Sunday, June 28, 2009

Together we can be free..


Covered these guys on here a couple of years ago, and since then they just seem to have been getting better and better. Since setting up their new label - Disco Demolition Records in the last year or so, they've put out some amazing singles in that time. Last year, there was their great collabo with Kathy Diamond - "Fire" and an equally awesome, faithful cover of Jimmy Ross' Italo classic "First True Love Affair" for the Buffet Libre cover project, which I personally consider a step above the original, even. However, I have to say that their latest, "Follow Me" (not an Amanda Lear cover), is likely their best yet..



Out of everything they've done so far, I don't think anything else summarizes their sound, that melding of sleek, Chic-influenced guitar funk, with spacey, hyper-infectious electronics more perfectly than this. There's something about their sound, and their sound on this single, particularly that manages to be effortlessly current and forward-looking, yet at the same time genuinely authentic in it's tribute to the past and it's quest for the purest musical high. Plus, the single's artwork is killer too and makes for a great T-Shirt (had to get one!), which definitely doesn't hurt either.

With remixes from DFA's Juan MacLean, Bottin and The Outrunners, the 12'' makes for an impressive package, as well.. Out of the three remixes, I'd have to put The Outrunners' mix as my personal favourite, having replaced the bounce of the original with spacious arpeggiated Italo style synths and these ambient minor chord progressions, they manage to turn an already awesome track into a solid, neo-Italo classic. You can hear their remix on their Myspace page, along with some of their other stuff, like the Patrick Cowley-esque "These Girls Are Dressed To Kill," which, I have to say, is damn near genius..

After finding out about these guys a couple of years ago, it's to nice to still see them releasing great stuff and getting more and more attention lately. Hopefully just the beginning.

"Follow Me" is out now on 12'' and on iTunes.

PURCHASE:

FOLLOW ME (12'' SINGLE)
DUSTY GROOVE | TURNTABLE LAB | JUNO

FOLLOW ME (DIGITAL SINGLE)
iTUNES US | iTUNES UK

PREVIOUS RELATED ENTRIES:
CODEBREAKER: ARE YOU READY 2 LOVE? (SATURDAY APRIL 21, 2007)

LINKS:
MYSPACE: CODEBREAKER
MYSPACE: DISCO DEMOLITION RECORDS
DISCO DEMOLITION RECORDS (BLOG)
TWITTER: DISCO DEMOLITION RECORDS
FACEBOOK: CODEBREAKER (FAN GROUP)
DISCOGS: CODEBREAKER - FOLLOW ME 12''
ANTHEM MAGAZINE: Q&A WITH DISCO DEMOLITION RECORDS, CODEBREAKER (TEXT: NIK MERCER) (OCTOBER 3, 2008)
MYSPACE: THE OUTRUNNERS
MYSPACE: THE JUAN MACLEAN
MYSPACE: BOTTIN

CATEGORIES: NUDISCO

Friday, June 26, 2009

R.I.P. Michael Jackson


It's still hard to believe. I was actually planning on posting something else today, but after hearing the news today, almost everything else had been put aside for the moment. I was at work, listening to the news on the radio, when I'd heard someone mention how for many of this generation, this is like Elvis or John Lennon dying. One of those moments where people, years from now, will remember where they were, what they were doing and what they did when they heard the news.. In the last several hours, seeing the sudden, massive outpouring of emotion, easily beyond anything that I've ever witnessed, has been surreal, to say the least. Hearing and seeing everyone who is anyone releasing statements, calling into Larry King Live with their tributes; I suppose the closest comparison I have in my lifetime was perhaps the passing of Princess Diana, but with the speed and scale of media coverage today, even that is no comparison. Given how almost everything he's ever done seems to have been on such a massive scale, it seems fitting that the public outpouring upon his passing would match.

I remember being 7/8 years old, just before sliding into what ended up becoming over a decade of damage to his reputation, watching him on television, seeing videos like "Bad," with the infamous crotch grab, "Smooth Criminal," "Remember The Time," with him spinning into a cloud of dust, the morphing faces in "Black Or White," there was nothing like seeing a Michael Jackson video at the time. As a kid, like many others, I was transfixed. I had never seen anyone who could dance and sing or create a production quite like he had done. Looking back, I have to admit that as I got older, I'd end up seeing some of those same moments in a less positive light; overdone and self-indulgent as opposed to truly inspiring, the same way one would half-cringe at the things which once entertained oneself as a child. Undenably too, the backlash that ended up surrounding him for the better part of the last decade certainly played it's part as well.. That being said, while one could still call a lot of those moments over-the-top, self-indulgent; at the same time, there's absolutely no denying the sheer awe that they had inspired at the time, and still do, and the level of excellence that he continuously reached for and more often than not actually achieved in his work.

In the coming years, I'd become fascinated by the spectacle as much as the music, if not more so. The surrounding circus; a massive, bizarre, fascinating phenomenon in its own right, not to mention the side show of his family: the camp (and troubled in its own way) spectacle of LaToya, the admirable success of Janet, Jermaine's once notorious jealousy, the shared spuses, their Father's abusive tendencies and extramarital child among other things. Scouring libraries and used book stores and indulging in every scrap of every trashy Jackson tell-all that I could find was practically a pasttime at one point. I guess it all stemmed from a fascination, a curiosity about how the Jackson family and Michael himself dealt with an immense success that for all the millions sold, hearts touched, seemed as much a badge of glory as it was an albatross around his neck, not to mention an impossible shadow for his family. For someone who seemed to be constantly trying to top himself, even until the end, it was starting to look like an excercise in destruction and sheer futility. It was the key to his greatness, perhaps, yet his tragic flaw, at the same time. With that kind of pressure from within, perhaps moreso than from without; at some point one had to realize how unsustainable it all was. The statement from his former publicist seems to reveal as much.

If there's one thing about the ongoing tributes lately, they seem to show how ultimately durable his legacy is. Rich at Four Four, as always, nails it on this point. Not too long ago, I remember hearing writer Steve Knopper on the radio talking about how Michael Jackson, in the early 80's, had practically saved a music industry still reeling from the disco backlash. It's easy to forget, especially before today, in a time when people waited and expected his next spectacular unraveling, the same way they once waited for his next record or video. I think it's safe to say, even though his final concerts will now no longer be possible, that the comeback that was supposed to follow has gone off, perhaps not as planned, but even beyond what probably could have been.

I suspect that like many celebrity deaths, the tinted tributes will eventually give way to all manner of potentially myth shattering, personally damaging revelations, even though I can't think of anyone whose had more myths shattered, and shattered again in life than Michael Jackson, in his last years. For the time being however, it has actually been nice to not just remember but live again, even in a slightly twisted, confused cloud of mixed emotions, a time when Michael Jackson was the penultimate, untouchable entertainer he once was, when calling him the 'King of Pop' was once again done in tribute, instead of in parody. Though it may have been a largely self-proclaimed title, no one could say that it wasn't entirely fitting as well. RIP.

Some videos from YouTube, capturing Michael in the disco era. In ways that I'm sure many would prefer to remember him:





Updates:

On Friday (while at work), I had caught As It Happens on CBC Radio One where they talked to Deepak Chopra, dancer/choreographer & musician Jeffrey Daniel of Shalamar, who taught Michael the Moonwalk, as well as Motown songwriter/producer Deke Richards a member of "The Corporation," the team which wrote and produced the Jackson Five's earliest hits. Listen below:



...and the saga continues (or is just beginning). The Nanny speaks.

PREVIOUS RELATED ENTRIES:
DISCO DELIVERY #54: WILLIE HUTCH - MIDNIGHT DANCER (1979, WHITFIELD/WARNER BROS.) (FRIDAY APRIL 11, 2008)
STARLIGHT DISCO (THURSDAY MARCH 13, 2008)
DISCO DELIVERY #33: JAMES BROWN - THE ORIGINAL DISCO MAN (1979, POLYDOR) (SATURDAY JANUARY 27, 2007)
UPCOMING REISSUES & RELEASES (APRIL 25 - MAY 30) (FRIDAY APRIL 21, 2006)

LINKS:
TIMES OF LONDON: WHAT NANNY WHO WORKED FOR MICHAEL JACKSON SAW (BY DAPHNE BARAK) (JUNE 28, 2009)
NEW YORK TIMES: AFTER MICHAEL JACKSON, FAME MAY NEVER BE THE SAME (BY DAVID SEGAL) (JUNE 27, 2009)
CBC NEWS: JACKSON FANS MOURN AROUND THE WORLD (FRIDAY JUNE 26, 2009)
LA TIMES OBITUARY: MICHAEL JACKSON'S LIFE INFUSED WITH FANTASY AND TRAGEDY (BY GEOFF BOUCHER & ELAINE WOO) (JUNE 26, 2009)
MYSPACE: LISA MARIE PRESLEY (BLOG) - HE KNEW (FRIDAY JUNE 26, 2009)
HUFFINGTON POST: MICHAEL JACKSON (INDEX)
TMZ: MICHAEL JACKSON (CATEGORY INDEX)
THE GUARDIAN: MICHAEL JACKSON (INDEX)

CATEGORIES: IN MEMORIAM..

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

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