Another new and fantastic music recommendation chosen by our friend and music collaborator Claude Lemaire. You are invited to delve deeper into the music with the Six-Pack Summer Suggestions - part 2... "For this second installment, I selected six albums from the 1970s that had some sort of impact on me during my early formative years. The first four more so while the two last selections more for lighter fun. A mix of rock, disco, and new wave, which were the three main musical branches driving that decade. As always, if you find my recommended pressings too expensive, you can usually replace them by other more affordable pressings but be aware that the sound quality may differ quite a lot from my sonic descriptions and be wary of any digital intermediates in the complex chain."

1- Slade – Slade Alive!.

Polydor – 2383 101 (1972, March), 33 1/3 rpm. Genre: hard rock, rhythm and blues, rock 'n' roll.

The British album that through its title and extraordinary energetic vibe resurrected Kiss from its demise. Along with Alice Cooper and Kiss, Slade were among the first rock bands I discovered at a young age via my best friend's older brother LP collection who was really into these harder-sounding rock records that strangely seemed ignored by most rock stations. We were unanimous in skipping side A altogether, finding side B's first two tracks more in line with our tastes. "Keep on Rocking" followed by a cover of the Bobby Marchan and Little Richard single "Get Down and Get with It", captured the Wolverhampton, Staffordshire quartet's unadulterated excitement on stage playing essentially hard, intense blue-eyed rhythm and blues borrowing liberally from Chuck Berry's guitar-driven rock 'n' roll. Produced by Chas Chandler, engineer Barry Ainsworth recorded it at Command Studios in Picadilly, London in front of alive audience, while Alan O'Duffy mixed it at Olympic Studios in Barnes, West London with handclaps and heavy stomping footsteps adding to the fun-filled ambiance. Lacquer cut and pressed at Phonodisc Ltd. in Greater London. I don't have the original UK but my Canadian first press sounds fairly good. The US first press cut by Robert Ludwig at Sterling Sound in New York could also be a contender worth checking out.

2- Kiss – Alive!. 

Casablanca – NBLP 7420-798 (1975, Sept.), 2x33 1/3 rpm. Genre: hard rock, glitter rock, glam rock, glam punk, heavy metal, rock 'n' roll influences.

Purchased at a Woolworth's Five and dime store sometime around spring 1977, Kiss' fourth release was either the second or third album entering my collection and definitely my first rock LP–live double LP no less. Ridiculed and rightly so for their mega-merchandising, cheezy made-for-tv fantasy film, and string of awful albums post-1970s, the maked-up quartet from Queens New York nevertheless–within a strict limited four year span–was the hottest and hardest band in the land but you wouldn't think so by listening to their first three studio albums. Signed to Neil Bogart's newly launched Casablanca label and paired up with producers and engineers at Bell Sound Studios that clearly had no idea how to capture the band's true live spirit and raw energy, it is shameful but not surprising that they weren't selling many records and were about to leave the label–itself on the brink of financial collapse. Come summer 1975 and suddenly Kiss came Alive! Saved in part by Bogart's late but bright idea to record the group in concert and taking strong inspiration from Slade's first live LP, it fell upon producer-engineer extraordinaire Eddie Kramer to capture Kiss, if not live, then at least the feeling of hearing the band play live but with a twist or two; rather make that many, many tweaks. Never one to put his stamp on something not worthy of his stature, Kramer crafted an unbelievable job recording the group between May and July 1975 during the Dressed to Kill Tour, then overdubbing, and mixing the group at Electric Lady Studios in NYC to iron out many performance and sonic shortcomings–ending up producing Kiss' best album by far and probably the best hard rock 'live' album ever, influencing so many rock musicians. Opening with "Deuce", followed by "Strutter", "Got to Choose", "Hotter than Hell", and "Firehouse" firing up the first side. Side's two and three are no slouch either, with "Nothin' to Lose", "C'mon and Love Me", the heavier "Parasite" and "Black Diamond". The last side is a winner with "Rock Bottom", "Cold Gin", and the arena staple "Rock and Roll All Night" that often closed the shows as an encore. There are several original US "dark blue" label pressing variants. My US copy mastered and cut by Robert Ludwig at Sterling Sound in New York is quite good–and better than the one cut by Brian Gardner at Allen Zentz Mastering in California pressed the same year–but could still use a bit of a bass boost. MoFi or someone like Chris Bellmann or Kevin Gray accompanied by Kramer should analog remaster this iconic album.   

3- Donna Summer – Love to Love You Baby.

Atlantic – ATL 50 198 (Ger.), Oasis – OCLP 5003, Durium – D. 30.240 (Ital.) (1975, Aug.), 33 1/3 rpm. Genre: Eurodisco, symphonic soul influences.

After the release of her lackuster debut LP in February 1974 in The Netherlands only, American singer Donna Summer, then in Germany with producers Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte pitched the idea of recording their own (English) version of Serge Gainsbourgh and Jane Berkin's "Je t'aime... moi non plus". By replacing the late-1960s nonchalant vibe with something as sexually-charged but closer to an-early-1970s sultry soulful disco groove, they took inspiration from it and created the equivalent of a female Barry White fantasy with similar slow tempo, as found on such tracks as "I'm Gonna Love You Just a Little More, Baby" and "Never, Never Gonna Give Ya Up". Ironically they would release their (French) disco version of "Je t'aime..." in 1978 as part of the Thank God It's Friday soundtrack. Recorded at Musicland Studios in Munich in May-June 1975, her second album–first one internationally–hit the European markets at the tail end of August but the single version on Giorgio's own Oasis label, only started getting limited North American airplay due to its overtly explicit sensual-sexual moans and groans–the latter improvised by Donna in the vocal booth–in late November, and boosted by Bogart's enthusiasm and distribution deal with Casablanca. The much longer LP version, nearing seventeen minutes, occupies all of side A. With its sweeping string-laden instrumental chapters, lush arrangements, breakdowns and buildups, it single-handedly set the template for future progressive Eurodisco artists such as Cerrone, Costandinos, and Voyage. Engineers Hans Menzel and Reinhold Mack did an excellent job recording as well as Giorgio doing the mix-down. William C. Wysock mastered and cut the American Oasis pressing at Allen Zentz Mastering in California. It sounds pretty good but the original German Atlantic pressing mastered and cut by Günter F. Pfanz at Tonstudio Pfanz in Hamburg and pressed at Teldec-Press GMBH is better defined at both frequency extremes. My favorite by a small margin is the Italian Durium, cut in Milan in November 1975 for its warm-roundish bass and non-fatiguing sound but lacks a hair of top end air. Depending on the diverse country pressings, side B differs somewhat on song selection with only the proto electrofied "Need-a-Man Blues" worth listening to–forget the other tracks. 

4- The Ritchie Family – Arabian Nights. 

Marlin – MARLIN 2201, Able Records – ABL-17008 (CAN.) (1976, June), 33 1/3 rpm. Genre: disco, lush orchestral Philly soul-based inspirations.

This is actually the very first LP I ever bought a few months after getting my first three-piece sound system as a present for the 1976 holiday season. Prior to that I settled for seven-inch singles played on my parents' old stereo console but with my own rig, and influenced by my neighbor's taste, I knew I needed to invest more for the longer versions found on albums–with this one in particular that they kept spinning regularly. Based in Philadelphia, the female trio were not part of an actual "family" but rather a concoction of French producer Jacques Morali and American producer and arranger Richie Rome who lent his name and added a 't' to their pet project presented to Morroco-born French producer and friend Henri Belolo, credited as general supervisor. Following the success of their debut album Brazil in September 1975, the original uncredited singers were replaced by the second and best formation; i.e. Cheryl Mason Jacks, Cassandra Ann Wooten, and Gwendolyn Oliver. Philly's power engine of Baker-Harris-Young are the dynamic driving force. Most agree that their second release Arabian Nights figures near the apex of what I consider five great albums among a total of nine. The first side opens with their all-time best seller "The Best Disco in Town"–a medley comprising ten disco hits plus two of their own–the slower "Baby I'm on Fire", and the highly energetic "Romanic Love". Flipping over the record to what is my–and many deejay's–favorite side of the group, you'll find the sultry sophisticated and superbly arranged "Arabian Nights (medley)" featuring "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)", "Lawrence of Arabia (More Than Yesterday, Less Than Tomorrow)", and "In a Persian Market (Show Me How You Dance)". Recorded by engineers Jay Mark, Joe Tarsia, and many others at Sigma Sound Studios in Philadelphia and mastered at Frankford/Wayne Mastering Labs in New York  the sound of the original US is excellent but my Canadian first press, lacquer cut by Bill Kipper at SNB is even better and close to perfection with warm wide even tonal balance, non-fatiguing mids, Don Renaldo's sensuous strings and horns, superb treble quality in the hihat, top end chimes, and explosive cymbals.   

5- Musique – Keep on Jumpin'. 

Prelude Records – PRL 12158 (1978, July), 33 1/3 rpm. Genre: disco.

Some records really exude the feeling of the season or period that they are released within, such was the case with Musique's debut LP in the dead heat of summer 1978. Produced by Patrick Adams, it featured two hi-tempo hits–the title track "Keep on Jumpin'" and the provocative 'push push' "In the Bush", both between 131-132 bpm–certainly higher than the average disco track–opening respectively each side, while the remaining two were "Summer Love" and its instrumental version "Summer Love Theme" closing the album. Though it was not in any way a groundbreaking album for the genre, nor a monumental meaningful moment for me, it nevertheless nestles a throwback to that summer when school was off for a few months, and I started learning my first deejay mixes at my cousin's place, plus this makes for a fine example of pretty much the purest form of disco–without any of the possible influences of soul, funk, Philly, Euro or electro thrown in–when the genre was enjoying its peak popularity. Recorded by engineers Bob Blank, Jeff Ader, and Adams at Blank Tape Studios in New York and mastered by Ader at Frankford/Wayne Mastering Labs in New York. Among the four vocals is singer Jocelyn Brown, who would have a solo career in the 1980s and enjoy a modest hit with "Somebody Else's Guy". I don't know if the 'red' Prelude label differs in sound from my 'white' label but the deadwax cutting inscriptions seemed to match. The sound is fairly good but is definitely missing some weight in the low end and punch, and is ascending towards the upper mids and highs on all the tracks except for "In the Bush" that fortunately is better balanced and a bit more bassy. On a club system, you should boost the bass where and when needed. Would welcome a good remastering but I wouldn't hold my breath on this one.

6- The B-52's – The B-52's. 

Warner Bros. Records – BSK 3355, Warner Bros. Records – QBS 3355 (CAN.) (1979, July), 33 1/3 rpm. Genre: new wave, surf rock.

If ever there was an album that defined new wave, this has to be it. Released smack in the middle of summer 1979, with its high octane energy, dynamic raw drive, and outrageously silly lyrics, The B-52's self-titled debut shook the music industry by storm, changing the landscape before year's end as well as the closing of the decade. The colorful quintet from Anthens, Georgia landed on the scene at a time when all things disco displaced rock from the airwaves, leading some big names to momentarily dab into the genre–think The Rolling Stones, Rod Stewart, and Kiss to the dismay of many rock fans. Influenced by the early-1960s instrumental surf pioneers such as Dick Dale, The Ventures, and The Surfaris, guitarist Ricky Wilson with his signature blue Mosrite, unique tuning and crisp sound created something that stood out from the crowd whether you liked it or not. And devisive it was, as rockers and progressives on one hand stuck with Led Zep, Pink Floyd, and Supertramp–all three supergroups scoring big that year–while the Disco Demolition Night held July 12, 1979, (the same week as this LP's release date), spearheaded the gradual demise of disco's popularity; as both opposing camps soon witnessed the changing of the guard. The album's first side comprising "Planet Claire"–a nod to Henri Mancini's "Peter Gunn"–"Dance This Mess Around", "Rock Lobster"–released as a single a year earlier [DB Recs 52] plus its B-side's "52 Girls", both rawer in sound than the final LP versions–was so intensely popular that it often played in clubs and dances without interruption. Recorded at producer Chris Blackwell's Compass Point Studios in Nassau, Bahamas by engineer Robert Ash. I don't have the original US pressing mastered and cut by Sterling Sound in New York, but my Canadian first press, lacquer cut and pressed at CBS Records Canada Ltd in Don Mills, Toronto is generally excellent with crisp crunchy guitars and synths, snappy snares, at times generous lows on some tracks but the vocals and upper mids are a bit too hot in level. The 2011 silver series MoFi [MOFI 1-004] is fairly good, but lacks some life, punch, and presence. In dire need of a double 45 rpm analog remaster. Anybody up to the challenge?   

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