal among disco audiences in 1979, but after hearing a song like Hazel Payne's "The Rainbow's End," "Dance" or the beautifully simple "I Love You," I can't help but be glad they went in the direction they did. In fact, they seem to be at their best on those very songs. All three are coloured with elegant, sweeping strings, flutes and great vocals and guitar work courtesy of front-ladies Janice-Marie Johnson and Hazel Payne. I also have to point out how much I love it when they get to breaking it down towards the end of "I Love You," when they let the beautiful backing instruments shine behind that bumpin' bass drum..

Side Two begins with "Race" written by keyboard player Perry Kibble and Thurman Aldridge. One of the more obviously dance-oriented songs on the album and what I believe was the second single on the album, which didn't chart. It's got an almost disco-jazzy vibe, especially with those flutes right at the top of the mix. The most 1979-ish song on the album is probably the cutesy titled "Take The Boogae or Leave It" written by front ladies Janice-Marie Johnson and Hazel Payne. Putting away the flutes and the strings for some four or so minutes and going full-tilt-boogie with the bass and guitar, it's definitely one of the most instantly recognizable songs on the album. It's almost as if they wrote this song with "Boogie Oogie Oogie" in mind.. a part II, if you will.. Best part of the song: Janice-Marie's awesome, funky bass..

Again despite making a solid LP, the album would peak at #26 R&B and #59 Pop on Billboard. Not altogether bad, but quite a drop from the top 10 peaks their debut had on both the Billboard Pop and R&B charts. In fact, according to the charts posted on the All Music Guide, "Another Taste" would be their lowest charting LP out of the four they released. Perhaps the glut of disco records on the market in 1979 had something to do with it, maybe their sound just wasn't with the hot trends at the time, or there just wasn't that instantly catchy single on the album, or perhaps all of those combined. Whatever the case, clearly some changes were on the way for the group. Before their next album, the two principal male members, keyboard player Perry Kibble and drummer Donald Johnson would leave the group. Several years back, I remember hearing an interview with Janice-Marie on a site called the R&B Page (which is sadly no longer online), where she talked in detail about her time in the group. Apparently execs at Capitol had only wanted Janice-Marie and Hazel and wanted nothing to do with the guys, instead opting to put the ladies up front (which they did) and to replace the guys with studio musicans (which they didn't, at least at first). Apparently after this LP, the execs got their wish and for their next two albums, A Taste of Honey was down to just the ladies. An unfortunate decision in my opinion; though that's not to say they didn't make great records after. Their next album "Twice As Sweet" (1980, Capitol) would pair them with producer George Duke and yield them one of their best songs, "Rescue Me" and their second (and last) major hit, "Sukiyaki." Their final album "Ladies Of The Eighties" (1982, Capitol) would pair them up with producers Al McKay of Earth Wind & Fire and Ronald LaPread of The Commodores. Perhaps the group dynamic had something to do with it, or the influence of the Mizell Brothers, or most likely both, but even still, their first two albums had a certain something missing from their last two records. An artistry, a sophistication perhaps, or just that certain vibe and image that seemed to really make them unique.

After their last album, Janice-Marie would make a solo album called "One Taste Of Honey" (1984, Capitol), apparently done as a contractual obligation to the label. Shortly after, she would retire from the music business until around the late '90s when she started performing again. By 2000 she would release her second solo album "Hiatus Of The Heart (2000, Tastebuds). She continues to tour perform these days, both solo and as A Taste of Honey. In recent years, she's also been reconnecting and exploring her Native American heritage in her music. Her latest release was a single called "Until The Eagle Falls" from 2002. Hazel Payne, meanwhile, also resumed performing around the late '90s. In 2004 she performed with Kid Creole (AKA August Darnell) in the disco musical "Oh What A Night." Today she also tours and performs with her own band. Although both ladies largely perform separately these days (as far as I know), in 2004 Hazel and Janice-Marie briefly reunited live on stage for a PBS Disco Special.

As for the other two members, keyboard player Perry Kibble and drummer Donald Johnson ended up, interestingly enough, here in my hometown - Calgary, Alberta. Perry Kibble passed away in 1999, but before his passing was quite prominent in the local music scene and a member of a local group here called Clear Image. The mother of their lead singer was a friend of my own mother, and gave her a copy of their locally produced CD.. I'm going to have to put it up here sometime.. They had performed on local TV here a few times, and not surprisingly, "Boogie Oogie Oogie" was a staple in their repertoire. Donald Johnson is still around today and living here in Calgary. Today he's a bluesman who tours and records as Donald Ray Johnson. Johnson is still going strong and has so far has released three albums: "It Ain't Easy Being Blue" (1995), "Donald Ray" (1998), "Pure Pleasure" (2002) and "Travelin' Man" (2006).

LINKS:
A TASTE OF HONEY - ANOTHER TASTE LP REVIEW @ ALL MUSIC GUIDE
A TASTE OF HONEY - ANOTHER TASTE LP REVIEW @ WILSON & ALROY'S RECORDS REVIEWS
A TASTE OF HONEY - ANOTHER TASTE LP @ DISCOMUSIC.COM
A TASTE OF HONEY - ANOTHER TASTE LP @ DISCOGS
A TASTE OF HONEY @ WIKIPEDIA
A TASTE OF HONEY @ ALL MUSIC GUIDE
A TASTE OF HONEY @ DISCOMUSEUM.COM
A TASTE OF HONEY REUNION @ SOULFUL DETROIT FORUM
INTERVIEW WITH DON JOHNSON @ SMOOTH JAZZ NOW
THE MIZELL BROTHERS @ ALL MUSIC GUIDE
THE MIZELL BROTHERS FAN PAGE - SKY HIGH
JANICE MARIE JOHNSON'S OFFICIAL SITE (remove exclamation point in new window)
HAZEL PAYNE @ PERSONALITY ARTISTS
DONALD RAY JOHNSON'S OFFICIAL SITE (remove exclamation point in new window)

PURCHASE:
A TASTE OF HONEY - CLASSIC MASTERS CD @ AMAZON.COM


CATEGORIES: DISCO DELIVERIES, WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO..

Thursday, September 28, 2006

black and white rainbows, colourful shadows..



Smokey Robinson - And I Don't Love You (Dub) (1984, Motown) | LINK TWO
Smokey Robinson - And I Don't Love You (12'' Extended Version) (1984, Motown) | LINK TWO

Not to worry, I am working on the next disco delivery.. 'tis on the way, will arrive before the end of the week.

In the mean time I decided to rip a 12" single that I picked up over the weekend.. Not exactly disco, but one of those many Larry Levan mixes from the '80s that I hadn't heard yet. Taken from Smokey Robinson's "Essar" (1984, Motown) LP, both this song and the LP it was from were not among Smokey's more successful efforts. In fact the "Essar" LP (what the hell is "Essar" supposed to mean, anyway? edit: apparently it's his initials 'S.R.' in word form.. Thanks to the anonymous commenter..) was one of his lowest charting LPs up until that time. Regardless of the commercial aspect, it's certainly one of the most interesting records I've heard from him..

Produced by frequent collaborator Reginald "Sonny" Burke, the remixes on both sides were credited to Larry Levan and Benny Medina. The mostly instrumental Dub mix on side B though is, in my opinion, classic Larry. It almost reminds me of some of the mixes he did for Gwen Guthrie around this time.. Stripped down to the basic synth track and guitar licks; reduced Smokey's vocals to the occasional melancholy wail wallowing in the layers of echoing synthesized rhythms. As opposed to the vocal extended mix on side A, the dub mix really brings out the dark side of the song. In other words, you really believe it when you hear him sing "..and I don't love you." No reason why, no explanations, it coolly and simply makes the point. Quite the contrast to side A where, listening to the full lyrics, you really aren't supposed to believe what he says..

Also an interesting fact, the Benny Medina credited on the mix is in fact the same Benny Medina that has managed Jennifer Lopez and currently Mariah Carey. Medina had his start at Motown, originally as the lead vocalist in the short-lived group Apollo, along with one of Berry Gordy's sons among others.. Apollo's only album was also produced by Berry's ex-wife Raynoma Singleton, no less..

P.S. Sorry for the scratchy rip.. I really need to invest in a good record cleaner sometime..

LINKS:
SMOKEY ROBINSON - ESSAR LP REVIEW @ ALL MUSIC GUIDE
SMOKEY ROBINSON - ESSAR LP REVIEW @ WILSON & ALROY'S RECORD REVIEWS
SMOKEY ROBINSON ALBUM REVIEWS @ ROBERTCHRISTGAU.COM
SMOKEY ROBINSON - AND I DON'T LOVE YOU 12" @ DISCOGS


CATEGORIES: MINI DELIVERIES

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Disco Delivery #25:
Rinder & Lewis - Warriors (1979, AVI/Quality)



Rinder & Lewis - Love Potion #9
Rinder & Lewis - Blue Steel
Rinder & Lewis - Willie and the Hand Jive
Rinder & Lewis - Arabella/Home
Rinder & Lewis - Harlem Shuffle


File links updated 10/26/08

Finally, it's here..

I've been wanting to showcase something from these guys for a while now. Laurin Rinder & W. Michael Lewis were, in my opinion, one of the best disco production duos of the disco era. Probably not one of the most recognizable as far as the mainstream goes, but certainly one of the most prolific and popular among disco enthusiasts. Rinder and Lewis were pretty much the principals behind El Coco, Le Pamplemousse, Saint Tropez, Tuxedo Junction, Discognosis as well as the soundtrack to the TV show "In Search Of.." (which I used to love as a kid) among others.. According to a 1980 article (see links section), by then they had apparently been involved in some twenty nine albums. Laurin Rinder admitted in a recent interview with Discopia, that they pretty much lived in the studio during the late '70's, in his words: "we really had cots, beds and the whole thing, we were just pumpin’ them out. 7 days a week, 3 different projects at the same time. I played drums on everything but had to play a little differently. I had to ask the engineer 'What’s the name of this group?' " Not surprisingly cocaine figured quite prominently in the madness of those days. Another thing Laurin Rinder admitted in that same interview was: "The amount of coke we did to do all this you can’t even imagine. $300 a day. I had to have plastic inserts in my nose so I could do more." I wonder if ol' Rick James needed plastic inserts..

What makes their output even more remarkable is that they played the majority of the instruments themselves. Despite that, as musicians they didn't credit themselves on some of their earlier works, instead giving false names to false musicians on the back of their records; In part I guess to give the appearance of being a real group. One other reason, as Rinder admitted in his discomusic.com interview, was to remain fairly anonymous, so as not to tarnish their reputation as "legit" rock and jazz musicians. In recent years, Laurin Rinder has been the most forthcoming with tales of the day, having done at least two interviews with disco websites in recent years. Prior to disco he already had a long history as a session and journeyman drummer, having played on countless records since the 1950's, including a stint as a session player at Motown, often without credit.

"Warriors," as mentioned earlier was their second album as Rinder & Lewis, and is probably among some of the best stuff they've released. Even the cover they used, an actual picture of their fathers on a fishing trip, made a clever statement. Overall, I love the sound they went for on this LP, with great musicianship coloured with some amazing, lush, smooth synthesizer effects. The cream of the crop as far as the tracks on this album goes, and as good as everything is, is probably the closing track "Blue Steel." Forget Zoolander (please), this track is, to me, the culmination of that excellent balance of synthsesizers and live musicians that they achieved throughout the album. Those amazing, equal parts calm and crazy synths at one point blending seamlessly with the violin solo is, for me, one of the best things about this track. Dark, haunting and sexy at the same time, it's one of the most atmospheric disco instrumentals I've yet to hear. It almost recalls one of their standout tracks, "Lust" from their "Seven Deadly Sins" (1978, AVI) project. So much so that one internet review even described this track as "Lust, part II." One of those tracks that one just needs to luxuriate in to really appreciate..

The two covers on the album are also well worth listening to. The LP opens with a synth driven cover of Johnny Otis' "Willie & The Hand Jive," which as I recently learned is actually about an innocent 1950's dance/clap game, not that other kind of hand jive, but I digress.. Opens with a great I-Feel-Love-esque robotic beat which by the middle of the track becomes a kind of dark, crazy, paranoid synth workout.. It would be this song paired with "Love Potion #9" that would chart at #20 on the Billboard disco charts in 1980.. Their other cover, a Lieber & Stoller song (they'd been known to cover a few in their time) "Love Potion #9" opens side 2. Equal parts playful and sexy, with a great hypnotic beat to it, the cheeky lyrics make an interesting contrast with the dark soundscapes that colour this album.

According to a 1980 interview with Rinder & Lewis, "Arabella/Home" (or at least the 'Arabella' part) was originally done eight years prior to this album as a rock song, recast as a disco track for this project. Great string section on this one, also love that pounding bass drum on the "Home" section of the track.

The lightest, most playful track on the album is probably "Harlem Shuffle" with guest vocalist Carmen Twillie up front. Not quite as dark in mood, no crazy synth effects and much more vocally driven than any of the others. It probably comes closest to recalling the vibe of many of the El Coco projects.

Anyway, for this one I put the entire album up. It's a pity (as usual) but much of the AVI label's disco output, particularly Rinder & Lewis' productions are pitifully underrepresented on CD.. Aside from a recent Japanese reissue of El Coco's "Let's Get It Together" (1976, AVI) album, there is one budget CD of El Coco hits and a now out of print CD called "Disco 54: The AVI Collection," which most notably contained the nine minute version of "Lust." I'd hope that Universal, who owns the AVI catalogue, will give much of Rinder & Lewis' classic AVI output proper reissue treatment one day. Until then, vinyl hunters will keep on hunting..

Not surprisingly, after disco, Rinder & Lewis burned out. All that coke had to take it's toll sometime, I suppose. Much of their post-1980 AVI output has been considered largely sub-par by many disco fans (though personally, I haven't heard too much of the post-1980 stuff, but I'm curious to).. In addition, they had started to focus more on TV music composition after getting tired of dealing with record labels in trying to get their proper royalties. After doing an album for Eloise Whitaker, Laurin Rinder would leave the music business, while Michael Lewis would continue on.. Despite, at least in the beginning, not really being familiar with disco, doing it based on their record label's suggestion; they managed to build up an excellent and impressive canon of disco material under their many guises...

Also, for those who are interested, be sure to check out the links below to the interviews with Laurin Rinder and Rinder & Lewis together..

Next week: another taste of something sweet and smooth..

LINKS:
RINDER & LEWIS - WARRIORS LP @ DISCOGS
RINDER & LEWIS @ DISCOMUSEUM
LAURIN RINDER & W. MICHAEL LEWIS 1980 INTERVIEW: PART ONE | PART TWO
LAURIN RINDER INTERVIEW @ DISCOPIA
LAURIN RINDER INTERVIEW @ DISCOMUSIC.COM

PURCHASE:
DISCO 54 - THE AVI COLLECTION @ AMAZON.COM


CATEGORIES: DISCO DELIVERIES, INTERVIEWS

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

I know I've got some 'splaining to do..

I really hate giving excuses, but I might as well update you, my faithful readers, about what's been keeping me.. After all, It's been over a month since my last update and I really shouldn't keep everyone hanging here.

Although I haven't updated as much, it's been quite the summer; a new job and to top it all off at the beginning of August, I had to move into a new place. So far, the place is great, (love my location and my view); unfortunately, due to problems with transferring internet access, I didn't have any for several weeks. To make a long story short, because a three year contract was signed with the internet/phone provider, we wanted to try and transfer it to the new place, but this time without a corresponding land-line.. In any case, after about a month of neverending delays and problems, I gave up on that and switched to a new provider.. As a result, I didn't have internet until about the beginning of this month.. All that in addition to me trying to furnish the new place and getting my first little taste of (semi) independence, I just really haven't been in the mood to rip any records or update..

Yesterday was my first day of the new semester at University, so I am working less hours and ironically, I'll probably have more free time to spare. That said, I hope to get a new Disco Delivery up sometime this coming weekend *fingers crossed*..

Again, sorry for keeping everyone waiting..

CATEGORIES: MISCELLANEOUS

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