Teri DeSario, Space and more
One of Barry Gibb’s finest compositions did not appear on a Bee Gees album. In fact, it was not even a song that the Bee Gees recorded. Rather, it appeared on the debut album by Teri DeSario. Known primarily for her Top 5 hit with K.C., “Yes, I’m Ready” (lifted from her ‘79 album, Moonlight Madness), DeSario recorded one of the greatest sides ever to sport the Casablanca logo. “Ain’t Nothin’ Gonna Keep Me From You” is disco perfection and can still lift dancers into a disco dreamland 30 years later.
Produced by Gibb with his Karl Richardson and Albhy Galuten, is a kind of a bridge between Saturday Night Fever (1977) and Casablanca, two worlds of disco that are completely different yet inevitably get lumped together. Less R&B-influenced and boasting a faster BPM count than the Bee Gees’ hits from the movie soundtrack, “Ain’t Nothin’ Gonna Keep Me From You” glides along on a lilting rhythm section and DeSario’s crystalline voice. The tune catches attention at the outset. Over incessant drums and percussion, the piano and guitar introduce the melody chords before a gust of strings give way to DeSario, who effortlessly strings together Gibb’s lyrics. Upon its release, “Ain’t Nothin’ Gonna Keep Me From You” narrowly missed the Top 40 at #42 but it remains a defining moment of excellence in Casablanca’s history.
Space: “My Love Is Music” (Just Blue, 1978)
The collective known as Space specialized in cinematic Eurodisco. Led by composer Didier Marouani, with Roland Romanelli and Joe Hammer, the group’s second Casablanca release, Just Blue, evoked a mood as cold and precise as Shusei Nagaoka’s cover illustration. “I love Eurodisco”, Tom Moulton assures, “believe me I love it, but the one thing it lacks is that soul because it’s so locked into everything on the one. It’s so rigid. There’s no room. Soul is a little loose and you can work with it a little bit”.
The one track where Space works some soul into the mix is on “My Love Is Music”. It sounds unlike anything else on the album. Whereas the majority of Just Blue seems scored for a science fiction movie, “My Love Is Music” is an attack of bass guitar, percussion and the rousing voice of Madeline Bell. Bell was something of a fixture in the Eurodisco scene, having backed up Donna Summer and Roberta Kelly as one of the Munich Machine’s “Midnite Ladies”. “My Love Is Music” belongs to Bell. She completely owns the track. Re-released in Greece by Bastien Muisc in the mid-‘90s, Just Blue is essential listening if only for “My Love Is Music”. For a moment, the cold, chilly waters of Space become steamy hot springs.
7th Wonder: “Do It With Your Body” (Climbing Higher, 1979)
The legacy of the Casablanca-distributed Parachute label is that it is essentially a discography of hidden gems (only one Parachute group, Liquid Gold, appeared on the Casablanca box set), of which the first two albums recorded by 7th Wonder certainly qualify. Formed from the same scene as The Commodores, the Tuskegee-based funk/R&B band caught the attention of Jerry Weaver, a songwriter and producer who had done session work for Aretha Franklin in the early-‘70s. With Weaver’s production muscle, 7th Wonder debuted with Words Don’t Say Enough (1978) and followed up with an even stronger effort, Climbing Higher(1979). It featured more dance-oriented material, including “Daisy Lady” (memorably sampled by The Sugarhill Gang on “8th Wonder”) and “Do It With Your Body”. The latter, which was mixed by Richie Rivera, is an intoxicating tonic of R&B-based disco. “Do it with your body, baby/Boogie, get down”, the mantra goes and it’s had to resist the invitation. Strings, horns, and percussion add layers of musical bliss to the track.
The group’s lead vocalist, Allen Williams, maintains an affection for the material he recorded with 7th Wonder, including the final album, Thunder (1980), that found a home on Chocolate City after Parachute folded. “I listen to them now and I like all of them”, he says. “Sometimes it brings tears to my eyes. It’s beautiful. The group is still together. We never broke up but we all had to go to day jobs. We’ve been working on an album for about five years now but it’s slow going. I’m hoping you get a chance to hear what we have now”. Like the majority of Parachute artists, 7th Wonder’s three albums have yet to be brought into the 21st century.
Duncan Sisters: “Boys Will Be Boys” (Duncan Sisters, 1979)
“The boy wonder”, that’s how Pattie Brooks remembers Marc Paul Simon, Casablanca’s Vice President of Special Projects (i.e. “Disco Promotion”). Speak to any artist or executive from Casablanca and they will attest to Simon’s innovation with record promotion in the clubs. Along with his team, which included Michele Hart-Winer, Dennis Wheeler, Arnie Smith, and the late Kenn Friedman, Simon made Casablanca a leading force in dance music. It wasn’t long before he created his own customized label at Casablanca, EarMarc.
The first EarMarc release was a self-titled release by The Duncan Sisters. Phyllis and Helen Duncan were known for their session work with the likes of Al Green and Ann Peebles before Toronto-based producers Ian Guenther and Willi Morrison hired them to record on a variety of the team’s Three Hats Productions. “Boys Will Be Boys” is the most beloved of the album’s half-dozen songs. Marc Paul Simon knew what his clients wanted and “Boys Will Be Boys” delivered. With an eight-piece horn section, a ten-piece string section, and a guitar lick that would make Duane Eddy proud, the track is dressed to the nines. Doubtless, The Duncan Sisters’ lament, “When he breaks the rules, well/You know you’ll be the fool” resonated with the many ladies and gentlemen who danced along to the song’s deceptively cheery melody. Signifying its girl-group DNA, no less an icon than Ronnie Spector recorded the song on her Siren (1979) album. However, for seven minutes on the album that introduced EarMarc to DJ’s and dancers alike, “Boys Will Be Boys” belongs only to The Duncan Sisters.