Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Disco Delivery #48:
Asha - L'Indiana (1979, Dash/TK)

Asha Puthli - I'm Gonna Dance (Richie Rivera Midnight Mix)
Asha Puthli - Mr. Moonlight (Richie Rivera Midnight Mix)
Asha Puthli - Music Machine (Dedication to Studio 54) (Richie Rivera Midnight Mix)
Asha Puthli - I'll See You Around
Asha Puthli - Legend Of Thais
Asha Puthli - There Is A Party Tonight

Asha Puthli - I'm Gonna Dance (Original Version)
Asha Puthli - Mister Moonlight (Original Version)
Asha Puthli - Music Machine (Dedication to Studio 54) (Original Version)
Asha Puthli - Dancin' Dandy

Although I'm sure those of you who read this blog fairly regularly are used to it by now; I've been pretty occupied with other things recently, so again, I apologize for the lack of entries lately. Also, to those who've emailed recently, sorry if I haven't gotten back to you right away. If I haven't replied to you yet, I'll make sure to do so very soon.. Anyway, about this entry: I had written a brief overview of this album on discomusic.com a few years back, but after getting a suggestion for this from a commenter on a recent post, I figure now would be a good time to finally do a little something on this excellent record... So without further ado, here it is..

Asha Puthli - one of the most eclectic, and in many ways, under-recognized vocalists of her time, often called the "Indian diva of Jazz, Funk and Soul", seems to have been gradually getting her due in recent years. With the rediscovery of her work, in large part through sampling (by the likes of The Notorious B.I.G., Jay-Z etc..), Puthli's work, once resigned to obscurity, has become increasingly recognized as of late.. After leaving her native India for New York to pursue her dream of singing jazz, one of her earliest, and most prominent notices was on Jazz innovator Ornette Coleman's "Science Fiction" (1971, Columbia) album. While much of her own work didn't follow in quite the same vein, it seemed, in a way to set the stage for the direction she would take in her own work. Unquestionably contemporary, yet somewhat experimental; informed by her Indian roots, her jazz background and occasionally bordering on the avant-garde, Asha always seemed to chart a rather distinctive course in her own music. It's a uniqueness that's especially apparent when listening to her 70's albums, particularly her stunning third LP, " The Devil Is Loose" (1976, CBS). A record that seemed to defy strict categorization blending soul, funk, early disco and early electronics, rendered through her own unique sensibility; listening to it, it's no wonder why legendary Columbia Records talent scout, John Hammond, once hailed her as nothing less than "a genius."

While her uniqueness had perhaps rendered her something of a wild-card in her time, particularly in the States (where her career never seemed to take off the way it had in Europe); that very same quality, seems to have ensured that her records, particularly her highly sought-after mid 70's albums: "Asha Puthli" (1973, CBS), "She Loves To Hear The Music" (1975, CBS) and especially "The Devil Is Loose" (along with her first, largely considered her best, from what I've gathered) have held up especially well over the years.. While those three are perhaps the best known of her own albums, her unique experimental approach is also evident on this record, her excellent fourth album, "L'Indiana".

Originally released 1978 by the Italian arm of CBS (CBS Dischi), it would gain an American release the following year through TK Records' Dash imprint. Although just as defiantly original as it's predecessor, it was perhaps her most obviously disco-influenced record up to that point. In addition, looking at the credits of the album, it's also easy to see why, among other things, Puthli is often considered a pioneer of 'world music.' An Indian singer, signed to an Italian label; recorded in both Brussells and Philadelphia with a French arranger (Jean-Luc Drion), a Belgian producer (Jean Van Loo), and a combination of variably notable European and American musicans, among them concertmaster Albert Speguel of the Paris Symphony Orchestra, Philly notables like Jack Faith and Richard Genovese on the horn section along with the ever-reliable Sweethearts of Sigma on the background chorus, "L'Indiana" is perhaps one of the most international disco records I've come across...

Speaking for myself, I had originally found this record some five years back at the used record shop, where I had stumbled across a Canadian pressing of the album. Not knowing anything about the mystery artist on the cover, the record looked strange, intriguing, and in good enough shape (sealed, with a cutout), and not to mention cheap enough, that I just had to buy it. Not really expecting all that much to begin with, I ended up enjoying the entire album much more than I had expected. Dark and sultry, sexy yet esoteric, it's one of the more interesting disco albums I've heard. In other words, anything but your average get-down-and-boogie record.

The Canadian pressing, released on Columbia, was pretty much
identical to the original Italian pressing (minus the fold-out poster), with the same tracks and even the original album cover, which sported a dark, purple-hued and strangely unflattering photo of Asha on the front (thankfully rectified on the US release) along with all the original credits, still written in Italian, even. While credited simply as 'Asha' on the front and back covers, the spine and label on the Canadian pressing still credited her full name - Asha Puthli, giving me enough to do a search on her. Through that, I later found out more not only about Asha herself, but about the album's later US release (which I eventually had to obtain for myself). Substantially different from the Canadian/European version with it's much-improved album cover, following in the practice of other labels like Salsoul, for instance, of remixing European-licenced disco records for the American market, the label evidently brought in New York DJ Richie Rivera to do his trademark "Midnight Mix" on the first three tracks on the album: "I'm Gonna Dance," "Mr. Moonlight," and "Music Machine," which, despite not being typical, were some of the most disco-palatable tracks on the record.

The lead-off track, "I'm Gonna Dance" was also the single in the US (the 12'' being identical to the US album version), reaching #67 on the Billboard disco charts. Originally clocking in at a tighter 3.30 on the original album, Richie Rivera's "Midnight Mix" just about doubles it's duration. Adorned by dramatic stabs of strings and anchored by a light, yet prominent pulse of clicking, machine-like synths in the background, along with Asha's subtle, yet effective performance, strings adding a hint of Bollywood; it plays like a misty, exotic and (if the lyrics weren't quite so innocuous) dark disco dream sequence.. The Midnight Mix spaces things out somewhat, making the synths sound a little less frantic, giving a little more time to the intro and adding a great break half-way through giving ample showcase to those synths and cascading drums..

Introduced by a spare piano and augmented later by a familiar horn refrain, the following track; "Mr. Moonlight" with it's slower tempo and it's lyrics, distinguished by a distant yearning perfmed in a decidedly un-disco fashion, not only continues but furthers the almost solemn vibe set by the previous track.. Going into decidedly moody territory here, the Midnight Mix, extending things by around a minute takes the mood even further with the break it added, practically spotlighting all of the atmospheric instrumentation in the mix.. It plays almost like late-night/after-hours disco mood music in places, a kind of down-beat disco classic, if you will. Apparently, "..Moonlight" was also released as a single in Italy..

The final track on Side A (at least on the US version), "Music Machine" (Dedication to Studio 54) is perhaps one of the most intriguing tracks on the record. Lifting things up somewhat from the yearning of the previous track, but continuing in the almost foreboding vibe of the previous tracks, "Music Machine," with it's lyrics and atmosphere, plays like a kind of chronicle/critique of the nightlife.. "..With poppers and strobes I am drunk to your beat, in this laser-lit glow, night people meet... to keep away tomorrow.. to keep away tomorrow...," it's as if the subject is, on one hand marveling and partaking in it, yet at the same time distantly observing and criticising the hypnotized masses seduced by the beat, dancing to 'keep away tomorrow,' completely high and completely addicted, staving off the inevitable, all the while begging for more ("...give me your music, give me your love, dance with me.. forever.."). With all that, I'm left wondering if perhaps the sub-title 'Dedication to Studio 54' is intended an an actual dedication or is simply an alternative title, implying it as an expression of one's dedication. Perhaps both?

Either way, out of all the remixed tracks, The Midnight Mix of "Music Machine" is the one which perhaps differs the most from it's original version. The remix used a slightly different vocal on the intro and, perhaps most obviously, replaced the ubiquitous manipulated/processed vocals on the original with a more straightforward one. The remix also added a great break (of course) to the track highlighting the bass and all the other excellent guitar work, practically buried on the original..

The original album also had a fourth track on Side A, "Dancin' Dandy." With the extended mixes of the other three Side A tracks, this was evidently no room left for this on the US version. With it's brief duration, acoustic rhythm guitar foundation, atmospheric synth touches and really, little else; it plays in an innocent, decidedly un-disco fashion, despite it's dancing theme. Although not quite at the same level as the other tracks, it's a half-way pleasant track, a nice respite from the heavier vibes of the other tracks. Adding a little bit of diversity to the record, without deviating from things entirely, it's one that I go back to more often than I thought I would. If anything, it's at least better than it's cutesy title might suggest it to be...

Side B starts off by going a little further away from the disco, opening with "I'll See You Around." Written by Timothy Touchton and Rainer Pietsch (an arranger/producer who has appeared on some prominent German disco productions) it's perhaps the closest thing to a ballad on the album. However, the most intriguing, if not somewhat perplexing track on Side B would be the one following it, "Legend Of Thais." Backed by what must be some of the Sweethearts' most angelic vocals, it opens with a chant, "Kyrie Eleison, Christe Eleison.." seemingly right out of a Catholic mass, followed by verses invoking drugs and disco: "..cocaine and opium were things I did for fun, but dancing was my joy..." Not sure if the title is a reference to something way over my head, but as intriguing as the lyrics and contrasts are, damned if I know what it's all supposed to mean..

"There Is A Party Tonight," the album's closing track, goes back into disco territory, bringing things full circle, in a way. Written by the trio of Dan Japlin, J.M. Willa Roza and Carlene MacLinen, who all contribute to a few prominent Pierre Jaubert productions (Chantal Curtis, Brenda Mitchell etc..). The excellent production on here, with the cold, synthesized opening, right out of "I Feel Love," along with the gleaming synth stabs, jagged guitars and of course, Asha's performance end up taking what would probably be a rather rote, uninspired disco filler track into the stuff of high-flying disco decadence. Personally, I think a great deal of that is due to Asha's great, and appropriately tipsy "glass-of-champagne" ad-lib (at around the 1.40 mark). A bit hilarious, but effective nonetheless..

Although I'm not as personally familiar with a lot of his work, the producer behind this record, Jean Van Loo (sometimes credited as Jean Vanloo), is perhaps best known for his work on albums by the studio group Chocolat's (misspelled with the apostophe for some reason, don't ask me why) and perhaps most prominently Patrick Hernandez' disco mega-hit "Born To Be Alive." In other showbiz lore, Van Loo is also notable as one of the first people to 'discover' Madonna. Having initially recruited her as a dancer for Patrick Hernandez, he and his associate, Jean-Claude Pellerin ended up bringing her to Paris for a brief, and fairly unfruitful stint where they tried to turn her into their own disco protégé with a song, infamously entitled "She's A Real Disco Queen." Ms. Ciccone reportedly hated it so much she refused to record it, thus ending her little stint in Paris with Hernandez' people. Jean Van Loo, having been a noteworthy figure in the music business since 1961, particularly in Belgium and France, passed away in 2000, at the age of 61.

Arranger Jean-Luc Drion was also a fairly notable figure, having been a regular collaborator of Jean Van Loo on some of the Chocolat's recordings and a prominent arranger and producer in his own right. DiscoStyle.com has a great story about him, "In Search of Jean-Luc Drion" written by an old friend of his, Bobbie J. Pemberton. An interesting and rare look into a fairly prolific, yet not-as-well known name in disco. Drion along with Dominique Régiacorte would later end up having a hit as Magazine 60 with "Don Quichotte" in 1985.

In recent years, Asha Puthli has been on a comeback trail of sorts. Spurred by the recognition of her work, Puthli, a long time resident of New York, has started actively performing and recording again, singing at events such as New York's Central Park's SummerStage in 2006, getting glowing write-ups in publications from the New York Times to India's Verve Magazine, and cultivating collaborations along the way with the likes of Bill Laswell and the Dum Dum Project among others. Although apparently working on a new album (reportedly with the French label Kyrone GP Music) unfortunately, Sony/BMG have yet to reissue any of Puthli's hightly sought-after CBS albums (the first three are widely availiable on vinyl 'reissues', however). In the mean time, Asha herself has taken the initiative in making her albums (including this one) available through her own website and even a couple of them through iTunes. A compilation, "Space Talk: The Best of Asha Puthli - The CBS Years", was evidently announced and even reviewed (see the All Music Guide), but as of this writing, has yet to be released.

Although this, along with her later albums, is perhaps among her lesser recognized works these days; to me, this record remains one of the more intriguing albums to come out of the Euro-disco spectrum. An album which synthesizes Asha's own distinct sensibilities with an elegant, at times even somewhat sombre Euro-disco sensibility, "L'Indiana" stands as a stunning example of Asha Puthli's distinctive artistry.







ish said...

What a find! Thanks so much. I actually remember when this album came out. It was very heavily promoted in music publications at the time, with no reference to "Asha" having any kind of cred or musical past. I remember picking it up thinking it was pretty standard slick disco fare but I have regretted not holding on to it all these years. So thanks so much. Your blog is awesome.

Anonymous said...

Thank you very Much!!!

Anonymous said...

When Asha Puthli was young she was a beautiful woman.

Unknown said...

Tommy! Amazing stuff. Thanks so much for turning me onto this.

Anonymous said...

You did an excellent job.
Thank you.

Tommy said...

Hey ish,
Thanks so much for the comment and the kind words! That's kind of strange that they made her so anonymous when they promoted it in the States. I would have thought her background would have been an asset. Ah well, another one that was lost in the shuffle, I guess..Thanks again for the comment! :)

Anonymous (1), No problem, glad you enjoyed!

Anonymous (2) - I agree, she definitely was! I must say though, looking at some of her recent photos, Asha seems to have aged pretty well!

Hey Enrique, no problem! I'm glad you enjoyed it.. Thanks for the comment :)

Anonymous (3), I'm glad you liked it! Thank you for the comment! :)

Anonymous said...

Asha reminds me of Cher a little, check out her other disco songs "Jealously" and "Our Love Is Making Me Sing", they're good stuff. I like the new logo/layout, vey chic!


Anonymous said...

I have had the remix of Music Machine on high rotation at my house since you posted it. What a masterful remix! Thanks for all the great music, and thank you also for including original versions and additional tracks. I have learned so much from your blog and have bought a lot of cd's as a result of your postings. Keep up the great work ~ and love the new 'look'!

juana said...

Does anybody hear the album 1001 NIGHTS OF LOVE by Asha Puthli ?

juana said...

I have a question about the song Music Machine (original version)5:25.
There is a moment when she sing normal and also when you can hear her voice sound "weird" and then sing normal and again she sound weird is this the way they made the record? or what?
I also want to say that when I receive a cd from her website I receive a copy (not an original cd)

Anonymous said...

I loved the song "There Is A Party Tonight" from the time I bought this album waaaay back in 1980. I always thought however, that it was too short, so a couple of years ago I "remixed" it using Acid Pro software and a sample from Donna Summer's "Love Is the Healer" to update the rhythm track. My remix turned out quite well! Also love "I'm Gonna Dance" and "Music Machine" (found a copy of the 12" on Ebay recently!). Disco is alive and well thanks to people like you! Keep up the good work.

Tommy said...

Hey Kevin.. You're first person I've seen to come with Cher comparison :) Anyway, I'm glad you like the new layout! Thanks also for the tip on the other great Asha tracks. I have "Our Love Is Making Me Sing" on her stunning "Devil Is Loose" LP, but I've never heard "Jealousy" before.. After doing a little investigating, apparently it's a stand-alone single. I'll definitely have to get a copy of that! Thanks for the comment :)

Hey jmsweetie, so glad you enjoy it! If I had to pick a favourite on here, "Music Machine" would probably be it. Glad to hear you've also taken advantage of the purchase links. I have to admit that I've had and do have my moral dilemmas when it comes to posting mp3s, but I'm glad that you seem to have the same philosophy as I do.. A lot of people might disagree, to me though, while mp3s are a great way to discover music, they can never replace the real thing, IMO.. Anyway, thanks for the comment and the kind words! :)

Pelusa, "1001 Nights Of Love" sounds like an awesome album. I heard the title track a while back, and I've been on the look out for a copy ever since..

About the original version of "Music Machine" with the processed vocals, yes, I'm pretty sure that was the way they made the record, or at least they way they originally intended it. I didn't do anything to the file, and there wasn't anything wrong with my record to make it sound like that. Personally, I prefer the remixed version without all the processing..

Thanks for the tip about the CDs from Asha's website. If you ever come back and read this, can you tell me what the sound quality is like? I know it doesn't say anything about it now, but I remember a while back, they mentioned on the website that they were vinyl transfers. I'm not sure if that's changed or not..

discobrian, thanks for the comment and the kind words.. It's great to hear from someone else in Calgary! Yeah, "..Party Tonight" has always felt pretty short. If you ever feel like it, feel free to send a copy of your remix to my email (address link is on the sidebar on the top right), I wouldn't mind hearing it sometime.. Thanks again for the comment! :)

Kosta said...

Hi Tommy,
thanks for this old WANTED of mine...
I'll See You Around is my favo track..
i love her singing and got also
1973 s/t...
but allow me to complain about the 48kHz....
since all the CD and mp3 are 44kHz...
48 don't add significant quality improve,
but disturb in the random playback the AD/DA converters and the conversion in CDaudio, cause u need to reconvert the decoded file.wav in 44kHz,,,
sorry for my complain...that's only 'cause i love your posts.

jmatt said...

hey i love what your doing here, ive been keeping up for six months or so now. i linked to your site on my blog, just wondering if that is ok with you. thanks

Mike said...

Is it just me, or does Asha look like Cher's drug fucked younger sister? I digress, Asha is brilliant and I really wish this amazing album was released on CD.

juana said...

Hi! Tommy:
About your question of the sound of the CD let me tell you that it is right. The sound is from a record (with no skips) but no good sound (loud)
When I receive my purchase from her website, what a surprise is a CD-R with a slipcase and a cardboard cover (that's it - very simple)
They also told me this: "The cd u received is the original format as we received from CBS SONY when we got licensing rights. The T.K. Record was licensed and the company is defunct. This is the only version we plan to release. Thank u. (The album that I receive is the one was made in Italy, not the one was made in USA)
I think you did an excellent job specially all the information that you wrote about this album (the website do not provide nothing about all her albums)

seandonson said...

Thanks for this Tommy! Been lookimg for more Asha ever since Bumrocks posted "Spacetalk". I think that was aboit a year and a half ago. The new logo is lovely by the way.

BoogieMan said...

Great artist and a great post. I wasn't too familiar with Asha till a I stumbled upon her "1001 Nights Of Love" a few years back. What a fantastic Disco song that (and all of these) is/are. I had no idea that she was of Indian descent. I think that's great and, a tribute to Disco's legacy.

Tommy said...

Hello Kosta, I'll be sure to take your suggestion. Thanks!

Hey Jmatt. As far as linking me, absolutely! I just linked you too. Thanks again for the kind words.. :)

Hey Mike, I guess make that the second time I've seen the Cher-Asha comparison :) I'm guessing the way her eyes look on the cover might have something to do with it.. Anyway, I'm glad you enjoyed it :) Thanks for the comment!

Hello Pelusa, thanks for answering my question! I appreciate it.. I'll keep it in mind if I decide to order from her website. Thanks again! :)

Hey Sean, no problem! "Space Talk" is the shit! Love that song! Anyway, thanks for the comment, glad you like the new logo :)

Hey Dungeon, thanks for the comment! "1001 Nights Of Love" is awesome. I really want to get that one soon.. Anyway, glad you enjoyed the post. Thanks again! :)

Anonymous said...

Love this blog. Thank you for doing this!
1001 Nights of Love (Reprise)/electronic version is awesome. Apparently Asha appeared on the TV show Stryx as Indian Stryx! Would love to see that..

Tommy said...

Hey Anonymous,

Thanks for the comment! I'd love to see the Asha episode of Stryx! What a fabulous TV show that was..

Beaubourg said...

Loved "There is a party tonight", sounded (and still does) so exotic and sexy to me back in '79. Finally found it. Thank you! Greetings from Argentina!

Tommy said...

Hey shimmo, no problem, glad you enjoy "..Party Tonight." Exotic is a good way to describe it.. Anyway, thanks for the comment! :)

DJInnaSoul said...

Sorry to have missed out on checking these tracks.

Is there any possibility of a re-up please ?

Many thanks.

the saucer people said...

I agree with the last poster that a re-up of the Asha Puthli tracks would be a splendid proposition as the remixed tracks are especially hard to find. I know its not your normal policy to re-upload and I completely understand why however like the recent LeFleur re-post I take it you are not adverse if there is a demand...so I will add my voice to the call (or should that be a re-call!) for a re-post!

On a side note, I have a decent 192 rip of the two tracks she did with Italian legends Goblin on the 1979 'Squadra Antigangsters' soundtrack: 'The Whip' (complete with sound effects!) and 'The Sound Of Money'.....if you have not got them I would be happy to email you them.

As a final note, I imagine over the last three or four years you have gathered quite a few new visitors to the site so albums you posted in 2007 would be completely new to them: so the idea of a once-a-month re-post spotlight/retrospective of a particular album would be really cool...maybe starting with the..erm...Asha album perhaps! lol.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

i want to know...why her song Legend of thais is explicit in an album of compilations?

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