Jun 12, 2018

Sweetness Is My Weakness

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First let’s talk about that song. LeRoy Hutson’s “Unforgettable,” a/k/a “Unforgiveable;” for some time now I’ve toyed with the idea of putting together a podcast of truly excruciating disco (but really, why bother?), and the leading contenders were Hutson and Elton John. But as I reclaimed “Johnny” on the last ipodsode, I am going to bat for Hutson this time out.  The track is weird, made up of parts that in no way go together. That incredibly funky bass line works well with the rhythm, and then in comes the background singers with their bit about wanting their sugar. Good enough so far. Then LeRoy comes in to dully intone the Nat King Cole classic that NO ONE wanted reinterpreted as disco, and he phones in his vocals at best, made all the more cringe-worthy by those embarrassing shouted “Hunh!”s at the end of each run-through. I’ve heard that Hutson in no way wanted to make this record—that is to say a flat-out excursion into disco—and so just didn’t give a damn. I can hear that. It’s a flat-footed Frankenstein monster of a disc. But I can also hear that funky bass riff that insists on being heard.  Somehow it works here—just barely.

 

The crown jewels this time out are the Barry White that in its disco mix is a monster of a whole ’nother order. I am a huge fan of the stripped-down version of this song, but this is killer in its grandiose full-mix splendor. When I promised to dig deeper into Keith Barrow, I did not expect to find “Hard,” which is full-on crazy in its flippant intensity. Barrow pulls out all the stops to deliver a flamboyant, fierce aspirational cri de cœur. While I’m not one to spend much time on thoughts of rum in a glass or pink Chablis, I’ll never hear those words again without thinking of Barrow. I can’t help but think Prince was a fan of this track.

 

The Energetics were a one-off who put out an album in 1979 that sounded like 1976, and I find it amusing that they’re so apologetic about going to a disco. Really, fellas, just shake your booties and move on. I’ve used the album version of Linx’s wonderful “You’re Lying” before. This is from the 12-inch that is significantly different and quite nice. No one expected a disco comeback from Garnet Mimms, but there he was with “What It Is” which didn’t make a dent at all. Booker T. didn’t make a dent either with his classy, subtle “I’ll Put the Love Back,” but I love it nevertheless. And Joe Simon is just all sex with “Love Vibration.” Oh yes, I feel the tingle.

 

I’ll Put Some Love Back in Your Life – Booker T. Jones ’78 Ƨ Your Sweetness Is My Weakness – Barry White ’78 Ƨ Love Vibration  -- Joe Simon ’78 Ƨ Get Down – Spyder Turner ’78 Ƨ You Can Do It – Arthur Prysock ’77 Ƨ Devotion – Frank Hooker and Positive People ’81 Ƨ Ain’t Nothing Wrong in Going to a Disco – The Energetics ’79 Ƨ A Fim De Voltar – Tim Maia ’78 Ƨ You Don’t How Hard It Is to Make It – Keith Barrow ’77 Ƨ Unforgettable – LeRoy Hutson ’79 Ƨ You’re Lying – Linx ’81 Ƨ Why’d You Lie? – The Originals ’75 Ƨ Beauty Is in the Eye of the Beholder – Mirage ’78 Ƨ What It Is -- Garnet Mimms ’77 Ƨ I’ll Go Where Your Music Takes Me – Jimmy James and the Vagabonds ’76

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May 31, 2018

dudeabides

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First, I have to address that song. Elton John, Johnny B. Goode, worst disco song ever? I used to think so, but putting together this compilation I’ve decided it’s not that bad. I mean, I think Sir Elton is incapable to delivering a true stinker. This song disappointed in 1979 because EJ finally comes out, and then he releases a disco album that kicks off with a “straight-wash” cover of Chuck Berry that was musically out-of-step with the times and utterly beside the point.  It set a terrible tone for an album that wasn’t half bad. Heard as a part of a collective of “macho, straight acting” disco, I think it’s of a piece.

 

I’ve been thinking a lot about white male privilege lately, and dudeabides has come out of that. Let’s call this an ode to the halcyon days of Caucasian male swagger, a time before #timesup made it less likely that a band like Wild Cherry would even exist, let alone offer a grinding, burlesque-show cover of Tony Joe White’s Hold on to Your Hiney that kicks off with a glorious “Come on now, strut!”. If you think you’re hearing double Doobie it’s because Tom Johnston was the lead singer for the band until ulcers forced him off the road and ol’ mush-mouth himself Michael McDonald took the reins. BTW Tom is our cover boy; it’s the inner sleeve from his excellent if somewhat same-y undiscovered first solo record Everything You’ve Heard Is True. Shooter Jennings is Waylon’s kid and in 2016 he came out with an insane album Countach (for Giorgio), a collection of countrified Giorgio Moroder covers. Inexplicable, outré and right up my alley.

 

Steve Cauthen is, yes, the teenage jockey sensation who also put out a celebrity vanity album. It was on the Bareback label (of course it was, this stuff just writes itself), a small concern out of New York mostly known for its disco output. And sure enough Steve and Bareback deliver with Local Hoedown, a disco/bluegrass shotgun wedding where Steve’s reedy vocals have to be double-tracked to make an impact. (I like to think his voice was stronger than this but he was just too short to reach the mic.) Just when you think you’ve heard it all.

 

Steal Your Love - Friendly Enemies’78 Ɣ Hold on to Your Hiney - Wild Cherry ’79 Ɣ Boogie Down - the Osmonds ’76 Ɣ Wanna Dance? - Crackin’ ’75 Ɣ Sunshine Hotel - Richard T. Bear ’78 V I’m Left You’re Right She’s Gone - Shooter Jennings ’16 Ɣ Savannah Nights - Tom Johnston ’79 Ɣ The Real Thing - Daddy Dewdrop ’79 Ɣ Na, Na, Hey, Hey Kiss Him Goodbye – J.J. Mack ’79 Ɣ I Get Off on It - Tony Joe White ’80 Ɣ What a Fool Believes - the Doobie Brothers’78 Ɣ Makin’ It - David Naughton ’78 Ɣ Johnny B. Goode - Elton John ’79 Ɣ Please Don’t Stop - Edgar Winter ’79 Ɣ Local Hoedown - Steve Cauthen ’77 Ɣ Dancing for the Man Ɣ Skatt Bros ’79 Ɣ Living on My Own - Freddie Mercury ’85

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May 12, 2018

Polovetsian Dance

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This started out as a mid-century modern themed episode, with an emphasis on doo-wop, girl groups and even the Twilight Zone and West Side Story. But somewhere down the line things got a little off course (I think it may have been the Funky Cello). “Finds” in this episode include Flo Lacey, whose Torture came out on a dime store label and probably cost nothing to record, but boy howdy does it “work,” especially when the tambourine kicks in. I suspect Flo is Florence Lacey, who toured for a bit as Evita. The other bit of cod-Broadway biz here is the Quick, a forgettable new wave act who managed to distill West Side Story into a hilarious bit of electro-fluff. And then there’s the 101 Strings, that mainstay of the Goodwill bargain bin, who put out two credible disco albums and gave us the mighty Disco Fever, with its prototypical electronics.

 

Jesus – Mantus ’80 + Blue Moon – the Originals ’78 + Moonlight Serenade – Tuxedo Junction ’78 + Polovetsian Dance – Philarmonics ’76 + The Funky Cello – Cleveland Eaton ’76 + Twilight Zone/Tone – Manhattan Transfer ’79 + Torture – Flo Lacey ’78 + Sharks Are Cool, Jets Are Hot – the Quick ’79 + Run One Flight of Stairs – El Coco ’82 + Jersey Bounce / I Go to Rio – Gotham ’77 + Disco Fever – 101 Strings ’79 + Chloë – Cy Coleman ’76 + El Bimbo – 101 Strings ’76 + Comin’ Home Baby – Herbie Mann ’75 + Come Back – Paul Mauriat Plus ’78

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May 3, 2018

A Better than Good Time

 

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Our title tune is a Gladys Knight and the Pips deejay-exclusive remix that is the highlight of the Men in the Glass Booth comp. It times out at 12 minutes while the liner notes claim that the commercial release topped out at a mere six. Supposedly hunters and collectors have been seeking the lost six for eons; I couldn’t imagine this without them. Keith Barrow hailed from the south side of Chicago and was one of the first losses to AIDS. He’s new to me. Given my professional allegiance to the south side, I have learned that his mother was the High Priestess of Protest, Rev. Willie Taplin Barrow, who was godmother to Barack Obama and co-founder of Operation Push. I pledge to found out more and report back. Sylvester owns the Ashford and Simpson–penned “Over and Over.” I like Torrill’s version because it’s as light and airy as Sylvester’s is low-down and funky. I know nothing of Torrill other than in her album cover photo she looks like a preppy schoolmarn. Andre Gagnon is kind of the disco Liberace. His productions—as florid as they may be—are always crystal clean and sparkling. The melody on “Seventh Heaven” sounds like it’s the theme to The Movie of the Week,” but this one is all about those up and down piano cascades in the bridge that make me think of a disco roller coaster ride. Helium vocals were apparently the thing for Eurodisco in 1979 if Cyclades and Azoto count for anything. Mantus was a Jersey Shore rock act that struck disco gold on the East Coast with their disco/rock fusion. We close with “Everything Is Disco” where nothing is disco. Perverse.

 

I Don’t Want to Work Today – New York Port Authority ’77   ͏   Turn Me Up – Keith Barrow ’78   ͏   It’s a Better Than Good Time – Gladys Knight & the Pips ’79   ͏   Over and Over – Torrill ’78   ͏   Seventh Heaven – Andre Gagnon ’81   ͏   Fire to Desire – Cyclades ’79   ͏   Anytime or Place – Azoto ’79   ͏   Love Killer – Santeran ’78   ͏   (Dance It) Freestyle Rhythm – Mantus ’79   ͏   Night Rider – Venus Dodson ’79   ͏   Rosco Music – Kid Brother ’79   ͏   Everything Is Disco – Southern Cookin’ ’79

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Apr 15, 2018

Cha-Cha Allegro

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I went record shopping in Canada. These days, I prefer supporting economies other than the United States whenever possible. So then a rousing “Bon Jour!” to Canucks Boulie Noire, New City Jam Band, Lafayette Afro Rock Band, Baron Longfellow, Wall of Steel and Toulouse. I’ve featured the Quebec trio Toulouse before from their debut that was recorded first in French then again in English. This is from their last, and—no surprise, really—they’ve run out of gas. I do like the uninspiringly titled “Dancing Shoes” for its bluesy opening and its unabashed stealing from “Boogie Oogie Oogie,” a sound more people should have pilfered. Wall of Steel’s “Super Queen” is an undiscovered classic piece of existential disco. I find nothing about them, and I’d love to uncover more. Baron Longfellow entered the pop world as Andy Kim—he who scored with “Rock Me Gently” and who wrote “Sugar, Sugar”—and changed his name for a second try at pop success in his homeland. Ron Dante, the voice on the Archie’s version, also did a disco version of “Sugar, Sugar” that was produced by Barry Manilow.  It’s disturbingly bad.

Another strain informing this set is disco pop—the aforementioned Longfellow serenade, as well as cuts from New City Jam Band and Chocoalt’s. I love them all, and it proves you can get just as funky at 3 minutes and under as you can at 9 and over. We also have hard rock disco provided by Pegasus (amazing album cover on that one) and Kid Brother. I knew nothing about them, and when I found the disc filed under disco, I thought it was a mistake. I took a chance, and I’m glad I did. Macho-boy misogyny aside (and how many records can you name where the lead singer in a histrionic fit threatens to slap a woman?), this is admirably hysterical—the missing link between “I Was Made for Loving You” and “Look What the Cat Dragged In.” The album tips its hand with a cut called “Rosco Music” (as in rock-disco).  It’s no “Dazz” (or even “Dusic”), but it does go into a break that sounds like Giorgio Moroder having his way with Motley Crüe. Be on the lookout for it in a future podcast. I’ll toss French prog nutjobs (they shave their heads and spray themselves silver) Les Rockets in the hard rock bucket as well; fans of the podcast have already heard the album version of this (titled “Futur Woman,” which I prefer). This is the 12-inch version which I only recently uncovered (in Canada).  It’s commercialized a bit for the dancefloor, but still a winner, even with the final E.

Which brings us to the truly weird stuff.  “Dancing Free” is either brilliant or completely inept. I’ve been aware of it for a while, but only really listened to it as part of Al Kent’s essential The Men in the Glass Booth set. It’s growing on me, but man is it out there. Shirley Stringham (who?) tries to out Summer La Donna. She doesn’t win that match-up, but we do learn on “I Hate It” that she sucks at grammar (or at least syntax) and that at some point her man stopped eating asparagus. Finally, I am mad for Smokey, an L.A. musician who was so gay that he couldn’t get a record deal, even though his visionary self-released singles are as good as anything else out there. He played with a lot of top musicians, had a residency at Rodney Bingenheimer’s English Disco, and was championed by a closeted Elton John. “DTNA” sounds like the great lost Velvet Underground disco record. Amazing.

Why Can’t We Live Together? – Kongas ’82 π Dancing Free – Hot Ice ’76 π Il Me Faut Une Femme – Boulie Noir ’79 π I Hate It – Shirley Stringham ’76 π Super Queen – Wall of Steel ’75 π DTNA – Smokey ’78 π Tell Me Another One – Kid Brother ’79 π Fly – Pegasus ’77 π Sugar, Sugar – Baron Longfellow ’80 π Lazy Love – New City Jam Band ’75 π I Can’t Survive – Chocolat’s ’78 π Future Woman – Les Rockets ’76 π Dancing Shoes – Toulouse ’80 π Scorpion Flower – Lafayette Afro Rock Band ’75

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Mar 17, 2018

Heard You Missed Me; Well, I’m Back

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The Gauls kick-started my return; I learned that two of my favorite French artists— Françoise Hardy and Michel Polnareff (as part of Ménage à Trois, along with Michel Colombier) —had gone disco. Also in the year that has passed, I uncovered a long-sought-after holy grail, the lost Beach Boys disco album Celebration Disco that offers us “California Girls.” I’m no deadhead, but I’ve really been grooving to “Sakedown Street” of late. I accidently uncovered Santaren and those ever-lovin’ Lovin’ Girls in a “haul purchase,” and I can only ask, “Where have they been all my life?” (More disco accordion, please.) My life has long been made richer by the divine “New Frontier,” and I have no idea why I’ve left it off the podcast for this long. Nature Zone is a one- (no-?) hit wonder, and I can’t believe “Porcupine” has gone unnoticed. Excepting the Trammps/Double Exposure clone “Law and Order,” much of this episode is disco that doesn’t follow the rules. I hope it is a welcome return. I’ll try not to stay away so long.

 Ain’t Nuthin’ Spooky - Rudy Love & the Love Family ’76 @ Starchild - Level 42 ’81 @ Shakedown Street - Grateful Dead ’78 @ J’Écoute de la Musique Saoule - Françoise Hardy ’78 @ New Frontier - Donald Fagen ’82 @ Porcupine - Nature Zone ’76 @Mama Rue (C’est Moi) - Queen Samantha ’79 @ Gonna Love You Tonight - Ménage à Trois ’80 @ California Girls - Celebration ’79 @ Hot to Trot - Alfredo De La Fé ’79 @ Street Clap / Heatstroke - Man Parrish ’82 @ Dance Tango Tango - Santaren & the Lovin’ Girls ‎’77 @ Law & Order - The Love Committee ‎’78 @ Funk It Up - The Sweet ’77

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Jun 1, 2017

LSTC Fun in the Sun

A sunny mix for LSTC's Fun in the Sun

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Mar 14, 2017

Witchi Tai To

Soundscape created for the Water Is Life Exhibit at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago

Music:
“Witchi-Tai-To” – Jim Pepper (1971)
“Stand Up” – Stand ’N’ Rock (2016)
“Bloop Bleep” – Gary McFarland (1966)
“Only Happy When It Rains” – Garbage (1995)
“Four Degrees” – Anohni (2016)
“Here Comes the Rain Again” – Eurythmics (1989/83)
“Take Me to the River” – Al Green (1974)
“Cool Water” – The Sons of the Pioneers (1960)
“Water Is Life” – Will Evans (2016)
“Indian Giver” – Neil Young (2016)
Águas de Março” – Elis Regina and Antônio Carlos Jobim (1974)
“Witchi-Tai-To” – Everything Is Everything (1968)
“The Body Electric” – Hurray for the Riff Raff (2014)
“You Don’t Miss Your Water” – Otis Redding (1967)
“The Ocean” – The Velvet Underground (1969)
“Why Did You Separate Me from the Earth?” – Anohni (2016)
“Witchi-Tai-To” – Brewer & Shipley (1969)
“Waters of March” – Antônio Carlos Jobim (1973)
“History Repeating” – Propellerheads with Shirley Bassey (1997)
“Rain” – Dorothy Morrison (1970)
“The Gentle Rain” – Astrud Gillberto (1965)
“Witchi-Tai-To” – Harpers Bizarre (1969)

Spoken word:
Field recordings from Standing Rock  courtesy of Maija Mikkelsen; a presentation on the Moth Radio Hour from pioneering aquanaut Sylvia Earle; sound clips from activists Myron Dewey and John Trudell; news reports on lead contamination in Flint, MI; a PSA on the Pacific Ocean’s “garbage island;” a clip from The Miracle Worker; Sir Richard Burton reading from “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner;” and Sesame Street.

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Mar 4, 2017

Loftier

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Another tribute to Maestro Mancuso, this time focusing on his love for sound effects, straight-boy rockers who went disco (or didn’t as in the inexplicable “Macho City” that somehow still seems to work), psychedelics, sprung rhythms and jazzbos.  This is, to a large degree, not really disco at all.

House Party - Fred Wesley ’80 Ȼ Above and Beyond - Edgar Winter ’79 Ȼ Macho City - Steve Miller Band ’81 Ȼ The Mexican - Babe Ruth ’72 Ȼ Hold on to Your Mind - Andwella ’70 Ȼ L.O.V.E. Got a Hold on Me - Demis Roussos ’78 Ȼ This Feeling - Frank Hooker ’80 Ȼ Baby I Love You - Easy Going ’78 Ȼ How Much Are They? Ȼ Jah Wobble, Jaki Liebezeit and Holger Czukay ’81 Ȼ Go Bang! - Dinosaur L ’82 Ȼ Yellow Train - Resonance ’73 Ȼ New York City - Miroslav Vitous ’76

 

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Feb 7, 2017

The Young Girls of Rochefort Go to a Disco

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Today’s ipod-sode is brought to you by La La Land.  I was mildly amused by it (I mean, it paled in the Moonlight), and grateful to have seen it if only because it sent me back to its source material – the great MGM musicals, especially as channeled by Jacques Demy in The Umbrellas of Cherbourg and The Young Girls of Rochefort, two of my favorite films. And so an homage to all things discothèque Frances and Hollywood romantic, with a cornerstone that is the swirling medley of Michel Legard movie themes “Disco Magic Concorde.”  Homage/fromage: yes, I am well aware that this offering is terribly caloric, but I own up to a fondness (fondue-ness?) for unabashedly cheesy disco (especially Euro-disco).  I mean, Umbrellas and Young Girls are two of my favorite movies for crying out loud!

 The Last Disco in Paris - Partners’79 ¥ Love Is Still Blue - Paul Mauriat ’76 ¥ Do You Speak French? - Nite School ’78 ¥ D.I.S.C.O. - Ottawan ’79 ¥ Flight from Versailles - The Grand Tour ’77 ¥ Sea Sex and Sun - Serge Gainsbourg ’78 ¥ Disco Magic Concorde – Michel Legrand ’78 ¥ Love Affair - Claudia Cardinale ’77 ¥ Femme - Dalida ’83 ¥ The Gay Paris/French Pillow Talk - Patrick Juvet ’79 ¥ Somewhere Over the Rainbow - Abbe Lane ’80 ¥ Singing in the Rain - Sheila + B. Devotion ’77 ¥ Can-Can - Stainless Steal ’78 ¥ The Night They Invented Love/Au Revoir - Noël ’79

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