Wednesday, July 05, 2023

Disco Delivery Mix #12: Wheels Begin to Roll

Photo: Roller Boogie Boy by Stuart Reif, After Dark Magazine, year unknown.

On a bit of a roll with these at the moment, so deciding to just post this instead of holding it back for another time.

This one is more straight-ahead disco than the last mix I posted. Visited family recently which also gave me an opportunity to take more records back from storage, so a few of those appear here. At least one selection has been the subject of a past blog post, however all of them are songs that I've been enjoying re-discovering and grooving to for the last few weeks.

That being said, I hope that you, dear listener, enjoy as well!

Disco Delivery #12: Wheels Begin To Roll (Download)

Tracklist and track notes below.


Must - Sado Maso Disco (Instrumental)
Fern Kinney - Love Me Tonight
Macho - Roll
Mystery - Hold On To This Moment (Instrumental)
Love Robot - Slaves of Pleasure
Blo - Back In Time
Beverly Johnson - Don’t Lose The Feeling (12” Version)
Chuck Cissel - Cisselin Hot
Tony Rallo & The Midnite Band - Burnin’ Alive
Plaza - Let’s Do It
Champs Boys Orchestra - Tubular Bells
Gino Soccio - Rhythm Of The World

All the records used in this mix

Track Notes:

Must - Sado Maso Disco (Instrumental): A single I had retrieved from storage recently, one that I had bought some years back based on the cover and on the sheer notion of a song called Sado Maso Disco. Upon listening to it again, I found that the instrumental version on the B-side was much more to my liking. While the whips, chains and moans on the A-side are good for a little sado maso kitsch, the instrumental track is strong enough on its own and could sit alongside anything Cerrone was doing at the time. I suppose that's just as well, since the writers behind this - Célestin Ganou, Michel Gouty and Pierre Naçabal were involved in a number of French disco and pop productions in the 1970s and early 80s.

Fern Kinney - Love Me Tonight: From Fern Kinney's second album, Fern from 1981, this is perhaps my favourite track on the album. Produced by the same team behind her hit cover of "Groove Me" - Carson Whitsett, Wolf Stephenson and Tommy Couch, her coquettish high falsetto and the light and lovely synths make a perfect combination. This track was originally recorded by Malaco labelmates, Sho Nuff as "Tonite," the title track of their second LP from 1980. Fern Kinney's version here doesn't deviate too far from the Sho Nuff original, just with a little extra charm and finesse.

Macho - Roll: Taken from the second Macho album from 1980, sometimes titled Macho II, the same outfit which had a disco hit with a cover of "I'm A Man." Jacques-Fred Petrus turned much of this record over to Celso Valli, the man behind the disco projects Azoto and Tantra, where he goes for a more rock-disco sound, which seemed to have a brief moment in the turn of the 80s. While this second album is somewhat uneven, this track is to me one of the better ones. Like many other J-F Petrus and/or Celso Valli productions of the time, music tracks were recorded in Italy, and vocals recorded with American session singers in New York. Unfortunately the singers themselves aren't credited on this album, however, I can clearly hear the ever-reliable New York session vocalist, Gordon Grody as one of the leads on this particular track. On a visual note - if you thought the first Macho album cover was homoerotic, this second one is perhaps even more so.

Mystery - Hold On To This Moment (Instrumental): A track I had posted on the blog years ago (see A Moment or Two..). The combination of those pots-and-pans style drums and string arrangements place this squarely in that early 80s Lime-adjacent Montreal disco sound. It's perhaps just as well, since this was arranged by Lime's Denis LePage himself and has his sonic stamp all over it. As I recall, the vocal on the A-side was especially terrible, but thankfully the instrumental is good enough on it's own to redeem this single. Interesting fact, this was released in the US on Tommy Boy, one of the first releases on the fledgling label.

Love Robot - Slaves of Pleasure: From a curious album I picked up sometime last year called Love Robot. Frenchmen Gérard Salesses and TV producer/impresario Jean-François Porry (AKA Jean-Luc Azoulay) appear to be the principals behind this. This particular track, "Slaves of Pleasure" always seems to go over well whenever I play it. Add this to the list of curious disco songs about robot love - Dee D. Jackson's "Automatic Lover" being a prime example, with lyrics promising a future where "men are only a memory." My favourite line: "we are slaves of pleasure, a new kind of leisure, and your only program, is to love you madame."

BLO - Back In Time: Picked up a reissue of this single (on PMG) from Nigerian band BLO a few years ago. An acronym for the members' first names - Berkley "Ike" Jones (guitar), Laolu "Akins" Akintobi (drums) and Mike "Gbenga" Odumosu (bass), BLO was a rock band formed in the early 70s taking inspiration both from Afrobeat and American psychedelic rock. By this time, the lineup was Berkley Jones, Laolu Akintobi and Otu Lemmy Jackson and they were recording more straight-ahead disco tracks like this one. Though apparently the version of this song on the PMG reissue is shorter than the original release, I couldn't possibly pass up this groove once I heard it for myself.

Beverly Johnson - Don’t Lose The Feeling (12” Version): A solid disco single from supermodel (and first black woman to grace the cover of American Vogue), Beverly Johnson. Apparently the theme song from the 1979 action-adventure film Ashanti, which starred Michael Caine, Peter Ustinov and Beverly herself, it would also be the title track to her full-length album released the same year. Johnson may not be a vocal dynamo but with all the heavy-hitters involved here - like Betty Wright who co-produced this with Robert White, Michael Melvoin who is one of the co-writers, Horace Ott as arranger, complete with "Midnight Mix" by Richie Rivera, Johnson sounds good on this catchy little groover.

Chuck Cissel - Cisselin Hot: Oklahoma-born Chuck Cissel was a theatre performer in the 70s, landing plum roles in hit musicals like Purlie, Hello Dolly! and perhaps most prominently, in the Broadway production of A Chorus Line. His work on stage and in commercials led to various recording opportunities, the biggest of which was a record deal with Arista. This song is, for better or worse, one of the defining moments of his recording output. With a groove that's as hot as the title proclaims, I'm somewhat surprised this wasn't a bigger hit. Produced by Skip Scarborough and David Crawford (not to be confused with the Dave Crawford who produced hits for Jackie Moore, Wilson Pickett and Candi Staton) this groove is unstoppable, peak-1979 heat!

Tony Rallo & The Midnite Band - Burnin’ Alive: Guitarist and one of the most in-demand arrangers in France at the time, Tony Rallo appeared on many records by French luminaries like Dalida (including the one featured on the previous mix), Charles Aznavour, Sacha Distel, Catherine Ferry and others. Rallo also appeared on French disco productions like Madleen Kane's Rough Diamond and Theo Vaness' Back to Music under the alias Tony Lexter, reasoning that French audiences were more likely to buy disco product with an American name than with a French name, something that friend and arranger Raymond Donnez also did, under the alias Don Ray. Alec R. Costandinos, someone else who likely moved in many of the same musical circles in France, offered to record an album with him in London with top-flight British and American session players. This was the title track and the undisputed standout on that record. Love how this song packs a lot of dancefloor energy, yet still has enough room for the session players to add some jazzy solos to the mix. Probably one of Costandinos' best outside productions, this one still lights up dance floors.

Plaza - Let’s Do It: I had long wanted a copy of this elusive (at least to me) album by the disco project, Plaza. Finally got a copy of it late last year - recorded in the UK but only ever released in France and Venezuela (according to Discogs). Produced by Mike Thorne and ex-Soft Machine members Karl Jenkins and Mike Ratledge, vocals by an uncredited Claire Torry, the album is chock full of elegant, hyper-delirious disco goodies like this one.

Champs Boys Orchestra - Tubular Bells: An early mash-up of sorts, this record is ostensibly a cover of Mike Oldfield's "Tubular Bells" combined with the bassline of Donna Summer's "Love To Love You Baby." Produced by Patrick Bocéno with yet another well-travelled French arranger and conductor, Hervé Roy, it's an intriguing and clever disco combination.

Gino Soccio - Rhythm Of The World: From Gino Soccio's second album S-Beat from 1980 which to me was a bit of a mixed bag. Many of the tracks saw him incorporating elements of new-wave which was increasingly making itself heard on disco dancefloors by the turn of the 80s. It didn't always work to my ears but sometimes it did, like on this song. Somehow sounding slower than it actually is, the combination of ambient-style synths with rock guitar touches and an "I Feel Love"-style bass-line comes together quite sublimely.


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