I originally started this blog as a way for English speakers like myself to get more familiar with French records. When I started record shopping in Montreal, the only name I knew was Serge Gainsbourg. I remember puzzling over album covers in thrift stores, just trying to pick stuff out from the cover. I ended up buying a Donald Lautrec album because he had some great sunglasses on the front that reminded me of the ones Jean-Paul Belmondo wore in "Breathless." It wasn't the best purchase (but, there is one song with a sorta limp wristed James Brown cop courtesy of backing band Les Miserables...). After a while I realized that I needed some more knowledge to guide my purchases, so of course I turned to the internet. April March wrote a great primer to French music somewhere that hipped me to Catherine Ribeiro, Michel Polnereff, and much more. There were also a few Ye Ye Girls sites, the Pink Frankenstein site, and the Slipcure music site. I owe a lot of my French music knowledge to those sites.
And as I bought more records, I discovered great records that were basically ungoogleable. That was my inspiration to start a blog; to highlight records that hadn't been exposed to English speakers. But, I have been surprised by the amount of attention I have gotten from Quebecois readers. I thought I was doing this blog for my fellow clueless Americans, but I get way more readers from Canada. I have been amazed by the amount of great music that came out of Quebec. So, with that in mind I am going to do a Montreal disco post. Two songs with no lyrics, and one with English lyrics, but all recorded in Montreal.
I have touched upon this in other posts, but as a disco town Montreal was second only to New York in North America (there were at least 50 disco clubs in Montreal by the late 70's). The Montreal school of disco was aware of what was going on in NYC, yet even more influenced by Continental European dance hits like "El Bimbo" by Bimbo Jet, "Brazilia Carnival" by The Chocolate Boys, and "Rocket in the Pocket" by Cerrone. There was less of a funk feel to Montreal disco, as it drew on the colder Eurodisco, yet the percussion was often the equal of records coming out of New York and Philadelphia. Artists like Gino Soccio and Lime made Montreal disco famous worldwide, yet they don't tell the whole story.
First up is "Wow" by Andre Gagnon. Andre Gagnon started out as a classical piano player, who put a bunch of fairly crappy classical and faux jazz records (like Keith Jarrett Lite), until finally doing some decent pop-disco records. You will find at least one of his records in every single record store in Montreal. "Wow" is my favorite, from the "Neiges" LP. It has all the elements I like about Eurodisco: heavy percussion, a driving bass line, and ridiculous melody.
"Free Move" by Bribosia has the same bass line as "Wow" and an even cheesier melody, but, the percussion breaks are just sick. Bribosia is Gerry Bribosia, who played in Les Miserables (a Quebecois garage band of some renown, who also backed Donald Lautrec on the album I mentioned above) and then ended up, like so many Montreal musicians of the 60's, producing some disco records in the late 70's ("Dracula Disco", perhaps inspired by "Soul Dracula" by Hot Blood, was his big hit).
Lastly, "(Everybody) Get Dancin' by the Bombers also has the same general bassline and rhythmic feel as the above two tracks. It also has a beautifully transcendent vocal melody that reminds me a little bit of tracks like "There But For the Grace of God Go I" by Machine or Marvin Gaye's "Got to Give It Up." The Bombers were produced by Pat Desario, who is heavily fetishized in rare disco circles for his "Dogs of War" LP. Almost all of the Bombers records were issued in the US on West End records in New York and they turn up often in NYC disco collections. Their version of Babe Ruth's "The Mexican" (the song where Montreal prog-rock love and NYC B-Boy breakheads meet...) was a club hit in NYC and may have inspired the version by Jellybean Benitez.
Wow- Andre Gagnon
Free Move- Bribosia
(Everybody) Get Dancin'- Bombers