Monday, October 10, 2011

Various Artists - The Casablanca File (1975)

(Various Casablanca Artists 1974-1975)
Casablanca Records was an American record label started by Neil Bogart, who partnered with Cecil Holmes, Larry Harris, and Buck Reingold in 1973, and based in Los Angeles. The label was formed after all of them had left Buddah Records and secured financing by Warner Bros. Records to start the venture. Casablanca had become one of the most successful labels of the 1970s, signing and releasing albums by such acts as Kiss, Donna Summer, The Village People, Cher, and Parliament featuring George Clinton. The label's film division, Casablanca Filmworks, had hits with the movies 'The Deep' and 'Midnight Express'.
In 1977, PolyGram Records acquired a 50 percent stake of Casablanca for $15 million, and then in 1980 it purchased the other 50 percent. Also in 1980, one of the label's biggest acts, Donna Summer, left for another record company as she and Casablanca could not come to terms on her musical direction in the new decade. That same year, Polygram pushed Bogart out of Casablanca due to what it viewed as the label's overspending and accounting irregularities. In the early 80s, with Bogart no longer heading the label, Casablanca had hits with acts Lipps Inc and Irene Cara, but it did not have the same level of success it had in the 70s. The label was eventually shut down with some of the artist roster and catalog absorbed into sister label Mercury Records [extract from wikipedia]
Kiss (Selftitled, Dressed To Kill, Hotter Than Hell)
In only four short years, Casablanca had become a blockbuster record company due to KISS, arguably the most sensational live act in rock music at the time. Ray D’Ariano, who was based in Casablanca’s New York office, noted: “The disco thing was so huge and at the same time, we had this phenomenon going on with KISS. Totally nothing to do with disco, totally nothing to do with anything”. The team behind KISS was instrumental in the innovative marketing of the group. Bill Aucoin, who managed KISS through his own Rock Steady management company, and Joyce Bogart-Trabulus, who co-managed the group with Aucoin, ensured that KISS was constantly breaking new ground. Aucoin even copyrighted the band’s make-up in the Library of Congress. 1978 brought a rock music “first” to fruition when each member of KISS released a solo album simultaneously (however, not very strong albums in my opinion).
Astor records (Astor radio corporation) became the sole distributor of Kiss in Australia at the time. Their first single release in Australia was from 'Hotter than Hell' LP: "Let Me Go Rock N Roll"/ "Hotter than Hell". Then came Australia's first Kiss LP release 'Hotter than Hell' and similar to the USA the blue boghart label (see pictured at the bottom of this post) was used for these early records.
The second record was there selftitled album 'Kiss', sadly no singles were released from this LP in Oz. In that same year, 'Dressed to Kill' was released and featured singles "Rock N Roll All Nite"/"Getaway" and "C'mon Love Me"/"Getaway". All these singles and LPs didn't make the charts and did poorly in sales. Which is extremely tough to find for KISS collectors as they rarely appear at local garage sales and alike. In the same year, Kiss featured on this Australian Casablanca sampler compilation called 'The Casablanca File'.
Greg Perry (One For The Road)
Greg was one of major staff writers for Invictus/Hot Wax and co wrote most of the hits of Chairmen of the Board, Freda Payne etc. This his first solo album was originally released on Casablanca in 1975.
Greg is one ot the most impressive new progressive soul talents to emerge in years," reads Cashbox and his debut album tor Casablanca 'One For The Road' was reviewed as a "stunning/perfectly tasteful, high voltage blend of the Shaft/Superfly and Philly sound breakthroughs."
Listen to "I'll Be Comin' Back" and "Variety Is The Spice Of Life" and you'll understand why these reviews are worthy. This album is now regarded as one the best soul albums of all time.
James & Bobby Purify (You & Me Together)
They were an R&B singing duo and 'Bobby Purify' was actually two different singers. The first was James's cousin, Robert Lee Dickey, who adopted the Purify name for performing, and sang on their early records. The second Bobby, was vocalist Ben Moore, who replaced Dickey in 1971 when Dickey suffered health problems.
James and Bobby's new album 'You and me Together' produced by Don Schroeder and Tommy Gogbill for the Casablanca label, marked the first time the duo had recorded together since their earlier string of hits including the classic "I'm Your Puppet" and what an album to come back with; they've come up with a brand new hot disco sound that will knock you out, so be warned!
Fanny (Rock And Roll Survivors)
When you ask people to name the very first all-female rock band ever, THE GOGO'S, THE BANGLES or THE RUNAWAYS might come close to the truth. But the real answer would be FANNY. Formed in the late sixties, led by the two sisters, June and Jean Millington, they sounded like a real rock band. From that moment on, it was cool and accepted for women to play rock music. As there was no competition back in these days, FANNY were quite unique and on their own, so to speak.
'Rock 'n' Roll Survivors' their fifth and latest album is unquestionably their best to date. With the addition of Patti Quatro (Suzi's sister) Fanny are, in their own words, much "harder", "heavier", "tighter" and "funkier" than any of the previous Fanny incarnations. Check out the hot single "Butter Boy" and the Jagger/Richard "Let's Spend The Night Together" and you'll see what they mean.
As a final album, Fanny's 'Rock & Roll Survivors' is not as bad as the reviews of the time made it out -- specifically in the United States (in the U.K. the album was received quite well, both critically and commercially). For instance, it does contain their most successful charting single with "Butter Boy," which reached number 29 in the Billboard Hot 100. That said, it does reveal a band struggling to maintain its identity in the midst of tremendous pressure. For starters, founding member and guitarist June Millington left before the album was recorded, as did drummer Alice de Buhr. Bassist Jean Millington replaced her sister with former Detroiter Patti Quatro, sister of Suzi, and drummer Brie Brandt (who left immediately after the recording and was replaced by Cam Davis for the band's final tour).
Patti began to take over the role as band leader. Although this didn't last too long. As Jean was one of the founding members of FANNY, she wasn't too happy with this situation of course. Early 1975, Cam left the band and Patti followed shortly thereafter. FANNY called it quits and the story was over.
Parliament (Up For The Down Stroke, Chocolate City)
Parliament (aka Funkadelic) was a funk, soul and rock music collective headed by George Clinton. Their style has been dubbed P-Funk. Collectively the group has existed under various names since the 1960s and has been known for top-notch musicianship, politically charged lyrics, outlandish concept albums and memorable live performances. They had a large cult following.
Parliament first recorded for Invictus Records in 1970, and after a hiatus in which Clinton focused on Funkadelic, Parliament was signed to Casablanca Records and released its debut album 'Up for the Down Stroke' in 1974 and a followup LP 'Chocolate City' in 1975. Notable members to join during this period include keyboardist Bernie Worrell, bassist Bootsy Collins, guitarist Garry Shider, and The Horny Horns.
They have been lauded as America's top purveyors of a kind of Soul Music that picks up where Sly leaves off. A reviewer said of a recent concert "The group must have hit those special notes that Sly discovered in "Dance To The Music" because the effect was just that, you had to move." Listen to their two albums on Casablanca "Up For The Down Stroke" and their brand new L.P "Chocolate City" and you'll agree.
Hugh Masekela (The Boy's Din' It)
Hugh Masekela has an extensive jazz background and credentials, but has enjoyed major success as one of the earliest leaders in the world fusion mode. Masekela's vibrant trumpet and flugelhorn solos have been featured in pop, R&B, disco, Afropop and jazz contexts. He's had American and international hits, worked with bands around the world, and played with African, African-American, European and various American musicians during a stellar career. His style, especially on flugelhorn, is a charismatic blend of striking upper register lines, half valve effects, repetitive figures and phrases, with some note bending, slurs and tonal colors. Though he's often simplified his playing to fit into restrictive pop formulas, Masekela's capable of outstanding ballad and bebop work.
One of the Superstars and vital spokesmen in our society, has come up with an absolute blockbuster of an album for his debut on Casablanca records; with 'The Boy's Doin' It', Hugh has returned to his roots. Produced by himself and Stewart Levine, the album was recorded in Lagos, Nigeria using local musicians to capture the ethnic feel — and it works, full of primeval rhythm, it is a beautiful musical experience and can only enhance Hugh's standing as a leading musical innovator.
No other work during Hugh Masekela's long and fruitful career blended all of his interests -- jazz, funk, pop, Afrobeat, and R&B, plus a little Latin and a lot of disco -- into such an exciting mixture as 1975's The Boy's Doin' It, his first record for Casablanca. Influenced by Kool & the Gang as well as the growing tendency for Latin artists (like Joe Bataan) to cross over toward contemporary dance trends (and labels), Masekela recruited a few veterans from the Ghanian high life band Hedzoleh Soundz -- with whom he'd worked with on one album before. Recorded in Lagos, Nigeria and dedicated to Fela Kuti, The Boy's Doin' It has six extended jams, each of which does an excellent job of playing off deep grooves against ensemble vocals and catchy hooks, with plenty of room for Masekela's own trumpet and every note polished to a fine '70s sheen. It didn't matter what type of music fan you were: pop, disco, funk, world music, and any but the most hidebound jazz purist could get into these tracks.
Gloria Scott (What Am I Gonna Do)
"I really love to sing hearty songs — songs I can live and experiences I can identify with." says Gloria. Gloria Scott's debut album on the Casablanca is full of such songs and the title track "What Am I Gonna Do?" captures the feel perfectly. A glorious Barry White production which is bound to launch Gloria into stardom where she belongs.
One of the greatest soul records of all time, and an album that we'd never part with! Gloria Scott only ever recorded this one full LP, but that's more than enough, as the whole thing's a masterpiece, produced by Barry White with the best of his 70s approach, and featuring songs written by lesser-known White protege, Tom Brock! Nearly every single cut's a classic, a mixture of deep soul, mellow soul, and slight traces of funk, all gliding effortlessly together with White's stone cold production, and Gloria's instantly captivating vocals.
For newcomers to the album, this album was released in 1974 in limited quantities on vinyl, and to date is vocalist Gloria Scott's only album (no one knows what happened to her either). As the only album she recorded, it failed within the US, but for some reason developed a cult following in Europe, and strangely enough, in Japan. In fact, the Japanese audience was sizable enough that the first ever CD release of this happened only within Japan.
So what does the music sound like - well, think of some old school Diana Ross, slowed down even more and layered with a luscious jazz and blues ambiance. Its stripped down, almost acoustic, and yet every track manages to sound different and unique. My personal favorite is "Its Better to have no Love" which best exemplifies the kind of superb songwriting that was present back in the 1970s. "A Case of too Much Lovemakin" was actually a minor R&B hit within the US in 1974 - but ask anyone who followed music back in that year about Gloria Scott and they'd go "Who?"
I love obscure, rare releases such as this one. Gloria Scott created an instant classic, and it holds up just beautifully. I'd suggest you get your hands on this as soon as possible. I think Mary J Blige possibly has this album though, as almost EVERY song on this album sounds like it could have inspired almost all of the best songs in Blige's catalog. Either way, this LP is a must-have.
This post consists of a mp3 (320kps) rip taken from my vinyl which I acquired when it was first released - and yes, it was the inclusion of the relatively unknown band Kiss that drew my attention to the album. Full album artwork is included.
The remaining tracks never really excited me at the time but on reflection, there are some good Disco and Funk tracks on this record sampler also.
And so, in the infamous words of that well known actor who put the city of Casablanca on the map - Play It Again Sam !
Track Listing
01 - I'll Be Coming Back
(Greg Perry)
02 - Do Your Thing (Bobby & James Purify)

03 - Ride On (Parliament)
04 - Strutter (Kiss)

05 - Two Timer (Kiss)

06 - Beggar Man (Fanny)

07 - Testify (Parliament)

08 - Hot Down In Chile (Danny Cox)
09 - Too Much Love Makin' (Gloria Scott)

10 - The Boy's Doin' It (Hugh Masekela)

11 - Let Me Go Rock 'N' Roll (Kiss)

The Casablanca Link (84Mb) New Link 24/10/2015

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