WISH LIST WEEK* (AUGUST 10-16, 2015)
I don't recall how this CD boxset ended up on my wish list, but if I had to guess I'd say that it might have had something to do with the book No Wave that I read back in 2011. In preparation for today's dive into this double disc set, I read the liner notes, watched the fascinating 2008 documentary, Wild Combination: A Portrait of Arthur Russell (which has sent me down yet another rabbit hole), and looked online. From the boxset's press release:
Dinosaur L is an alias donned by Arthur Russell, a man whose contribution to dance music from the late seventies and through the eighties was formidable but only quietly acknowledged. His innovative and left field dance records were way ahead of what people were used to hearing at the time.
He was a cellist who studied classical and Indian music. As well as his great strides in dance music he was also involved in the New York downtown avant-garde music scene and produced some albums in a more avant-garde/experimental vein as well as trying his own unique approach to pop. His records have influenced the scene from his first dance record in 1979 to the present day and his work has been much sampled.
Sadly Arthur died in 1992, but his music lives on and his influence is still felt on the dance music scene, his tunes still sound great and are still moving many dancers around the world, so his spirit lives on.
Alright, let's do this thing:
Avant-garde improvisational music over a Latin beat? Serious orchestral disco? Disco (Not Disco)? Misunderstood, cutting-edge genius having fun in the studio? All of the above. According to the liner notes, when Russell started with this kind of music at The Kitchen in April 1979, the audience (a mix of serious music fans and the disco cognoscenti) was baffled and "nobody knew what the hell to make of it." That's how I'm feeling right now as I listen. It's disco music that requires attentive listening, if that dichotomy makes any sense. It's gonna take a while for me to figure this stuff out, but I'm certain it will be worth the effort plus I can dance while I'm figuring cause it's funky as hell.
Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: Did not chart
Can't pick favorites today - it's all intriguing to me at this point. The first CD is the Dinosaur L 24→24 Music album plus related mixes and edits. The big hit around NYC was track h of disc one, the François Kevorkian mix of Go Bang! which was on the Billboard Disco chart for 9 weeks in 1982, peaking at #51.
Disc 2 features songs/mixes/edits from 1984 & 1986 from the Sleeping Bag Records archives. Tracks credit Russell and other collaborators, sometimes using his own name but often using aliases such as Indian Ocean, Felix, or Killer Whale. Bonzo Goes To Washington was a one-off recording with Russell and Jerry Harrison (Talking Heads), with Bernie Worrell and Bootsy Collins of Parliament/Funkadelic. The dance track 5 Minutes humorously samples Ronald Reagan and hit #36 on the disco charts in 1984. The B-b-b Bombing Mix of 5 Minutes was "chopped and channeled" by Russell. For the most part, the second disc is more mainstream and hip-hopish than the first, but it's a good companion piece.
Personal Memory Associated with this CD: None, but you can be sure that I'll be dropping the name Arthur Russell into casual conversation now. When people scrunch up their face and ask, "Who's That?" I'll just roll my eyes and respond with the proper sense of incredulity and condescension as if I've been hip to him and his music for over 35 years. Because I'm that guy.
*My money earned for teaching summer school usually pays for the family summer vacation. This year, however, we decided to forgo the usual vacay and spend money updating things around the house (the wife has been watching a lot of HGTV). Anyway, there was a little money left over, so I went over to Amazon and bought every CD available on my wish list, some of which had been on said list for over four years. This week, I'll be featuring some of these new-to-me discs; listening to many of them for the first time.