Friday, May 28, 2021

Vintage Articles:
Sean Lawrence's Discaire Column -
Kitchen Disco // Christopher Street - June 1979

Picking up where I left off a while back with some more transcriptions of Sean Lawrence’s short-lived Discaire columns in Christopher Street. The title of this second installment still feels appropriate, even 40 years later. Kitchen Disco - "the way one moves between the sofa and the dishwasher" has basically been the name of the game since the beginning of this pandemic.

Lawrence here has good words for Barry White’s The Message is Love, The Mighty Clouds of Joy and Linda Clifford; pans for Ashford & Simpson, Parlet, and especially the late Patrick Juvet’s Lady Night.

I’m not quite sharing the enthusiasm he has for Roberta Kelly’s gospel-disco album Feelin’ The Spirit (though “To My Father’s Houseis a standout on that one) and unlike Lawrence, I quite enjoyed Parlet’s Invasion of the Booty Snatchers (it’s lead track “Ridin’ High” is still a jam).

That being said, just like his earlier column, I'm enjoying the general position he writes from - in “the space between inspiration and camp,” as he so astutely puts it. His observation about disco and its relationship to nostalgia in the fifth paragraph is also spot on, in my view.

For now, enjoy this little time capsule..


Discaire: Kitchen Disco

by Sean Lawrence

Barry White makes me feel sorry for the emotionally poverty-stricken of the world. What can someone who has a hard time squeezing just a little feeling out in life do in the face of a man like this—a man whose songs, musically and lyrically, are as understated as the flowers at a Mafia funeral? Barry White doesn’t just sit down at a piano—he arrives at it in a limousine, articulate as an anniversary card, uvula climaxing, hands and heart a-pounding. The news is that his new album on CBS’s Unlimited Gold label (JZ 35763) is surprisingly likeable.

   The Message Is Love (was it ever anything else?) is full of the romanticism of the overbearing. The album’s most successful songs (that is, most likely to touch the feelings of us mere mortals) are the ones in which White is vocally somewhat laid back. For those who see White as instant camp there are Roy Lichtenstein-type moments of self-dramatization and pop sentimentality. A couple of the melodies sound downright experimental for the normally predictable BW, and a couple are danceable even if they don’t qualify as heavy disco.

   Another occasionally danceable album in the gray area of off-disco is Changing Times (Epic JE 35971) by Mighty Clouds of Joy. Ostensibly commercial gospel music, Changing Times is a stirring album of songs sung to God and his/her reps on earth that can be danced to and enjoyed by atheists everywhere. I suspect that nowadays most people listen to gospel songs and think about their lovers (conversely, many of us listen to Barry Manilow singing about lovers and think of God). Changing Times is sometimes-perfect apartment/kitchen disco (one doesn’t really dance at home; the way one moves between the sofa and the dishwasher while listening to albums like Changing Times never works at overheated discos like Studio 54). The pared, unsynthesized gospel ruggedness and ripe voices working up a sweat on this album will be a pleasure to anyone used to disco superproduction. Like Barry White’s album, Changing Times inhabits the space between inspiration and camp where so many of us dance and think these days.

   It’s hard to say what space Patrick Juvet occupies (he sang last summer’s popular “I Love America”). I think Juvet’s producers want us to know he’s French, the way Claudine Longet’s producers wanted us to know she was French. In fact, Juvet even sounds a little like Longet. And Tiny Tim. I must admit, I’m somewhat prejudiced against Juvet. I once caught him on the Merv Griffin show and would easily deem him to be one of the more obnoxious talk-show presences of late. His new album, Lady Night (Casablanca NBLP 7148) is worse, a truly contemptuous (if not cretinous) work of non-art. Produced by Jacques Morali with a monotonous metronome, Lady Night is one of the most tiresome and grating albums you may be forced to listen to at the discos this summer. Even the one song transparently directed at “our” scene (“The ‘Gay Paris’”) is a boring co-optation.

Had Linda Clifford’s new two-record set, Let Me Be Your Woman (RSO RS-2-3902) been a one-record set including only “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and “It’s One of Those Songs,” each of which fills a side, the album would still have been a triumph. As head pompon girl in the hyper produced cheerleader arrangement of “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” Clifford seems almost as excited by life, love and show business as Barry White. Purists may say that discoizing this song is nothing short of sacrilege (in some ways disco treats the past with the same respect Punk Rock does), but I think it points out the schizzy nature of most disco rehashes—that is, the dancer divides his pleasure in two: the part he or she dances to at 120 thumps a minute and the evocation of the past the song reminds the dancer of. Disco is up to its neck in nostalgia; those who say that disco is mindless are simply out of touch with what disco is mindful of.

   And speaking of mindlessness and the past … recent disappointments include Ashford and Simpson’s “Flashback” single (Warner Bros. PRO-A-803), which at this moment is either in the hands of discaires or (as I suspect) in their wastebaskets. Ashford and Simpson have spent enough time in discos to know the beat better and the importance of innovation. “Flashback” is a bore. Equally disappointing is Parlet’s Invasion of the Booty Snatchers (Casablanca NBLP 7146), which sounds downright ugly.

On the brighter side, I am pleased to see the renewed interest in Roberta Kelly’s Gettin’ the Spirit (Casablanca NBLP 7089), which was released last year and somehow got buried commercially. “Oh Happy Day” was one of the five most nutritional songs to dance to at the Pines last August. Like some of the work of Donna Summer, Loleatta Holloway, and Grace Jones, Gettin’ the Spirit is a disco classic and deserves a second chance ■


vintage articles: sean lawrence’s discaire column: supply without demand // christopher street - may 1979 (sunday february 23, 2014)

wikipedia: barry white - the message is love (album)
discogs: barry white - the message is love lp
discogs: the mighty clouds of joy - changing times lp
discogs: patrick juvet - lady night lp
wikipedia: linda clifford - let me be your woman (album)
discogs: linda clifford - let me be your woman lp
discogs: ashford & simpson - flashback (promo 12” single)
wikipedia: parlet - invasion of the booty snatchers (album)
discogs: parlet - invasion of the booty snatchers lp


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