Sunday, January 07, 2007
Sunshine on my mind...
Aura - L.A. Sunshine (1978, Change/MCA)
I picked up this 12" recently, but I have to admit, when I first listened to it at the used record shop, my first thought was "what...the... fuck.. is THIS!?" Deciding that my selective previewing wasn't piecing anything together on this song, I started over and dropped the needle right at the beginning. After giving it a good listening to, it didn't take me too long to get seduced.
This single has to be one of the most intriguing, and certainly interesting disco tracks I've come across so far. Anchored by that understated, percolating percussion and bass; those dreamy strings and of course that absolutely insane vocal. For me, the vocals are notable, not just because of their delivery, but because the way it seems to have been recorded, sounding slightly canned and processed but most likely without actually being so. It's like one of those records that, on paper, shouldn't work (kind of like Loose Joints' "Is It All Over My Face"), but somehow comes together into something that, while a little off-beat, is completely and oddly captivating. Perhaps the most sublime moment comes right after that verse where she goes "I'll be back soon." Believe me, it's not as plain as it sounds when you actually hear it; just when you think those vocals couldn't climb any higher, they end up soaring right above your head, completely beyond what one would expect. An eccentric, spaced out, mellow disco adaptation of the whole "California Dreaming" theme; it comes across like a kind of love letter to L.A. in the midst of a cold, dreary winter. If you look at it that way, it's probably no wonder this record came from Canada.
Not much seems to be known about Aura, the artist, or the main producer Jeff Smith, aside from one page which mentions Aura as one of "Canada's top jazz vocalists" of the time. The writer, Jim Mancel appears to have had a brief career as an artist in his own right, releasing a few singles, perhaps the most notable being "Just Be Yourself" and "Terry's Theme." However, a search on Robert Ouimet, the co-producer and the man behind the disco mix, yields the most fruitful results. Ouimet apears to have been one of the big players in the Canadian disco scene at the time. According to the liner notes of the "Disco Box" (1999, Rhino) compilation, Ouimet was the resident DJ at Montreal's Limelight discotheque from 1972-1980 and someone who, according to his bio, helped break many disco records in Canada. In addition he was an A&R man for RFC Records in the US as well as an occasional producer for the likes of Karen Silver, Mighty Pope and Francine McGee (of the cult disco classic, "Delirium") among others. Ouimet would be active in the music business well into the 1990's and is actually still around DJing today.
Perhaps I haven't come across enough information yet, but it seems like the disco scene in Montreal remains rather overlooked and underrepresented these days. Especially when compared to that of New York which has been well documented and rightfully so. Being that it was the home of some of the biggest, most influential nightclubs and disco indie labels, it is well justified. However, Montreal having been rated by Billboard once as the second most important disco market in North America has to count for something. It's unique cultural context, as well as it's contributions and innovations surely seem deserving of some kind of solid, cohesive documentation at some point in the future. To quote Ouimet, himself: "We have a half-American, half-European feel to this city, so I could play the European imports, like Silvetti's 'Spring Rain,' a year-and-a-half before Salsoul picked it up in America. Everything came together in Montreal at the right time. People were hungry for the new music. They wanted stuff they were used to, but they also wanted something else--just like me."
Anyway, when I got this record, I thought I had come across a genuine cheap, one of a kind rare find, and I still feel like I have. However, a quick internet search reveals that Joey Negro and Sean P. seem to have got to it first. This track is available on CD on their first "Soul of Disco" (2005, Z Records) compilation, which I don't have yet, but probably should.
AURA - L.A. SUNSHINE 12'' @ DISCOGS
DISCOGS - ROBERT OUIMET
DISCOGS - ROB OUIMET (SEPARATE LISTING)
DEEPSOUND PROMOTIONS - ROBERT OUIMET
RHINO RECORDS - THE DISCO BOX LINERS
DJ HISTORY FORUMS: MONTREAL'S DISCO HERITAGE
ENCYCLOPEDIA OF MUSIC IN CANADA - DISCO
JOEY NEGRO & SEAN P. - THE SOUL OF DISCO (2 CD - INCLUDES "L.A. SUNSHINE") | CDUNIVERSE.COM | AMAZON.COM | AMAZON.CO.UK
CATEGORIES: MINI DELIVERIES, CAN-CON DISCO