Tom Moulton’s role in disco music can’t be understated. He’s credited with inventing the remix, and could take a three minute track, extend it, creating eight minutes of majestic disco music. Now, remember this was long before the technology that’s available now. Back then, there was no Logic Pro, Reason or Ableton Live. So to create a remix was time-consuming and laborious work, but back in the seventies, Tom Moulton created some of the earliest and most successful disco tracks. However, there was more to Tom Moulton’s work than as a remixer. He was also a successful producer, responsible for albums by artists that includeFirst Choice, Grace Jones and Loose Change, a group he discovered and produced. After I’ve told you about Loose Change, I’ll tell you about their self-titled debut album Loose Change, released in December 1979.

When Loose Change were discovered by Tom Moulton’s brother Jerry, the group were performing using a different name. Their original name didn’t seem to fit with the project that Tom and Jerry Moulton had in mind. They’d been looking for a group of female singers to record an album with for some time. This would be released on their Tom ‘N’ Jerry Records label, a subsidiary of Casablanca Records. So the trio of Becky Anderson, Donna Beene and Leah Gwin became Loose Change, and would soon record their debut album.

Before recording of Loose Change took place, Tom Moulton had met Thor Baldursson in Munich, asking Thor to write the arrangements for the album. They previously worked on albums by Grace Jones and First Choice, working well together and each appreciating the other’s work. Seven songs were written by a variety of songwriters, including amongst others, Tom Moulton, Thor Baldursson, Ron Hanks and Bobby Martin of M.F.S.B. Recording of Loose Change took place at the legendary Sigma Sound Studios in Philadelphia, where Gamble and Huff recorded so many of the Philadelphia International Records albums, including classics by The O’Jays, Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes, Billy Paul and Teddy Pendergass. Another Philadelphia International connection was Don Renaldo’s Horns and Strings, which featured on so many of the Philly Sound albums. Once the album was recorded, remastering took place in New York, at Sterling Sound Studios. Now that Loose Change had recorded their debut album, it was set for release in December 1979.

Loose Change released their debut album Loose Change in December 1979. Immediately, the album became a firm favorite of fans of disco music, although it neither entered the US Billboard 200, nor the US R&B Charts. The first of two singles that were released from Loose Change fared better. Straight From the Heart reached number fifty-four in the US R&B Charts and number twenty-one in the Disco Charts. I Wanna Hold On To You didn’t do as well, failing to chart. However, since then, Loose Change is seen as one of the best albums of the disco period. It’s that album Loose Change that I’ll now tell you about.

The first track on Loose Change is Babe, co-written by Tom Moulton and Thor Baldursson. It’s a track with a Euro Disco sound, influenced by producers like Giorgio Moroder. As the track opens, a piano plays, before a flourish of harp gives way to lush strings. Then, all change, pounding beats enter, while the strings sweep and swirl before Donna Beene’s sweet lead vocal enters. By now, the track has been totally transformed. When the track opened, you wondered where it was heading, but now realize the destination is Disco Heaven. With the beats pounding, Jimmy Walker and Larry Walker contribute subtle percussion, while the bass buzzes in the background and strings are ever-present. Donna’s vocal has grown in power, becoming confident and sassy, while Becky and Leah contribute backing vocals. Together with Thor Baldursson’s arrangement, Tom Moulton’s production this is classic disco with a European twist.

All Night Man is a much quicker track, the tempo 131 beats per minute. Dramatic strings, quick, crunchy beats and percussion combine with dark synths as the track builds and builds. Again, Donna sings the lead vocal, her style matching the drama of the arrangement. Her voice is strong, soaring high above the arrangement while a choir accompany her. Synths reverberate, searing guitars, percussion and swirling strings accompany beats that are quick, crunchy and punchy. It’s a real diva-esque vocal from Donna on a track that builds and builds and is just full of drama. Not only that, but the addition of the choir was a masterstroke as was the quicker tempo. All this makes this a totally compelling and hugely catchy track.

Darling, That’s Me is a mid-tempo track, that was originally recorded by Judy Cheeks on her 1978 album Mellow Lovin.’ Whereas Judy recorded the track as a pop song, this is very different. With a beautiful lush arrangement, where strings, a sultry saxophone solo from John Davis, keyboards and waves of flutes grace the arrangement. Together they accompany Donna’s gorgeous, heartfelt vocal. So good is this track that it’s one of the album’s highlights. This is like something you’d expect The Three Degrees to sing during their Philadelphia International era. 

Very different from the previous track is Straight From the Heart, the first single released from Loose Change. As soon as the track opens, the tempo increases and the funkiest of rhythm sections kickstart the track. Joining them are blazing horns, swirling strings, keyboards and handclaps that accompany the vocal. It’s powerful and gospel tinged, like the backing vocals. Here, Loose Change combine funk, soul and disco, as they testify their way through a track that’s fast, funk and totally hook laden. It’s a totally irresistible track, one that I absolutely adore, and always have.

Again, it’s a bass that breathes life into track, laying down some of the funkiest licks on Love Is Just A Heartbeat Away. It’s joined by drums, percussion, chiming guitars and sweet strings. Originally recorded by Gloria Gaynor, Loose Change deliver the track with a combination of drama, emotion and power. Behind them, strings sweep and swirl, while guitars chime, horns punctuate the arrangement and the rhythm section drive the track along. Midway through the track there’s a breakdown, where percussion and drums accompany the vocals, before strings add drama and the bass enters. After that lengthy breakdown, the track rebuilds with Loose Change’s dramatic and emotive vocals sitting above this equally dramatic arrangement, with pounding disco beat. Although many people will disagree with this, I much prefer Loose Change’s version of this track. To me, it’s more dynamic, dramatic and full of energy. 

Rising Cost of Love is by far, the slowest track on the album. Opening with a slow, moody bass line and plodding drums, they give way to chiming guitars, percussion and keyboards before a hugely powerful, emotive and passionate vocal enters. Meanwhile, the other members of Loose Change contribute backing vocals, while a meandering but funky arrangement unfolds. Strings join the arrangement, while the vocal has a really soulful and impassioned quality. Although quite different to other tracks on Loose Change, it demonstrates the group’s versatility and proves that there was much more to Loose Change than disco music. Who knows, maybe Tom and Jerry Moulton thought that Loose Change could become their version of The Three Degrees?

Closing Loose Change’s debut album Loose Change is the second single released from the album I Wanna Hold Onto You. A funky rhythm section, soaring saxophone solo and chiming guitars combine with Donna’s vocal. Her vocal is powerful, dramatic and emotive, while horns punctuate the track and the rhythm section provide a steady backdrop. Later another saxophone solo sails high above the arrangement, while the rhythm section and guitars provide a funky backdrop for the sweet and sultry backing vocals. Meanwhile, Donna contributes one of the best vocals on the album, demonstrating just how talented a vocalists she is. When her vocal is combined with Becky and Leah’s backing vocals and a quite stunning arrangement laden with strings, horns and a funky rhythm section, this allows Loose Change to end their debut album Loose Change on a high.

Loose Change was a combination of a trio of talented vocalists in  Becky Anderson, Donna Beene and Leah Gwin who were fortunate to work with such a talented producer as Tom Moulton. On Loose Change, he surrounded himself with equally talented people, including Thor Baldursson and Don Renaldo. Together with Loose Change they recorded seven songs, which were a combination of disco, soul and funk. On Loose Change there’s a Philly Sound influence that can be heard throughout the album. This isn’t surprising given Don Renaldo’s previous work with Philadelphia International Records and Tom Moulton’s previous work remixing some of the Philadelphia International records. However, what made this such a good album is the talented trio of vocalists who make up Loose Change. Becky, Donna and Leah all had stunning voices, and Loose Change deserved to far much better when it was released as an album. Since then, Loose Change has become a classic of the disco era, which demonstrates and showcases Tom Moulton’s production skills. Last year, in April 2011 Loose Change’s debut album Loose Change was remastered and rereleased by BBR Records, allowing a new generation of music lovers to hear this classic disco album. If like me, you love disco music, then Loose Change deserves a place in your record collection. The music on Loose Change still sounds as good as it was when I first heard the album over thirty year ago. So take yourself on a trip to the heady days of disco with Loose Change’s album Loose Change. Standout Tracks: All Night Man, Darling, That’s Me, Straight From the Heart and Love Is Just A Heartbeat Away.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: