Monday, October 27, 2008
Disco Delivery #56:
Top Secret (1979, Telson/London)
Top Secret - What You're Doin'
Top Secret - I Like The D.J.
Top Secret - Call Me
Top Secret - Dancin' Into Midnight
Top Secret - Disco Darling
Top Secret - Jealousy
It's been a little while, so I figured I might as well get something down on this record, one of my favourites and one which I've been holding on to for a little while now. This obscure and rather appropriately named late-disco project courtesy of the Montreal disco tag-team of George Lagios and the late Pat Deserio is a little something I had picked up exactly two years back in October '06. Those who've been digging in the disco crates will most likely know Deserio and Lagios as the producers behind such notable Can-Con Disco projects/acts such as The Bombers, Bob-A-Rela and Quebec record and film star Céline Lomez. Individually, Lagios had produced Canadian rock notables such as Michel Pagliaro in the early 70's and the ever-enduring April Wine in the early 90's. Deserio however was probably the most prolific in the disco scene in his own right, having produced projects such as Kebekelektrik, Sea Cruise and the rare and recently re-discovered cosmic favourite Dogs of War LP along with records by Monty Cantsin (AKA controversial Neoist performance artist Istvan Kantor), Canadian synth-pop icons Rational Youth and their landmark album "Cold War Night Life" (1982, YUL/Capitol) and others on his early 80's YUL label (named after Montreal's Dorval airport code) in the post-disco days.
As far as this album goes, while it was somehow in keeping with the apparent rock/bluesy influence that ran through a lot of their work together (perhaps owing, in part, to Lagios' background in that genre), it's still somewhat of a departure from the sort of thing one might have expected given the more direct, harder edged disco of Lagios and Deserio's Bombers or Bob-A-Rela albums, not to mention the electronic dabblings of Deserio in/with Kebekelektrik and Rational Youth for that matter.. To give a brief, simple summary, I'd probably describe Top Secret as Bob-A-Rela's tender, more laid-back sister album. Keeping still with Bob-A-Rela's rock-disco leanings, yet toning down the sometimes dark, urgent tempo and intensity that ran through much of that album, balancing it out with more evocative, vocally driven, melodic disco balladry of sorts.
Digressing from the music briefly, I have to make mention of the playfully anonymous album artwork on here.. While the filing cabinet on the front cover might be unremarkable on it's own, I thought the back cover and credits - illustrated like some sort of RCMP/FBI police file, were pretty clever for an album as destined for obscurity as this one was. Somehow the false profile on the back gives the unlikely description of a black female criminal from Montreal with red hair and blue eyes, along with three pieces of drug history obscured in masking tape, with one - 'hashish' still visible. A bunch of meaningless randomizations I'd imagine, still, you gotta love vinyl artwork..
However, in spite of the nifty layout, unless my copy is missing some sort of inner sleeve with more details, the album doesn't really give much credit in the way of actual musicians or vocalists. So far, I can guess that at least two of their usual suspects likely played on here, noted guitarist Walter Rossi, who lists this album on the discography on his website, as well as Mississippi bred, Montreal based Quebec rock legend Nanette Workman whom, if I'm not mistaken (and if I am, someone please correct me), with her sultry, smoky, slightly southern intonation likely provided some or a good deal of the lead and background vocals on the album.
As far as smoky and sultry go, the album's excellent opening track "What You're Doin' " (co-written by Walter Rossi), carried by it's easy riding guitar groove, with some bluesy accents, pretty much sets the tone for Side A and much of the softer, disco balladry of the album. The second track however, "I Like The D.J.," written by Rossi and Workman, bests it. Undoubtedly one of the most memorable moments on the album. Carrying on with the mellower disco groove, the playful, flirty disco themed lyrics, it's that killer, memorable chorus and melody (highlighted by some great, bright guitar riffs), which really elevate this song.
While Side A ends on a sunny note with "Call Me," another piece of pretty, flirty disco, Side B opens with "Dancin' Into Midnight," likely the best candidate for 'disco stomper' on the entire LP. Another one of the most memorable tracks on the album and perhaps the closest in style to Lagios and Deserio's better known disco projects (it probably wouldn't be out of place on Bombers LP, now that I think of it). With it's anonymously chirpy disco vocal chorus, combining with the insistent beat and bass, along with some swirling, hypnotic orchestral and synthesized levity, it's 7 minutes of misty, whirling disco fantasy.. If there was ever a 12" to be taken from this album (and I've yet to see one in my travels on and off-line), this should have been it. Interesting fact: "Call Me" and "Dancin' Into Midnight" are both credited to Deserio and Dogs of War principal Jack August, which I probably wouldn't have guessed had I come to this after hearing his work with Dogs Of War and The Zebras..
"Disco Darling," the second track on Side B is yet another highlight on the album and certainly among the best I've heard from Lagios & Deserio period. The Top Secret version here is ultimately the definitive version of this song, with a previous version released as "Dance On (Disco Darling)" on 12" by a one Randy Raider in 1977 on the Disques Direction label, also produced by Lagios and Deserio. The backing tracks on both versions are remarkably similar, yet with that said, the strained male vocals on the Randy Raider version are nowhere near the gentle, tender female rendition on this version. The female vocals along with the slower tempo and the less embellished remix on the Top Secret version make a much better compliment to the lyrics and the devastatingly pretty, memorable melody..
Aside from being a cover version, "Disco Darling" is notably the only track on the album not written by the various in-house names credited on all the others. The songwriter links (whether correct or not) on Discogs link to three apparently European writers, which makes me wonder if there are any other versions of this song than the two produced by Lagios/Deserio floating around..
The final track "Jealousy," also credited to Pat Deserio and Jack August, is another quality track. With some of the most elaborate, uplifting arrangements on the album, a chorus and melody that doesn't disappoint, ending things beautifully.
Looking at and listening to an album with an approach that seemed to value mood and feeling over sheer tempo (not especially common in a year like 1979, it seemed) along with a name and image as anonymous as "Top Secret," they likely sealed this record's fate the moment they titled it. Yet, while this is, at least in my experience, one of the more obscure Lagios/Deserio productions, this also has to be one of their very best albums in both mood and melody. While for some it may not be as instant as their better known disco work, after a few dedicated listens, the gentle touch of the vocals and arrangements, and the uniformly strong, solid melodies subtly reveal their charms and yet ever so surely leave their mark.
TOP SECRET LP @ DISCOGS.COM
PAT DESERIO @ DISCOMUSIC.COM
PAT DESERIO @ DISCOGS
GEORGE LAGIOS @ DISCOGS
RANDY RAIDER - DANCE ON (DISCO DARLING) 12" @ DISCOMUSIC.COM
RANDY RAIDER - DANCE ON (DISCO DARLING) 12" @ DISCOGS
WALTER ROSSI - OFFICIAL WEBSITE
NANETTE WORKMAN @ WIKIPEDIA
JACK AUGUST @ DISCOGS
INTERVIEW WITH RATIONAL YOUTH 1996
CATEGORIES: DISCO DELIVERIES, CAN-CON DISCO