Friday, February 29, 2008
Disco Delivery #53:
Barbara Law - Take All Of Me (1979, Pavillion/Epic)
Don't just stand there wishin' for me.. go ahead, make your move..
Barbara Law - Take All Of Me
Barbara Law - Can You Read My Mind
Barbara Law - Love Shot
Barbara Law - Somethin's Burnin'
Barbara Law - Shake Your Bait
Several years back when I was really getting into Paul Sabu's disco productions, I had come across this album quite by chance (like most of them) at the used record shop. With Sabu being one of the main contributors to the album, that along with the sexy, inviting cover shots pretty much convinced me to buy it. Although Sabu wasn't actually credited as a producer on this one, as a guitarist and a songwriter on a couple of tracks, his stamp is all over the album. Recorded in Toronto (Manta Sound) and New York and produced by Can-Con record producer Harry Hinde, who had also produced The Raes and Susan Jacks, to name just a couple of the acts he produced on the Canadian scene, admittedly, the Canadian connection was another factor that swayed me. Interestingly, despite the Can-Con elements, they used a great deal of big American musicians on here. Aside from Paul Sabu, some of the ubiquitous names here include Maeretha Stewart (misspelled as Meritha Stewart), Yvonne Lewis and Cissy Houston with background vocals, Jimmy Maelen on percussion, one time Motown Funk Brother Bob Babbitt on bass and arrangements courtesy of yet another prominent Motown figure, David Van De Pitte.
With this being her apparent one and only album release, on the surface, Barbara Law appeared to me like yet another one-shot disco singer of her time - identity and background a complete mystery, briefly achieving some success during the disco era but otherwise fading into obscurity swiftly thereafter. However, a quick look at her IMDB profile revealed a little bit more. A Genie (one of the Canadian movie awards) nominated actress for her role in a little 1984 erotic thriller, "Bedroom Eyes," Law seems to have a respectable list of acting credits to her name, mostly in Canadian productions up to 1997. Prior to the acting and the disco however, in her native Ireland, Barbara Law, then known as Barbara Dixon was a singer in a little, albeit unfortunately named female trio - Maxi, Dick & Twink, 'Maxi' being Irene McCoubrey, 'Dick' being Barbara, and 'Twink' being Adele King (both 'Maxi' and 'Twink' have gone on to become prominent media personalities in Ireland).. Although the group seemed to have a pretty brief run of things in the late 60's/early 70's, they were reportedly one of the most popular girl groups in Ireland at the time. Their best known single would most likely be "Things You Hear About Me" (hear the song here), which placed second in the contest to represent Ireland at the 1970 Eurovision Song Contest. After briefly becoming the singer for a group called The Royal Showband, Barbara would emigrate to Canada and marry another singer, Peter Law of yet another group in the same scene, The Pacific Showband (AKA The Dublin Corporation).. There's a ton of information on the world of Irish showbands/groups that Barbara circulated in at this time, including vintage pix of the lady herself at irishshowbands.net.
Anyway, that all brings us to this album, released 1979 on DJ/disco mixer John Luongo's CBS associated Pavillion label. A rather safe, slick, largely middle-of-the-road disco affair for the most part, it's not something I'd consider to be a classic album by any stretch, but it definitely has it's good moments along with some rather dire ones, as well. For me though, the best of the bunch would have to be the title track, "Take All Of Me." A nice piece of dramatic midtempo disco, with a slightly twangy intro, hypnotic bass and infectious guitar refrain (which I'm guessing was courtesy of Sabu) complimented with some pretty, uplifting string arrangements and percussion hooks/fill-ins, it's seven minutes of sensual disco bliss. An irresistable invitation, with it's pleasant melody and sexy lyrics, it seemed perfectly suited to Barbara Law's somewhat smoky, gritty delivery. Both sexy and assertive, her voice seemed to be perfectly balanced between vulnerability and edginess, this song bringing out the best qualities in her voice, unlike many of the others on the album.. Not surprisingly, it was also the single off the album, charting on the Billboard disco charts at #31. As far as I know, the 12" and album versions are identical, mixed by John Luongo and Michael Barbiero who together had also mixed disco hits like Jackie Moore's "This Time Baby" and Dan Hartman's "Relight My Fire," among others. As far as this mix goes, among other things, I love the break which not only has some great bass and percussion, but is pretty generous on the cowbell, too..
The second track, "Can You Read My Mind" pretty much continues in the same middle-of-the-road disco direction, which is halfway pleasant, but not quite as good as the title track; her edgy vocal style feeling somewhat disconnected from the overly twee, flowery arrangements at times. After trying out a little ballad "On My Own Again," they end Side One with "I Just Live" (audio link) a complete and total mess, which is most likely the worst track on the entire album. Interestingly, it was the first of two songs on the album written by the renowned team of Freddie Perren and Dino Fekaris, the same guys who wrote The Raes' big hit "A Little Lovin' (Keeps The Doctor Away)" as well as Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive," no less. Unfortunately, this one's not even close to either of those. Opening with what sounds like a signature Paul Sabu guitar refrain, not surprisingly they try to turn her into a rough and ready disco-rock singer of some sort, however the lightweight production never really takes off. Granted, there's probably only so much one can do with incredibly trite lyrics like: "I just live every minute and.. I just love.. and I love to live..uh-huh and I love to luh-huh-huh-uve." However, if you do manage to get to the end of the song, Barbara's gravelly vocals end up sounding so parched by then, you'll likely find yourself either reaching straight for the needle or the nearest bag of throat lozenges.. In spite of all that though, I'll admit that the original version of this song by Demis Roussos, taken off his 1978 self-titled album (produced by Perren himself) works much better than this version.
The second Perren/Fekaris contribution on the album, "Love Shot" fares somewhat better. Catchy and with a chorus like: "love shot, gimme all you got.. make it quick, 'cause I'm real sick," it's more than just a little on the campy side. Granted, it's no "I Will Survive" either, but it's certainly a little easier on the ears than their other contribution. Just like that song however, this one's also a cover, originally performed by the actor Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs off his 1979 album "All the Way...Love" (ABC) (also produced by Perren).
The remaining three tracks on Side Two were turned over to less typical, more rock oriented disco fare for which Paul Sabu contributed two tracks - "Do It All Night," and "Shake Your Bait" (which would both end up on the soundtrack of a 1982 film, "Spring Fever"). The best of this bunch however is probably "Somethin's Burnin'." A little over-the-top to be sure, but with an arrangement that's a little heavier, yet not overly frantic, along with some special effects not altogether foreign from some Paul Sabu productions of the time, it's one that's actually grown on me. With Barbara's vocals probably best described as 'disco queen-channels-metal queen,' wailing and growling her way through the whole thing - really, what's not to love?
Ouf of the two Paul Sabu contributions that I had mentioned, the better one is probably "Shake Your Bait," which, if the title didn't give away, is cheesy as hell, but definitely one of the more obviously disco oriented tracks on the album. Written by both Sabu and Hinde, it's feels like a typical Paul Sabu track, with it's propulsive backing and rock oriented vocal delivery, and Barbara practically burning and growling her voice out, commanding everyone to 'shake their bait,' like it was an order, dammit! For the most part though, it pretty much picks up where the previous track left off, the punchy guitars and horn arrangements being probably the best parts of this track. Although the production values are lighter than a typical Sabu track, and even if he isn't actually credited as a producer, I wouldn't be surprised if Sabu had some input in the production of this one, as this likely wouldn't have been out of place on some of his own productions like the Ann-Margret or Sister Power albums he did.
Overall though, as far as the entire record is concerned, while not entirely bad, I'd still put the results somewhat on the mediocre side. One of those albums where you suspect that the only reason they went in a disco direction was because they thought that's what would sell, not so much because anyone had anything interesting to offer. That said, the title track along with the last couple of tracks are probably the only songs on the entire LP that stand out among the sort of pleasant, but ultimately bland 'corporate disco' filler that typified a good portion of the record. For what I paid though, the wonderful title track alone was worth the purchase. Certainly not something to search tirelessly for, but worth picking up for those who enjoy, say Harry Hinde's disco work with The Raes or Paul Sabu's productions.
Some Trivia: I'm not sure how many times producer Harry Hinde and Paul Sabu had collaborated prior to or after 1979, but nearly a decade later, they would end up collaborating again on some of the first recordings by a then unknown, up and coming singer from Northern Ontario named Eileen Twain. Nothing would end up happening with those recordings until years later, when Eileen Twain hit it big in the mid 90's as country-pop star Shania Twain. Since then, both Hinde and Sabu have licensed and released those recordings to various assortments of low-budget labels and under just as many titles and ending up in some requisite legal wrangling in the process..
BARBARA LAW - TAKE ALL OF ME LP @ DISCOGS
HARRY HINDE @ DISCOGS
PAUL SABU @ DISCOGS
THE POP CULTURE CANTINA - THE LEGEND OF PAUL SABU (APRIL 12, 2007)
MAXI, DICK & TWINK @ IRISH BEAT-GROUPS ARCHIVE
JOHN LUONGO @ DISCO-DISCO.COM
MICHAEL BARBIERO @ DISCOGS
CATEGORIES: DISCO DELIVERIES, CAN-CON DISCO