Sunday, December 02, 2007
Free your mind and your heart will follow..
Air Power - Be Yourself (1978, Stage Productions/AVI)
Air Power - Welcome To The Disco (1978, Stage Productions/AVI)
Quite simply, the two tracks on this single are the things my disco dreams are made of.. Heavy bass and congas; grand, graceful strings; a rich horn section, a cooing chorus of uplifting female vocals, spacious mixes filled by a host of stunning breaks. Like a virtual ride through disco paradise, what more can one ask for?
I had originally come across a Canadian pressing of this about a year ago at a used shop here. The B-side was flawless, but after flipping it over, for some reason, it looked like someone had intentionally (and repeatedly) dragged an old nail through the grooves on the A-side, making it completely unplayable.. I remember being almost crushed after seeing that, after thinking I had myself a real find.. it's hard to fathom why would someone exact such cruelty on a harmless, charming record like this? Whatever the case, I had pretty much passed on it until recently when I had come across this US pressing.
One cool little thing about the US pressing of this is it's 'Q-Mix" mastering. Apparently it was AVI's version of the Motown pioneered/trademarked Eye-Cued 12'' single, which put spaces in the grooves to identify the major breaks.. Apparently it never really took off, but I thought it was a neat little innovation..
Although it seems the B-side "Welcome To The Disco" is perhaps the better-known of the two tracks these days, having been included on the excellent Joey Negro compilation "Disco Spectrum 2" (2000, BBE), the A-side, "Be Yourself" is just as stellar. Given the strength of both tracks, I almost wonder why they didn't make it into a double A-side.
The start of "Be Yourself" pretty much summarizes the sound of these two tracks. Opening with a stunning horn/hi-hat/string intro, each element seemingly succeeding the other in perfect order, escalating beautifully into the beat; it promises many good things and delivers on every one of them.
After the generous intro, things really kick into gear when the vocals start (a full two minutes later), with the ladies singing in chirpy unison, their charming, if slightly trite "positive thinking" PSA, adding just the right amount of sweetness to the groove without overpowering anything else.. Vocals aside, the ultimate for me, however, would have to be right around the five minute mark when the whole thing suddenly escalates into a climactic frenzy with a break that is just awesome, awesome, awesome! Ushered in by an orchestra hitting all the marks in rhythmic unison, with strings taking flight and bass moving along right up front; there's just no other way to describe it.
The B-side, "Welcome To The Disco" has a slightly more stripped down sound than the A-side, seemingly using the same congas, but cutting a more rhythmic groove, even more percussion heavy than the A-side.. There's not a lot of singing on here, but the dialogue on here, minimal as it is, complimented by the sexy strings, is totally priceless.. Not so much for any intentional hilarity, but for the sheer fantasy of it all, with these two very sexy sounding ladies welcoming a man to a disco, every compliment and remark, dripping with coquettish flirtatiousness. Between the dialogue and the fantastic instrumentation; raw rhythm perfectly juxtaposed with refined elegance, nothing sums up disco bliss the quite like this. Going on for some ten minutes or so, it's a groove fantasy that never gets tiresome..
Produced by Willie Nance, arranged by Donald Burnside and written by both Nance and Burnside, I'm guessing Air Power might have been a moniker for just the two of them. Although there are practically no other credits for Willie Nance that I could find, from what I've found, Donald Burnside would go on to arrange and produce for another AVI act, Captain Sky, as well as Elaine & Ellen and later on The Chi-Lites, Gene Chandler (of "Get Down" fame), Yvonne Gage and others for Chycago International Music (yes, 'Chicago' spelt with a 'y' for some reason). Although there probably some major gaps in his Discogs and All Music Guide entries, Burnside seems to have been involved with a couple notable things in the early 90s, including an album for Jerry Butler and an act called Romeo and You on the Elektra label.
Production aside, a great deal of the credit for the great mixes of these tracks likely goes to Rick Gianatos, who is perhaps one of the more unsung disco mix masters out there these days.. Gianatos, a pioneer DJ, mixer and producer who had been a DJ in both New York and Chicago (another Chicago connection) and had been one of the principals behind one of the earliest disco remix services (Disco Queen Records) before getting involved with AVI Records..
Along with his work for AVI (as an A&R Administrator and mixer on records by AVI acts like Lowrell, Eastbound Expressway, Evelyn Thomas and many of their Ian Levine productions) he was also behind the mixes of some disco biggies like Gene Chandler's "Get Down," Front Page's "Love Insurance" and Shalamar's "Right In The Socket," among others.. Aside from mixing, Gianatos also scored some high-profile production gigs for the likes of Shirley Bassey (one of the two disco remakes of "This Is My Life" along with an incomplete/unreleased album), Scherrie Payne (of The Supremes), D'llegance and later, a production associate of Ian Levine's on many of his 'Motorcity' recordings in the 80's. Although I'm not as familiar with Gianatos' work as I am with some of the other disco mixers out there, I'm a major fan of the sound he had on some of the records he mixed, namely this one the and the awesome El Coco "Cocomotion '79" remix. Full and elegant, yet not at all cluttered or overproduced, both sound like prime examples of a spacious and highly effective "less is more" approach to things..
Gianatos evidently returned to the music business in 2006, having produced a single for Pattie Brooks, a remake of her disco classic "After Dark." It seems to have been full steam ahead since then with Gianatos working on projects with not only Ms. Brooks, but other back-in-the-day disco divas like Linda Clifford; Hodges, James & Smith and The Former Ladies of The Supremes (a trio including former Supremes Lynda Laurence and Scherrie Payne) on endeavours such as the recent "Dreamgirls Dance Project". Apparently there's another forthcoming project uniting many of these disco ladies, entitled "Desperate Divas," which is appropriate enough, I guess, given some of these divas' lack of recording in recent years. More information about his recent efforts can be found on his own website RickGianatos.com. In addition to that, Rick himself had also posted on a thread at the discomusic.com forums about a year ago regarding some of his work with AVI and others. A great read with an interesting look into his background and discography, for those who are interested.
All of that aside however, as far as this single is concerned, with it's flawless combination of rhythm and beauty; sexiness and simplicity, it rarely gets any better than this..
PREVIOUS RELATED ENTRIES:
DISCO DELIVERY #37: MIDNIGHT RHYTHM (1978, ATLANTIC) (WEDNESDAY MARCH 14, 2007)
DISCO DELIVERY #10: LINDA CLIFFORD - IF MY FRIENDS COULD SEE ME NOW (1977, CURTOM/WARNER BROS.) (FRIDAY MARCH 10, 2006)
DISCO DELIVERY #1: THE SUPREMES - MARY, SCHERRIE & SUSAYE (1976, MOTOWN) (MONDAY JANUARY 10, 2006)
DISCO SPECTRUM 2 (2 CD) (INCLUDES "WELCOME TO THE DISCO")
CD UNIVERSE | AMAZON.COM | AMAZON.CO.UK
AIR POWER - BE YOURSELF/WELCOME TO THE DISCO 12'' @ DISCOGS
AIR POWER - BE YOURSELF/WELCOME TO THE DISCO (UK 12'') @ DISCOMUSIC.COM
DONALD BURNSIDE @ DISCOGS
DONALD BURNSIDE @ ALL MUSIC GUIDE
RICK GIANATOS @ DISCOGS
RICK GIANATOS @ ALL MUSIC GUIDE
RICK GIANATOS @ DISCOMUSIC.COM FORUMS
RICK GIANATOS' OFFICIAL SITE
RICK GIANATOS' MYSPACE
DISCO MUSEUM HALL OF FAME: RICK GIANATOS
CATEGORIES: MINI DELIVERIES