Saturday, January 14, 2006

Disco Delivery #2:
Norma Jean Wright - Norma Jean (1978, Bearsville)

Norma Jean Wright - Saturday
Norma Jean Wright - Sorcerer (12" Mix)
Norma Jean Wright - I Like Love

For the second full disco delivery installment (I guess I'd call the last one a mini-delivery), I thought I'd spotlight Norma Jean Wright's first and only album, produced by one of the most prolific production teams of the disco era. Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards were the duo behind Chic and their success needs no explanation. Their hits with Chic are pretty much disco staples, not to mention their productions for the likes of Sister Sledge and Diana Ross. This though was one of their first, in fact their very first outside production. Norma Jean was initially a backup singer who eventually met up with Bernard & Nile while they were recording the first Chic demos and ended up being their principal female lead on the first Chic album.

After the suceess of the group's first singles, they released this album on the unlikely Bearsville label, perhaps the last label one would expect to find a disco classic on, maybe one reason why the album didn't seem to do that well commercially (in addition to the fact that she was initially credited as just "Norma Jean" same as a previously well known country singer). Despite that, the first single "Saturday" was a club hit and a sure fire classic. It's easy to see why, it's one of those definitive songs of the disco era that captures the lifestyle and the scene in the music and lyrics; the joy and anticipation of going to the club and letting go of a week's stress and problems, but at the same time with a little hint of melancholy.. The other really notable track is "Sorcerer," which was a little unlike a lot of what Chic had done before or after. Love the spacey sound effects and that percolating percussion on this one, a bit of a departure from the usually more stripped-down Chic sound; I especially love the 12" version of this track with the extended bars of guitar and piano and the sound effects which just seem to have more impact. Also interesting is her cover of Sam Cooke's "Having A Party," perhaps the only time Chic ever produced a cover version. It's a pretty pleasant cover, albeit one of a song that's been done many times over, so that sort of takes away from the novelty, but it's still ace though.. One of my other favourite tracks on the album is the closer "I Like Love;" Nile Rodgers once cited this album as having some of their best guitar work and it's apparent on this song, especially at the beginning on those great rolling guitar licks of his..

As far as the rest of the album goes, there are a few ballads, the best of which are "I Believe In You" and "This Is The Love." Norma's voice is front and centre and really makes these tracks. There's something strong, yet smooth, and dare I say, chic about her vocals which I love. In any case, Chic were never really known for their ballads, as pleasant as they can be, they often crossed from pleasant into pedestrian more than once, though they did get much better on their later efforts.. The bonus tracks on the 2000 CD reissue add a lot to the album; aside from 12" versions of "Saturday," "Sorcerer" and "Having A Party," there are a couple of non-album tracks originally intended for a proposed second album, most notably "High Society," also produced by Bernard & Nile which was also released as a single (and one that I'll probably save for a later blog update) ;-)

Just to explain why this album is special to me, I remember when I got this on CD around five years ago.. I was really getting into Chic's material at the time and I'd been after a copy of the album (like many other Chic fans, I'm sure), so I was thrilled to find that this had been reissued on CD and it certainly didn't disappoint. I remember the thrill of getting this in the mail and playing it on my way to school, in fact this CD was in heavy rotation on my discman (remember those?) for several months.. It was part of the soundtrack to my first few months in High School so I'm often reminded of that time listening to these. Unfortunately now the CD reissue is deleted and can fetch a pretty hefty price on eBay these days. Like many parts of the Chic catalogue it's again out of print, so hopefully someone will come along and rectify that one of these days. In the meantime, enjoy..

Notes about the blog:
I'm starting to settle into this blogging thing now, so I think I'll set the date for the disco deliveries on either Friday or Saturday, and some posts spread out in the days in between, just to keep things fairly regular and on schedule. Also, if anyone has any problems with Rapidshare or Easy Share, then feel free to let me know... Thanks again to Joe.My.God for linking me on his blog, since getting the counter the number of hits I've gotten from his page have been astounding! *bows* Also great thanks to Mac Daddy @ Music From My Loft, fourfour and Chicago Sexbox for giving me links on their blogs as well. *bows in gratitude*




Anonymous said...

It's about time we got a disco blog going! Kudos for a visionary cpncept!

Great posts... love the music. Not really happy with the "rapid share" link thing, but hey, whatever you want to do!

I look forward to visiting often!


Tommy said...

Thanks for the feedback! :-)

I'll be trying out a different file storage service instead of Rapidshare for the next post..

Sexbox said...

I am going to have to track down this Norma jean Cd!

Tommy said...

Hope you can find it for a good price somewhere, it's getting harder to find now :( If I had known it would be out of print after a few years (and if I had more money) I woulda bought two (or more) copies..

Anonymous said...

hey great blog, excellent opinions and info/research - you seem to have similar interests to myself (chic and disco!), this is why the internet is great!

This NJ CD went for 120$ last time I looked - ridiculous! I am glad the Sheila one is about to come out again, as it was getting silly too.

Do you know there is a new chic album coming out, and this may mean some of the johnny mathis session coming out too. has a video of one of these tunes being recorded - register, it's free, and not annoying.

I love Prelude disco as well as Larry Levan and I suppose much disco not disco type of stuff as well. My favourite period is the stuff after 1979 when things are only really recently been documented and noticed, the shift from disco to house and other styles. found your Tantra entries very enlightening! Thanks, Luke

Tommy said...

Thanks Luke! :)

Looks like we do have similar interests! Chic is definitely one of my favourites, if not my all time favourite disco group. I'd definitely like to do more Chic entries sometime soon..

Love Larry Levan and Prelude disco as well.. Lots of classic and obscure disco from them. It helps that Unidisc has kept a great deal of Prelude's output in print too..

I can't believe the Norma Jean CD is out of print and already going for big bucks! If I had any idea at the time, I would have bought several copies lol... It doesn't seem like too long ago that it was reissued. I hope they revisit that CD sometime soon.

I do remember hearing about that new Chic album sometime back. Glad to know it's still on the table! I'll have to check out Nile's site again soon, it's been a while.. Last time I checked they had some pix of some recording sessions he just finished up at ABBA's former studio - Polar Music in Stockholm.. In any case I can't wait to hear Sheila and hopefully Johnny Mathis on CD!

Anyway, thanks again and take care! :)

LukeB said...

Hey Tommy,

I have decided to cash in (the shame!) and sell my Norma Jean chic CD! I am moving flat and so I am worried about my new rent hike and I was browsing Amazon and saw its value ahs increased further, lots of sellers in diferent countries have it at several hundred euros.

It's only a CD and I have the vinyls so no problem.

The auction is on ebay UK - my username is battez if you want to see how much it goes for.

LukeB said...

I got £54 GBP for mine. annoyingly a guy put his on at £78 after me and it sold for £100+ !!! oh well, thems the breaks. Amazing though for a CD released just 8 years ago!

Anthony Enderle said...

Hey Tommy... I recently discovered this myself and I LOVE IT!! Btw... it was remastered again and relreleased in 2011. You can probably download it in iTunes. friend me on facebook!

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