Tuesday, February 05, 2008
Disco Delivery #52:
Stainless Steal - Can-Can (1978, Warner Bros.)
Stainless Steal - More Than Meets The Eye
Stainless Steal - Messing With You (Is Like Messing With The Devil)
Stainless Steal - It All Comes Down To Love
Stainless Steal - Can-Can
These days, Giorgio Moroder's well deserved reputation as an innovator and pioneer in disco and in electronic music has become quite firmly established (and well-explored on a few of my previous entries). However, the contributions of his frequent right-hand man/ co-producer, (particularly with their material for Donna Summer and Roberta Kelly), Pete Bellotte seems to have been somewhat overlooked in comparison. With so much of the focus being on Moroder's innovations, often times on the albums where they're both credited as producers, it's not always clear where one's contributions ended and the other's began..
In listening to some of Bellotte's productions outside of his partnership with Moroder, the easy way to describe Bellotte's style (in relation to the Moroder/Bellotte productions) would probably be to envision a heightened emphasis on the rhythm section. While that's obviously an oversimplification, in comparison to a lot of the Moroder or Moroder/Bellotte records, the synthesized element, while still prominent, rarely seemed to go beyond sweetening or colouring on most of Bellotte's productions.. More specifically though, Bellotte's productions seemed to have a distinct emphasis and style particularly on the guitars and horns, which is especially evident on this album and is perhaps Bellotte's most obvious stylistic stamp.
Comparing the output of Moroder & Bellotte individually, I'd say Moroder's own productions were generally much more consistent and distinctive, not to mention more prolific than Bellotte's. I'd give him that distinction even just for the excellent Suzi Lane and Battlestar Galactica records he did. Bellotte's output, on the other hand, while not without it's high points, was obviously less so. Case in point, Elton John's "Victim Of Love" (1979, MCA) album, evidently Bellotte's most prominent effort as a solo producer, it would give him the dubious distinction of having produced what is likely the most discredited effort of Elton John's career. It's a record that's been so widely maligned by fans and critics alike that even the artist himself has since disowned it. Then again, to be fair, Giorgio also gave us The Sylvers' lamentable effort (or non-effort as it were) "Disco Fever" (1979, Casablanca), so I suppose it goes without saying that Moroder certainly had his share as well...
Anyway, point is - duds aside, Bellotte still managed to deliver some rather underrated work in his own right. This album in particular, evidently one of his lesser known productions has some of my favourite work of his. Produced of course by Bellotte, arranged by frequent collaborator Geoff Bastow, I'd assume some of the usual Munich Machine suspects (Keith Forsey, Gary Unwin, Thor Baldursson etc.. ) also had a hand in this, but with the back cover giving out no musican credits and little else aside from bum of an anonymous model, there's really no telling for sure.. The one name that does stand out in the brief credits is Jimmy Simpson, who mixed the entire album and is also likely responsible for a good deal of it's excellence as well. Prolific as Simpson was, this is seems to be the first (and so far the only) time I've seen his name attached to anything associated with Moroder or Bellotte or any of their circle of collaborators.
Taking up all of side one, the main attraction on the record seems to have been the bombastic 14 minute disco version of the Can-Can (AKA Jacques Offenbach's "Galop Infernal"). Straight out of the "do a disco version of anything and it'll sell" school of thought, as an idea, it's as derivative as it gets.. With it being a classical piece associated with dancing, I suppose someone would have done it eventually.. That said, as much as something like this isn't really supposed to be any good, it's redeemed quite wonderfully by some great arrangements and improvisation, which keep things exciting and engaging. Certainly no small feat with 14 minutes at one's disposal. The sections at the 3 minute and the 11 minute marks are especially nice, with the arrangements at both points putting an unmistakable 'Munich Machine' stamp on things. In some ways this reminds me somewhat of the disco remake of Handel's Messiah, AKA "Hallelujah 2000" by Hallelujah 2000, particularly at the start and the finish, so fans of that might enjoy this one as well. Granted, this track's perhaps a bit too twee and bombastic to sway any disco cynics, and while I wouldn't exactly consider it a highly inspired moment myself, it definitely comes across much better than one might expect it to..
For me though the best part of the record would have to be the three tracks on side two - all written by Bellotte & Bastow. All three are similar in their feel and tempo and are fairly minimal in their lyrics, largely consisting of the repetition of the title verse (or variaton of it) by an anonymous vocal chorus. Instrumentally speaking though, I find these to be some of the best examples of Bellotte's own sound and style. Sublime, yet lively and even whimsical at times, the distinctive synth sweetening, somewhat lighter than those on a Moroder production, along with the prominence of those signature guitar riffs (which I'm guessing are courtesy of either arranger Geoff Bastow or Mats Björklund) and horns are all over these tracks.
As far as the tracks themselves go, "More Than Meets The Eye" is the wordiest (which isn't really saying much) and perhaps the strongest of the three.. Opening with a simple, funky guitar line easing into a sublime string arrangement; with those signature guitar riffs and shooting synth stabs, it manages to makes an strong impression without the bombast of the A-side. The following track, "Messing With You (Is Like Messing With The Devil)" is probably the most synth heavy, opening with a great loopy, whimsical synth, with the delicate string arrangements pretty much taking over from there. However, the sexy, blissful break in the middle of the track, laden with strings and a sly bassline is definitely one of the highlights on here, definitely my favourite part of the track. The last selection on the album, "It All Comes Down To Love," a fun little track with it's unmistakable strut and warm keys which probably make it the most identifiable with the established Munich disco sound that he and Moroder as well as the likes of Kunze/Levay had pioneered. It has to be said here as well, that the sensual break, with the wispery vocals and lush instrumentation are to die for.
For me, one of the things that I notice about the side two tracks are how spacious and, in a way, less frantic than say, the A-side and some of Belotte's other, more well-known productions like Trax's "Watch Out For The Boogie Man!" Marsha Hunt's "The Other Side Of Midnight," and Melba Moore's "Burn" to name a few of the ones I've heard so far. Perhaps that is where Jimmy Simpson's involvement may have come in... Overall though, while all three tracks seemed to rely on repeated lyrics and hooky riffs to some degree, these three tracks are mixed and arranged well enough that there's enough interesting musical variation in them to balance out the repetition (the wonderful string-laden instrumental section in the middle of "Messing With You" to name one good example).
While this is likely the most anonymous out of all the albums Pete Bellotte produced, not to mention one which seemed to come and go without a trace (perhaps even moreso than usual), this has definitely become one of my favourite Bellotte solo productions.. When I had stumbled across this album a little while back, it honestly wasn't one that I had especially high hopes for, especially given how anonymous and unknown it was (in spite of it's well-known producer). At best, I was hoping for at least something worthwhile - one track, even. At the very least, after listening to the album I would have been able to say that I'd heard all fourteen minutes of a disco version of the Can-Can and lived to tell it... Nevertheless, all that aside, this little album pretty much exceeded my initial expectations. The fact that it was a production from a recognizable which I hadn't heard or heard of before proved to be an added bonus. I guess the most rewarding finds are often the most unexpected.
Just a little side note: While Bellotte seems to have kept a rather low profile, the BBC caught up with him for a brief update/interview in 2004 just around the time he was inducted (with Giorgio Moroder and Donna Summer) into the Dance Music Hall Of Fame (which seems to be up in the air, as of this writing). The article: "In Tune With Britain's Disco King" is the most recent interview that I've found with him so far...
PREVIOUS RELATED ENTRIES:
BBC RADIO 2: CLASSIC SINGLES - I FEEL LOVE (SATURDAY DECEMBER 30, 2007)
DISCO DELIVERY #43: WARDELL PIPER (1979, MIDSONG INTERNATIONAL) (MONDAY AUGUST 27, 2007)
DISCO DELIVERY #40: MUNICH MACHINE - A WHITER SHADE OF PALE (1978, CASABLANCA) (SUNDAY APRIL 29, 2007)
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)
STAINLESS STEAL - CAN-CAN LP @ DISCOGS
PETE BELLOTTE @ DISCOGS
PETE BELLOTTE @ ALL MUSIC GUIDE
BBC NEWS: IN TUNE WITH BRITAIN'S DISCO KING (BY TOM BISHOP) (WEDNESDAY SEPTEMBER 29, 2004)
CATEGORIES: DISCO DELIVERIES, WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO..