Sunday, December 30, 2007

BBC Radio 2: Classic Singles - I Feel Love



Listen: BBC Radio 2: Classic Singles - I Feel Love


Just a couple of things to acknowledge before 2007 draws to a close. First of all, Donna Summer, the Queen of Disco herself turns, believe it or not, 59 on the 31st. Although some of her fans on the message boards out there might fuss about her weight and her wigs lately and, perhaps rightly, lament her recent snub by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame; by all accounts, at nearly 60, the lady still sounds remarkable in concert. Not to mention, if there was ever a poster girl for "black don't crack," she'd be it.

Secondly, although I'm around eight months late for this, her seminal classic, one of the most iconic Summer/Moroder/Bellotte compositions, "I Feel Love" also turned 30 this year.. Although it was an anniversary that went relatively unacknowledged, its influence certainly has not. Reportedly called "the sound of the future" by Brian Eno upon hearing it for the first time, "I Feel Love" was one of the touchstones of not only disco, or even Donna Summer's career, but of the pop music landscape in general. Along with all the other groundbreaking electronic records of its time, its success seemingly opened the floodgates for all manner of electronic experimentation (and imitation) on the dancefloor and beyond, solidifying the legacy of its producer Giorgio Moroder, perhaps just as much, if not moreso than Donna herself. Arguably much of what could be considered 'electronic music' today owes a debt to its legacy...

Released in May 1977 and included on Donna's "I Remember Yesterday" (1977, Casablanca) LP, "I Feel Love" was, in my opinion, the one shining moment on what was likely the weakest of Donna's otherwise excellent string of disco concept albums. Although not necessarily a bad album, one couldn't help but feel that the whole time travel/nostalgia concept probably sounded much better on paper than on record. Between the cover and its unflattering deer-in-headlights photo of Donna, and a largely unconvincing mish-mash of disco styled nostalgia, "I Feel Love," the album's 'song of the future', with its powerful, pulsing sensuality, placed right at the end of the record, effectively obliterated everything else..

Granted, most people reading this are likely well aware of its significance, so consider this a little bit of preaching to the coverted, so to speak.. However, in honour of its 30th anniversary, I thought this might be a good opportunity to put up the audio from the Classic Singles documentary on "I Feel Love" by the good people at BBC Radio 2. The broadcast, which originally aired November 2005 (which I'd been holding on to ever since), runs approximately 30 minutes and gives what is probably one of the most recent and comprehensive overviews/tributes to this song that I know of. Hosted by the one and only Alison Goldfrapp, herself no stranger to the Moroder influence, the program runs like a documentary on not only the influence and making of "I Feel Love" itself, but also of Giorgio and his evolution as a producer up to that point.

Although not nearly as detailed and in-depth as Radio 2's "The Record Producers" doc on Nile Rodgers from nearly a year ago, they manage to cover a good bit of ground in its 30 minutes, with much of the program being devoted to Giorgio speaking in his own words. Although unfortunately Donna herself didn't take part in it, they included some choice confessionals from the likes of Jimmy Sommerville, Debbie Harry and the Scissor Sisters' Ana Matronic, who manages to sneak in the best quote in the whole thing. I'm sure they could have easily gone an entire hour, but even within the 30 minutes, Giorgio still manages to shed some light on some pretty interesting points regarding the making of "I Feel Love" and his own feelings about its influence..

Although it has been argued that Giorgio could have had anyone sing "I Feel Love" and made it a hit, given the feel of Donna's essential yet often dismissed vocal stamp combined with her immense popularity at the time, it's doubtful whether any other combination could have made quite the same impact or created the same magic. Although not among her most explicit, "I Feel Love" still remains one of Donna's sexiest moments on record, with the effortlessly sensual caress of her voice providing the perfect counterpoint to the cool, mechanical precision of the music. Aside from groundbreaking, it's nonetheless a wonderfully sublime moment of shiny, glittering electro-eroticism; the hypnotic, throbbing pulse of its unforgettable bassline resonating today, just as it did thirty years ago.

Also, just in case anyone's in need of additional visual aid after all that, here's a wonderful vintage live performance of "I Feel Love," complete with synths and robot dance:




Donna Summer - I Feel Love (Live)
Uploaded by DonnaSummerVEVO


..and here's yet another, more recent (and more polished) live performance from her 1999 VH-1 "Live & More..Encore" special:




Donna Summer - I Feel Love (Live & More..Encore! - 1999)
Uploaded by EndlessDonna


PREVIOUS RELATED ENTRIES:
DISCO DELIVERY #40: MUNICH MACHINE - A WHITER SHADE OF PALE (1978, CASABLANCA) (SUNDAY APRIL 29, 2007)
BBC RADIO 2 - THE RECORD PRODUCERS: NILE RODGERS (SATURDAY JANUARY 6, 2007)
NEW DEAL FOR DONNA (THURSDAY AUGUST 3, 2006)
DISCO DELIVERY #14: SUZI LANE - OOH LA LA (1979, ELEKTRA) (SATURDAY APRIL 8, 2006)
DISCO DELIVERY #5: GIORGIO MORODER - FROM HERE TO ETERNITY (1977, OASIS/CASABLANCA) (FRIDAY FEBRUARY 3, 2006)
DONNA SUMMER - I GOT YOUR LOVE (MONDAY JANUARY 16, 2006)

PURCHASE:

DONNA SUMMER - THE DANCE COLLECTION CD (INCLUDES 'I FEEL LOVE' 12'' VERSION)
CD UNIVERSE | AMAZON.CO.UK | AMAZON.COM

DONNA SUMMER - BAD GIRLS (DELUXE EDITION) (2 CD) (INCLUDES 'I FEEL LOVE' 12'' VERSION)
AMAZON.COM | CD UNIVERSE

LINKS:
DONNA SUMMER TRIBUTE SITE
DONNA SUMMER - I FEEL LOVE @ WIKIPEDIA
DONNA SUMMER - I FEEL LOVE 12'' @ DISCOGS
DONNA SUMMER - I FEEL LOVE (PATRICK COWLEY REMIX) 12'' @ DISCOGS
DONNA SUMMER - I FEEL LOVE (PATRICK COWLEY REMIX) 12'' @ DISCOMUSIC.COM
DONNA SUMMER - I FEEL LOVE (REVIEW) @ ALL MUSIC GUIDE
DONNA SUMMER - FEEL LOVE @ ROLLING STONE
DONNA SUMMER - I REMEMBER YESTERDAY LP @ DISCOGS
DONNA SUMMER - I REMEMBER YESTERDAY LP (REVIEW) @ WARR.ORG
GIORGIO MORODER @ WIKIPEDIA
GIORGIO MORODER INTERVIEWS
GIORGIO MORODER @ ALL MUSIC GUIDE
AND WE DANCED - I FEEL LOVE
SONGFACTS - I FEEL LOVE

CATEGORIES: MINI DELIVERIES, ARTICLES & RAMBLINGS, INTERVIEWS, DISCO NEWS, VISUAL DISCO

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas!

Photobucket Photobucket

Montreal Sound - Silent Night Suite (1977, NSB/Promo-Son)

With Christmas being the most disco-fied holiday of them all, I couldn't possibly let this year go by without putting up some Christmas disco. After all, if I'm going to hear another damn Christmas carol this year, might as well make it disco..

This years selection is from a rather interesting Canadian disco album by Montreal Sound, entitled "Christmas Disco Party." Montreal Sound, perhaps best known for their single "Music", was largely a guise for producer Gerry Bribosia. Bribosia was a pretty well traveled musician/producer in Quebec who had been in a group called Les Miserables and as far as disco goes, had released some singles under his own name. One of those was a little novelty record called "Dracula Disco," which also involved (at least in it's French version) a popular (and these days infamous) Montreal DJ and TV personality, Alain Montpetit.

This record though was apparently a pretty big deal, with the album credits noting: "this album took six months of work and more than 400 hours of studio time". Among the 60 different musicians involved, the album also featured some notable Quebec singers such as Charles Linton, Raymond Berthiaume, Suzanne Beausoleil and Ranee Lee on lead vocals. In addition to all that, this album had evidently been released under at least two other editions, in French as "Noël Disco" and in English as "Canadian Christmas," which also used a different album cover (which nonetheless also involved a sexy, blonde model cavorting with a hilarious fake-bearded Santa)..You can view the cover shots of the initial release here and here

Although I initially bought the album just for the awesome, cheese-tastic cover, the album's actually grown on me somewhat over the last week. Of all of the songs though, my favourite would have to be the Side Two opener "Silent Night Suite" featuring Ranee Lee on lead vocals who begins the song with a brief, but expressive, soulful vocal that immediately sets this one apart from all the others. Overall, it's a rather nice respite from the overly bright, overly cheery sort of thing one would normally associate with a Christmas disco record. Not that it isn't all of those things in it's own right, but with Ranee Lee's vocals setting the stage among the exquisite orchestration, and the track bring largely instrumental, there's a slightly gentler, even sublime pace and feel to it, which is especially evident on the nice "Ave Maria" in the middle of the medley..

Both producer Gerry Bribosia and Ranee Lee are still active these days, with Bribosia still active on the studio side of things, and Ranee Lee having become one of Canada's top jazz vocalists. Still recording, performing and even teaching, Lee became a member of the Order of Canada, Canada's highest civilian honour, in 2006.

Anyway, with all of that said, enjoy, and to everyone out there: Merry Christmas and happy holidays all around..

LINKS:
MONTREAL SOUND @ DISCOGS
CANADIAN POP ENCYCLOPEDIA - GERRY BRIBOSIA
GERRY BRIBOSIA @ DISCOGS
RANEE LEE @ ALL MUSIC GUIDE
JUSTIN TIME RECORDS - RANEE LEE

CATEGORIES: MINI DELIVERIES, CAN-CON DISCO

Friday, December 21, 2007

Disco Delivery #49:
Grand Tour - On Such A Winter's Day (1977, Butterfly/RCA)



Grand Tour - The Grand Tour
Grand Tour - Let's Go Boating
Grand Tour - Still I'm Sad
Grand Tour - Flight From Versailles
Grand Tour - Late November
Grand Tour - California Dreamin'


Updated and re-uploaded 1/15/09

I had originally gotten a few requests to cover this back in June, when I had posted about Guenther/Morrison's excellent Southern Exposure LP. Given the feel and the title of the album, plus the fact that it was the beginning of summer at the time, not to mention also that I didn't really have a decent copy of it then, it never really became a priority at the time. Now that it's December and close to Christmas, with the season much more in tune with the mood and the music of this album, I figured now would be a much better moment for this..

The disco off of this album, in so far as one could classify it as typically so, is perhaps the sort of disco that's unlikely to be trendy these days.. For one thing, it's a fairly moody record; no heavy, driving four-on-the-floor beats at the top of the mix; the orchestration, while extensive, isn't in the dramatic, collossal style of Costandinos nor of it's sister production THP Orchestra; there are no heavy electronics à la Moroder or Soccio, nor are there any extended bass or percussion breaks funked up and ready for harvesting.. There's just a kind of gentle, low-key approach to everything on here, with parts of the album sounding perhaps slightly MOR in that old time pop orchestra kind of way (not that that's a bad thing), and given the background of one of it's producers, perhaps slightly arty/folk-influenced in others (not that that's a bad thing, either).. Even if calling some of these tracks folksy might be stretching things a bit, this is anything but a typical disco album.

Regardless of how one approaches it, there's a sheer artistry and musical beauty to this record that's absolutely undeniable. It's just another reason why I've come to respect the work of it's producers, Toronto-based duo Ian Guenther and Willi Morrison (AKA Three Hats Productions/THP) so much.. The cover, looking like the front of a Christmas postcard paired with the overall winter mood and theme of the songs make this one of the most, if not the most conceptual disco record ever produced by Guenther and Morrison.

Given the theme and the fact that Guenther and Morrison are, at least in my mind, one of the most celebrated Can-Con Disco producers, it's no small irony that an album like this one was not recorded in Canada, but for their American label, Butterfly (as opposed to their Canadian one, RCA) in Hollywood, California (at Rinder & Lewis' home-base, Producer's Workshop), no less. It's somewhat lamentable in a way, that this wasn't recorded in Canada, since it would have made such a great mythology.. An exquisite piece of orchestral disco, recorded in the middle of a cold, grey Canadian winter, evoking the hopes, dreams, wishes and moods that such a season brings. Fantastic dreams of escape, faraway travel, and ultimately resignation and surrender to it's inevitable realities. A perfect winter soundtrack. Perhaps their working jaunt to California gave them a unique perspective on those things.. Regardless of the circumstances behind it's recording or whether my own imagined mythology doesn't quite fit, musically, as a perfect winter soundtrack, the album is faultless.

The opening track, "The Grand Tour," appropriately sets the stage for things, as perhaps one of the most exquisite things Guenther & Morrison ever did. With a beautiful, understated string section opening what would be one of the most memorable, dreamlike melodies I've heard from them, with a heavenly vocal (unfortunately anonymous and uncredited) so light and airy, it makes the perfect compliment to the strings and lyrics. The sweet, gentle interpretation in those vocals - like the lyrics, evoking love and pain and ecstasy and sun, rain and mystery, it's enough to seduce even the coldest of hearts to her beautiful, romantic fantasies ...

"The Grand Tour" was also released as a 12'', however the 12'' version identical to the album version, in this case (thanks to commenter Erik Kuyl for the confirmation).

Between the horns and castanets, the instrumental richness of "..Grand Tour" is elevated to new heights on "Let's Go Boating." An absolutely sublime instrumental, it's melody is so beautifully memorable, you'd swear you could have heard it somewhere else.

Aside from those, some of the most exceptional tracks on the record would have to be the two closing tracks, a cover of The Yardbirds' "Still I'm Sad" (thanks to the anonymous commenter for this info.) on Side A and yet another cover, their faithful, sublime version of the classic pop standard "California Dreamin' " on Side B. Nothing quite exemplifies the melancholy mood of this album quite like these two tracks.. "Still I'm Sad" is perhaps the most stirring of the two, as the track with the most sparse, moody, atmospheric arrangement on the album. It's an intriguing piece, elegantly complimented by it's wonderful lyrics and especially the haunting female vocals, which interpret the mood of the song with such graceful, ethereal feeling, that it even exceeds the original (not to mention Boney M's cover version, as well).

Having peaked on the Billboard Disco Charts at #9 in early '78 (along with the other two tracks on Side B), and having been the first to appear on CD, the Side B opener, "Flight From Versailles" is perhaps one of the better known tracks on here. Opening with a light popping synth and those exquisitely swirling strings, it's perhaps the closest thing on this album to the epic orchestral productions that likely come to mind when one thinks of THP's best known work. A kind of disco odyssey, there's a real fantastical, adventurous quality to this as well, with they way the track takes one through various changes, highs, lows, peaking with an exquisite string solo/break at the 4.30 mark.. Truly a standout on the record. Curiously, on both the Canadian and US pressings I have, it's mislabeled as "Flight To Versailles" on the sleeve, but entitled "Flight From Versailles" on the label. Since the latter seems to be the more common usage, I'll just go with that..

The track that follows it, "Late November" is perhaps one of the more unassuming, but ultimately one of the most rewarding on the record. Yet another instrumental, it starts off decievingly sparse and basic, all the while gently building, completely engaging the listener once the refrain kicks in.. The organ (?) and those understated, stirring strings totally carry this track, subtly weaving together an engaging, peaceful atmosphere...

The album is beautifully closed by their cover of "California Dreamin' ", the de-facto title track, which effectively recreates the longing of the original, complimenting it with some wonderful extended instrumental passages. With it's moody elegance, it's the perfect conclusion to an album like this, summing up the feelings, moods and sounds of the album in one single production..

Overall, this album is ultimately one of the finest things the THP duo ever put together. Even compared to their other work, there is a feeling, an atmosphere about this record that totally separates it from practically every other disco production they ever did. Perhaps the change of locale had something to do with it? Either way, it's unfortunate that the credits are rather economical, with no credits for musicians, vocalists or otherwise, which would most likely shed some light on the record's sound.. That said, a great deal of the credit for this record's sound would likely have to go to the album's prolific, award-winning arranger and conductor Jimmie Haskell, whom they apparently used in place of their usual arranger/conductor, Pete Pedersen. Having worked on records by the likes of Simon & Garfunkel, Etta James, The Moody Blues, Dusty Springfield and many many others, this seems to be the first and last time Haskell would work with Guenther and Morrison.

As well, Jim Taylor, who is somehow credited on the 12'' of "The Grand Tour," but nowhere on the album, is yet another person who likely deserves credit for the finished product here. A producer and mixer, Taylor was apparently a major contributor to many of Butterfly's releases. Taylor, according to his posting on Discomusic.com's interview with Butterfly Records' founder A.J. Cervantes, claims he worked on half of the product released by Butterfly in the late 70's. Evidently, in an unfortunate, but all too common music industry story, Taylor was left largely uncredited for some of his major contributions, such as the sixteen minute version of THP Orchestra's "Two Hot For Love," and as well, for the final mix of this very album.. Taylor later produced his own project for Butterfly entitled "Bernadette," as the J.T. Connection.

Although Grand Tour is rather earlier on in their canon of disco productions (one of the first outside of the THP Orchestra), it amazes me how Guenther and Morrison were able to go from orchestral disco like this, Southern Exposure and the early THP Orchestra, to club flooring fare like Sticky Fingers, rock disco like the Skatt Bros. all the way to cold, epic electro like The Immortals and beyond. Despite this record being anything but your typical four-on-the-floor disco album, it's quite nice to know that it wasn't passed over at the time, with a good half of the record charting quite well in the US discos. In my opinion, it's records like this which speak highly, not only of the talent involved, but of disco at it's best, as a genre of unparalleled diversity..

Gentle and emotional, yet exquisite and intricate with it's winter disco theme, this album is nothing less than a truly sublime record.. Looking at my Canadian pressing here, I remember being intrigued by the writing on the cover when I had picked it up.. I usually hate seeing writing scrawled on the cover like that; in this case however, it couldn't have described things more perfectly.. Night Magic, indeed..

Note: This album was evidently released on CD in Italy (which I don't have yet) by a label called Vintage Classics. That label also did a CD reissue of another Can-Con Disco album, the John L. Usry, Jr. production Stratavarious, which, from what I recall, was of somewhat marginal sound quality. So no telling how good the quality of this reissue was, however it is out there (albeit somewhat hard to find) should you ever decide to track it down.

PREVIOUS RELATED ENTRIES:
DISCO DELIVERY #42: SOUTHERN EXPOSURE - HEADIN' SOUTH (1979, RCA) (MONDAY JUNE 4, 2007)
DISCO DELIVERY #25: RINDER & LEWIS - WARRIORS (1979, AVI/QUALITY) (SUNDAY SEPTEMBER 17, 2006)
DISCO DELIVERY #23: DUNCAN SISTERS (1979, RCA) (SUNDAY JUNE 25, 2006)

LINKS:
GRAND TOUR - ON SUCH A WINTER'S DAY LP @ DISCOMUSIC.COM
GRAND TOUR - THE GRAND TOUR 12'' @ DISCOMUSIC.COM
GRAND TOUR @ DISCOGS
IAN GUENTHER @ ALL MUSIC GUIDE
IAN GUENTHER @ DISCOGS
WILLI MORRISON @ ALL MUSIC GUIDE
WILLI MORRISON @ DISCOGS
WILLI MORRISON & IAN GUENTHER @ DISCOGS
JIMMIE HASKELL @ ALL MUSIC GUIDE
JIMMIE (JIMMY) HASKELL @ DISCOGS
JIMMIE HASKELL - OFFICIAL WEBSITE
JIM TAYLOR @ DISCOGS
INTERVIEW WITH BUTTERFLY RECORDS' A.J. CERVANTES @ DISCOMUSIC.COM

CATEGORIES: DISCO DELIVERIES, CAN-CON DISCO

Friday, December 14, 2007

The one I love takes me down, takes me there..



Linda G. Thompson - Flight To Fantasy (1980, Ariola)
Linda G. Thompson - Midnight Rendezvous (1980, Ariola)

*Special thanks to DungeonDJ for the beautifully retouched photo.

A little something I'd picked up in Vancouver earlier in the year, there are a couple of pretty fabulous sides on this single, courtesy of the German singer Linda G. Thompson (AKA Linda Übelherr/Uebelherr). Thompson had performed in groups such as the Les Humphrey Singers, The Hornettes (which featured a few prolific session singers from many a German disco production) and perhaps most prominently (albeit somewhat briefly) in the first lineup of Silver Convention, having appeared on their first two albums, but having sung on only their second. After leaving Silver Convention in 1976, Thompson would release a few solo singles (as well as a few with Jerry Rix), including this one in 1980, produced by Krautrock veteran Uve Schikora.

In the early 70's, Schikora and his group, having released an album, "Das Gewitter" (1972, Amiga) (their first and only which, I believe, translates into "The Thunderstorm") and having backed artists like Frank Schöbel, were apparently one of the leading figures in the East German (DDR) rock scene (at least judging from some of the websites and message board postings out there). After defecting to West Germany in 1976, Schikora would go on to become a pretty prolific producer and arranger having gone on to work with German super-producer Jack White (no relation to he of The White Stripes) along with the likes of Placido Domingo, Engelbert Humperdinck, Al Martino, Paul Anka and yes, even The Hoff himself..

As far as this single is concerned though, both sides are excellent, with each track taking the singer into two different styles. The A-side "Flight To Fantasy," opening with grand, spacious synths, captivating chord progressions, clean electric guitars and an excellent hooky chorus, "Flight.." is a stellar piece of big, epic, Euro-pop.. The beautiful piano sound on here is the probably the key element of this song. Those grand glissandos, and especally the combination of the gliding piano scale and guitars right after the chorus, along with Thompson's processed vocals, despite being muffled with reverb (I believe that's the term) and almost incomprehensible in places, all add a great deal to the big, epic feel of this track...

Even though the spindle marks on the B-side seem to indicate how well-loved the A-side was, the B-side "Midnight Rendezvous," is nothing to sleep on either.. Somewhat shorter than the A-side, "..Rendezvous" is like the Euro-funk flip side to the textbook Euro-pop of the A-side.. Dominated by guitars, horns, handclaps, and that unmistakable funky strut right at the top of the mix, which seemed to be a signature element in some of the earlier German disco (see Silver Convention's "Get Up And Boogie"), this track cuts a pretty sharp groove.. In fact, the production in general seemed, in a way, to reference that earlier Silver Convention sound, having more in common with the feel of the classic German disco (albeit with a slightly harder edge), than that of the A-side..

For me, the peak of this track would have to be right at the break at around the 2.30 mark. With it's jagged guitar lead-in and those drums and horns, it's a pity that it's so short. Although ripe for a little extension, it's definitely my favourite part of the track..

Apparently, judging from the Linda G. Thompson fan site at the Girl Groups Fan Club, this appeared to be the final solo single she had released. Schikora had evidently produced a couple of sides for Thompson prior to this, "Never Get Over You/Harmony," which I'm now curious to hear..

Although she evidently never released an album under her own name, so far, this is definitely one of the better singles that I've heard from any of the former Silver Convention ladies.. Having performed with the Hornettes throughout the 80s, these days, Thompson reportedly makes her living as an interior designer.

LINKS:
LINDA G. THOMPSON - FLIGHT TO FANTASY/MIDNIGHT RENDEZVOUS 12'' @ DISCOGS
LINDA G. THOMPSON @ THE GIRL GROUPS FAN CLUB
LINDA G. THOMPSON @ WIKIPEDIA (IN GERMAN)
LINDA G. THOMPSON @ DISCOGS
LINDA UEBELHERR @ DISCOGS (SEPARATE ENTRY)
THE SILVER CONVENTION STORY @ THE GIRL GROUPS FAN CLUB
SILVER CONVENTION @ WIKIPEDIA
SILVER CONVENTION @ THE ALL MUSIC GUIDE
UVE SCHIKORA @ DISCOGS
EASTERN ROCK: UVE SCHIKORA UND SEINE GRUPPE (IN GERMAN)

CATEGORIES: MINI DELIVERIES

Saturday, December 08, 2007

R.I.P. Mel Cheren


I just want to take a moment to acknowledge the passing of Mel Cheren, the 'Godfather of Disco,' who passed away earlier today, from AIDS complications. I just confirmed the details, and sadly, the news is true. Having had health problems for several months, his HIV status was only confirmed last month, by which point it was evidently too late.

Founder of West End Records, as well as philanthropist, activist, artist and all-around disco pioneer; Mel Cheren was also, at least in my mind, one of the leading figures in disco's resurgence and ongoing recognition today. Although I never knew or met him; from records by Karen Young and Taana Gardner, to his championing of Larry Levan's life and legacy, he had indirectly played a huge part in my own (and I'm sure, many others') serious introduction to disco.

I suspect more articles and tributes will be forthcoming in the following days, but for now, Logo Online has a brief interview with him from the end of November, where he talks frankly about his illness. Considering his history and his activism, it's a sad and unfortunate irony that he ended up going the way many of his friends did...

As sad as Mel's passing is, he nonetheless leaves a lasting legacy in the world of dance music and beyond, that will surely live on..

Rest In Peace, Mel.

PREVIOUS RELATED ENTRIES:
THE GODFATHER OF DISCO (FRIDAY JUNE 15, 2007)
DEEP CUTS (WEDNESDAY APRIL 18, 2007)

LINKS:
LOGO ONLINE: AIDS ACTIVIST MEL CHEREN SHARES HIS STORY (VIDEO) (NOVEMBER 29, 2007)
DISCOMUSIC.COM FORUMS: R.I.P. MEL CHEREN
DJ HISTORY FORUMS: MEL CHEREN
DEEP HOUSE PAGE FORUMS: R.I.P. MEL CHEREN
DISCOGS FORUMS - ELECTRONIC MUSIC: LET'S KEEP MEL CHEREN IN OUR PRAYERS
ABOUT.COM - DANCE MUSIC/ELECTRONICA BLOG: WE MOURN THE PASSING OF MEL CHEREN
THE GODFATHER OF DISCO
DISCO-DISCO.COM: INTERVIEW WITH MEL CHEREN
IN DA MIX WORLDWIDE: INTERVIEW WITH MEL CHEREN
AMAZON.COM - MY LIFE AND THE PARADISE GARAGE
WEST END RECORDS

CATEGORIES: IN MEMORIAM.., DISCO NEWS

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)

PURCHASE:
DISCO SPECTRUM 2 (2 CD) (INCLUDES "WELCOME TO THE DISCO")
CD UNIVERSE | AMAZON.COM | AMAZON.CO.UK

LINKS:
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

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