Thursday, June 18, 2009

Disco Delivery #62:
Back In Time (1978, Cotillion/Atlantic)



Back In Time - El Condor Pasa (If I Could) (Original Version)
Back In Time - The Sound Of Silence (U.S. Remix)
Back In Time - El Condor Pasa (If I Could) (U.S. Remix)
Back In Time - All I Wanna Love Is Love (U.S. Remix)
Back In Time - Love Is What We Need
Back In Time - The Sound Of Silence (Original Version)
Back In Time - All I Wanna Love Is Love (Original Version)
Back In Time - Back In Time
Back In Time - Proposition
Back In Time - Love Is A Game


This was one of those albums which I had come across, and eventually passed by many times in the record shop before actually buying it. Somehow, the prospect of an album helmed by Simon & Garfunkel disco covers wasn't exactly an enticing one; the sort of thing that gave the impression of being completely and irredeemably cringeworthy.

Back In Time original French release
Produced by Francois Bernheim, Jean-Louis Detry and arranged by the prolific Roger Loubet (AKA R. Black-Moog on the French release), all had been behind some notable recordings, namely Loubet (the only one of the three credited on the French release) who was one of the principals behind the amazing Baciotti 12'' "Black Jack" as well as the classic French cosmic disco LP "Disco Cosmix" (1979, Philips) by The Z.A.C.K., on which all three had been involved. Originally released in France on the Carrere label as "El Condor Pasa," Atlantic's Cotillion imprint evidently picked it up for U.S. release, retitling it as a self-titled LP with a slightly different "group" photo, enlisting Issy Sanchez (a regular mixer on Atlantic disco releases), Neil Dorfsman and Ray Wilhard (both of whom are also on the Z.A.C.K. LP and are perhaps uncredited on the original album) to remix three of the tracks into an extended medley on Side A.

In other notable personnel, all the vocals on the album were courtesy of French singer, composer and stage performer Roddy Julienne. Unfortunately, the opening track on the North American version of the album, a cover of "The Sound of Silence" wasn't exactly the most flattering showcase for Julienne's vocals. Admittedly, upon first listen, Julienne's vocals on "Silence" with his at-times nasal, abrasive, forceful phrasing didn't exactly do much to diminish my initial suspicions. It was only after further listens (to this song and the rest of the LP) that the brilliance of the album's dense, exquisite production started to reveal itself.

One of the things which ended up affirming that was the second track on the US version, the album's cover of "El Condor Pasa (If I Could)." With its deft, swirling strings, and deep supple basslines beneath a relentless electronic pulse, soaring Andean flutes, all emboldened by Roddy Julienne's forceful vocals which in this case provided the perfect aural companion to the heavy, lavish production. Ultimately the centrepiece of the album, in both of its versions, all the elements here end up turning what could have been another piece of curious, disposable euro-kitsch into something of epic disco elegance, capturing the soaring, anthemic quality of the original Peruvian standard.

Though both versions are approximately the same length, the US version, which is actually better overall with its much denser mix and great extended break towards the end, complete with extra emphasis on bass and strings; none of it diminishes the impact of the original version. With its coolly spare opening - a solitary synthesized pulse, drawn in by a sequence of strings and flutes, combined particularly with a much better placement right at the beginning of the record, the original still remains perhaps the most striking of the two versions. Notably, aside from the two different album versions, this song was included in a Tom Savarese mix on Disconet Volume 1, Number 12 (which I haven't heard yet).

The Side A medley on the US Version ends with "All I Wanna Love Is Love," which is possibly the strangest track on the album. Continuing the intense, driving pulse of "El Condor Pasa," the track opens with an initially incomprehensible monologue:

"she's cruel... just like a snake... she never stops... she scratches my back... she's a woman... a nice woman.. and she loves it..."

Which is followed by yet another stunning soliloquy:

"I'm strong.. just like a tiger.. I always want, you know... I'm proud of it.. but I'm a man!.. Only a man!.. and I'm tired!..."

Not sure that I get it.

Perhaps this is one of those instances where the intended impact was lost in translation, I'm guessing it's supposed to be a desperate man being chased by a gaggle of relentless, cooing nymphomaniacs. In between the stunning poetry, with the ladies screaming out "love! all i wanna love is love! Love! all I wanna love... is love," things don't go much further than that, with the man still ends up fighting them off with desperate NO's and declarations of his tiredness towards the end. Strange, but still worth it entirely, if not for its intriguing wierdness, but also for the awesome production, filled with some deep rich and detailed bass and percussion.

Side B continues the disco momentum with the opener, "Love Is What We Need". Originally the second track on the original French release, Roddy Julienne's vocals are back in full force here with lavish drums, deep layered guitars and cascading synths all around. Much better placed as the Side B opener on the US release, it makes for yet another one of the album's high points.

For the rest of the album, the intensity of the proceedings goes down a couple of notches, starting with the title track, "Back In Time." Despite being a withdrawal from the heavy disco of the previous tracks, and a more earnest return to the Andean feel of "El Condor Pasa," with its drum and guitar driven production, it ends up working much better and being much more memorable than I had expected. Same can mostly be said for the track that follows it, "Proposition," which, minus Roddy Julienne's (lightly processed) vocals sounds like it could have easily come out of one of those many French space disco LPs (much like the producers' own Z.A.C.K project).

Although "Love Is A Game," barring a decent melody and some nice strings, is a bit of a limp closer, this album, in both of its versions ends up being one of my more rewarding purchases in the last while. Though not without its moments of strange euro-cheese, even that is almost always redeemable. The lavish intensity of the album's production more than makes up the difference. Even if there was nothing else of note on the record, the album's stunning interpretation of Paul Simon's reading of the Peruvian standard "El Condor Pasa," is epic enough to be worth the price of admission, by itself. Even Roddy Julienne's vocals, which I'm willing to admit are formidable, if nothing else; in spite of their initial abrasiveness, end up making the most of the forceful production and often intense feel of the album's most distinctive disco tracks. At their best, his vocals made an ideal compliment to the production and tempo, with a gritty forcefulness that at times seemed to recall Tina Turner, that is, if Tina were a man, with a vaguely French accent and a penchant for the occasional jazzy scat.. That being said, I haven't been buying too many records lately, but I'm glad I gave in and made room for this one..

PREVIOUS RELATED ENTRIES:
INTERSTELLAR MESSAGES (SUNDAY FEBRUARY 22, 2009)
DISCO DELIVERY #50: BRENDA MITCHELL - DON'T YOU KNOW (1978, BARCLAY/POLYGRAM) (SATURDAY JANUARY 12, 2008)
DISCO DELIVERY #48: ASHA (PUTHLI) - L'INDIANA (1979, DASH/TK) (TUESDAY NOVEMBER 20, 2007)
DISCO DELIVERY #37: MIDNIGHT RHYTHM (1978, ATLANTIC) (WEDNESDAY MARCH 14, 2007)
TIMING, FORGET THE TIMING (WEDNESDAY JANUARY 31, 2007)

LINKS:
DISCOGS: BACK IN TIME - S/T LP (US VERSION)
BACK IN TIME - EL CONDOR PASA LP (FRENCH VERSION)
DISCOGS: DISCONET VOLUME 1, NUMBER 12 12'' (INCLUDES MIX OF 'EL CONDOR PASA')
HOTDISCOMIX: DISCONET VOLUME 1, NUMBER 12
DISCOGS: FRANCOIS BERNHEIM
DISCOGS: JEAN-LOUIS DETRY
WIKIPÉDIA: RODDY JULIENNE (IN FRENCH)
MYSPACE MUSIC: RODDY JULIENNE
WIKIPEDIA - EL CÓNDOR PASA (SONG)
WIKIPEDIA - THE SOUNDS OF SILENCE (SONG)
DISCOGS: ISSY SANCHEZ
DISCOGS: NEIL DORFSMAN
DISCOGS: RAYMOND WILLARD

CATEGORIES: DISCO DELIVERIES

9 comments:

Crotchbat said...

Good to have you back - many thanks for this fab post!

Jason Fist said...

Sorry to be a pedant, but it's should be its except for when it is short for "it is" (i.e. "I'm guessing it's supposed to be a desperate man...).

Glad to see you back though!

Tommy said...

Hey Crotchbat! No problem, thanks for the comment! :)

Jason - ack! It's okay. I really should know better. That's one of those things that I always miss. I'll be making a few edits now :) Thanks for the comment and corrections! :)

Mike said...

It's great to have you back. I thought you were MIA permanently!

The sound of Simon & Garfunkel disco covers actually really intrigues me and, on the first listen, this is an incredibly fun - if totally fucking bizarre - album. Thanks for shining the Disco Delivery spotlight on it!

Tommy said...

Hey Mike,

Nah, just another one of my regular prolonged absences.. Fun and occasionally bizarre pretty much describes it haha. Thanks for the comment!

benjimite said...

Thanks Tommy, loved the post as always :)

Lady Blacktronika said...

Thank you. Loving it Keep it coming.

goxthegrease said...

Hi, Could you send me tha password from Back In Time Album please

Anonymous said...

Hi dude, thanks a lot for this fantastic blog.
The link to the LP of "Back in Time" is death. Colud you reupload it please!
Thank you so much in advance!
Amir

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