Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Come put out the fire..



Laura Lee - Sat-is-fac-tion (1979, Fantasy/GRT) | LINK TWO
Laura Lee - Your Song (1979, Fantasy/GRT) | LINK TWO

The A-side on here is one seductive, sexy little sleeper from 1979 courtesy of Detroit soulstress Laura Lee. Born Laura Lee Newton in Chicago, as a child she would relocate to Detroit where she was adopted by the Rev. E. Allan Rundless and his wife Ernestine. The Rundlesses had also led a gospel group - The Meditation Singers, whose early lineup included none other than Della Reese, whom Lee would later replace.. By the mid 60's, she would make the move to secular music, recording for the Detroit indie and Motown rival, Golden World Records and later on with the legendary Chess label where she would record at the legendary Fame Studios.

Although a prominent Detroit vocalist, she would never actually record for the mighty Motown label, even though she would audition for them at one point, only to be turned down. Most likely her gritty, soulful style just didn't fit with the label's pop/cross-over aims at the time.. However, despite that, it wouldn't be a complete loss. Brian Holland of Motown's famed Holland-Dozier-Holland production team and an excellent producer in his own right (see Disco Delivery #1: The Supremes - Mary, Scherrie & Susaye) evidently took notice in those auditions, and would later sign her to their own Hot Wax label after Holland-Dozier-Holland's acrimonious split with Motown. It would be there where, in 1971, she would have what would be her biggest US chart success with her signature hit "Women's Love Rights."

Although gospel trained and nurtured, listening to her on "Sat-is-fac-tion," you probably wouldn't know it.. Kicked off by that hot, steamy sax; hypnotic, robotic synths shadowing the bouncing hi-hat and Laura's vampish vocals. With those sighs and whispers; regularly alternating between a tamed, simmering tension and an all-out steaming boil, Lady Laura's voice is pure sex on here. In other words: sleazy, sultry and just down-right hot in all the right places. Although slightly more stylized and subdued than usual, her vocals still bear that signature edge, providing the perfect compliment to the slick, shiny production. Along with the vocals and the overall production; just before the four-minute mark, right when the wailing sax kicks in with those great handclaps, that breakdown on here is yet another thing which totally seals this one for me. Granted, overall, it may not the most instant of disco singles, but just like that bassline in the back, it's a groove that sneaks up on you and has you hooked before you even know it..

I'm not sure how much club play this single would have gotten back in the day; nevertheless, for me, it's one elegantly striking, seductive piece of disco pleasure which remains perhaps one of her most intriguing performances on record..

The flip side, "Your Song," on the other hand, certainly lives up to it's designation, completely changing gears from the A-side.. A pleasant, though much more conventional R&B/disco-lite kind of track, parts of the melody remind me of Thelma Houston's version of "Don't Leave Me This Way," albeit without the same sense of emotional drama..

Aside from those understated string arrangements on this track, I also enjoy this one for the simple reason that much like the A-side showed a sexier side to her, this track showcased the earthy, soulful timbre of Laura's voice so well; with a rawness and a tenderness so simple and straightforward, you can't help but be engaged by it. It's that mix of grit and warmth, as this and much of her best material shows, which is undoubtedly one of her best assets..

Aside from Laura herself, this single also featured some other notable names. For one thing, both tracks on the single were produced by Don Davis, a somewhat enigmatic, yet highly prolific figure in the Detroit soul scene. Much of the material he produced and recorded on his Detroit indie labels like Groovesville and Revilot has become quite revered and collectible among soul aficionados over the years. Aside from his more obscure work on the Detroit labels, he had also produced some prominent acts over the years, including Mavis Staples, David Ruffin and The Dramatics among others as well as the late Johnnie Taylor, with whom he'd have some of his biggest success. Personally speaking, a couple of my favourite Don Davis productions that I've heard so far were for the late Jeannie Reynolds on her two highly underrated albums for the Casablanca label in the late 70s. Both excellent albums featuring yet another similarly raw, soulful voice....

Along with the producer, the arrangers on this single also had some notable credits to their name. Rudy Robinson was a prolific arranger, producer and musician in his own right as well as a regular Don Davis collaborator. Robinson had contributed to numerous albums by numerous artists, including the likes of The Temptations, Bobby Womack, Barbara Mason, Dennis Coffey as well as some excellent Detroit disco productions like C.J. & Co. and The Mike Theodore Orchestra. Until his death in 2002, he remained a prominent figure in the Detroit music scene as well as a keyboard player and longtime musical director for another Detroit soul legend, Bettye LaVette.

Additionally, Robinson's co-arranger on this single was none other than Disco wizard and super-producer Patrick Adams, whose prolific contributions to disco on the production side with projects like Musique, Phreek and many others (not to mention his work on the P&P labels) need no further introduction (see Disco Delivery #38: Patrick Adams Presents Phreek for more on Adams)..

Along with producer Don Davis, the A-side "Sat-is-fac-tion" was also written by none other than Motown legend Mary Wells and her (by this time, anyway) ex-husband Cecil Womack (later of Womack & Womack). Just as a gossipy sidebar; interestingly (although I might have my dates mixed up), by the time this single was released, Mary Wells had divorced husband and co-writer Cecil Womack and apparently re-married to Cecil and Bobby Womack's brother Curtis Womack. Talk about keeping it in the family...

The B-side, "Your Song" was however solely credited to Womack and Davis and later recorded by The Dells on their 1980 album, "I Touched A Dream" (1980, 20th Century), as well as The Four Tops, later into the 1980's..

During the same year that this single was released, Lee would go through a major setback after being diagnosed with cancer, from which she wouldn't fully recover until 1990. Given that, it's probably no wonder why this single only ended up being a relatively obscure one-off for her. While the 1980's had her battling cancer and essentially putting her singing career on hold, the early 80's saw Lee returning to her gospel roots, cutting two gospel albums in 1983, one of them with former flame, soul legend Al Green called "Jesus Is The Light Of My Life" (1983, Myrrh). From the late '80s and into the 1990's, she would end up would devoting more time to ministry and missionary work, performing only on occasion..

On her officially endorsed fansite/blog (a great resource, by the way; with the most comprehensive, detailed bio of her life and career out there), when asked about this single, she mentioned, somewhat dismissively, that this single was nothing more than her attempt at "going with the times". Understandably, like many artists at the time, she too had felt the need to maintain her career and jump on the disco bandwagon, yet in spite of that, this single still remains an engaging piece of disco, and along with the names attached to it, a notable meeting of figures in the R&B and disco worlds..

These days Laura maintains an active web presence through Colin Dilnot's excellent fansite/blog as well as her own Myspace site, where you can hear some of her music and see some recent photos of the lady herself (who, at the age of 62, still looks remarkable!)..

PREVIOUS RELATED ENTRIES:
DISCO DELIVERY #38: PATRICK ADAMS PRESENTS PHREEK (1978, ATLANTIC) (THURSDAY MARCH 29, 2007)
DISCO DELIVERY #19: THE MIKE THEODORE ORCHESTRA - HIGH ON MAD MOUNTAIN (1979, WESTBOUND/ATLANTIC) (SUNDAY MAY 14, 2006)

LINKS:
LAURA LEE - SAT-IS-FAC-TION/YOUR SONG 12'' @ DISCOGS
MS. LAURA LEE - DEDICATED TO THE LADY OF SOUL MUSIC
LAURA LEE'S OFFICIAL MYSPACE
SOULFUL DETROIT FORUM - LAURA LEE
LAURA LEE @ ALL MUSIC GUIDE
LAURA LEE @ WIKIPEDIA
LAURA LEE ALBUM REVIEWS @ ROBERTCHRISTGAU.COM
DON DAVIS @ ALL MUSIC GUIDE
SOULWALKING - RESPECT 2002: RUDY ROBINSON
SOULFUL DETROIT FORUM - RUDY ROBINSON

CATEGORIES: MINI DELIVERIES

Monday, July 09, 2007

Noel - Is There More To Life Than Dancing? (reprise)



As the Disco Delivery archives continue to grow, so too have the feedback and the re-upload requests. Lately, out of all of the Disco Deliveries, this particular album has been one of my most requested re-uploads.. Not counting all the requests I've gotten over the last several months, just last week I got two emails from two different people, both requesting this.. Given that the Noel entry is one of the entries which I'm most proud of, I figure there's no better time to do this than now...

Since the original posting, I've recently tweaked some of the text in the entry, as well as re-ripped all the tracks from the album, so hopefully if you downloaded it when I originally posted it, the sound will be slightly improved on these new rips. If you missed it the first time around, I hope you'll enjoy them. This album would definitely be a treat for those who enjoy the electronic Moroder-esque style of disco..

Anyway, by popular demand, here it is:

Disco Delivery #27: Noel - Is There More To Life Than Dancing? (1979, Virgin/Polygram)

Unfortunately, I haven't found any significant info on the enigmatic Noel since the original posting, but I must give kudos once again to the writers and producers - Ron and Russell Mael AKA Sparks for this awesome album!

CATEGORIES: RE-DELIVERIES

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Keep It Coming..



Keep It Coming featuring Lorna - K.I.C. (Keep It Coming) (1979, Unidisc)
Keep It Coming featuring Lorna - K.I.C. (Keep It Coming) (Instrumental) (1979, Unidisc)

Some more Can-Con for everyone..

This single is another little something I picked up a few months back.. This record is really nothing more and nothing less that a totally fun slice of Montreal disco curiously credited to an act named after the song itself. Although for whatever reason the 12'' single doesn't list any production credits, I'm assuming though that this is actually the first Canadian release of the act Hydro featuring Lorna (full name: Lorna Di Fiore, according to Discogs), given that this is the same version as on the Hydro featuring Lorna (1979, Prism) LP. According to the production credits on that album and on subsequent releases of this single under the Hydro name, this record is yet another one co-produced with the ubiquitous Joe LaGreca along with Joe Marandola. Marandola and LaGreca had also produced the studio act Kat Mandu as well as singer Melody Stewart, to name a couple. Given all that, not surprisingly, this record undoubtedly has that trademark Montreal sound: a little rough around the edges, but delivered with a real infectious energy along with a healthy portion of percussion..

One thing which I absolutely dig about this track is the horn section with that killer hook/refrain they've got going on. As far as the vocals go, well, not quite as much... Honestly though, it's really all about the horns on this one. With the way they totally work them into the groove on here, they coulda sang any ole thing and it really wouldn't have mattered.. Anyway, just in case someone out there thinks I'm dissing the vocals, really, I'm not.. Even though they aren't exactly the stuff disco divadom is made of, there is a certain, shall we say, imperfect perfection to them that totally works for this. A track like this one really needed no more than a uncomplicated vocal and lyric, and the singer is more than capable of that, at least. In spite whatever limitations she may have had (or that the song itself may have), her sound has a certain unpretentious, exuberant girlish charm about it that compliments things perfectly, even if she sounds a tad 'green' and fogged up in the mix.. It's as if somebody who was making a record knew a friend of a friend who knew another friend who knew someone that could possibly carry a tune and would be free for a quick session after work, say, Thursday night at six.. Or maybe I'm totally off-base and she was a much more accomplished singer then it seemed, who knows? Either way, whatever their shortcomings, the vocals are absolutely perfect for this, adding a good deal of energy and life to the whole thing.. That said, in case anyone wants to hear this track without the vocals, hopefully the instrumental version here will do it for you..

I also have to say that this record reminds me somewhat of Empress' "Dyin' To Be Dancin'" from '81 on the Prelude label. Although one's a template Montreal disco groove and the other has that early 80's New York post-disco boogie thing going on, both records have those unpretentious, girlish, and slightly off-centre vocals mixed with a fun, infectious party-down kinda vibe..

Strangely, despite being recorded in Montreal by Montreal producers and musicians, I have yet to actually find a Canadian release of the Hydro featuring Lorna LP. I haven't actually found one in person and all of the copies still available on the 'net are US releases on the Prism label, which evidently released a great deal of Unidisc product Stateside back in the day.. If anyone can confirm the existence (or non-existence) of a Canadian release of the Hydro LP, I'd love to know about it.. Update: A kind reader, Kris David just confirmed the existence of a Canadian pressing of the Hydro featuring Lorna album on the Unidisc label.. Thanks Kris! Evidently and ironically, Canadian pressings of the Hydro LP seem to be rarer than the US ones (at least in my experience, both online and offline)..

PREVIOUS RELATED ENTRIES:
A MOMENT OR TWO.. (TUESDAY MAY 8, 2007)
DISCO DELIVERY #35: MONTREAL FEATURING UCHENNA IKEJIANI (1979, SALSOUL) (WEDNESDAY FEBRUARY 21, 2007)

LINKS:
KEEP IT COMING FEATURING LORNA - K.I.C. (KEEP IT COMING) 12'' SINGLE @ DISCOGS
HYDRO FEATURING LORNA LP @ DISCOMUSIC.COM
HYDRO FEATURING LORNA @ DISCOGS
HYDRO FEATURING LORNA @ DISCOMUSEUM
LORNA DI FIORE @ DISCOGS
JOE LA GRECA @ DISCOGS
JOE LA GRECA @ DISCOMUSIC.COM
JOE MARANDOLA @ DISCOGS

CATEGORIES: SIDE DELIVERIES, CAN-CON DISCO

Monday, July 02, 2007

Strange Passion



Strange Passion - Desire (1976, RCA)

It's been just a little over two weeks since my last posting, and quite frankly I've been so exhausted from work that lately I haven't had the energy to write about disco records or really do much of anything else, to be honest. With the Stampede fast approaching here, things have gotten insanely busy at work in the past couple of weeks, it's got me pretty much all used up.. In past years, I've had the luxury of passing it all by for the most part, but since they're the ones paying me again this year, I don't exactly have that choice anymore.. Last year this was the time when I took a bit of a hiatus for pretty much the same reasons, but so far this year hasn't been nearly as stressful as last so I'll try to keep up with the postings as much as I can in the coming weeks..

Anyway, with that out of the way, I figure since today, July 1st, is (or perhaps was, by the time anyone reads this) Canada Day, I might as well put on some Can-Con disco on here.. This particular single is a little something I picked up back in October when I went on something of a 12'' shopping spree at a local used record shop.. I remember I bought it based on, first of all: the fact that it was cheap, and second: the fact that it was produced by Montreal disco producer Tony Green, best known for his success with France Joli and her biggest disco hits. Also, aside from all that I was somewhat intrigued by the Side B label which had the name and address of a long defunct local discotheque called 'Bianca's Disco' stamped on it, making it something of a local historical artifact as well..

After listening to it and looking for some info on it (and finding next to nothing), I can only say that track, "Desire" under the guise Strange Passion is another one of Tony Green's many disco obscurities. For every one of his well, or better known productions for the likes of France Joli, Carolyne Bernier, Cindy Valentine, Geraldine Hunt and her son Freddie James, along with the act Kebekelektrik; it appears there were also a good number of obscure efforts like this one and others from the 70s and into the 1980s under guises such as Colorblind, Metal Weeds, U.N., Black Star and for artists like Goldie Alexander, Sharon etc. in his discography. Although there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of information out there about Green himself, with the number of things he's been associated with, both well and not so well known, he's definitely another one to add to the list of highly prolific, exceptional Canadian disco producers based out of Montreal..

Overall, while this particular single may not be his very best work, it's still got a pleasant, mid-tempo, sexy little groove to it. As well, it's also one of the earliest Tony Green disco productions I've come across. Entirely instrumental, the track starts off with a sly, sensual bassline backed with some great percussion which is complimented further with some wonderful gliding, elegant orchestration. The strings eventually move into a nice melodic climax after going through a few rounds of engaging instrumental tension/interplay..

Although Green himself wrote and produced this single, interestingly enough the record was also mixed by Michel Daigle (the only other name on this record), who along with Dominic Sciscente would later produce some great disco records under guises such as Space Project, The Black Light Orchestra and for Montreal singer Alma-Faye Brooks, to name a few..

As a producer, Tony Green evidently remained active well into the late 90's and even into the early part of this decade. Although it doesn't seem to have been updated in a while, the website for his own record company, Tony Green Organization, is still up and running. Although aside from some of the more well-known ones, there isn't really much info there on his disco projects, although there is quite a bit on his later projects.

Hopefully later on in the week, I'll be able to make some much needed updates on some past postings (ie. Midnight Rhythm) and maybe post a re-upload as well..

LINKS:
TONY GREEN @ DISCOGS
TONY GREEN @ DISCOMUSIC.COM
TONY GREEN ORGANIZATION/TGO RECORDS
MICHEL DAIGLE @ DISCOGS

CATEGORIES: MINI DELIVERIES, CAN-CON DISCO

Search this blog