Saturday, January 26, 2008

Disco Delivery #51:
The Supremes - High Energy (1976, Motown)



The Supremes - High Energy | LINK TWO
The Supremes - I'm Gonna Let My Heart Do The Walking | LINK TWO
The Supremes - I'm Gonna Let My Heart Do The Walking (Extended Version) | LINK TWO
The Supremes - Only You (Can Love Me Like You Love Me) | LINK TWO
The Supremes - You Keep Me Moving On | LINK TWO

The Supremes - You're What's Missing In My Life | LINK TWO

A couple of years ago (yikes), I had done my first post on here on The Supremes excellent final album, "Mary, Scherrie & Susaye" (1976, Motown). I had promised another Supremes post a while back, so I figured I might as well do it now..

Produced by Brian Holland and executive produced by Edward J. Holland, both of the legendary Holland-Dozier-Holland production team, arranged by Dale Warren and featuring star session players like Wah-Wah Watson (credited here as Melvin Ragin, as on most of his Motown sessions), Joe Sample and even Ray Parker, Jr., this LP seemed to mark a reunion of sorts, being the first full album the Holland brothers (this time minus Lamont Dozier) had produced for the group since the 1960s. However, unlike it's predecessor or it's follow-up record (which the Holland brothers also produced), I don't really consider this particular album to be among their better records. In fact, I've always found this to be a rather average album at best. What salvages this album though, are the two disco classics that open the record, "High Energy," and "I'm Gonna Let My Heart Do The Walking," the latter being their last top 40 hit in the US and their biggest in a while by this point. Although the pop success that once defined them had long since faded, these two tracks are definitely among some of The Supremes' strongest records of the 70's, both having performed quite well in the discos - "I'm Gonna Let My Heart.." peaking at #3 and "High Energy," (which wasn't even a single) peaking at #9 on the Billboard disco charts.

By this point The Supremes were on their fourth and final lineup (Mary Wilson, Scherrie Payne & Susaye Greene) since Diana Ross' departure, with longtime member Cindy Birdsong having departed (or rather having been fired by Wilson's then husband/group manager) just after the album was completed. Enter Susaye Greene; widely known these days as "The Last Supreme," the pint-sized multi-octave vocalist already had quite an accomplished resume upon joining the group, having worked with the likes of Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, New Birth and having written for Deniece Williams (and later on, Michael Jackson post-Supremes). Having joined just after the album was finished, Birdsong's background vocals were evidently kept in the mix, with Susaye's vocals overdubbed on a few songs (although Susaye herself disputes this, saying she was in fact on all of them).. Regardless of the circumstances surrounding it, "High Energy," the album opener and title track is, quite appropriately, the defining statement of this album. Reportedly intended for departed member Birdsong, Greene, in her recording debut with the group (and one of her few full lead vocals for The Supremes) puts her indelible stamp on it; her soaring vocals perfectly complimenting the lush, high flying arrangements. Harold Beatty, the Holland Brothers' main collaborator on the album and co-writer of this song explained to writer Brian Chin years later (for his essay on the Supremes Box Set): "I always liked the lushness of a symphony, that's where the concept behind the 'High Energy' album came about." An elegant disco-funk opus, nothing else on the album would summarize Beatty's concept better. Combining the rich sounds of orchestral disco, the assertiveness of Norman Whitfield and Isaac Hayes' funk symphonies with the well-established grace and class of The Supremes, "High Energy" seemed like a bold step forward..

Despite not sounding anything like the synthesized disco subgenre of the 80s that would take it's name, one would be hard-pressed to deny the uplifting feeling of this track. With an entrancing looped guitar (?), warm keys, orchestral tympanis and a burning wah-wah laying the foundation in the intro - which runs nearly two minutes before Mary Wilson's sensual spoken intro kicks in: "share what you got to keep what you need, right?.... Wrong!," the song has an incredible, understated buildup. With Susaye's vocals right in the stratusphere by the second half of the song, complimented by those string washes and serene background vocals (anyone else hear shades of Marvin Gaye's "I Want You" here?), the track peaks in truly epic, exciting fashion towards the end..

"I'm Gonna Let My Heart Do The Walking," the second track into the album, is for me another one of those disco songs which radiate nothing but pure, unadulterated joy. It's likely the best remembered track on the album, and perhaps the most enduring out of all The Supremes' disco hits. Opening with those unforgettable strutting drums and percussion, propelled along by Wah-Wah Watson's scorching guitar work; with it's rousing, uplifting arrangement and it's empowering theme, "I'm Gonna Let My Heart Do The Walking" proved to be a surefire winner.. Between Scherrie Payne's confident, brassy vocals being a perfect fit for the track's theme, understated string sweetening, wah-wah going wild towards the end, it's a pity this never got a true extended remix. With all the amazing elements in play here, the possibilities for not only extending it's length, but for heightening the song's feeling seem endless. At a perfunctory three and a half minutes in length, it certainly speaks to it's excellence that it did as well as it did in the discos, and continues to be a mainstay today.

So far, the only official 'extended' version of this song seems to be a four minute version, that if I'm not mistaken, was unreleased until it's inclusion on the Motown compilation "Funkology, Volume 3" (1996, Motown). Less of a special extended disco mix and more like a slightly longer alternate mix, the main difference with the extended mix seems to be a new bridge placed earlier in the song, which, at least to me, seems to throw a bit of a wrench into the upward, uplifting dynamic of the song.

The rest of Side A is filled out with the two remaining uptempo tracks on the album: "Only You (Can Love Me Like You Love Me) and "You Keep Me Moving On." While they don't exactly live up to the excellence of the first two tracks, they're probably among some of the more enjoyable tracks on the album with Scherrie Payne's vocals making all the difference, injecting them with enough energy to carry them across, even in some of their more laboured sections (some of the verses in "You Keep Me Moving On," for example).. For me, the most exciting of these two tracks would have to be "Only You..," with it's bold intro, memorable refrain, and the background vocals' perfect, balanced interplay with the lead, which add a great deal to the track..

As far as the rest of the record goes, Side B was pretty much turned over to the ballads, largely featuring Mary Wilson on vocals. Although tracks like "Don't Let My Teardrops Bother You," a cover of an earlier Dionne Warwick (in her Dionne Warwicke days) song and a medley pairing an original "Til The Boat Sails Away" with the Thom Bell/Linda Creed standard "I Don't Want To Lose You," (originally for The Spinners) spotlighted Mary's vocals quite well; the latter, in particular, with it's sparse arrangement and 8 minute length, felt much too plodding than it needed to be. The bright spot on Side B however was the final track, "You're What's Missing In My Life" (later covered by Motown labelmate/former Spinners singer G.C. Cameron) featuring Wilson and Scherrie Payne on vocals. A beautifully arranged ballad that seemed to bring things full circle, bringing back the lush, dynamic orchestration of the title track (especially in that killer intro), making it a perfect album closer.

Overall, while their self-titled album from the previous year marked The Supremes' emergence in the discos, the two leading tracks off this album seemed to solidify their presence. With the Holland Brothers' storied history and them having produced a couple of the best tracks off their 1975 self-titled LP, perhaps there was an idea that this reunion might be able to re-create some of the old magic from The Supremes and Holland-Dozier-Holland's hitmaking glory days. While it didn't quite happen that way commercially speaking, even with their follow-up record "Mary, Scherrie & Susaye" which would prove to be a much more solid, consistent and better album overall; at the very least this LP, with it's standouts: "High Energy" and "I'm Gonna Let My Heart Do The Walking" showed that there were definitely still life left in the group. Unfortunately, strong material aside, with the rise of other female groups like First Choice, The Three Degrees, The Pointer Sisters, The Emotions and former rivals Labelle, it seemed the Supremes' bid for mainstream relevance had become something of a losing battle by this point. Still though, the fan in me can't help but wonder with their success in the discos, their glamorous image and their strong gay following if they still stood a chance. Perhaps as a disco act, they would have been able to recapture some of their former glory with disco's explosion into the mainstream, which was just around the corner by this time. The 'what-if's' are endless, I suppose.. However, while the group would last for barely another year and for only one more album, the disco classics that The Supremes left us with would prove to be the final triumph for one of Motown's most successful, legendary groups..

Just a note about CD availablility: While this album has yet to be released on CD in it's entirety, "I'm Gonna Let My Heart Do The Walking" and "You're What's Missing In My Life" along with an inferior alternate version of "High Energy" were all included on the excellent Supremes 70's Anthology (2002, Motown/Universal) double-CD set, which it appears has just recently gone out of print (though a digital download is still available). Despite the Motown Funkology CD being out-of-print as well, the extended version of "I'm Gonna Let My Heart Do The Walking" is still available on CD, included on the Supremes box set from 2000 along with the full LP version of "High Energy." For another option, the full version of "High Energy" is also available on the more recent (and much more accessible) double cd compilation "Motown Disco" (2005, Motown/Universal), compiled by the good people at Six Million Steps to whom I'm forever grateful for including this..

Also, I couldn't possibly do this post without including some Supremes videos from this time.. Although it has to be said, as much as I love seeing these ladies on video, sometimes the videos showed the weakness in this particular lineup. Between Mary towering over the other two ladies, and often being made the visual centre (even when she wasn't the lead vocalist), Susaye's sometimes exaggerated expressions etc.. visually the lineup seemed rather awkward at times, even as their recordings were some of their most exciting...

This first video is of the ladies doing a stellar live performance (for what appears to be a stone-faced audience) on The Mike Douglas Show, which they pull off marvelously.. Also included is a brief interview with the ladies, where Mary Wilson speaks about the then recently deceased original Supreme, Florence Ballard, with some emotional difficulty. On a visual note, Supremes fans will probably notice those dresses as holdovers from the Diana Ross & The Supremes days..



The Supremes - I'm Gonna Let My Heart Do The Walking (Mike Douglas Show)
Uploaded by gmcclo1974


Part two of their Mike Douglas appearance, taking things down a bit with a performance of one of the album's ballads "Don't Let My Teardrops Bother You" with Mary taking the lead.




The Supremes - Don't Let My Teardrops Bother You (Mike Douglas Show)
Uploaded by gmcclo1974


The next two are from their early music video project, which was given an extremely rare home video release as "The High Energy Video Collection." That collection included selections from both this LP and "Mary, Scherrie & Susaye." Looking at these videos, I gotta give props to Mary here for holding her own, even while visibly pregnant (notice the bump in the first video and the big red dress in the second). Got to mention also how much I love the graceful, coordinated choreography at the beginning of "You're What's Missing In My Life" - the disco Supremes at their most glamorous! I should also mention that they also did a video for "High Energy," which was unfortunately deleted from YouTube some months back. Here's hoping someone reposts it one of these days.. Anyway, If you're still curious to see more Supremes videos from the same collection, click over to the Mary, Scherrie & Susaye (reprise) post from earlier last year, where you can see the awesome videos for a couple of their later disco stormers "You're My Driving Wheel" and "Let Yourself Go"..



The Supremes - I'm Gonna Let My Heart Do The Walking
Uploaded by ivyfield



The Supremes - You're What's Missing In My Life
Uploaded by ivyfield


PREVIOUS RELATED ENTRIES:
DISCO DELIVERY #41 - TÁTA VEGA - TRY MY LOVE (1978, MOTOWN) (SATURDAY MAY 19, 2007)
THE SUPREMES - MARY, SCHERRIE & SUSAYE (REPRISE) (THURSDAY MARCH 8, 2007)
DISCO DELIVERY #1 - THE SUPREMES - MARY, SCHERRIE & SUSAYE (1976, MOTOWN) (TUESDAY JANUARY 10, 2006)

PURCHASE:

THE SUPREMES - THE 70'S ANTHOLOGY (2 CD) (INCLUDES 'I'M GONNA LET MY HEART DO THE WALKING,' 'YOU'RE WHAT'S MISSING IN MY LIFE')
AMAZON.COM | AMAZON.CO.UK
VA - MOTOWN DISCO (2 CD) (INCLUDES 'HIGH ENERGY')
AMAZON.CO.UK | CD UNIVERSE

LINKS:
THE SUPREMES - HIGH ENERGY LP @ DISCOGS
THE SUPREMES - HIGH ENERGY LP @ WIKIPEDIA
THE SUPREMES - HIGH ENERGY LP @ DISCOMUSIC.COM
THE SUPREMES - HIGH ENERGY LP (REVIEW) @ ALL MUSIC GUIDE
THE SUPREMES - HIGH ENERGY LP (REVIEW) @ WILSON & ALROY'S RECORD REVIEWS
THE SUPREMES @ WIKIPEDIA
MARY WILSON - OFFICIAL SITE
SCHERRIE PAYNE & LYNDA LAURENCE - FORMER LADIES OF THE SUPREMES
MYSPACE - SUSAYE GREENE
SOULFUL BOHEMIAN MAGAZINE - SUSAYE GREENE INTERVIEW (DECEMBER 2007)
WEB DIGEST WEEKLY - SUSAYE GREENE INTERVIEW (DECEMBER 10, 2006)
TRI-STATE DEFENDER - SUPREMES DRAMA CONTINUES.. (BY STEVE HOLSEY) (OCTOBER 19, 2006)

CATEGORIES: DISCO DELIVERIES, VISUAL DISCO

Monday, January 21, 2008

Disco Delivery on Strictly Confidential Radio

Just a little heads up for those who may be interested.. I'll be on internet radio this Tuesday, as this week's musical guest on the Head On Radio Network's LGBT program Strictly Confidential Radio with Peter Godbold. Considering some of their past guests, it's quite an honour to say the least.. We'll be chatting and playing some past Disco Delivery features plus some other things as well..

If you'd like to tune in, point your browsers to www.strictlyconfidentialradio.com and the 'Listen Live' link. I'll be on from 9 to 11 pm Eastern Time tomorrow - Tuesday January 22nd.

I believe it'll be a call-in show as well, so if you'd like to say 'hi', they've got a toll-free call in number as well. Hope you can tune in!

Special thanks to Bobby Viteritti and VJC of Disco935 for hooking me up!

Update: Unfortunately it sounds like a purse fell out of my mouth, but if you still care to listen, the podcast link is now up on the Strictly Confidential website (go to the calendar at the bottom of the page). Thanks to Peter Godbold for having me on and to VJC, Bobby and Enrique for calling in..

LINKS:
STRICTLY CONFIDENTIAL RADIO
THE HEAD-ON RADIO NETWORK
MYSPACE - PETER GODBOLD/STRICTLY CONFIDENTIAL RADIO

CATEGORIES: INTERVIEWS

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Million Dollar Orchestra, Ashford & Simpson and other new/upcoming disco releases..

It's been a while since I've done one of these, but there's a small crop of exciting disco releases from this past week and coming this month that I just had to mention. At the end of the list, I also decided to put a few things from last year that I missed out on, so without further ado..

January 15th:


Al Kent Presents The Million Dollar Orchestra - Better Days (BBE)
buy @ CD UNIVERSE | AMAZON.COM | AMAZON.CO.UK | DUSTY GROOVE
While there's quite a bit of buzz going around about this, I thought I might as well do my part and spread the word about what is perhaps one of the most exciting disco releases to come along recently (that's not a reissue or compilation, for that matter). With all the interest in disco, and how well referenced it has become, there's probably no better time than now to resurrect the disco orchestra ...

That said, while I've always felt it would be nearly impossible to truly recreate the sound and feel of classic disco today, particularly the classic sounds of Salsoul, The Crown Heights Affair, P&P and other earlier disco of the mid-70's, this album certainly comes as close as possible. Produced and concieved by Al Kent of Million Dollar Disco, those who are familiar with the rarities on the MDD "Disco Demands" compilations will likely have a good idea of the feel on here.

Having recorded the album with real strings and real musicians in a real analogue studio no less, the sound here, held down by some awesome bass playing, percussion and string sweetening manages to sound lovingly authentic without sounding dated. Although while somewhat short of the heights of, say, the grandaddies of disco orchestras - MFSB and The Salsoul Orchestra, they've captured a groove on here that retains a certain rawness, while capturing the rhythm, elegance and warmth of classic disco.. Better Days, indeed.

The return of the disco orchestra? We'll see. Nevertheless, a record that's both welcome and overdue...

To hear a sample of the tracks, go to the Million Dollar Disco website, the BBE website or the Million Dollar Orchestra's Myspace page where they have a great medley of tracks off the album. Personal favourites: "Get It Boy," "Canal Street Bus Stop" and "Feel The Music."
MILLION DOLLAR ORCHESTRA @ MILLION DOLLAR DISCO
MYSPACE - MILLION DOLLAR ORCHESTRA
MILLION DOLLAR ORCHESTRA - BETTER DAYS @ BBE
MILLION DOLLAR ORCHESTRA - BETTER DAYS @ DISCOMUSIC.COM



VA - Disco Not Disco: Post Punk, Electro & Leftfield Disco Classics 1974-1986 (Strut)
buy @ AMAZON.COM | AMAZON.CO.UK | CD UNIVERSE | DUSTY GROOVE
The official and welcome return of Strut Records and their highly regarded disco-not-disco series of avant-garde, leftfield disco.. Strut have set up a nice micro site to promote this @ http://www.disco-not-disco.com/ where you can hear full samples of several tracks. Perhaps a tad too leftfield for some at times, the selections are nevertheless always interesting and revealing. Given the impressive list of compilations Strut brought out during their initial four year run, it's great to see them back.
STRUT RECORDS
STRUT RECORDS (1999-2003) @ JAHSONIC
STRUT RECORDS @ DISCOGS


January 23rd:


The Trammps - S/T (1975, Golden Fleece / 2008, Epic)
buy Japanese reissue @ HMV.CO.JP | CD UNIVERSE | DUSTY GROOVE
buy the regular reissue @ CD UNIVERSE | AMAZON.CO.UK | AMAZON.COM

A Japanese paper sleeve/mini LP reissue of their first album for the Golden Fleece label. There was initially a reissue of this album in 2002 by Epic/Sony in the US, which had unfortunately gone out of print not too long ago. Produced by Ronnie Baker, Norman Harris and Earl Young (AKA B-H-Y) this is a great, soulful disco record filled with the classic Philly sound. The 2002 US reissue included three bonus tracks, but this Japanese reissue includes a fourth, "Promise Me" (later included on PIR's cash-in album "Disco Champs"). Admittedly this Japanese reissue is somewhat exorbitantly priced, so aside from the used copies of the earlier out-of-print US reissue, a good alternative would be the UK release of the regular edition, which it seems was put back in print late last year.
THE TRAMMPS - S/T (REVIEW) @ ALL MUSIC GUIDE
THE TRAMMPS - S/T (2002 CD REISSUE) @ DISCOMUSIC.COM
BAKER-HARRIS-YOUNG @ DISCOGS


February 26th:


Ashford & Simpson - The Warner Brothers Years: Hits, Remixes & Rarities (Rhino)
buy @ CD UNIVERSE | AMAZON.COM | AMAZON.CO.UK | DUSTY GROOVE
Although lamentably, the CDs of A&S's Warner albums have been out of print for some time now, this set is a definitely a welcome release. Compiled by Johnny De Mairo and enthusiastically endorsed by Nick & Val themselves, "Hits, Remixes & Rarities" is a two disc set with the originals in disc 1 and remixes on disc two. Thankfully much more than your average hits compilation, over half of the tracks on the first disc are 12" Versions, most remixed by Valerie's brother Jimmy Simpson and some released on promo only and notoriously hard to find. Case in point: track one - "Over & Over" and track four - "One More Try." Promo copies of the latter in particular have been known to fetch up to $500 even up to $700 on eBay. Curiously, the 12" version of "One More Try" was earlier set to be included on the Joey Negro compilation "Soul Of Disco, Vol. 2" (2006, Z Records) but to the disappointment of fans, apparently pulled from the tracklisting at the eleventh hour. I guess we now know why...

As an added bonus to the 12'' versions, the second disc includes remixes and re-edits by the likes of Dimitri From Paris, Joey Negro, Joe Claussell, John Morales and classic disco mixmaster himself, Tom Moulton.

It certainly seems promising that Warner went as far as to issue a press release to promote this release as a "reintroduction." Is a comeback on the horizon, perhaps? Regardless, a must-have if there ever was one!

Update: Release date pushed back from January 29th to February 26th

Note: The artwork was apparently revised not too long before this writing, included here are the two versions released..
REUTERS - LEGENDS ASHFORD & SIMPSON RELEASE ULTIMATE COMPILATION
ASHFORD & SIMPSON @ DISCOGS
ASHFORD & SIMPSON @ ALL MUSIC GUIDE
SUGAR BAR NYC


Been Missed:

December 19th:


Aretha Franklin - Jump To It (1982, Arista / 2007, BMG Japan)
HMV.CO.JP | AMAZON.COM | EBAY
Aretha Franklin - Get It Right (1983, Arista / 2007, BMG Japan)
HMV.CO.JP | AMAZON.COM | EBAY
Another group of Japanese reissues, this time of some of The Queen's early 80's Arista albums. Out of the six that have been reissued (all her 80s Arista albums except for her 1980 self-titled), of note are the first two, the couple of albums produced by the late, great Luther Vandross. In my opinion, some of the brightest moments of her Arista years before it all went to crap by the end of the decade ("Through The Storm" anyone?). Although not disco per se, the sly, sassy groove of "Jump To It" was her biggest dance hit in the US and undoubtedly one of her greatest moments of the 1980's. There are some other choice funky, post-disco boogie treats on both albums such as "Get It Right" and "Every Girl Wants My Guy," which is a particular favourite of mine.

An earlier remaster was released in the US by Arista/BMG in the late 90s, along with a brief run budget-reissue in 2004 by Sony/BMG in the UK. I believe both those editions are now out of print, leaving these as the most current editions. Also packaged in a paper sleeve/mini LP style.
ARETHA FRANKLIN @ WIKIPEDIA
ARETHA FRANKLIN - JUMP TO IT LP (REVIEW) @ ALL MUSIC GUIDE
ARETHA FRANKLIN - GET IT RIGHT LP (REVIEW) @ ALL MUSIC GUIDE


October 29th:


VA - Deep Disco Culture, Vol. 2 (2007, Suss'd)
buy @ AMAZON.CO.UK | CD UNIVERSE | DUSTY GROOVE | SOUNDS OF THE UNIVERSE
Brought to you by the same folks behind the Salsoul Flavas compilations, comes a second set of rarities in their Deep Disco Culture series. Apparently quite an emphasis on P&P material on here, but there are quite a bunch of rarities aside from that such as the instrumental of Azoto's "San Salvador," and the Patrick Cowley mix of Tantra's "Hills of Katmandu" to name a couple. Most places online appear to be out of stock as of this writing, so hopefully that'll be rectified shortly..
VA - DEEP DISCO CULTURE (2 CD) @ DISCOGS

CATEGORIES: REISSUES & RELEASES, NUDISCO

Monday, January 14, 2008

Feeling Fascination

Photobucket

Starcluster - Smoke & Mirrors (The Fascination Movement Promo Mix)

This'll be the first selection of new music on here this month, and out of most of what's been sent to me over the past little while, this is definitely one of the most exciting.

Sean Wolcott, blogger, Italo connoisseur, vintage gear collector and one half of Seattle duo The Fascination Movement recently sent me some audio of their very first release, a remix of Starcluster's (Roland Sebastian Faber & Kai Lüdeling (AKA KeenK)) "Smoke & Mirrors" (featuring Marc Almond on vocals). If, like me, you've dreamed of someone doing a contemporary electronic record, recorded with the analogue techniques and sensibilities of Giorgio Moroder's seminal productions, then you'll probably find a lot to like in the FM's upcoming releases. If anyone's been following Sean's blog and his amazing taste in obscure italo/electro, then you'll probably have a good idea. Their sound has been described alternately as "Soft Cell joining forces with New Order in 1983" to "the love child of Giorgio Moroder, Claudio Simonetti and New Order" (good one, Terry!). Either way, it's exciting stuff: alternately retro, contemporary and forward-looking all at once.

For "Smoke & Mirrors" they had, in Sean's words "busted their butts," practically reconstructing the entire backing track with added guitars and their sharp, arpeggiated synth work, making a stellar, equally definitive mix of this track. To compare, you can hear the original mix on the Aube Records Myspace..

The 12'' of the FM mixes is due for a release in early February, but having recently signed on with the Düsseldorf based Aube label, the FM have a full length album currently in the works (you can hear some of their demos over on their Myspace) so consider this a preview of some exciting things to come..

The Starcluster 12" EP (aube 003) available (clone.nl | juno.co.uk), with a 12" of the Fascination Movement mixes (aube 004 - extended mix, dub and instrumental) to follow (purchase links to come) released now as of April 7/08.

PURCHASE:
STARCLUSTER FEAT. MARC ALMOND - SMOKE & MIRRORS (12" REMIX EP)
CLONE | JUNO

PREVIOUS RELATED ENTRIES:
BBC RADIO 2: CLASSIC SINGLES - I FEEL LOVE (SUNDAY DECEMBER 30, 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)

LINKS:
MYSPACE - THE FASCINATION MOVEMENT
MYSPACE - AUBE RECORDS
LINE OUT - THE STRANGER'S MUSIC BLOG: THE FASCINATION MOVEMENT (X-POSTED AT T.M.L.)
STARCLUSTER @ DISCOGS
MYSPACE - ROLAND SEBASTIAN FABER
MYSPACE - KEEN K
MARC ALMOND @ ALL MUSIC GUIDE
TWENTYFOURHOURS: STARCLUSTER - SMOKE & MIRRORS
THE RED ROOM

CATEGORIES: NUDISCO

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Disco Delivery #50:
Brenda Mitchell - Don't You Know (1978, Barclay/Polygram)

Photobucket Photobucket

Brenda Mitchell - Body Party
Brenda Mitchell - Body Party (Patrick Cowley & Jon Randazzo Disco Mix)
Brenda Mitchell - Body Party (Patrick Cowley Alternate 12'' Mix)
Brenda Mitchell - I'm Running
Brenda Mitchell - Don't You Know

Hope everyone out there had a Happy New Year. I may be a little late in starting things off this year, but with lots of disco and even some new music to cover in the coming weeks, I might as well get on with it..

Apparently one of producer Pierre Jaubert's somewhat lesser-known productions, I had come across a sealed copy of this album about a year ago and picked it up as soon as I saw his name on the credits. Though I had never heard of the album, nor of the singer Brenda Mitchell, being a huge fan of Jaubert's production on disco albums by the likes of Michele and Chantal Curtis, I figure there had to be something worthwhile on this record..

Prior to some of his more mainstream disco productions in the late 70's, Jaubert apparently had a notable background in jazz, having worked with the likes of Archie Shepp and Charles Mingus. Jaubert's work also seems to figure quite prominently within the hip-hop/funk/soul cognoscenti, particularly with his production of the Lafayette Afro-Rock Band (who later became Ice), a group whose albums of proto-disco/afro-funk grooves seem to have provided for plenty of samples over the years.. Notably, many of the Lafayette/Ice musicians (Lafayette Hudson, Ernest Donable, Arthur Young, Frank Abel etc..) would make notable contributions to Jaubert's other disco productions, this one included.

Comparing Jaubert's productions from this time, I couldn't help but recall a little thread on the discomusic.com forums where some had openly wondered, given the similar vocal style and the anonymity of the vocalists, whether Michele and Chantal Curtis were in fact one and the same. Listening to this album, along with the Michele and Chantal Curtis records, either Jaubert had an affinity for similarly breathy, willowy-voiced female singers, or he simply used the same singer under several different guises. If it weren't for the different names and pictures on the albums, their voices would be practically interchangeable. Mystery aside, the vulnerably sexy, understated vocals are undoubtedly one of the key elements, along with his signature bass and percussion-heavy style which made his productions so appealing.

Given some of the musicians on some of Jaubert's productions, I also can't help but draw a little comparison to fellow Frenchman Jacques Morali. Although both producers had a very different sound, both producers seemed to be at least somewhat influenced by the Philly sound, given the use of Philly musicians and studios on their records. Although the Philly involvement is much more prominent on Morali's productions than on Jaubert's where only a few prominent Philly related names appear among the mostly European players (on here, they include The Sweethearts of Sigma and Weldon MacDougal III whose credited for a little something called a Cromulizer), they're like two different sides to the same coin. While Morali's work was typified by an unabashedly gay, campy sensibility (which I also love, don't get me wrong), Jaubert was quite the opposite. A much less bombastic, modest style in comparison, Jaubert's records had a much sleeker, sexier, at times even darker sound to them (see Chantal Curtis' "Get Another Love"). Driven by a basic rhythm section, with guitars, bass and congas prominent along with a very distinctive string and horn sweetening style, one would be hard-pressed to call any of it 'overproduced.'

The first track, "Body Party," undoubtedly the standout here, is especially emblematic of that approach. A dark, driven and sexy disco track, the propulsive bassline, relentless galloping percussion, arresting horns and the constant, beckoning "par-tay" in the background, make this an absolutely unyielding track. With the overall dark, heavy tone along with Mitchell's urging, sensual vocals, there's an almost chilly, primal sexiness to the whole atmosphere, this party feeling less like your average celebratory get-down, and more like an invitation into another side of disco, of deeper, more forbidden indulgences..

While the entire album was mixed by the apparently unknown John Custer, the 12'' mixes of "Body Party" were done by the late, great Patrick Cowley in what appears to be one of his earliest releases. Previously, Cowley had done one of his megamixes for another Pierre Jaubert production, Michele's "Disco Dance." While this isn't extended like "Disco Dance" was, the shooting synthesized pulses and swirling space effects of Cowley's synthesizer overlays practically send the whole thing into outer space, heightening the forbidding sexiness of the track, giving it a whole new forcefulness.. Done the same year as Sylvester's classic "You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)," Cowley's overlays on here are remarkably similar to those on Sylvester's classic track. Although it's a much more integral part of "..Mighty Real," some of the same effects and sounds are evident here, with both sharing a particularly similar electronic pulse.

Curiously, Cowley was credited on the main disco mix with Jon Randazzo, who was apparently a DJ at a premier San Francisco gay venue at the time called The City Disco (where Patrick himself had also worked) and if this Disconet newletter is to be believed, something of a mentor to him. Not sure if this is Randazzo's only credit on a record, but so far it's the only one I've ever come across..

Although I'm not sure if there were any other 12'' pressings that did so, the UK 12'' of "Body Party" on the Creole label was the only one that I've found to give credit to both Cowley and Randazzo for the disco mix. Not sure if this was also the case for any of the other 12" releases, but after coming across the UK pressing, I later found out that my Canadian 12'' was mislabeled, with the label listing the credits and time of the John Custer album mix, but the grooves pressed with the Cowley/Randazzo disco mix. Curiously also, the UK 12'' also included an alternate mix/edit on the B-side which doesn't actually credit anyone for the mix, but gives a shared production credit between Jaubert and Cowley. Running a little shorter at some five or so minutes, the alternate mix is somewhat less spacious using more of the vocals, including some ad-libs not present in any of the other versions..

As far as the rest of the album tracks go, one of the other excellent tracks on the album is the second one, "I'm Running." Lyrically and vocally nothing special, however it's saved by an excellent arrangement, with a propulsive groove, led by prominent combination of guitars and horns particularly on the breaks half-way through..

The last of the worthwhile tracks on the record is the Side One closer and title track, "Don't You Know." Anchored by a rather harsh jarring sound, as if a helicopter had landed in the middle of the session, it's an intriguing, albeit fairly crude attempt at a more electronic sound. Continuing in the heavy pulse and feel of the other tracks, it's nonetheless one of the more interesting, given that this is the only time (so far) that I've heard this type of electronic sound on a Jaubert production.

Overall, the highlights of this album are all on Side One, with Side Two being, in my opinion, a complete write-off. None of the songs on the other side bear anything even slightly memorable, the feel and flow sounding completely forced with Mitchell's (or whomever's) voice adding little to the proceedings. The one notable track though would probably the opener, "Get It Together," written by the Romanian film composer Vladimir Cosma and used in the 1980 film "Inspecteur la Bavure." Not sure if the film version was a different recording from the version on this album, but just to add another bit of mystery to the vocalist's true identity, apparently "Get It Together" would later be released as a single credited to Chantal Curtis (thanks to commenter Yuki for this bit of info.).. That aside, even that track is rather sub-par when compared to the three on Side One. As excellent as the three tracks on Side One are, considering all of the tracks on the entire album, and ranking this along side some of Jaubert's similarly styled productions (Chantal Curtis and Michele), this one would likely be the weakest of the three..

As far as the singer's identity, just to muddle things up a little, prior to this album there was also a Jaubert produced 12" credited to Brenda Mitchell with two songs: "Sweet Music" and "Earthern Paradise," where the vocals sounded markedly different than those on here. Either Mitchell used a completely different vocal style on that 12" than on this album, or they are two completely different singers altogether. Furthermore, just to further shroud this in mystery, like many an anonymous disco singer, who Brenda Mitchell was (an actual vocalist or simply a convenient alias?) and whatever became of her, so far, seem to be completely unknown..

Producer Pierre Jaubert however appears to have remained active in the industry with his Paris-based music publishing company Topomic Music. Topomic has a wonderfully designed website, where you can get an idea of the artists and records Jaubert has been involved with over the years (go to the album covers and commercial sections). Some of the notable artists include bluesmen Memphis Slim and John Lee Hooker, as well as Saxophonist/disco man, Leroy Gomez, to name a few.

Although this album was released in Canada, not sure if the LP or any of the singles were ever released in the US, since I have yet to find any US pressings in my limited travels. Despite not being the strongest of Jaubert's productions overall, the redeeming tracks on Side One are nonetheless among some of Jaubert's finest disco productions. In addition, the 12'' mixes of "Body Party" are equally wonderful, not only for their sonic brilliance but perhaps also for their historical significance as one of Patrick Cowley's earliest and likely, most overlooked efforts. Add all of that along with a little bit mystery to the mix, and it certainly makes for some interesting, intriguing listening, musically and otherwise..

PREVIOUS RELATED ENTRIES:
DISCO DELIVERY #48: ASHA (PUTHLI) - L'INDIANA (1979, DASH/TK) (TUESDAY NOVEMBER 20, 2007)
DISCO DELIVERY #7: SYLVESTER - M-1015 (1984, MEGATONE) (FRIDAY FEBRUARY 17, 2006)

LINKS:
BRENDA MITCHELL - DON'T YOU KNOW LP @ DISCOGS
BRENDA MITCHELL - BODY PARTY (UK 12") @ DISCOMUSIC.COM
BRENDA MITCHELL - BODY PARTY (CANADIAN 12") @ DISCOGS
PIERRE JAUBERT @ DISCOGS
PIERRE JAUBERT @ ALL MUSIC GUIDE
TOPOMIC MUSIC
MYSPACE - TOPOMIC MUSIC
PATRICK COWLEY WEBSITE
PATRICK COWLEY @ DISCOGS

CATEGORIES: DISCO DELIVERIES

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