Ahead Of Blisspop Disco Fest, taking place September 27-29, 2019 at the 9:30 Club and U Street Music Hall, we asked Blisspop’s contributors to dig for some prime vintage disco cuts. Aeron Premo, Yvette Bailhache, and Will Creason select and dissect three disco heaters.
Amanda Lear — “Follow Me” (1978)
Aeron Premo — I had first heard of Amanda Lear through her extremely interesting backstory as a muse of Salvador Dalí and the contradicting stories surrounding her origins. However, the first time I heard her music was when watching the film Dallas Buyers Club and “Follow Me” played in the background of a scene. It was some of the most captivating disco I had ever heard. Leaning more towards the hi-NRG side of disco, the musical arrangement is incredibly beautiful. I just love the way that the verses are set up perfectly for the chorus to take the listener to another world. Those synth swirls that begin the chorus — just wow! Lear also utilizes a seductive vocal style, her low range coo literally leading the listener to “follow” her to wherever she wants to take them. And she does just that.
Yvette Bailhache — Wow, what a voice! I’m getting a little bit of Grace Jones in it, but Amanda Lear is definitely her own person. The video helped me to like this more than I would have if I were just streaming this. Her dance moves are so kooky and intoxicating, which for me just adds to the song overall. This isn’t typically my kind of disco track so I’m a little on the fence, however, the “long heavenly version” played right afterwards and that seems to be a bit cleaner so I was really able to understand the vibe and it’s pretty tight.
Will Creason — This song has really smart, restrained production choices giving the entire song the feeling of a crescendo being just around every corner. Lear’s deadpan vocal delivery is a great foil to the airy pads and string flourishes that pepper the song and give it a chugging forward momentum. There is a subtle reverb effect on the chorus that adds another dimension to the otherwise dry vocals that really splits the verse-chorus framework up nicely.
Dinosaur — “Kiss Me Again” (1978)
Aeron Premo — What really stood out first for me about this Arthur Russell and Nicky Siano produced track was the singer’s vocal. It is a nice combination of understated and soulful belting that works incredibly well together. It is enhanced by a phenomenal musical arrangement, complete with a funky bassline and upbeat melody. While some songs that last thirteen minutes like this tend to get staid and boring after a while, this arrangement is so strong and incredibly high energy that you want to listen the entire way through because it is just that good. I never would have guessed that David Byrne was playing guitar on the track, but then again, the Talking Heads have their funky moments, so it shouldn’t surprise me all that much. Thank you, William for bring this track to our attention!
Yvette Bailhache — I love this! Initially the thought of listening to one song for 13 minutes seemed tortuous, but after only a few seconds in, that all changed. I like the disco subtlety of this track but at the same time there’s something hard and badass about it. The vocals are smooth, the riffs are fire, and you can either dance or simply nod your head and groove in your seat. I love when that happens. The cherry on top for me was to learn that David Byrne was on the guitar. I am die hard Talking Heads head, so to discover something “new” from him in 2019 is a major treat. Fantastic track!
Will Creason — In the pantheon of fantastic Arthur Russell productions, “Kiss Me Again” has always been the classic hidden in plain sight. It was released in 1978 but by the end of the decade had gone out of print. It stayed out of print, occasionally resurfacing on bootleg records until earlier this year when it was digitally reissued by Warner Music Group. Dinosaur is a collaboration between Russell and pioneering DJ Nicky Siano, features an exceptional vocal from Myriam Valle, and has uncredited guitar work from David Byrne. Russell’s input is easy to hear: a great bass motif played by Wilbur Bascomb, tumbling hand drum fills, and a cello riff weaving its way into the mix. For me, the star is Valle’s soaring, yearning vocals that create an instant earworm.
Lee Alfred — “Rockin-Poppin Full Tilting (Part 1)” (1980)
Aeron Premo — This track’s funky drum beat and bass gave me the clue immediately that this was going to be a fantastic listen. Immediately afterwards, I recognized the high-pitched synths as the sample that Midland used for his incredible single “Final Credits”. So right then and there, I was in love. “Rockin-Poppin” has many wonderful uses of instrumental elements, from the aforementioned drums, bass, and synths to the scorching guitar line. While these may seem like a lot, they mesh well together and provide a foundation for the relaxed lead vocal of Alfred and the strong chorus from the backing vocalists. This is a stunning track overall and I wish I had heard it earlier. It is a fantastic discovery, however, and I will be sure to share it with my fellow disco lovers everywhere.
Yvette Bailhache — Back in 2016, Midland’s “Final Credits” was the tribute edit heard & loved around the net. It was legit everywhere. However, the original version didn’t get much credit and it took some serious digging for me to finally find Lee Alfred’s “Rockin-Poppin.” What a gem to have discovered. It’s a classic dancefloor banger with such a feel-good and soulful vibe. Midland’s edit is great, but to me, the original shines much brighter.
Will Creason — Wow! This one is a stunner. According to Discogs, Lee Alfred has a sum total of four 7″ singles, all released from the outskirts of St. Louis. The swooping bassline, cracking hand percussion, and the oddball burbling synth put this one on the right course before Alfred’s great, clear vocals comes in. The male-female vocal interplay on the chorus really works giving it a great call and response feeling.