Silvetti (1977) The Sensuous Sound of Silvetti: Spring Rain (LP) Salsoul (SZS 5516)

Silvetti

The Sensuous Sound of Silvetti: Spring Rain

Salsoul (SZS 5516)

Arranged and Conducted by Bebu Silvetti

Produced by Rafael Trabucchelli

Tom Moulton Mix

*** noteworthy

Argentine pianist/producer Bebu Silvetti had time on his side with disco in full swing and before the disco-sucks movement had had much time to gather their thoughts, and Silvetti found success right from the beginning with the disco instrumental “Spring Rain,”a cut featured both on his debut LP and this second set.  The version for this set is likely a remix or a re-recorded offering.  This is followed by the equally compelling “Primitive Man,” where the group sinks a little deeper into the groove.  Much of the rest of this instrumental set is designed for when the lights are turned down low, either on the dancefloor, the waterbed, or in the rear quarters of your custom van.

 

While nothing quite matches the first two cuts, it’s a consistent set and obviously a notch or two above most of the disco competition, Silvetti’s style clearly not from the United States or Europe.  While this may be too restrained from some, most fans of disco should at the very least give this long player a drive around the block.

 

— winch

author of Kalamazoo: Growing Up Sideways in the 1970s

 

 

 link to seller:

Advertisements

Diana Ross (1980) Diana (LP) Motown 155

Diana Ross
Diana
Motown 155
1980
Written and Produced by Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers

Rating:*** (Noteworthy)

After Ross split for a solo career, the Supremes slowly faded into obscurity, and by the end of the 70s, it looked like Ross was headed for a similar fate.  Edwards and Rodgers came to the rescue with this album.  In many ways, this was another Edwards-Rodgers album: they not only provided the bass and guitar but wrote and produced this set.  While this helped put Ross back at the top, its success likely didn’t hurt Edwards-Rodgers.  Most listeners simply saw this as a Ross album, but the recording industry likely took notice of the team behind the hits.

“Upside Down” jumpstarts the proceedings, but perhaps it would have been more effective to ease into that number because the rest of the set sounds quite weak after that opener. Fans of Edwards-Rodgers should get a bang out of “Upside Down,” “I’m Coming Out,” and perhaps a few other numbers, but much of the material is filler–only for hardcore fans of Ross.

— winch 

Platypus (1979) S/T (LP) Casablanca 7171

Platypus
Platypus
Casablanca 7171
1979
Produced by Platypus

Rating:*** (Noteworthy)


Debut album by this Cincinnati outfit.  A funk disco sound runs through the entire set, but unlike many funk groups of the 70s, this delivered the goods without horns, and in contrast to most disco outfits, this relies much more on a thumping bassline and sometimes rock elements and less on synthesized sounds.

Considering they released this on Casablanca, the Parliament/Funkadelic comparisons were inevitable, and while those comparisons were justified, this has more of a disco sound and also shows influences from fellow Ohio funk outfits the Isley Brothers and Ohio Players, the influence of the Dayton outfit epecially pronounced on “Street Babies,” the influence of the Isley Brothers showing in the absence of a horn section.  The influence of these fellow Cincinnati soul brothers becomes pronounced as “Don’t Go Away” starts out, but the song has its own sound, ends up mixing elements of a rock power ballad with a traditional soul ballad.  While the build up of tension in the power ballad comes out of blues and soul traditions, “Don’t Go Away” clearly sees the influence channeled through the rock tradition.  It’s perhaps not the stand-out cut on the set, but it’s part of several mildly unique elements that makes this album a bit more interesting than most disco funk releases from this era.

This is definitely recommended listening for fans of disco funk, the sound coming out of the 70s and in some ways, clearly headed toward the 80s.  Some of the cuts will also interest others, especially the previously mentioned “Street Babies” and “Don’t Go Away.”  These two songs have little in common, one a hard-funk cut, the other a soul ballad, but both mix rock elements into the sounds.  While they certainly weren’t the only outfit to combine these styles, Platypus sometimes fused these styles to create a sound all their own.  Rock and funk both came out of R&B, but most of the funk outfits that followed Sly Stone’s lead of incorporating rock elements in the soul and funk used horns and lacked the slick polished sound of this outfit.


While this album sold poorly and the band broke up before the release of their second album (Cherry 1980), they managed to leave behind a small legacy with this release.

— winch

Orient Express (1978) A Desert Fantasy (LP) Polydor 2424192 (Canada)

Orient Express
A Desert Fantasy
Polydor 2424192 (Canada)
produced by Steve Gilston and Franz Auffray
arranged by Uri Kariv
1978

Rating:**** (Recommended)

Oddball desert-themed disco album from France (and Israel), the epic 13-minute title track starting off with a thumping beat and then alternating between that and signature Euro-disco vocal sections, spicing up the sound with jabs of rock guitar followed by rolls of middle-eastern percussion, slowly building up the number with bass and horns until it sounds more aware of James Brown’s lessons than most disco numbers, this likely following Donna Summer’s example of how disco could remain glossy and still provide a groove.

After an atmospheric slow-dance/make-out/waterbed number that comes complete with bluesy electric guitar and romantic saxophone, the flipside offers two more stand-out numbers, instrumentals that sound even more aware of Brown’s lessons, the set closing with “Abdullah’s Wedding,” not the strongest cut but perhaps the oddest, apparently the story of a girl who opts to mate with the father of the suitor, this number especially sporting the desert sound.


This might not be a classic, but it’s an oddball album and it’s clearly a cut above most of the competition.  For fans of rare disco, this is worth the search. 

–winch

Hi-Tension (1978) S/T (LP) Island Records (ILPS 9564)

Hi-Tension
Hi-Tension
Island(ILPS 9564)
1978
Producers: Kofi Ayivor & Alex Sadkin
(Title track produced by Ayivor & Chris Blackwell)
Rating: ***  (Noteworthy)
This English disco-funk outfit found considerable success at home, where both the title track and “British Hustle” were hit singles and dancefloor favorites, but they were mostly ignored in the States where disco fans preferred England’s Hot Chocolate, the German sound, or their own artists.  The band eases into this set with “You’re My Girl,” picking up the pace for “Searchin’,” slowing it down again for “Autumn Love,” before cutting lose on the instrumental “Power and Lightning.”  After that, they continue with the rollercoaster, the second side opening with the pure disco sound of “British Hustle,” slowly it down slightly for “If It Moves You” before launching into “Hi-Tension,” which like “Power and Lightning,” should appeal to fans of funk, the two guitarists and four percussionists burning a groove through the superficial, the horns and organ helping out, punching holes through the disco haze.  This is stylish disco-funk and fans of bands such as EWF should give this album a listen.

This is mostly known for its dance cuts, but the slower cuts deserve attention as well, especially the EWF-style “Autumn Love.”  While they weren’t breaking new ground with this set, they picked the right influences and the right musicians.

— winch

Kiki Gyan (1977) Afro Reggae (LP) P.V.P. 7777

Kiki Gyan
Afro Reggae
P.V.P. 7777 (Holland pressing) 
1977
rating: *** (noteworthy)

African keyboardist Gyan joined Osibisa as a teenager, released this rare solo debut a few years later.  (Apparently, he’d never kick the drug addiction that started here.  It would end up killing him.)  This is African DISCO with some reggae and funk elements but fans of funk or reggae might be disappointed.  He offers some variety and some of the cuts are quite unique, but contrary to some sellers’ brags, this is not really funk but rather a disco-funk sound.  He creates a groove on some of the cuts but often loses the groove or floats over the groove in signature disco style.  He has one horn (soprano sax) and cool African percussion on some cuts, and his synthesizer often sounds very dated—which some listeners might find charming.  

The set is somewhat typical of bands led by keyboardists—typically not a good sign— but he keeps it playful and doesn’t waste much time showing off his chops.  The best cut is “Doing My Thing,” but other selections have some charm as well.  For fans of rare disco or African 70s music, this is a worthwhile listen.

Kiki Gyan (fender rhodes, piano, synthesizer, organ, bass, lead vocals, production), Jake Sollo(guitars), Richard Bailey (drums), Ray Allen (sax), Kofi Ayivor (percussion), Liza Strike, Helen Chappelle & Joan Stone (backing vocals).  Recorded in London.

— winch

Shirley & Company (1975) Shame Shame Shame (LP) Vibration VI-128

Shirley & Company
Shame Shame Shame
Vibration VI-128
1975
Produced & Engineered by Sylvia

Recommended ****


The title track for this album wasn’t the first disco single, but it has a bit more bite than what we consider the other early entries in the disco category.  The New Orleans influence that shows on the vocal cut becomes especially clear on the instrumental version, with the horns helping punch the message home.  In fact, with the sax offering the voices, the sound echos back over the first half of the 20th century, from New Orleans and up to Memphis, branching out the sound to the big cities of the East Coast, and in the other direction reaching into those dinky studios of the black independent labels in the City of Angels, and the dim-lit bars of those seedy ghettos, the man with the horn sliding down the bar on his back with his sax shinning above him like a beacon. That sax blowing with the glow-in-the-dark paint job twirls the sound around the room until twenty years later, the squares of twirling come from the mirror ball.  Disco might have turned into something else once white folks discovered that it brought the people out of their shells and the cash dollars out of their pockets, but in the beginning disco was just an extension of all that had come before, dance music for down-and-out black folks, good-time music for trying times, and this single helps bridge the old good-time N’Orleans sound to the dance floors of the mid 70s.

This album also shows black gals from the 50s taking their rightful places in the music world, a realization of both the women’s lib and black-power movements.  Shirley Goodman had been part of the New Orleans duo Shirley & Lee, the pair hitting it big while they were still in their teens and releasing hits from the early 50s to the early 60s.  Meanwhile Sylvia Robinson had started recording as Little Sylvia when she was fourteen in 1950 and had been half of the duo Mickey & Sylvia, best known for their 1957 hit “Love is Strange” but recording into the mid 60s.

Shirley’s comeback is limited to this 1975 album, but Sylvia had been busy and successful for years, formed All Platinum Records in 1968 and offshoot Vibration Records soon after, returning her name to the top of the soul charts with the Vibration imprint’s first single: the 1973 waterbed-soul classic “Pillow Talk.”

While black business owners had changed music forever with their independent labels in the 40s and early 50s, it was an equal accomplishment to run a successful independent record company in the mid 70s, a time when the major labels successfully stomped most attempts at independence.  Here we see Sylvia helping to create the disco genre, and a few years later she’d help form Sugar Hill, the label perhaps most responsible for introducing rap to the world.

All this work of Sylvia deserves notice as an extension of the efforts of the black labels of decades earlier, ones that had been soon forgotten when independent labels run by white owners (Chess, Sun, and Atlantic) got most of the credit.  While many think of the punk movement as introducing independent music to the masses, black artists had been doing this for decades.  Sylvia deserves credit for bringing this practice to the public’s eye in the 70s, including with this hit record in 1975.

Because the set offers so many styles, it’s easy to miss the fact that this created a blueprint for many disco albums that followed.  One simply has to look at some of the highlights to recognize this fact.  “I Gotta Get Next To You” clearly helps bridge the waterbed soul of the early 70s to the numbers we’d soon hear offered by the stars of disco.  The number is grounded in the music of Issac Hayes but also foreshadows the music to come.  Sylvia’s “Cry Cry Cry,” stirs the waterbed soul of Al Green into a Caribbean rhythm, the instrumental version taking the mix into a island-flavored dance groove.  You can almost see the skirts swaying and taste the sweet syrup from the tall cool glass in her hand.  On cuts such as this, it’s interesting to hear Caribbean elements dominating the sound, as these island ingredients were important to the development of most American dance music.  While many of the elements here had fused in New Orleans many decades before, it’s interesting to hear these elements so clearly defined at this point before they’d all fuse once again to create the new sounds of the 1970s.  While the set offers variety, the feel-good vibe established on “Shame Shame Shame” at the beginning certainly runs through the entire album.  Some cuts are clearly stronger than others, but the stand-out cuts make this a recommended listen, essential for fans of disco.

Sylvia is the dominant songwriter of this set, but others contribute material: Donnie Elbert (one of the artists from All Platinum) contributes “Another Tear Will Fall,” and Ray, Goodman & Brown (aka the Moments) offer “I Gotta Get Next To You.”  Shirley and vocalist Jesus Alvarez also show up on several song credits.

— winch