Thursday, March 05, 2009
Disco Delivery #61:
Touché (1979, Magnum/GRT)
Touché - Warm Storm Of Love
Touché - Dancing In The Dark
Touché - Nightrider
Touché - Take A Look (But Don't Touch)
Touché - Love Eyes
Touché - One Day
While practically 90% of the Canadian disco out there seemed to come out of Montreal, this (along with Denise McCann and Bryan Adams' first single) seem to be among the few (at least that I've found) to have come out of Vancouver..
Produced by Brian Griffiths for Griffiths Gibson Productions, a company which was (and still remains today, as Griffiths Gibson & Ramsay Productions/GGRP) one of the top commercial music production (read: commerical jingles) services in Vancouver, the album was also recorded at their facilities, Vancouver's Little Mountain Studios. Having hosted acts like Bon Jovi, Aerosmith, AC/DC, Mötley Crüe and The Cult among others, it was reportedly one of the pinnacle recording destinations in Western Canada in it's day. Perhaps as a result of the connections, the album's credits end up reading like a veritable laundry-list of notable Vancouver musicans of the time. Among them are drummer Jim Vallance, Peter Bjerring, Howie Vickers, Guitarist David Sinclair, Bob Buckley on Keyboards, along with mixdown engineers Bob Rock and Vancouver punk scene veteran Ron Obvious to name most of them.
Out of all of them, Vallance and Rock are perhaps the most eminent. Vallance, who along with Peter Bjerring had been involved with Canadian arena rock band Prism and it's predecessor Sunshyne, would become one of Bryan Adams' major collaborators, co-writing many of his hits as well as writing for acts like Aerosmith, Ozzy Osbourne, Joan Jett among others.
Bob Rock, then a staffer at Little Mountain would later have a sizeable hit in Canada with his own group, The Payola$ and their single "Eyes Of A Stranger." Rock has gone on to become a superproducer of sorts, having produced for acts ranging from Metallica and Aerosmith to Cher and Michael Bublé..
Of the other names, Howie Vickers, who has writing credits on three of the album's six tracks, was the lead singer for a group called The Collectors, and essentially served as the pre-cursor to Canadian rock mainstays, Chilliwack.. While aside from being well-travelled session players in their own right, guitarist David Sinclair (Sarah McLachlan, k.d. lang) and keyboardist Bob Buckley (Our Lady Peace, Celine Dion) would form a duo in the 80's called Straight Lines and would go on to be part of the group Body Electric.
That's of course not to disregard the singers, Nancy Nash, Mary Saxton and Rosalind Keene, who end up cutting a flawless, radiant (albeit anonymous) harmony on the record. Perhaps as a way of diminishing some of the project's anonymity, all three are actually credited as being Touché, themselves. While all three seemed to be regular session singers, at least two of them have some notabilty attached to their names.. Mary Saxton has at least a couple of albums and some singles to her name, some of which have become rather highly regarded in the Northern Soul scene. One of her albums, entitled "Sad Eyes" (1969, Birchmount) has become particularly sought after, having fetched some fairly high prices online recently. Given it's apparent rarity, someone had recently taken the liberty of putting the audio of her entire "Sad Eyes" LP up on Google Video, for anyone whose curious.
Nancy Nash, aside from having some of the highest profile session work of the three, had also released a couple of albums, including a little known AOR-type album in the early 80's entitled "Letting Go" (1982, Avalon/Polygram). Later, having adopted the Aboriginal name Sazacha Red Sky, Nash had continued to record, with one of her songs garnering a (slightly controversial, it seems) Juno Award nomination in 1994.
Although there's less information about Rosalind Keene and her credits, she, like Nash and Saxton, is apparently still active today, performing regularly in and around the Vancouver area..
Although Nash, Saxton and Keene are credited as being the group itself, after looking them up, they're obviously not the same ladies on the album's cover (which the credit on the back seemed to imply), that being said, the intensity of the album's black and blood-red artwork & photography is one of the record's most obvious distinguishing features. Designed by graphic artist Hugh Syme (best known for being the artist behind Rush's distinctive album covers) and photographed by Michael Gray (who recently left some commments, below), whose work had been seen on a number of album covers at the time, including at least several other disco projects, most prominently: L.A.X.'s "Under Cover Lover" (1979, Attic), the first Lime album, Alan Hawkshaw's Rendezvous (1979, Attic) LP and CBS Canada's "legs" disco sleeve. In his comments below, Gray re-confirmed that the cover girls weren't the actual singers themselves, but in fact three (anonymous) Toronto area strippers.
Can-Con trivia aside, despite the strong rock connections, the album itself ends up being a pleasantly slick, sexy sublime disco production. With the light rock-ish guitars, sax solos and gliding strings that underscore most of the tracks, the album is perhaps more of an atmospheric combination of soft-rock and disco than a high tempo, bass and percussion driven disco groove..
The best illustration of that would likely be the opening track "Warm Storm Of Love." Arranged by Jim Vallance and written by producer Brian Griffiths and Howie Vickers; anchored by a heavy guitar refrain in the intro, elevated by the singers' airy harmonies and surrounded by a gusty string section, "Storm.." makes for a dramatic first impression. A perfectly appropriate opening, the almost gentle intensity of the vocals mixed with the stark backing ends up making it the perfect compiment to the album's artwork.
The second track, and only non-original on the album, "Dancing In The Dark," a cover of the Schwartz/Dietz standard arranged by keyboard player Bob Buckley, ends up bringing a little more levity to the proceedings. Anchored by a sexy, nocturnal sax solo and some genteel string and vocal arrangements, they manage to turn out an excellent cover, at the very least convincingly turning an old standard into a misty nighttime disco fantasy..
That said however, I'd consider the next three tracks to be the ultimate highlights of the album. Starting with the Side A closer, "Nightrider," arranged by Bob Buckley and written by Buckley and Vickers, this track ends up taking the tempo up a little bit from the previous selections. Opening with a driving guitar, leading into a more spacious mix putting extra emphasis on the beat and the percussion, it's perhaps the closest thing on the album to a bona-fide disco stomper.
The album's second major highlight would have to be the Side B opener (and the album's single), "Take A Look (But Don't Touch)" arranged by Peter Bjerring and written by Brian Gibson. A smouldering disco teaser with Mary Saxton apparently on lead, it's got to be the sexiest track on the album, not just because of the vocals or the swelling strings that underscore them, but mostly because of the lyrics. With it's soft, subdued vocals and the words painting a sensual lyrical ode to dancefloor surrender, it's probably the best song on the record, lyrically speaking. Musically, I'd single out the string refrain after the chorus, interspersed with the little guitar fill-in as a moment of brilliance in itself..
The third of the three major highlights would have to be "Love Eyes." A sublime, guitar driven disco track, written by Vickers and arranged by guitarist David Sinclair; with it's tempo and sweet string arrangement augmented by the great, albeit brief break in the middle, this song ultimately marks the album's breezy, uplifting culmination.
After that, the album concludes with an instrumental track, "One Day," written and arranged by Bob Buckley. Naturally featuring Buckley's synth work, he manages to get into some pretty great spacey synths solos at a couple of points in the track. Given album producer Brian Griffiths and his company's background in commercial jingles and themes, it's probably no accident that this track ends up reminding me of something that could have been used in a late 70's TV commercial..
Looking at Griffiths Gibson & Ramsay Productions/GGRP's website, the only mention of this album is a rather dismissive reference in their 'History' page, which makes it sounds like a cash-in that they would much rather forget about. And while perhaps the cash-in part of it might have been true, for a bunch of rock guys whom I'd imagine would have sooner divorced themselves from an album like this if given the chance; they actually managed to come up with a pretty solid, albeit slick (they are a commercial production company, after all) set of disco tracks. While the rock-influenced disco sound seemed to have been gaining some steam around this time, the rock influence on this album is less about energy and tempo and spashing loud guitars everywhere, as much it is about mood. Complimenting rather than overpowering the disco elements, personally, I think this is too good of a record to be left as some rock musicians' dirty little disco secret..
PREVIOUS RELATED ENTRIES:
DISCO DELIVERY #56: TOP SECRET (1979, TELSON/LONDON) (MONDAY OCTOBER 27. 2008)
DISCO DELIVERY #53: BARBARA LAW - TAKE ALL OF ME (1979, PAVILLION/EPIC) (FRIDAY FEBRUARY 29, 2008)
DISCO DELIVERY #42: SOUTHERN EXPOSURE - HEADIN' SOUTH (1979, RCA) (MONDAY JUNE 4, 2007)
DISCO DELIVERY #35: MONTREAL FEATURING UCHENNA IKEJIANI (1979, SALSOUL) (WEDNESDAY FEBRUARY 21, 2007)
DISCOMUSIC.COM: TOUCHÉ LP
DISCOGS: TOUCHÉ LP
DISCOGS: TOUCHÉ - TAKE A LOOK BUT DON'T TOUCH / NIGHTRIDER 12''
GGRP (GRIFFITHS GIBSON & RAMSAY PRODUCTIONS)
JIM VALLANCE OFFICIAL SITE
NANCY NASH MUSIC
SHOOTING STARS FOUNDATION - PERFORMERS: STARRY NIGHT (INFO ON MARY SAXTON)
SHOOTING STARS FOUNDATION - PERFORMERS: MOTOWN MELTDOWN (INFO ON ROSALIND KEENE)
DAVID SINCLAIR OFFICIAL SITE
BOB BUCKLEY PRODUCTIONS
BEHANCE.NET - MICHAEL GRAY PORTFOLIO
HUGH SYME OFFICIAL SITE
WIKIPEDIA: MUSIC OF VANCOUVER
CATEGORIES: DISCO DELIVERIES, CAN-CON DISCO