Sunday, November 12, 2006

Disco Delivery #28:
Montana - A Dance Fantasy Inspired by Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1978, Atlantic)

Montana - Warp Factor II
Montana - Love Star
Montana - V.M. IV
Montana - Fly Me To The Moon (In Other Words) (feat. Sister Sledge)
Montana - It's Peaceful Out There
Montana - A Dance Fantasy Inspired by Close Encounters of the Third Kind (full side one suite)
                   Individual Movements:
                  First Movement: Mexican Desert
                  Second Movement: The Toys Come To Life
                  Third Movement: Comin' Round The Mountain
                  Fourth Movement: India
                  Fifth Movement: Space Center
                  Sixth Movement: The Child Communicates/Kidnapping
                  Seventh Movement: The Conversion (Close Encounters of the Third Kind)
                  The Grand Finale: When You Wish Upon A Star (feat. Sister Sledge)

Updated and edited April 2013

Vincent Montana, Jr., as some of you may already know, was the driving force behind The Salsoul Orchestra, as well as one of the key musicians in M.F.S.B. and by extension a prominent figure in the world of Philly Soul.. Like some of the personnel (Baker-Harris-Young, for instance) involved with MFSB and Gamble & Huff's Philadelphia International, Montana would leave the fold at the turn of the disco era and would end up over at Salsoul.. The Salsoul Orchestra was originally Montana's concept, in a recent interview, Vince described the Orchestra as being the realization of his dream in creating "a large orchestra with Latino rhythm, lush strings, a funky bottom and as I like to call it 'kickin’ ass brass' ." The Orchestra would soon become the Salsoul label's flagship brand, if you will.. Unlike some other disco "orchestras" the Salsoul Orchestra was a genuine 37-member ensemble that even performed live (at home and abroad) on occasion. They were also something of a Salsoul "house band" if you will, backing up artists like Carol Williams, Loleatta Holloway and Charo on some of their biggest records for the label. The "Up The Yellow Brick Road" (1978, Salsoul) album was to be the last Salsoul Orchestra LP that Montana would be involved with. Apparently during that time, he would end up leaving the Salsoul fold over a continuing disagreement over royalty payments. Other producers would later take up the helm; Tom Moulton and Thor Baldursson would produce the "Street Sense" (1979, Salsoul) album; Bunny Sigler and Patrick Adams would each do albums for the Orchestra as well. Granted, while there were still some excellent Salsoul Orchestra records after Montana left (I'm thinking "212 North 12th" off "Street Sense," much of the "How High" LP, "Take Some Time Out For Love" to name a few), none of the producers who followed would quite match Montana's success or identification with the brand..

Like many prominent disco producers, Vince was consistently busy throughout the late '70s but 1978 in particular seemed like an especially busy year. For one thing there was the Salsoul Orchestra's "...Yellow Brick Road" LP, the issues with the Salsoul label, and on top of that his move to Atlantic where he would release three(!) albums in that one year; the "Goody Goody" album, and under the moniker 'Montana', the "I Love Music" LP and this album.. I'm not sure which of the three came first, but judging from this album and the Goody Goody LP, his Atlantic period would enable him to experiment and branch out a little further with his sound. The title track of this LP is perhaps the most obvious example. Partially inspired by the John Williams theme for the film of the same name; unlike some of the medleys he would do on on Salsoul, this was about as ambitious - musically and conceptually - as he had ever gotten up to this point, with a full-on side-long disco symphony in seven movements. Not sure what it was with Sci-Fi movies that inspired so many disco re-makes, but you can add Vince Montana to the illustrious list of disco producers (Boris Midney, Meco, Van McCoy etc..) who were. A departure from the "kick-ass brass" of the Salsoul Orchestra and the dramatic side-long epics of Costandinos, while just as ambitious, Montana's epic feels much more down-tempo and atmospheric, in comparison, which is probably why it's something that I'd personally rather listen to than dance to (or more appropriately, something I'd rather fantasize about dancing to). At some fifteen minutes long, it's perhaps not the most instant piece on the record, but the best part of the suite starts around the eight minute mark, when the tempo and the arrangements start to pick up, peaking with a sublime vocal rendition of "When You Wish Upon A Star".

Personally, I'd have to say that the best part of this album would have to be side two. In some ways, side two seemed like Vince picking up more directly where he had left off with the Salsoul Orchestra, albeit with a greater jazz influence this time around. The Star Trek inspired "Warp Factor II" is perhaps the most indicative of this. Anchored by a percolating bass; it's a slightly darker, spacious (in both feeling and concept) hypnotic groove that draws you in and keeps you hooked with Vince's trademark "heavy vibes". In one of my favourite Vince Montana moments on YouTube, and in what also has to be a rare set-up; Vince would perform this song live (following an interview) in a 1978 appearance on The Steel Pier Show where he improvises on the vibes with such mastery and grace, you can hardly believe he's backed with nothing else but the song's recorded track.

Vince Montana, Jr. "Warp Factor II" - The Steel Pier Show (1978)
Uploaded by MontanaPSW

Despite an extended mix of this being tucked on the B-side of the album's 12" single (with the 'Dance Fantasy' suite on the A-side), I'd imagine this was the track which got the most play, charting the single at a respectable #23 on the Billboard Disco charts in 1978.

Another favourite of mine would have to be the all too brief "Love Star," with its beautiful melody and orchestration riding atop some trademark swinging Philly guitars, taking you on at least three musical peaks in the span of its relatively modest two minutes and thirty seconds.. Towards the end the LP, the classy Salsoul Orchestra-style rendition of the old standard "Fly Me To The Moon," with vocals by a pre-"We Are Family" Sister Sledge (who are credited for all the vocals on the LP), is possibly one of the better renderings of this dusty old standard, which he also performed (sans the Sisters) on his 1978 Steel Pier Show appearance.

Vince Montana, Jr. "Fly Me To The Moon" - The Steel Pier Show (1978)
Uploaded by MontanaPSW

"It's Peaceful Out There" brings the album full-circle - a coda back to the orchestral space theme of side one. Essentially a re-titled cover of Italian composer Federico Monti Arduini's (AKA Arfemo) best known pieces, "Amore Grande Amore Libero" (later the title of a film, also scored by Arduini) under the alias Il Guardiano del Faro (The Lighthouse Keeper) in 1975, this would have to be one of Vince's lesser known, though perhaps one of his brightest moments as a producer and arranger. Montana's orchestral arrangements here take Arduini's moogy original to another level altogether, making it sound like the cinematic orchestral piece that it was always meant to be.

One other interesting tidbit about the record is that disco mix master Tom Moulton ended up being recruited to mix this album.. Interesting, since by all accounts, Vince and Tom didn't exactly (and still don't) get along.. Here's what Tom had to say in an interview with Claes Widlund of

"I wish I could understand [Vince], I just don't. I just try and try and try, but I just don't understand him, so... 'Cause he didn't tell you that his album 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind'.... he begs me to mix his album because Atlantic rejected it. He called me the day before Christmas and begged me. I said; 'Vince, I can't do this.' He said; 'You're a shit!' and then; 'Oh Tom, I'm sorry and bla bla bla bla bla...' I mean, I couldn't believe it - no one else could either... And I said; 'Vince, I'll do it on two conditions...' He said; 'What's that?' I said; 'You are not there and if you say one word to me other then Hello or Goodbye - I'm leaving!' And he did, and no one would believe it. Well I ended up mixing it, then they accepted it...."

If anyone needs further proof of their continued animosity, look no further than the comments section of Vince's interview with, where they both have it out.. While it's unfortunate that there's little love between these two giants of disco and Philly soul, a record with the talents of both Vince Montana and Tom Moulton can't be a bad one...

Despite the winding down of the disco era, Vince would continue making records. In the '80s he would put out, among many other things, the seminal "Heavy Vibes" on his own Philly Sound Works label. Vince and Philly Sound Works are still going strong today. Recently, some of his latest releases on PSW have received glowing reviews, most notably "That's What Love Does" feat. William "Smoke" Howard of The Ebonys which was reportedly a favourite among many DJ's in 2005.. Despite being set back by medical problems that same year, he's apparently still planning an album tentatively titled "The Revival Project" and more recently, released (promo-only so far) a new track called "You're My Everything" featuring his old Salsoul compatriots, Double Exposure. That said, I doubt there are too many guys like Vince; pushing 80, yet who can still command a contemporary audience with their music, all while staying true to their roots.... Here's to you, Vince!




Anonymous said...

Envisioning a 37 member disco orchestra makes me weep!

Tommy said...

I take it that's a good thing ;)

Jan said...

Hi there,

Thanks for the links and your wonderful posts.

Would it be possible to change the link to Salsoul to ?

Thanks and keep up the good work


Tommy said...

Thanks for the comments Jan!

Forgot that I'd put a link to the old page on that one, just corrected it..

I have to say that Jahsonic has been one of those invaluable resources to me when it comes to exploring disco and dance music.. so Thanks! :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this delivery. I guess, Montana was influenced by Meco's "Encounters of Every Kind".

Tommy said...

You're welcome, anon :)

I have to check out that Meco album sometime..

Anonymous said...

A snippet of one track from the "A Dance Fantasy . . . " LP, called "V.M. 4", was used by Washington, D.C. station WTTG (Ch. 5) around 1980 for their opening of "The Ten O'Clock News."

Tommy said...

Thanks for that info anon.. One of my favourite tracks on the album.

Anonymous said...

man i am wayy too late on checkin out this there any chance of a reup on this.. or even anything that has been down for a while?....either way thank you so much for all the amzing shits you are hookin us up with....


jmgarcia said...

Please! I'd kill for that mp3... Nahhh, but I would be most grateful if ther's a reup...

Anonymous said...

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