English Disco (Part 1)

July 21, 2014

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Acquiring a 12" disco single of the Rolling Stone’s “Hot Stuff” inspired this podcast, although when I set out I didn’t think I could pull enough material for a full edition of disco from UK-identified artists.  Well, fool me!  I found enough for two.  I don’t know that the follow-up will follow directly on the heels of this one, but rest assured it is coming.

Are You Ready for Love? – Elton John ’79 Sir Dancealot – Olympic Runners ’78 Hot Stuff – the Rolling Stones ’76 Cut the Cake – Average White Band ’75 Funky Like a Train – the Equals ’76 That’s the Way (I Like It) – Madeline Bell ’76 It’s in His Kiss – Linda Lewis ’75 Goodnight Tonight – Wings ’79 Makes You Blind – Glitter Band ’75 Bring on the Love – Gloria Jones ’78 Use Your Imagination – Kokomo ’75 Save Me, Save Me – Dusty Springfield ’78 Up in a Puff of Smoke – Polly Brown ’75 Love Hit Me – Maxine Nightingale ’77 Don’t Know If I Like It – Marsha Hunt ’77

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A Little House in the Country

July 8, 2014

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Three women:  I was gob-smacked to discover that longtime favorite Sammi Smith had recorded a disco cut. Sammi hit it big first time out of the gate with her canonical, aching cover of “Help Me Make it Through the Night” and then retreated into a modest career as a country singer’s singer who had a penchant for playing the faded rose. (Her weeper “Room for Rent” is a minor, overlooked masterpiece and, I’ll wager, the only song you’ll hear today from the point-of-view of a room. I regret that she never recorded a country version of June Christy’s down-on-your-luck standard “Something Cool,” because it would have been mind-bending.) I love her version of “The Letter;” its only flaw is that it’s over way too soon; love to hear an extended mix of this! You’ll find it on what was, as far as I know, her last album, 1979’s barely-released “Girl Hero.” It came out on the obscure Cyclone label and features a kind of chilling photo of Sammi as Amelia Earhart. (I told you she had a penchant for playing doomed damsels: “Help Me Make It Through This Flight”? Okay, I’ll stop.)

 “99 Miles from L.A.,” one of the least country-sounding cuts here, has one of the best country pedigrees. It’s from soul singer Dianne Brooks whose 1976 album “Back Stairs of My Life” (love that title!). was recorded in the Enactron Truck http://blogs.tennessean.com/tunein/2010/09/08/brian-ahern-americanas-magic-maker/ and produced by Brian Ahern (he of Emmylou Harris and Anne Murray fame; Anne and Bonnie Raitt provide back-up here). The album features a mix of Nashville and L.A. session cats and comes down more definitively on the soul side, despite a cover of “Desperado” and a song penned by Rodney Crowell (“This Morning the Blues”).

Tip of the Stetson to Tennessean Edd Hurt who recently turned me on to self-proclaimed Queen of Country Dance Music, Scooter Lee.  “Any Kind of Loving” is from her 1979 debut “A Louisiana Lady.” Despite being produced by none other than Porter Wagoner and featuring cream-of-the-crop Nashville pickers, it never achieved major-label release.  I would classify Louisiana Lady as country-disco-lite, she would however go whole-hog for the boot-scootin’ boogie on subsequent outings.  (Check out her cover of “Dizzy” for example.)

Dancin’ Cowboys – The Bellamy Brothers ’80 ♦ Any Kind of Loving – Scooter Lee ’79 ♦ Why Don’t We Sleep On It Tonight – Glen Campbell & Tanya Tucker ’81 ♦ Third Rate Romance – Ace Spectrum ’75 ♦ Shame, Shame, Shame – Boots Randolph ’77 ♦ Two Doors Down – Joe Thomas ’78 ♦ Disco Party – Memphis Horns ’76 ♦ Black Grass – Bad Bascomb ’72 ♦ Break Down – Muscle Shoals Horns ’76 ♦ Jolene – Kellee Patterson ’76 ♦ The Hoodooin’ of Miss Fannie Deberry – Kenny Rodgers ’78 ♦ Tobacco Road – Bob-A-Rela ’79 ♦ Ode to Billy Joe – Sweet Potato Pie ’76 ♦ 99 Miles From L.A. – Dianne Brooks ’76 ♦ The Letter – Sammi Smith ’79 ♦ Yellow Rose of Texas – Silver Blue ’78 ♦ Your Cheatin’ Heart – The Robin Hooker Band ’79 ♦ Justified & Ancient – The KLF featuring Tammy Wynette ’91 ♦ Peace Train – Dolly Parton ’97

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Nights in White’s Satin

June 30, 2014
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The piano glissandi!  The swooping, sighing, stabbing strings!  The harpsichord!  Such day-glo rococo go-for-baroque ultrasuede madness could only mean a Barry White production.  That or Liberace, but he would never, ever get this down and dirty.  Thus the magic of The Maestro: a musical mix of high camp and low-down funk.  At the height of his reign, Barry managed a veritable village of acts—Love Unlimited, the Love Unlimited Orchestra and his own solo career—and produced artists such as his mentor Gene Page, Gloria Scott, Jay Dee and Tom Brock.  I’ve rounded up a sweet sampler of the work, and if you don’t find yourself spinning on the dance floor, you’ll likely swoon onto your purple velour fainting couch.  I close with this thought:  as delirious as it all gets, there’s always some very canny studio/street/cultural smarts at the heart of any Barry White production. Take the Vietnam War references in “If We Don’t Make It” or the sly and loving homage to Bacharach and David’s “I Say a Little Prayer” in the opening lines of the fluffy “I’m So Glad That I’m a Woman.”

 If We Don’t Make It Nobody Can – Tom Brock ’74 Playing Your Game, Baby – Barry White ’77 Love’s Theme – Love Unlimited Orchestra ’73 Just As Long As We’re Together – Gloria Scott ’74 Don’t Play That Song – Gene Page ’74 Your Sweetness Is My Weakness – Jay Dee ’74 Standing in the Shadows of Love – Barry White ’73 Satin Soul – Gene Page ’74 We Can’t Let Go of Love – Barry and Glodean ’81 Morning Time – Jimmie & Vella Cameron ’81 Naked As the Day I Was Born – Tom Brock ’74 I’m So Glad That I’m a Woman – Love Unlimited ’79 It Ain’t Love, Babe (Until You Give It) – Barry White ’79 A Case of Too Much Lovemaking – Gloria Scott ’74 Don’t You Know How Much I Love You – Love Unlimited Orchestra ’78 Theme from Together Brothers – Love Unlimited Orchestra ’74 There’s No Other Love – Jimmie & Vella Cameron ’81 My Sweet Summer Suite – Love Unlimited Orchestra ’76

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How to Groove

June 13, 2014

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Do It Fluid - the Blackbyrds ’74 ₸ You Can Do It - Arthur Prysock ’77 ₸ Boogie Up, Rock Down ...Ride a Funky Starship - Carlis Munro ’79 ₸ Badd Motor Folk - Uncle Louie ’79 ₸ How to Groove - IOB ’77 ₸ I Know You Will - Logg ’81 ₸  Live and Learn - Ace Spectrum ’76 ₸ Can You Dig the Funk? - Solar Source ’81 ₸ Grass- African Suite ’80 ₸ Shoot to Kill - Booty People ’77 ₸ I Don’t Know What’s on Your Mind - Spiders Webb ’76 ₸ Let Me Party with You - Bunny Sigler ’77 ₸ Chove Chuva / Mas Que Nada - Alice Street Gang ’76

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Lagniappe

May 26, 2014

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Noun: Chiefly Southern Louisiana and Southeast Texas—a small gift given with a purchase to a customer, by way of compliment or for good measure; bonus.  Little somethings extra from artists with good track records of including singles on their albums who still managed to let a few crumbs fall from the table.  The reasons were many (label changes, contract disputes, too much material for a single album, not ready to fully commit yet to disco, odd movie score projects, water-testing…)

Hold Me, Lonely Boy – Norma Jean ’79 + Walk Away – Donna Summer ’79 + Forever Dancing – The Ritchie Family ’79 + Philadelphia Freedom – The Elton John Band ’75 + Fighting on the Side of Love – THP Orchestra ’76 + Dance Man – El Coco ’79 + Can’t Be Love, Do It to Me Anyway – Peter Brown ’80 + Love Exciter – El Coco ’79 + We’ve Got Love on Our Side – Silver Blue ’77 + La Barbichette – The Ritchie Family ’79 + Danger – Gregg Diamond ’79 + High Society – Norma Jean ’79 + Stand Up and Dance – Gregg Diamond ’79+ Hold On to Your Hiney – Tony Joe White ’76

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The Charlie Hustle

May 12, 2014

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Disco from out of left field (especially the title cut!).  I made an exception for “Happy People” because – after having unfairly assigned it to the done-to-death bin – I slipped it on the other day and was knocked-out anew by that amazing descending bass line.  Some tidbits:  The Writers are a jazz funk super-group headed by Hugh McCracken and Ralph MacDonald.  Shobizz is an early showcase for Rupert Holmes. Spiders Webb features female bassist extraordinaire Carol Kaye along with her husband, drummer Spider Webb.  Their 1977 album I Don't Know What's On Your Mind on Fantasy is a forgotten disco-funk masterpiece with a fabulous cover.  Scare it up, if you can.  Just found this:  Pete Rose commenting on "The Charlie Hustle":  "It has the disco sound.  I like it."  Pete knows!

You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling – Crème de Coca ’78 ← Share Your Love – the Writers ’79 ← What Is Funk? – Rare Gems Odyssey ’77 ← I’ve Learned From My Burns – Spiders Webb ’76 ← Singing in the Shower – Les Rita Mitsouko featuring Sparks ’88 ← Cinderella (Queen of the Dance) – Daniel Jackson Explosion ’77 ← Turn on the Motion – Daddy Dewdrop ’79 ← That’s Where the Happy People Go – the Trammps ’76 ← The Charlie Hustle – Pamela Neal ’79 ← Street of 1,000 Discos – Shobizz ’79 ← The Letter – Queen Samantha ’78 ← For Elise – the Philarmonics ’77 ← Dance With Me – New York Rubber Rock Band ’76

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Sons of Beaches

April 18, 2014

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We just can’t seem to shake Ol’ Man Winter's grip ’round these parts, so I thought I’d try to break his spell by summoning the sons of summer.  This podcast spins out from a trio of ’60s sunshine pop producers—Curt Boettcher, Gary Usher and Bruce Johnston—who formed a loosely based association in the ’70s with the mission to produce “California music,” their term for a nostalgic dance music that would serve equally well at the beach , on the strip (drag or Sunset) or at the disco.  Their most noted production is the Beach Boy’s disco-fied “Here Comes the Night,” a disc that is curtly dismissed by most Beach Boys purists, a fact that to me, at least, says more about the close-minded attitudes of rockist fan boys than it does about the disc which makes me happy every time I fire it up.  Two more of these collaborations came out in the mid-’70s credited to California.  “Music, Music, Music” was issued as a 7' and 12" on Warner Bros, while “I Can Hear Music” came out on a a split promotional 12" with a Beatles medley credited to Café Crème. 

Various incarnations of the trio produced disco tracks for other artists—Sailor’s “Down by the Docks” is included here—and second-tier Beach Boy Bruce Johnston issued two bits of California music (“Pipeline” and “Deidre,” the latter co-authored by and featuring backing vocals from Brian Wilson and sounding like a great lost Beach Boys track).  The cuts were featured on his solo LP Going Public which gained modest attention for two of its original ballads, “Disney Girls” and “I Write the Songs” (yes, that “I Write the Songs”!). 

The tracks credited here to Boettcher as a solo artist were kept in the vaults until recently, when they surfaced on a couple of compilations of his work.

There have been a couple of disco versions of “Good Vibrations.”  The best of the bunch by far is by Silver Blue—a track that is oddly out of place on a LP where the majority of the songs covered have the feel of C&W or Western swing.  What you hear on this podcast was taken from a DJ-only super-fidelity pressing.  Good Vibrations was the name of a Canadian project that issued an LP of six souped-up Beach Boys covers.  If those heavenly harmonies sound familiar, that’s because the vocalists include members of Chic, as well as Luther Vandross and David Lasley.  Sea Cruise is a Canadian duo; their Beach Boy’s medley is quite pedestrian musically, but there is a certain wittiness to the selection and sequencing of the tunes they cover

That brings us to Mr. Bad Vibrations himself, Mike Love.  You may be surprised to learn that the squarest of the Beach Boys took a dive into disco as well.  He’s represented here by his cover of ABBA’s “On and On and On,” a song he covered on his 1981 solo Looking Back With Love.  ABBA maintained that the song had been inspired by the Beach Boys, and Mike gives it a full sons-of-the-surf treatment.  The role of the song’s boorish narrator fits him like a glove and you wonder if he’s in on the song’s joke.  Love’s own ADC record label released an LP by Beach Boy bodyguard and all-around ruffian Rocky Pamplin; the track here was penned by Love and his brother, Stan, who also produced the album.  I’ve had it in mind to do this podcast for some time now, holding out in hopes that I might score one more bit of Love disco.  Concurrent with his run in the Beach Boys, Mike maintained membership in a side band—Celebration—and they recorded a disco album in the late ’70s, Disco Celebration, that was distributed to deejays on ADC but never released commercially.  The occasional copy surfaces, but I’ve not landed one yet.  It offers a full-out disco take on “California Girls” that I am told has to be heard to be believed.  Someday….

California Music—Curt Boettcher ’78  ҉  Down by the Docks—Sailor ’77  ҉  Good Vibrations—Silver Blue ’78  ҉  Music, Music, Music—California ’76   ҉  Pipeline—Bruce Johnson ’77   ҉  On and On and On—Mike Love ’81  ҉  Deidre—Bruce Johnson with Brian Wilson ’77  ҉  Banana Boat Song—Curt Boettcher ’78  ҉  I Can Hear Music—California ’78 ҉  God Only Knows—Good Vibrations ’78  ҉  Beach Boys Medley—Sea Cruise ’78  ҉  Here Comes the Night—the Beach Boys ’79  ҉  Disco Symphony—Rocky Pamplin ’79  ҉  Don’t Worry Baby—Good Vibrations ’78

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Get Off

April 9, 2014

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A collection of Philly cream cheese dollops (for the most part) that have been hanging around looking for a home.

 

Music Trance – Ben E. King ’79 ʯ We Got to Hit It Off – Millie Jackson ’79 ʯ As – Sister Sledge ’77 ʯ Get Down – Gene Chandler ’78 ʯ Get Down Saturday Night – Oliver Cheatham ’83 ʯ Get Up Off Your Backsides – the Hues Corporation ’78 ʯ Start It All Over Again – Rod ’80 ʯ Something Else – Logg ’81 ʯ Get Off – Cleveland Eaton & the Garden of Eaton ’79 ʯ Love Epidemic – the Trammps ’75 ʯ Outside Looking In – Carlis Munro ’79 ʯ Happy Man – Impact ’76 ʯ I Made a Mistake – Love Committee ’80

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Your Guess Is As Good As Mine

March 28, 2014

YourGuess.jpgOur artists for this podcast are obscure:  there’s not much I can tell you about them other than they put out the records you’re listening to here.  In fact, more than a few managed just barely to end up on records at all.  A few have backstories – anyone of a certain age will immediately recognize Bill Saluga’s alter ego, but I doubt many of you remembered his name (or why his shtick was so popular).  It’s the kind of novelty record I should hate, but it’s just so damned funky.  One also wonders why anyone would cover Patrick Hernandez’s “Born to Be Alive,” but I’m glad that unknown Rick Summer did as I don’t hate his version quite a lot.  And disco Sweeney Todd?  Really?  But somehow this manages to be nearly divine.  It’s an ideal artifact of its time as it was—I dare say—the only disco single ever released on RCA’s prestigious Red Seal classical label, which might explain the bizarre artist’s name.  (Red “seal,” fish, get it?)  I’m still trying to determine what to make of Judy Clay’s cover of the Bee Gees.  I like the jolt of gritty diva realness she brings, but the chitlin’ circuit aesthetic is at odds with the whole enterprise.  I sure wish I’d had this disc when I did my Alternative Saturday Night Fever episode.   Gazuzu slays me, but then I’m a sucker for gibberish.  Do you think the Tom Tom Club heard this prior to their debut?  Which brings us to the closer—Frank Pellico.  Him, I know about.  This is a bit of local color; he played organ at a supper club in Palos Park, IL, just a few miles down the road from my home and only a stone’s throw from hometown disco hero Peter Brown (who hailed from Orland Park).  He also was house organist for the Chicago Cubs back in the day and continues to ply his trade for a little team called the Blackhawks.  It also seems he recorded a fair share of mighty Wurlitzer disco, although I don’t seem to find “YMCA” in his recorded repertoire.  Pity.

 

Sexy – Gino Dentie and the Family ’76 % Excitation – Brutus ’83 % Drums on Fire – Gazuzu ’82 % Remone – Kocky ’79 % Born to Be Alive – Rick Summer ’79 % Jump – The Ring ’79 % Dancin’ Johnson – Bill Saluga ’79 % The Rock – East Coast ’78 % The Ballad of Sweeney Todd – His Master’s Fish ’79 % I Love You and Disco Too – Variations ’79 % Shine Your Light – The Graingers ’81 % Stayin’ Alive – Judy Clay ’78 % The Hustle – Frank Pellico ’76

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Beastly

March 24, 2014

beastly.jpgBird – Cymande ’73 ^ Hot Butterfly – Sweet Inspirations ’79 ^ Pussycat – Sylvia ’76 ^ Monkey See, Monkey Do – Le Pamplemousse ’77 ^ Atomic Dog – George Clinton ’82 ^ Funky Chicken – Rufus Thomas ’70 ^ Catfish – the Four Tops ’77 ^ Honey Bee – Gloria Gaynor ’75 ^ Rattlesnake – Carol Williams ’76 ^ The Pink Panther (from Philadelphia) –Guy De Lo and His Orchestra ’78 ^ The Bear Necessities – Inspired  ’78 ^ Dis-Gorilla – Rick Dees & His Cast of Idiots ’77 ^ Penguin – Peter Brown ’79 ^ Over Like a Fat Rat – Fonda Rae ’82 ^ Tiger, Tiger – Bionic Boogie ’79 ^ Dragons of Midnight – Mike Theodore Orchestra ’79 ^bFunky Worm – Ohio Players ’73 ^ Blind Sheep – Dusty Springfield ’82

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