Native New Yorker: Disco Classics (Camden 1997)
This twenty track CD appeared on the budget Camden label in 1997 and according to the sleeve notes written by one Michael Dunnington references a time “when Jason King ruled the TV air-waves and men’s trousers “flared” like no tomorrow.” For a one disc collection of 70’s music it is spot on and there is no overlap with any of the tracks featured on the other compilation CDs I have so far considered to be essential. What it isn’t really, despite its subtitle, is an album of “disco classics” unless we are counting a school disco where tracks by artists such as Sweet and Barry Blue would have got played. That disco would have also had to have a closing “slow dance” section to incorporate ballad tracks from the Delfonics and the country-tinged soul of the Pointer Sisters doing Bruce Springsteen, but okay, I’ll let it go because this is a CD which gets the memories flowing and brings me a lot of pleasure. True, some of that pleasure might be guilty as the majority of the tracks are from the more poppy side of dance than those that appear on the “Disco Classics”, “Chilled Disco” and “Funk Soul Anthems” sets with its mix of American tracks, Eurodisco and British pop soul. There are three UK number 1s and 1 US chart-topper and 13 out of the 20 tracks performed better in the UK and Europe than they did in the USA.
With these essential compilation CDs it is important to know what tracks can be found on them so here you will find them listed with their highest chart position (UK/US) if released as a single and links if I have more information on the artist elsewhere on the blog. I’ll pick out a handful of tracks to give a flavour of what makes these CDs essential.
1.Native New Yorker – Odyssey (1977) (UK#5, US#21)
What a track to open with, important enough to give the whole compilation its name and one of my all time favourites. Odyssey’s later UK chart-topper featured on “Funk Soul Anthems” but this is their debut hit which was their only success in the US. It’s a beautifully performed song by the Lopez sisters with Tony Reynolds which drips with sophistication and a classy glamour which makes it stand out as a song compared to so much repetitive disco. It sounds like something from the Great American Songbook (it for me is reminiscent of the Rodgers and Hart song “Manhattan” as made famous by Ella Fitzgerald). The writers of this 70’s gem are Sandy Linzer and Denny Randall who wrote it as a track for a Frankie Valli solo album. These two had been responsible for some classy pop songs prior to this such as “A Lover’s Concerto”, “Opus 17” and “Working My Way Back To You” for the Four Seasons . Linzer has made a previous significant appearance on my Essential CD listings for his production work on the innovative first album from “Dr Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band” one of the great disco albums of all time. Esther Phillips also did a great version of this song but this is definitely the definitive version.
2. Yes Sir I Can Boogie – Baccara (1977) (UK#1)
The ultimate guilty pleasure? This surprise UK chart-topper still delights me every time I hear it. I’m not sure whether it’s the Eurodisco production with its out-of-place heavy-breathing intro giving it a touch of the Donna Summers, the English as a second language phrasing, the “boogie-voogie” or the song which turns back in on itself and contains lines such as “I already told you in the first verse/ and in the chorus”. Spanish female duo Baccara were certainly one of a kind. I saw them perform at “G-A-Y” in the 1990s and they still had the audience eating out of the palm of their hands by swirling scarves as they eased through their repertoire which also contained their equally bizarrely lyrics of “Sorry I’m A Lady” and their 1978 Eurovision entry “Parlez Vous Francais (strangely enough representing Luxembourg) where they were robbed finishing in a lowly 7th place losing to Israel’s nonsensical “A-Ba-Ni-Bi” which lyrically made the Baccara song seem more like Bacharach. Sophie Ellis-Bextor had a go at making this song her own but that just isn’t possible it just has to be Mayte Mateos and Maria Mendiola in their quizzical Spanglish.
3. Disco Nights (Rock Freak) – G.Q (1979) (UK#42, US#12)
4. Ms. Grace – Tymes (1974) (UK#1)
5. Shame – Evelyn “Champagne” King (1978) (UK#39, US#9)
6. Just Don’t Want To Be Lonely – The Main Ingredient (1974) (UK#27, US#10)
7. Sunny- Boney M (1977) (UK#3)
Euro-disco’s biggest stars actually heralded from the West Indies but with this their second UK hit cemented their association with Germany’s Frank Farian on what is head and shoulders their best track. The song is a cover version of a 1966 hit by Bobby Hebb, having much of its warmth stripped out to produce an almost icy slab of Munich disco-funk. It’s a near-perfect reconstruction of a song. That said, I’m not sure what we are listening to here because the vocal arrangement sounds a tad different from my old 7 inch single. I’m wondering whether it is a different mix or the album version. I’m pretty sure its not a re-recording (a peril of the budget CD) as I’m sure this would have been highlighted in the info. It’s in no way bad, just ever so slightly different and if I hadn’t listened to this song so many times over the years I probably would never have noticed. What I have noticed also, however, is that this song is given the wrong title on the inner sleeve of the CD. Doesn’t anybody proof read these things before they are printed?
8. I Can’t Stand The Rain – Eruption (1978) (UK#5)
9. Jack And Jill – Raydio (1978) (UK#11, US#8)
The late 70’s group Raydio could not for long contain Ray Parker Jnr who for a time in the next decade looked like he could be one of the biggest solo acts. A gifted guitarist, vocalist, song writer and producer with a great pop sensibility, Parker’s career was both made by his theme song to the movie “Ghostbusters” and hampered by it, as the spectre of the term “novelty artist” hung over him. He was no novelty he just had an excellent sense of what was commercial. This was evident on his debut hit which is one of two nursery themed tunes on this album, but this tale of the couple who went up the hill is nowhere as twee as the Moments’ “Jack In The Box” which appears later. In fact, nursery rhyme referencing was not as out of place as it may seem in 70’s R&B, think The Gap Band’s “Oops Upside Your Head” and even Earth Wind and Fire did it on “Saturday Night” . This is a good piece of pop-flavoured mid-tempo funk made memorable by the echoing vocals of the names of the two main characters. I’ve always had a soft spot for both this and their UK hit follow-up “Is This A Love Thing?” Back in 1978 I won a copy of “Jack And Jill” in a competition in “Blues And Soul” magazine which for someone who relied on saving up pocket money for music purchases was quite a big thing!
10. Givin’ Up Givin’ In – Three Degrees (1978) (UK#12)
11. Rock The Boat – Hues Corporation (1974) (UK#6, US#1)
12. La La Means I Love You – Delfonics (1971) (UK#19, US#4)
13. There Goes My First Love – Drifters (1973) (UK#3)
14. Blockbuster – Sweet (1973) (UK#1)
15. It’s In His Kiss – Linda Lewis (1975) (UK#6)
I can’t miss an opportunity to herald this singer, not until she is recognised as one of the great British female artists. A singer who may have been too versatile for her own good is here on her biggest hit which like its follow-up “Baby I’m Yours” which I highlighted on the “After The Dance” CD is a cover version of 60’s girl pop. (I was young enough not to know this when this first came out). Here the pace is ramped up to fever pitch and it sounds like Linda has had a blast of helium before letting rip into this song which is just brilliant in giving the innocence of girl-group pop a 70’s glam makeover. Notes are hit that zoom off into the stratosphere. If you want to hear a vocalist putting 100% into a recording this is a prime example . It certainly, for me, puts Cher’s 1991 chart-topping version into the shade. It’s not even Lewis’ best recording. That would be a stunning version of a song based on Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Sun Whose Rays Are All Ablaze” from “The Mikado”, “The Moon and I” which I love so much I had it played at my wedding ensuring there would not be a dry eye in the house!
16. Fire – Pointer Sisters (1979) (UK#34, US#2)
17. Can’t Get By Without You – The Real Thing (1976) (UK#2)
18. Dancing On A Saturday Night – Barry Blue (1973) (UK#2)
19. Jack In The Box – The Moments (1977) (UK#7)
20. Get Dancin’ – Disco Tex & The Sex-O-Lettes (1974) (UK#8, US#10)
Native New Yorker: Disco Classics is currently available to buy from Amazon in the UK for £14.98 and used from £0.90.