I've been on a roll here, right? It's been a while, but hey, it's difficult to one-up the past thirteen posts when you think they're going so well! (Or I could just say I've been way too busy with work at Anthem.)
Anyway -- Azoto is the flavor of the day. We're going straight to Italy for our Italo-disco ... not Canada or Brazil or elsewhere. Azoto was the creation of Celso Valli, the guy behind Macho and a whole pile of other groups, both obscure and more mainstream.
Valli is interesting in that he came from a more orchestral background (as did many producers and disco innovators of the 1970s). In the 1960s, he studied music in a more classical manner and found himself directing an orchestra of some sort at the Conservatory while still a teenager.
Then disco hit, and Valli changed his tune. His Azoto work is particularly noteworthy for its insatiable whimsy and fluid funkiness. The below three songs are all testament to this. In chronological order, we've got "Zorba's Dance," a shorter jam from 1978's Music Makers Ltd. (the record that also bizarrely included an outrageous recreation of "Havah Nagilah"), "It's the Way" from 1978's Dance Skinsation (which was actually released under the alias Lucrethia and the Azoto 14,008), and "San Salvador" from 1980's Disco Fizz.
Listen to them all and you'll fully understand the beauty of Valli's creations. They're totally free of pretention and loaded with almost goofy, excessively flamboyant rhythms, horn arrangements, string washes, and elastic bass lines.
Bonus points to whoever can tell me what that harmony is in "Zorba's Dance."
I'm tempted to write on here because Valli was a pretty amazing dude and was involved in a tremendous number of projects, but time is flying by, and I've got to get moving. Next time!
So, we're going to Canada this time around with a look at Denis Lepage, another one of those disco jack of all trades. He produced, song wrote, engineered, composed, arranged, and even sung.
Starting around 1976, Lepage began churning out disco tracks of all sorts, first -- as with all up-and-coming musicians -- with the smaller stuff. The higher profile stuff came in the early-1980s, and then a patch of obscurity came in the late-1980s (Lepage began putting out bizarre Hi NRG cuts under the moniker Le Page).
All of Lepage's stuff is very distinctly disco-based in tone, structure, energy, and arrangement, but there's something else there ... an X factor comprised of slinky synth ditties and mechanized drum beats. Unlike a lot of other disco from the era, Lepage avoided the super organic, almost soul-/R&B-like in quality, instead opting from the more electronic and digitized. (Hence his inevitable move to Hi NRG).
Lapage may be best known for three projects: first, his production work with Carol Jiani, a successful 1980s disco singer originally from Nigeria who allegedly sang on a Suzy Q track without proper crediting; second, his production work with Voggue, a short-lived female disco duo; and third, his work with his band, Lime.
Jiani put out quite a few good disco singles, but her best, in my opinion, is "Hit 'N Run Lover," which was coincidentally both her first release and the only one Lepage produced for her. Jiani's voice had gusto and unparalleled strength and fit in perfectly with Lepage's bouncy, spacey beats, bass lines, and string washes.
Voggue (Chantal Chamandy and Angela Songui) wasn't nearly as good as Jiani in terms of vocal talent, but several of their songs are pretty decent in their own right. "Dancin' the Night Away" sounds like an ode to Dexy's Midnight Runners or something ... paired with an aping of some easy-listening elevator music and, weirdly, 1960s girl group love ballads.
Lime, which was Denis Lepage and Denyse Lepage (cute, right?), formed right around the time that Lepage was producing the above artists' stuff, but it had a distinctly different vibe. Take these songs from 1982's LP, Lime II, for example: "Help Yourself" is a much more hyper track, "A Man and a Woman" nears dangerously close to arena rock or epic Queen, and "No Reply" sounds like the merging of, say, early Juan Atkins and Lepage's other disco work.