Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Love Dancing Playmate



Playmate - Love Dance (1978, Salsoul/RCA)
Playmate - Oriental Explosion (1978, Salsoul/RCA)

A little something I'd picked up in Vancouver a couple of years ago, this seems to have been one of the more obscure Eurodisco offerings released by Salsoul at the time. With the production credited to an incognito outfit called "Cup Production," it even seems a little more anonymous than most.

Written by Christian Bensch, Peter Wagner and Uli Roever, all three seem to have some credits in the realm of German pop music, with Uli Roever having what seems to be one of the more significant disco connections, having been credited as an arranger on Pamala Stanley's "This Is Hot" (1979, EMI) LP. Quite unexpectedly, I'd also come across this song's entry in the ASCAP database, where it credits Roever and 'Roever Wagner Bensch' as the performers, so I'd venture to guess that they (or at the very least, Uli Roever) were most likely also the producers behind this.

A double A-side single, both tracks are mostly instrumental, aside from the very minimal vocals which do little more than repeat the song titles in a light, high pitched coquettish fashion. Aside from that, both tracks on the single have that unmistakable German Eurodisco sound to them, characterized by the familiar sonic backdrop of squelchy synth effects (clavinet?) and Silver Convention-esque string arrangements to name a couple of things.

Mixed by renowned DJ and remixer, Bobby 'DJ' Guttadaro (perhaps the most notable name on here, from a disco perspective) "Love Dance" starts out with a mid-tempo percussion and vocal intro then shortly moves into a horn and guitar laden Spanish/Santa Esmeralda style Flamenco tinged arrangement, with some added horns, kettle drum accents and a sexy break providing some build-up and drama along the way. Given how many mixes Guttadaro seemed to be doing for Salsoul at the time, along with the common practice of US labels in remixing their European-licensed product, I'd venture to guess that there are likely some European pressings (like the UK pressing listed on Discogs which doesn't credit Guttadaro) with a different mix of this track, which I'm going to have to confirm for myself one of these days.

With the cheese factor racheted up a few notches, "Oriental Explosion" on the flip is nevertheless entirely as enjoyable, if not slightly moreso. As with any good piece of Western Oriental fetishism, the track is naturally opened by and punctuated with loud gong crashes, an 'oriental' style wind-section and some random unintelligible chanting in the middle seemingly thrown in for good measure. A kitschy car-crash of delicate disco strings, German oompah and some vaguely Asian sounding interludes, it's every bit as strange and oddly appealing as it sounds..

Either way, while the selections on this single are probably not the sort of thing made to burn up a dancefloor, I'd consider these both to be nice artifacts of a sexy (if not slightly kitschy), laid-back Eurodisco sound of the time..

PREVIOUS RELATED ENTRIES:
THE ONE I LOVE TAKES ME DOWN, TAKES ME THERE.. (THURSDAY DECEMBER 13. 2007)
FAUST WAS RIGHT, HAVE NO REGRET.. (MONDAY OCTOBER 15, 2007)
DISCO DELIVERY #35: MONTREAL FEATURING UCHENNA IKEJIANI (1979, SALSOUL) (WEDNESDAY FEBRUARY 21, 2007)

LINKS:
DISCOGS: PLAYMATE
ASCAP: ROEVER WAGNER BENSCH - LOVE DANCE
DISCOMUSIC.COM: BOBBY 'DJ' GUTTADARO
DISCOGS: BOBBY 'DJ' GUTTADARO

CATEGORIES: MINI DELIVERIES

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

You got it, I got it..



Scarlet Rivera - Scarlet Fever (Promo 12'' Version) (1978, Warner Bros.)
Scarlet Rivera - Scarlet Fever (Edit) (1978, Warner Bros.)

Since picking this up a few years back, this little obscure disco one-off from violinist Scarlet Rivera has become a real favourite of mine. From what I've gathered Rivera had come to prominence after playing on Bob Dylan's 1976 "Desire" album and the accompanying Rolling Thunder Revue. Shortly thereafter Rivera would release a couple of albums of her own for Warner Bros., this track being the lead off of her second LP of the same name.

Produced by Jimmy Wisner, who had a hit of his own in 1961 with "Asia Minor," a rock and roll adaptation of Grieg's "Piano Concerto in A Minor" released under the alias Kokomo; as a producer and arranger, Wisner go on to would work on records by the likes of Nina Simone, Miriam Makeba, Tamiko Jones, Herbie Mann and Carly Simon among others..

A clever play on her name mixed by the prolific Jimmy Simpson, the extended version on the A-side makes an indelible first impression. Opening with a heavy, bumping beat and an infectious bassline, the soft whispery vocals highlighting the minimal and memorable (albeit in that charmingly trite, infectious way) chorus, along with Rivera's delicate, soaring violin at the top of the mix end up making this one swirling, sexy slice of disco. Although her "Scarlet Fever" LP has since been reissued on CD, this promo only 12'' mix wasn't included on the reissue and hasn't (as far as I know) made it to CD/digital..

Although with disco tracks, it's usually 'the longer, the better,' the shorter version on the B-side is also worth a listen. Jimmy Simpson isn't credited on that mix, but the vocals at the top of the track, along with the extended string crescendos end up making the most of the nearly three and a half minute edit on the flipside.

In a 2003 interview with the Bob Dylan fanzine Freewheelin', when asked about 'doing disco,' Rivera had distanced herself from this track, without actually mentioning it by name, saying in no uncertain terms that she hates the song and was pushed into doing it:

Q: You have done Disco music?
A: No, on my very first record my producer pushed me into doing a song like that and I hate the song. I don’t like the record now! He took advantage of me and I have learned from that. I now know who that artist is!

Rivera's feelings notwithstanding, from a disco point of view, I think "Scarlet Fever" holds up pretty well. In retrospect, "Scarlet Fever" can probably be categorized alongside disco efforts of noted instrumentalists like Herbie Mann and Candido. Although a one-off as opposed to the full-length disco efforts of Candido and Mann, this track, at least in my estimation, did a good job of incorporating her string stylings into a nice ephemeral piece of disco fever..

PREVIOUS RELATED ENTRIES:
DISCO DELIVERY #52: STAINLESS STEAL - CAN-CAN (1978, WARNER BROS.) (TUESDAY FEBRUARY 5, 2008)
DISCO DELIVERY #43: WARDELL PIPER (1979, MIDSONG INTERNATIONAL) (MONDAY AUGUST 27, 2007)

LINKS:
DISCOMUSIC.COM - SCARLET RIVERA - SCARLET FEVER 12''
WIKIPEDIA: SCARLET RIVERA
WIKIPEDIA: JIMMY WISNER
DISCOGS: JIMMY WISNER
ALL MUSIC GUIDE: SCARLET RIVERA - SCARLET FEVER LP (REVIEW)
DISCOGS: JIMMY SIMPSON
FREEWHEELIN' (TAKE 13): INTERVIEW WITH SCARLET RIVERA (BY MASATO KIRO)

CATEGORIES: MINI DELIVERIES

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)

LINKS:
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

Search this blog