Saturday, October 27, 2007

Disco Delivery #46:
Guy Lafleur - Lafleur! (1979, Unison Sports)

Lafleur! - Face Off (Song)
Lafleur! - Skating
Lafleur! - Checking
Lafleur! - Power Play (Song)
Lafleur! - Power Play (12'' Version)
Lafleur! - Shooting
Lafleur! - Scoring

Lafleur! - Vas-y (Chanson) (Face Off)
Lafleur! - Savoir Patiner (Skating)
Lafleur! - Mettre en Echec (Checking)
Lafleur! - Y'a Rien Pour M'arreter (Chanson) (Power Play)
Lafleur! - Lancer (Shooting)
Lafleur! - Marquer Un But (Scoring)

Edited & Re-uploaded 03/03/10

I was originally thinking of putting up a more substantial disco record for this post, but given that we're in the beginning of Hockey season up here, I figure now would be a good time to put up one of the ultimate, if not the ultimate Can-Con disco novelty record. First of all though, I have to thank Disco Delivery reader Luke Barker for kindly sending me some files from this album nearly a year ago now. I couldn't get enough of them then and I just had to track the real thing down.. I'm finally getting down to doing something on it, so special thanks to Luke for getting me acquainted with this!

At the risk of having my Canadian citizenship revoked, I have to admit that I rarely, if ever follow hockey. In fact, for me, 'Hockey Night In Canada' might as well be Don Cherry bellowing in Swahili, for all I care.. Granted, the excitement that sweeps much of the country when a Canadian team ends up in the final stretch of the playoffs or in an Olympic gold medal game can be pretty infectious, even for me. Being lousy at hockey (and at most sports generally, for that matter), I've never actually sustained any interest in following it with any degree of seriousness.

With that said, a little primer for those who (like me) may not follow.. Most famous for his stint with the Montreal Canadiens from 1971-1984, during that time, particularly in the 70's, Guy Lafleur was undoubtedly one of the NHL's brightest stars.. With that status came the requisite endorsement deals and in his case, a taste for the high life. During his time in Montreal, Lafleur eventually became quite taken with Montreal's nightlife, being something of a regular at many Montreal discos, even reportedly known at one time as the "King of Crescent Street" in certain circles (at least according to Mark LePage's essay in "Remembering Guy Lafleur"). A hockey superstar in a city that quite famously loved both it's hockey and it's disco (much like the man himself, apparently), it's perhaps not surprising that this sort of project came along when and where it did..

A forgotten novelty for the most part, the legend of the "Guy Lafleur Disco Album" has had something of a resurgence lately, with the CBC dredging up some great old footage of the album's release party at Regine's (Regine Zylberberg's Montreal franchise?) discotheque ("reportedly the pinnacle of local disco society" as the reporter, Melvin McLeod quipped) out of it's archives.

RetroBites: Disco Guy Lafleur
Uploaded by CBCtv

It's rather hilarious looking at the footage itself, since one can't help but notice two things: the cameraman scoping out the ladies and the reporter's apparent scorn for the whole thing in his voice-over: "Guy Lafleur, the Baryshnikov of the hockey rink, doing... a disco album.." The tone of "disco album" pretty much says it all.. Although the clip shows people getting down on it at a lavish disco, judging from the clips' tone and from what I've had people tell me, there likely weren't too many clubs playing selections off of this record - the album ending up, it seems, just as much of a joke and a curiosity then as it is now.

Being that it was the late '70s and "going disco" was the thing to do (although perhaps less so, by the end of '79), the Montreal disco indie, Unison Records, which had been behind the original Canadian release of a couple of notable Gino Soccio projects among others - namely Witch Queen and Gotham Flasher, decided to gamble $100,000 on this little gimmick, apparently expecting to sell a copy for every dollar they sank into it.

Although there is no year of release on the record, judging from the CBC news clip, the record was apparently recorded in just five days and released at the end of 1979, just in time to capitalize on the Christmas market. Combining disco, a hockey superstar, the spendthrift Christmas market and having been recorded in both English (UNE-2000) and French (UN-7907) editions (the English being the rarer of the two, in my experience), it seemed a sure bet. Despite that, I'm not even sure if Unison made any money off of this, since, at least for me, copies haven't exactly been that easy to find. In fact, I wonder whatever became of the Unison label since this album's release, anyway..

Granted, as absurd as the concept may seem, the results are actually not quite as unwieldly and disastrous as one might expect, in fact the album's actually quite the hoot, if I do say so myself... Contrary to what some seem to have thought or expected at first glance, the record is actually not Lafleur's attempt at singing; in fact he, quite wisely, doesn't sing a note on here. Instead, the album is something of a discofied spin on the old instructional LP. Lavishly packaged in a gatefold sleeve, complete with instructional booklet and fold-out poster of a shirtless Lafleur, much of the album consists of Guy's own personal hockey tips set to a disco beat with Lafleur speaking over the bass-thumping grooves, backed with a chorus of cooing, catchy female vocalists, adding encouragement and emphasis on Lafleur's key points. Just to add broader disco appeal, the album was padded with a couple of hockey-themed disco songs on the beginning of each side. Rest assured, most, or at least part of the background chorus of notable Montreal session singers, among them Laurie Niedzielski (AKA Laurie Zimmerman) and Heather Gauthier (both also of the disco group Toulouse) along with Ranee Lee and Gina Watson (later of Watson Beasley) take the vocals on those two tracks, with Lafleur nowhere to be heard...

As far as the production goes, the album itself was produced by a duo of Can-Con notables: Jack Lenz, and Peter Alves. While Lenz wasn't exactly a well-known disco producer, Lenz was and remains a highly profilic composer for film and television, with his compositions having appeared on a number of productions (both Canadian and otherwise), like the 1980's cartoon "The Raccoons" (one of childhood favourites), and more recently Mel Gibson's controversial "Passion of The Christ" and the CBC series Little Mosque On The Prairie among many others. Jack Lenz' own website has a partial, though pretty comprehensive list of his credits (which not surprisingly, exclude this album).

Alves, on the other hand, was much more prolific, at least, as far as the disco scene was concerned. Presumably a major player behind the Unison label, Alves seems to have prominent credits on practically all of the Unison releases I've come across so far (namely Witch Queen, Soirée and Gotham Flasher), two of them with Alves given equal production credit alongside Gino Soccio. Aside from the Unison releases, Alves had produced records for the likes of Toulouse, the late Boule Noire (AKA Georges Thurston), and for Watson Beasley (best known in the US for their club hit "Breakaway"). On a related note, with Gina Watson on the vocal chorus, interestingly enough, the other half of Watson Beasley, drummer Albert Beasley also appears on this record..

In addition to the primary producers, perhaps the most notable credited name on here is Gino Soccio himself, who along with France Smith is also credited as an associate producer on this record. Not sure if he was actually involved with the studio work, since his credit seems somewhat secondary (as if more of a production consultant as opposed to an actual producer), yet one can't help but hear traces of his own signature sound on here, namely in those horn arrangements, synth parts and even the vocals (although that may be because two of the vocalists, Niedzielski and Gauthier, also appear on many of Soccio's own records).

As far as the tracks go, truth be told, I actually find the two 'songs' off the album, "Face Off" at the beginning of Side 1 and "Power Play" at the beginning of Side 2 to be my own favourites. The fact that production-wise they're more conventional disco tracks, undoubtedly helps. With the vocalists singing an arresting chorus, taking hockey metaphors into the realm of dancefloor cruising, particularly on "Power Play": "...if it ever gets down to it, baby you know, I'll get my way with my power play..," both tracks make for instant guilty pleasures. Perhaps they would have been better remembered disco tracks on their own, had they been associated differently.. "Power Play" even got a 12'' release - extended to around 8 minutes and mixed by Alves and engineer Gabriel Boucher (both of whom also mixed the entire album).

Out of the instructional tracks, the second track, "Skating" with it's hefty bass, piano and synth intro, manages to get off on a pretty tight groove. With catchy piano lines and horn fill-ins augmenting "Uncle Guy's" charming, fatherly Quebecois accent along with the backup vocalists' encouraging emphasis: "stand straight!" "turn around!," it's perhaps the ultimate guilty pleasure on an album already full of them. I'm not sure if any kids actually genuinely used this thing to get hockey tips, but if I was a kid trying to get hockey lessons, I'd probably be too busy trying to sneak in a few dance moves to care about "Uncle Guy's" little skating lesson...

The track following this one, at the end of Side One, "Checking" actually isn't bad either. I confess to laughing a little to myself when "Uncle Guy" gets to my favourite line: "never put a stick where a body will go.. 'de stick was made to handle the puck, 'de body is built for CHECKING!" Again, I don't know why, but somehow his emphasis on 'checking' never fails to give me a cheap laugh..

Speaking of cheap laughs, the last track on the album, "Scoring," is probably the best known track from the album these days, having made the rounds on the 'net for quite some time now.. Starting from the title and the references to 'shooting it high' and 'curved sticks', etc.. made for some hilarious, if not, completely unintentional double-entendres, judging from one of the blog entries out there..

Although this didn't exactly launch "disco sports" into the stratusphere like the CBC news report had predicted/feared, the likes of Jane Fonda and Jayne Kennedy would later take a variation of this instruction-meets-disco concept and do fairly well for themselves with it, not that it makes either any less cheesy or ill-conceived either, for that matter. While aerobics might have been more conducive to this concept than hockey was, perhaps the producers weren't completely off on cocaine and disco fever when they dreamt this thing up.

Inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1988, officially retiring from the game in 1991, these days Lafleur himself has apparently settled into the restaurant business with his own resturant/bar Mikes Signature Guy Lafleur in the town of Berthierville, Quebec. More publicly however, Lafleur has also become a spokesman in recent years for battery recycling and perhaps more infamously for the likes of Hairfax and Viagra (despite apparently not needing the latter), which have not surprisingly rendered him the butt of a few jokes (I suppose the disco album was only the beginning).. Although his legacy remains largely intact, unfortunately, more recently, Lafleur's name has been in the press, not so much for his sports legacy or his endorsements, but for the troubling circumstances surrounding his 23 year-old son, which early last year, would also land Lafleur himself in hot water.

Reading what I've just written though, I can't believe that I'm about to praise something this desperate and ill-concieved, but have to admit that overall, being something of a disco die-hard (if that wasn`t obvious already), I actually found this record to be much more enjoyable than it probably could or should have been. True, it was easy ammunition for the 'disco sucks' crusade and was as crass as crass disco cash-ins representing, ultimately, the nadir of the disco genre - the 'bandwagon effect' that gave rise to absurdities like the "Ethel Merman Disco Album," for example.. Taking it out of it's late 70's commercial context for a minute, the album is actually a fun listen, charming, even; as well-produced musically as such a thing could be and not to mention good for a few cheap laughs as well.. Although perhaps something of a miscalculation (too bad there was never an instrumental version of the album to go with the English and French editions), one has to give props to Guy Lafleur for not taking himself too seriously and providing the unsuspecting masses with a one of a kind piece of kitschy nostalgia in the process..

All things considered, the "Guy Lafleur Disco Album" at the very least is not only an intriguing piece of Canadiana but perhaps one of the ultimate guilty pleasures in the Can-Con constellation. If Gary Genosko's piece on this album, "Hockey And Disco" is any indication, I suppose I'm not the only one to plead.. Anyone up for a reissue?





Paul Durango said...

Hi there,
Very nice blog you have ; terrific shares and really useful comments and notes.
Don't hesitate to go more 'italo' with european early 80's tunes.. Would be great and i'm sure you have some ;)
Anyway, keep up the good uploads and cheers from France!

Tommy said...

Thanks Paul!

I do have some Italo, I do wish I had more though.. Thanks again for the comment! :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for these files! I had been looking for these songs for a while...Can't believe anyone thought hockey and disco would be a good match!

Love your blog!

BoogieMan said...

I don't believe this! My broadband isn't working so, I'm on dial-up (50.6 Kbs) temporarily. It started early Friday morning. Maybe it's due to this tropical storm moving through the area. In any case, I still can't download this album yet. Anyway, I had heard rumors of the existence of such an album. I almost didn't believe it till you posted it here. Now, if I could only download the darn thing. LOL:D Oh well, guess I'll be leaving another post here, hopefully soon.

Tommy said...

Hey Charles! No problem.. Yeah, I too am wondering exactly whose idea this was.. It'd be interesting to hear what they might have to say about it now, if anyone will even admit to it, that is.. Anyway, thanks for the comment! :)

Hey DungeonDJ, that's a total bummer.. Yeah, a 'disco hockey; album sound unbelieveable when you hear about it, but believe it! lol.. Anyway, hope you can listen soon :)

BoogieMan said...

Sorry for the late review. With the added stress of the upcoming holidays, things have been heightened around here. Anyway, I love this album. I can't believe how surprised I was after a first listen. You'd think an album with such a novel appearance/concept would be, well, a novelty. This thing was actually, tastefully done. It sounds like they actually took some time to put this together. BTW, I just love French vocals in Disco music. I love the use of a Hockey game as a metaphor for a relationship. In the songs, "Face Off" and "Power Play", it sounds as if the singer is using the concept to get through to her Hockey crazed partner in the only language he probably understands. I was never a big Hockey fan but, I work with some pretty, fanatical, fans who seem their happiest during Hockey season. Football (US/Canadian style) and Hockey seem to produce a lot of these type. The songs, "Skating", "Checking" and "Shooting", apart from the monologues, have surprisingly good instrumentals. For that matter, the entire album's composition is first rate. Apart from the songs with instructional vocals, this album can actually be played at Disco themed parties. Thanks for the intro Tommy.

Tommy said...

Hey Dungeon,

It's no problem at all, I understand how things can get busy around this time.. I'm glad you enjoy the album too! As far as fanatical hockey fans go, they're a dime a dozen around here, lol.. I live fairly close to one of the main drags here (which hockey fans affectionately call 'the red mile') which tends to get insane towards the end of hockey season (at least when the local team is doing well), when fans converge at the bars over there...

Anyway, thanks for the comment, Dungeon! :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for these files!! I've also been looking for them... I had the LP when I was a kid but I can't remember who has it right now. Some friend of mine borrowed it a long time ago and I can't remember who. Hearing the monotone voice of Guy saying "Échange des passes avec Steve et Pierre" over some disco: priceless :o)

Chris, Montréal

Anonymous said...

Guy Lafleur - Lafleur! album. ZShare links are not working. Counts down and click to download but it simply resets. Could you please re-upload? Thank you in advance.

Anonymous said...

Hey from Cowtown....

I first heard this album on CJSW about a year ago and was instantly hooked so I was thrilled when I saw I could download the tracks from your site.

Unfortunately, like the above comment, the ZShare links some to have crapped out.

If you could re-establish that'd be awesome - my wife needs this on your IPOD to take to the gym.

Anonymous said...

Error message says song not available because has not been downloaded for 60 days - can you PLEASE upload again. Much appreciated. Thanks in advance.

Anonymous said...

I'm also requesting a re-upload... pretty please!


Anonymous said...

Thank-you for such a great site, I own this album actually and have never found anyone else that heard of it. Any ideas on it's worth? It now sits proud in the collection of my hockey stuff. Cheers Kat

Anonymous said...

It has been exactly 30 years since I produced this album and it is astounding to me to read your extremely detailed and comprehensive notes on this project. I congratulate you on your extensive and accurate piece and am pleased to learn that there are some people out there who enjoy the music still today. Truth be told, some of the tracks off this album continue to result in royalty payments for both Jack Lenz and myself which means some folks out there are still playing the music. Thanks again for sharing a wonderful, if not warmly nostalgic bit of history with me.
Kindest regards,
Peter Alves

the saucer people said...

The late great thinker Edward de Bono had a concept called "Po" which he used as a grammatical symbol for linking two previously un-connected subjects as a way of generating creative thought patterns...The linking of disco "Po" hockey definately falls into this category!
Of course when this is taken out of the realm of creative thinking and appropriated by the mechanisms of the record industry it does not always equal success. I love the idea of the record company sinking $100000 of Canadian dollars (which today must be close to a million!) into the project on the simple premise of " is is popular...*flash* god, what about a disco hockey record!!" You have got to admire their sheer optimism and thirty years later we can still enjoy the fruits of their hair-brained another poster, I am a sucker for French disco vocals combined with a dead-pan male delivery and this record has it in spades, a truly wonderful post.

On a personal note, if I place this comment strategically, it will be appearing just below the post of one of the actual producers of the record, Peter Alves who in my humble opinion was one of the greatest unsung "disco" producers of the late seventies and sadly, usually gets over-shadowed by the equally great Gino Soccio in their collaborations as 'Witch Queen' and 'Gotham Flasher'. Witch Queen in particular is one of the best "disco-rock" cross-over albums and the stand-out track, the cover of Free's "Alright Now" still has the ability to cause dancefloor devestation today (especially the extended 12 Inch mix). So hello from the UK Peter and thanks for all the amazing records, including this one!

Anonymous said...

Alfred Beasley Here !
Had a great time playing drums on the record.

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