Home > disco > Picks 12/24/2012 – Beat Swap Meet Pulls Pt. 2

Picks 12/24/2012 – Beat Swap Meet Pulls Pt. 2

I got busy/sick/whatever last week and didn’t update. Now I’m at my parents house and this environment here isn’t exactly conducive to writing. So there are a few records I didn’t write about that I really wanted to. So it goes. Everything should be back to normal this next weekend, but who knows. I’ve got such a backlog of records I need to write about. Records records recordsrecordsrecords

Pulled from dusty crates at Beat Swap Meet.

GQ – Two (Arista, 1980)

 Kind of weird to hear myself say this, but GQ is one of my favorite disco bands. Unlike a lot of other projects at the time, their music landed squarely on this side of too cheesy, working as a  tight group with a real knack for the dance floor coupled with some extremely sugary melodies. They’re best known for the Studio 54 classic “Disco Nights (Rock Freak),” but I think their entire catalog is pretty great. Coming up through the ’70s as The Rhythm Makers, their time together has allowed them to develop an audible camaraderie and the deep pocket groove of a veteran band.

“Lies” (above) is the clear winner for me, this is one of those tracks that made listening to the radio at night as a kid – tuning into the disco station – so rewarding. The track is an excellent example of how glitzy big money disco can be soulful and compelling; anchored by a remarkable bassline from Keith Crier, a thick synthesizer haze creeps in with jangling keys processed by what could be King Tubby himself and then the vocal come in. I really love the sound of Emanuel Raheim Leblanc’s voice, he’s got this very emotional voice that has a lot of influence in Doo Woop and early sweet Soul, but sung with the assurance and immediacy of a modern R&B star. Yes, the chorus with its blaring horns and weird lyrics are a low point, but the tight groove and phenomenal musicianship of the core track is more than worthwhile. If you want a leaner cut, go with Andres’ brilliant edit, “Change My Mind.”

Looking at the record as a whole, the upbeat dance songs sit on the A-side and the quiet storm ballads are reserved for the flip. “Standing Ovation” kicks off the record and it’s a great introduction to the slick groove GQ brings to the table. The track is at once funky but peppered with elements of Prince funk n’ roll and classic Smokey Robinson melodies. The track is fairly cheesy, but the melody is so damn good and the groove so tight you can’t help but dance and sing along. Faring much better with this formula is “Someday (In Your Life),” as the track moves forward with a quiet shuffle and jangly guitar. The bass is tight, the drums are crisp, and the synth haze is nice and thick – excellent work guys.

Now, the sound of the group is very important for me as a listener and a DJ, and there’s a reason why this record has been my most listened to item of from the trip. The clean and light guitar riffing against the rich bass is only accented further by soulful electric piano work or airy rhodes ambiance. Add to that a singer half sweet soul and half disco assertiveness. All that produced by Jimmy Simpson, an influential New York producer/early remixer who knew how to give a big nod to the DJs and dancers in discos and skate jams.  He crafts a mix that is a real delight to hear on a quality soundsystem – the bass is heavy and enhanced by a soft kick, while synth nebulae float above the silky melodies. The album ends with “Its Like That,” a piano led disco bomb that perfectly encapsulates the essence of what makes this band a step above their peers. They take a more Chic style approach here, sashaying with a strong male-female vocal hook and hefty bassline, but then they introduce a rogue synth breakdown that is absolutely mad. It totally disrupts the perfect sugary image GQ has been running with and demonstrates that this isn’t paint-by-numbers disco, this is music that is aware of its surrounding, but still capable of being forward thinking.

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Laidback – Sunshine Reggae b/w White Horse (Sire, 1983)

“White Horse” (above) is a true electro/synth-pop classic, bearing the notable distinction of having been aped by both Prince and 2 Live Crew. It’s a brilliant drum machine work out with a simple bass line and even more intuitive lyrics. This is dance music, pure and simple – dumb, fun, and pleasantly weird. The bass is heavy, the rhythm jacking and the lyrics are too simple to not sing along too – that is if you’re not laughing at them. “Sunshine Reggae” is not really my thing at all, it’s just too damn cheesy (goddamn steel drums) for my taste.

Categories: disco
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