Thursday, September 27, 2007

Disco Delivery #45:
Midnight Wind (1980, AVI)

Midnight Wind - Rocket
Midnight Wind - Shoplifting My Love
Midnight Wind - Can't Hide It (I Came Here To Dance)

I recently obtained this awesome little Rinder & Lewis (well, mostly) production from 1980, and after hearing it for myself, I just knew I had to put it up on here. Before buying I had heard some samples of the music, but still, I was a little unsure about how this album would sound, largely due to the fact that I've read, shall we say, mixed reviews of their hard-to-find early 80's material on AVI. Apparently much of it was either experimental (see the Rinder & Lewis Cataclysm LP) or just sub par stuff they put out to fulfill remaining contractual obligations. One that has been cited as the latter was a curious 1981 LP they did under the guise Cheetah, which I have yet to find, but which is, I suppose, a rather appropriate name, considering all the tracks were apparently recycled El Coco tracks, put to new vocals and lyrics.. In this particular case, I shouldn't have worried. Clocking in close to 20 minutes, it's a very short album, even by disco standards; which likely explains why it's denoted as a Mini LP on the label (same thing as an EP, I suppose). Regardless of that, it's quality stuff all the way through. Although I later found out one of the tracks was recycled - "Can't Hide It (I Came Here To Dance)," which originally appeared under a different mix on a Le Pamplemousse LP, even that doesn't take away from the excellence of all three cuts on here..

To recap, for those who may not be familiar: Laurin Rinder and W. Michael Lewis would have to have been one of the most prolific, and even influential production duos in disco music. Based out of the Producer's Workshop studios in Hollywood, they were originally drafted by AVI to go to a nightclub and see about this 'new disco stuff' in case they would be able to do it. Despite having done so on record label suggestion, they would end up with what would have to one of the the more successful, highly regarded (and thus highly sampled) catalogues in disco. Working mostly with the AVI and Butterfly labels, much of their best known productions were drafted under guises such like El Coco, Le Pamplemousse, Rinder & Lewis (for AVI) along with Saint Tropez and Tuxedo Junction (for Butterfly). Aside from those, there were also some under lesser-known guises, like this record - Midnight Wind, Discognosis, Rinlew All-stars and the In Search Of.. Orchestra, to name just a few of the ones I know about. With their all-night coke-fuelled recording sessions (Laurin Rinder's infamous year-old Discopia interview quote about having to put inserts in his nose in order to keep doing coke still blows my mind) they managed to crank out some of the most exquisite disco music ever released (look no further than El Coco's "Dancing In Paradise"). If you factor in some of the scores they did (see the listing at the end of Laurin Rinder's interview) in addition to all of their disco work, it's enough to make your sinuses hurt.

Curiously though, the opening track of the record, "Shopliftin' My Love" is actually not a Rinder & Lewis production, but written and produced instead by frequent Rinder & Lewis collaborator Merria Ross and Troy Laws.. An elegant disco track that opens slow and sultry, but gently escalates into a piano driven groove, it's fronted by a great vocal (Merria Ross?) that's smooth, urgent and elegant all at the same time.. Despite not being produced by Rinder & Lewis, this track blends well with the others on the record, incorporating some of their elegant styling, albeit with more lyrics than the other two tracks combined and an engaging musical point with those piano chords, giving it a slightly more melodic feel..

The last track on the A-side is the remixed version of "Can't Hide It (I Came Here To Dance)," which originally appeared on the Le Pamplemousse "Sweet Magic" (1978, AVI) LP. Written by a one Ruben Banuelos (whose also a contributor on a few other Le Pamplemousse LPs), the remix on this record takes the track down about a minute from 4.28, to 3.28, keeping the original vocals but scissoring out some verses ("..thought I lost my inspiration..'til I made my destination..," "...don't want no idle conversation, following up by explanations..") from the original. Overall, I actually prefer the remixed version on this record. In a way it takes the song's own advice, cutting down on the explanations, getting to the destination - focusing more on the groove, with the emphasis that bass and excellent brass section making up for the 'lost' lyrics. With the big, horn-driven arrangements and lyrics like: "..make believe I'm Fred Astaire..dancing in a world of splendor, music only takes you there.. ", and "...doin' things like John Travolta, and a little bit more..," evidently Chic weren't the only disco act to connect swing era references to images of the freewheeling champagne-and-cocaine heights of disco decadence..

However, as good as the tracks are on Side A, the ultimate track on this record has got to be the one on Side B, the Merria Ross track "Rocket" (less about rockets and more about rocking, so to speak).. Propelled by a little killer bass riff, a driving beat and a lively chorus of vocals which manage to turn cute elementary wordplay into the stuff of irresistible disco charm; this one's right up there with some of the most infectious Rinder & Lewis stuff that I've heard. With W. Michael Lewis' signature warm, jazzy, and spacey synth stylings (anyone know what type of synthesizers those might be?) layered on top of the robotic beat, along with an exciting sax solo on the break, it's got enough musical variety to keep things interesting and arresting without taking away from the groove.. Goes on for some eight or so minutes; just long enough to keep one moving and listening, without wearing out it's welcome. Top-tier stuff, as far as I'm concerned..

As far as some of the other aspects of this 'Mini-LP' are concerned, when Laurin Rinder once said in an interview that AVI were a pretty "low-end label," he wasn't kidding.. The low quality paper glued over the cardboard makes the album look at least two decades older than it actually is. AVI had to have been one of the few remaining companies doing their LP jackets like that in 1980. Curiously, there aren't even any musician credits on the sleeve, which perhaps might have something to do with the Mini-LP/promo-only status of the record. And while on that note; so far, I have yet to find any evidence of a commercial release of this record or anything under the Midnight Wind name. Given that all records of this on the internet (the few that are available), like the entries on and Discogs happen to be promos as well, I'd venture to guess that this most likely never even went beyond promo-only (unless someone out there knows otherwise?). Not sure why it would have been, perhaps the promo didn't generate enough interest to warrant a commercial release of these and perhaps other Midnight Wind tracks at the time? Who knows?

Into the 1980's, while Rinder & Lewis would continue for a little while with releases under the El Coco, Saint Tropez guises among others, the two eventually settled more into movie scoring. So far the last thing I've seen them both credited together on was a score for a little 1987 movie called "Hot Child In The City" (some sources credit both Rinder & Lewis for the score, some only Lewis - which ones are right?). While Laurin Rinder has moved on from the music business into photography, he's done a couple of interviews about his disco work in recent years, little has been heard from W. Michael Lewis on the same subject. Recently, some later Google search results and a couple of posts on the forums (courtesy of users Paulo and FunkyChris) revealed a couple of things.. One of them being an interesting late '90s interview with W. Michael Lewis. Although he doesn't go in to much detail about his disco work, it's an interesting look at his immense musical background and one of the few interviews with him that have been published on the 'net. Another one was a link to a little record company called SnailWorx. Founded in 2003 by Lewis and AVI Records' co-founder Ray Harris, it seems Lewis is still quite active in the music business..

One of the Rinder & Lewis collaborators that I'd like to know more about would be Merria Ross, who seems to appear or otherwise contribute to a great deal of their disco work.. Outside of her work with Rinder & Lewis, she would also be the writer behind one of Donna Summer's biggest post-disco hits, the Quincy Jones produced "Love Is In Control (Finger On The Trigger)." She's also been described as a "traveling singer/actress," yet somehow IMDB lists no credits for a Merria Ross.. There is, however, a listing for a Merrie Lynn Ross (sometimes listed as Merrie Ross). Although nothing on Merrie Lynn Ross' credits lists songwriting, one website lists some outside projects, hinting at a versatility that could possibly include some musical involvement. That said, I'm not even sure if Merria and Merrie are one in the same, but I can't help but wonder if the similar names are more than coincidental.. Update (12/06/07): I recently got a nice email from Merria Ross herself, wherein she confirmed that she and Merrie Lynn Ross are not one in the same. She also shed some insight into her contributions to Rinder & Lewis' work and on the partnership itself, which was greatly appreciated. Thanks again to Merria for her kind contributions..

Anyway, all things considered; although not nearly as well-known as some of their other work, this record remains an enjoyable little sleeper from one of the most prolific studio teams in disco. Despite it's length, those who enjoy Rinder & Lewis' sophisticated disco style would especially enjoy this one. That said, anyone who comes across this in a record dig would be especially fortunate, since one should be prepared to pay, shall we say, somewhat more usual for this on eBay..





Ryan Chimney said...

thanks for posting this 12" and the link to my Rinder interview. I was very close to a new Lewis interview ... still waiting for his reply with answers =/

My other interviews are here.

Tommy said...

Hey, no problem! That was a great interview! I really hope you get some answers from Michael Lewis sometime. It would be great to hear his perspective on things..
Thanks also for the link to your other interviews. I don't know why I haven't linked Dream Chimney yet.. Anyway, I just rectified that..

Thanks for the comment! :)

Anonymous said...

Yeah! More Rinder and Lewis- great! I bow my head to your magnificent blog which always brings great joy with each eagerly awaited posting and adds numerous interesting records to my vinyl want list. Special kudos for the "scientific" approach which always provides information and fascinating referrals to additional info/research etc. Keep on keepin' on!

Tommy said...

Hey Oliver, thanks for the kind comment! I really appreciate it.. :) Rinder & Lewis are one of my favourite disco production teams. It's been around a year since I posted on a Rinder & Lewis album, so I figured it was timely.. Anyway, it's always nice to hear from people who look forward to these postings..

Thanks for the encouragement :)

Ced said...

whaou another rinder and lewis production i didn't know ! and another search at the flea market.
thank's they are a great disco tune !.
and thank's to link my blog !

Tommy said...

Hey Cedric.. No problem! Thanks for the comment! :) I'm glad you liked it.. Before I found it, I had no idea about this one either..

jack_faith said...

those drums, the bass, the guitar, the keys and of course the horns - on Rocket, they were right in the palace of disco, at its pinnacle. Thanks so much for posting this, didn't know about this or that Michael Lewis interview... which was a curious read. Has he fallen out with Lauren or something? The Quicksilver stuff he's involved with is hard to find; I thought some of the Rinder and Lewis stuff was hard to get.

Tommy said...

Hey jack_faith! I'm glad you liked it! Love your description, too, btw :)

Yeah, I wonder what was the full story there too, why they decided to part ways.. I haven't really looked for much of their stuff beyond their disco material, but it's kind of nice to know that their disco stuff is some of their most successful..

Anyway, thanks for the comment! :)

Disco Lover said...

Thanks for the post. Hadn't heard this in years.

Tommy said...

Hey Kent, no problem.. Thanks for the comment! :)

the saucer people said...

Thanks for keeping the information up, this and the Dream Chimmney interview made for facinating reading...I have been listening to the Cataclysm album all week and its just so astonishing in terms of its radical sonic structures so at the moment I am on a mission to discover more of their rarer is often the way that the more experimental material gets ignored at the time only for it to be picked up years later as the listener is more attuned to the music and can appreciate it more readily.

Of course these links are dead but fingers crossed I will find Midnight Wind posted elsewhere and if I do I will post a working link...why did I not discover this three years ago!?!

Thanks again for the info, really appreciated.

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