Every Friday night we smooth our way into the weekend with music, the universal language. These selections demonstrate that despite what is being passed off as art today, there is plenty of really good music available. Come along and enjoy.
It’s Valentine’s Day. This blog has done many VD segments in the past usually with very familiar and appropriate music for lovers. Tonight, something different. Not the usual suspects, but instead, selections that are slightly naughty. It’s all quality material.
Before the sultry, saucy stuff, we begin with a conventional, typical Valentine’s Day romantic melody from the 1932 film “Love me Tonight.” The music was composed by Richard Rodgers and the lyrics were written by Lorenz Hart. John Williams conducts the Boston Pops Orchestra.
Lover, when I’m near you, and I hear you, speak my name
Softly, in my ear you, breathe a flame
Lover, it’s immoral, but why quarrel, with our bliss
When, two lips of coral, want to kiss I say that the devil is in you, and to resist you I try
But if you didn’t continue, I would die
Lover, please be tender, when you’re tender, fears depart
Lover, I surrender, to my heart
Two stars from “Love Me Tonight” are Jeanette MacDonald and Maurice Chevalier. In the movie MacDonald sings the beautiful standard, not to Chevalier, but to a horse.
Now another orchestra led by the maestro of desire and passion. How about a sample?
Barry White formed the 40-piece Love Unlimited Orchestra to back up his female trio protégés, Love Unlimited. It didn’t take long before White began to employ them as well on his own recordings. Several successful solo albums by the ensemble followed. This track is from a 1975 LP.
Barry White died on July 4, 2003 after battling kidney failure brought on by high blood pressure. He was 58.
Now that we’ve established strings are pretty neat, a third consecutive orchestra number. This one’s by recording artists MFSB (Mother Father Sister Brother).
MFSB was a huge ensemble of over 30 studio musicians that backed various R & B and soul acts of the 70’s including the O’Jays, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, and the Spinners, all of whom were produced by Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. The orchestra also recorded their own instrumental albums.
Some of the key members including guitarists Norman Harris and Bobby Eli, bassist Ronnie Baker, and drummer Earl Young were part of the recording of Cliff Nobles’ late 60’s hit, “The Horse.”
In 1973, Don Cornelius asked Gamble to write a theme for his new dance show. Gamble took MFSB into a studio to record TSOP and then persuaded Cornelius to release it as a single. It went to the top of the charts and won a Grammy.
70disco.com writes this about MFSB:
“Quality craftsmen were allowed to explore, expand a song’s inner meaning while galloping from a smokin’ jazz quintet to a 30-piece orchestra in a heartbeat. The group was velvet with a spine, a Love Unlimited Orchestra with grit. They consistently surprised with a theatrical flair.”
The album “Love is the Message” featured the gigantic smash, “TSOP.” Hard to believe it also generated this lush recording that features a nice vibes solo by Vince Montana.
“My One and Only Love” dates back to 1953, written by Guy Wood and Robert Mellin. Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald recorded the song. It’s actually the flip side of Sinatra’s “I’ve Got the World on a String.” Sting does a version on the “Leaving Las Vegas” soundtrack.
No, they don’t write them like they used to.
The very thought of you makes
My heart sing
Like an April breeze
On the wings of spring
And you appear in all your splendour
My one and only love
The shadows fall
And spread their mystic charms
In the hush of night
While you’re in my arms
I feel your lips so warm and tender
My one and only love
MFSB’s “K-Jee” was a track on the mammoth selling soundtrack of “Saturday Night Fever.” Their last album was released in 1980 and the group folded in 1981.
Time to crank the sexuality level up.
Diana Ross was one of the biggest stars of Motown Records. After leaving the Supremes she launched a very successful solo career. In the mid 1970’s disco was king. But Ross wanted no part of it, and Motown didn’t do disco records. That would change.
Motown producer Hal Davis thought the time had come to give disco a try. In 1976 he crafted a song that segued from a slow, relaxed opening to a rapid uptempo groove. Davis assembled the musicians for a 2 a.m. recording session, and even served them Remy Martin.
To get Ross in the right mood (she didn’t want to sing disco) Davis purposely scheduled the late evening session. Ross preferred nighttime tapings. Flashing rights were set up in the studio. Instead of Remy Martin Ross drank vodka, her favorite. Ross so enjoyed herself that at one point she let out a laugh that you can hear on the record.
The 5th Dimension also recorded “Love Hangover.” Their version was released the same week as Ross’. Motown promoted their single heavily. It hit #1 and Ross was a disco diva. The 5th Dimension single only made it to #80.
That’s it for this week.
Have a great weekend.
We close with Donna Summer, the queen of disco, who died in 2012 of lung cancer not related to smoking. She was 63.
Before our final exciting video a personal anecdote.
Summer was a hot commodity in the 1970’s. She appeared at Milwaukee’s Performing Arts Center (PAC) in November of 1978. By that time she already had recorded three #1 hits.
One of my many jobs during my college days was working as an usher at the PAC and the night Summer headlined I was assigned to work on the main floor for the front seats of the orchestra section. Naturally the place was packed.
Now the show starts and there are no empty seats. Shortly after the concert began I’m in the hallway outside the main floor doors where I was supposed to be and I see a young couple coming towards me. The latecomers did have tickets…for the two end seats on the aisle on the right side in the very first row. Problem was I knew the seats were occupied.
I took the couple inside and told them to wait at the doors while I investigated. Down the steps to the first row I marched, knelt down so as not to block anyone’s view, and kindly asked the gentleman on the aisle seat to see his tickets. He immediately handed them over. Using my flashlight I saw they were not first row seats. They weren’t even first floor seats. The tickets were for the balcony…on the PAC’s 5th (top) floor. I was ticked.
At this point there was suddenly more illumination than just my flashlight. The spotlight had followed Summer as she moved to the right end of the stage, directly above me. My reaction was to look up where I saw, slightly more than an arm’s length away, the sultry Summer, wearing high heels and a sequined gown, slit up to the ceiling with legs that could kill. Gulp.
Oh no, I thought. Surely she’s going to stop the show and do or say something that might embarrass me. Another gulp.
It was a brief encounter, but so memorable. Summer looked straight down at me, smiled without missing a lyric, then started to walk across the lip of the stage to the other side to divert all attention. What a pro.
Then it was time to rectify the seating mess. No usher seated the two that were supposed to be in the balcony. They had just plopped themselves down hoping to pull one over.
I promptly instructed them to follow me and put the proper folks in the front row. In the hallway I told the other couple how to get to their true seats. My parting words were, I believe, “Don’t ever try that again.”
This 1975 song, Summer’s first hit, was a bit shocking, and not just because of the lyrics and Summer’s singing style. She actually wrote it and that was surprise, given her Christian upbringing. “I let go long enough to show all the things I’ve been told since childhood to keep secret” Summer told Time magazine. In another interview with the Telegraph Magazine Summer said, “I took on this character and eventually it just fitted me.”
“Donna’s message is best conveyed in grunts and groans and languishing moans. Her goal is to make an album ‘for people to take home and fantasize in their minds’” Time magazine wrote.
“SUMMER: The Donna Summer Musical” is at the James M. Nederlander Theatre in Chicago for a short time. The musical that tells the story of Summer’s life is playing now through Feb. 23, and is one hour and 40 minutes with no intermission. Tickets start at $27. Visit BroadwayInChicago.com for more information.