DISCO GOLD: SCEPTER RECORDS AND THE BIRTH OF DISCO.

DISCO GOLD: SCEPTER RECORDS AND THE BIRTH OF DISCO.

In previous articles I’ve written about disco music and remixes, one name that keeps cropping up in Tom Moulton. He is credited as the godfather of the remix, literally single handedly creating one of the most important tools in every DJ’s arsenal, the twelve inch single. Quickly, Tom Moulton became a legend in music, and was responsible for some of the earliest remixes. He could take a three minute track, and turn it into eight minutes of magical disco music. Almost single-handedly, Tom Moulton created ways to remix tracks long before technology was around. This was time-consuming, laborious work, but Tom a real perfectionist, slowly and carefully, created some of the earliest, most successful disco tracks. Over the years, Tom Moulton literally remixed hundreds of tracks, for a various labels. Many of these mixes have since become legendary, with DJ’s still playing them in their sets today. 

Back in the seventies, when Tom Moulton began his career as a remixer, it was remixing tracks for Scepter Records. Since then, these remixes are like the holy grail of disco music. So, to find a compilation of Tom Moulton’s remixes for Scepter Records came as a pleasant and most welcome surprise for me last year. Disco Gold: Scepter Records and The Birth of Disco, was compiled by Bill Brewster and released on BGP in August 2011. It features twelve of Tom’s legendary remixes, for Scepter Records, with five of these previously unreleased. The other seven were originally released on two compilation entitled Disco Gold and Disco Gold Volume 2 on Scepter Records. Each of the twelve tracks on Disco Gold: Scepter Records and The Birth of Disco were remixed and edited by Tom Moulton at the legendary Sigma Sound Studios in Philadelphia, where both Gamble and Huff and Thom Bell recorded so much of the great music of the Philly Sound era. So, having told you about the background to Disco Gold: Scepter Records and The Birth of Disco, I’ll now tell you about some of the compilation’s highlights.

With the Disco Gold: Scepter Records and The Birth of Disco compilation, it’s difficult just choosing a few tracks to write about, given the quality of music and the consistency of the music. My first choice is a track written and produced by Curtis Mayfield, Patti Jo’s Make Me Believe In You. Originally released in 1973 on Wand Records, this track was on Scepter’s first volume of Disco Gold. After a lengthy, slightly dramatic introduction where drums, percussion and keyboards combine. The track is a slow burner, with a moody sound, before Patti’s sassy vocal enters. Her voice is full of confidence and attitude, while backing vocalists accompany her. Stabs of keyboards, drums and percussion combine before disco string sweep in, while guitars chime. Although I wouldn’t class this as a disco track, it’s a track with a moody, dramatic sound, topped of by the sassiest of vocals from Patti Jo.

South Side Movement’s Mud Wind was originally released in 1973 on Wand Records and produced by Jimmy Van Leer and featured on Scepter’s Disco Gold Volume 2. It’s  a track with more of a disco sound than Patti Jo’s Make Me Believe In You. This is a classic Tom Moulton remix, on a track that combines swirling, sweeping string, rhythm section and blazing horns with keyboards as the song literally bursts joyously into life. There’s a “hustle” sound as the track opens, before gradually revealing a track that combines elements funk, jazz funk and disco masterfully. With horns and drums punctuating the track with bursts of drama, lush string sweep grandly and the Hammond organ and searing guitars add to the upbeat and catchy sound on a track that has an irresistible and timeless sound.

Another track that has aged really well is Ultra High Frequency’s Back On the Right Track, and is one of Disco Gold: Scepter Records and The Birth of Disco best tracks. Released in 1973 on Wand Records, it’s arranged Norman Harris and produced by Stan Watson and Norman Harris, of the legendary Baker, Harris and Young rhythm section. They were part of M.F.S.B. and later, became part of the Salsoul Orchestra, playing on so many famous tracks from artists ranging from Billy Paul, Teddy Pendergrass, The O’Jays and Loleatta Holloway. Here, the arrangement and production has the type of sound I’d associate with Norman Harris. Opening with a dramatic sound of a train, the arrangement features the rhythm section, the lushest of strings, percussion and blazing horns, before rasping horns enter. When the vocal enters, the it has a joyous sound, with backing vocals and horns augmenting it. With the remix, Tom has extended parts of the track, managing to turn a magical three minute song into a five masterpiece, that sounds just stunning. It’s disco with a Philly influence, what more can you want?

Arise and Shine by The Independents is easily the fastest track on the album, at 132 beats per minute. Released in 1974, on Scepter Records and produced by soul singer Chuck Jackson it’s a track that has many influences, including a Northern Soul influence. Add to a stomping beat, cascading strings and blazing horns and driving vocal accompanied by tight harmonies, it’s the perfect raw material for a remix. From the original with its Northern Soul influence, Tom Moulton extends the dramatic parts, transforming the track into an energetic, stomper with plenty of grand strings, rasping horns and soaring vocals. This results in a totally compelling, driving track that’s totally irresistible, capable of packing many a dance-floor today with its feel-good sound.

One of the best vocals on Disco Gold: Scepter Records and The Birth of Disco can be found on (Baby) Save Me by Secrets. Not only does the this track released in 1975 on Wand Records have a great vocal, but its constant rasping horns throughout the track makes a great track even better. Produced by David Jordan and David Smith, the track opens with swirling strings, rasping horns, percussion and rhythm section before the sweet female vocal enters. It’s accompanied by that horn sound, percussion and backing vocals as the track drives along at 124 beats per minute. Later a searing guitar solo adds to the track’s drama as it heads to a close. Although originally a soul song, it works well as disco track, especially the way Tom Moulton has remixed it. By extending the best bits of the arrangement, like percussive breaks, he proves you just can’t get enough of a good thing.

My final choice is the track that closes Disco Gold: Scepter Records and The Birth of Disco George Tindley’s Pity the Poor Man, another soul song, released in 1970 on Wand Records. Originally the B-side of Wan-Tu-Wah-Zuree, the song was arranged by Tom Sellers and Bobby Eli, who was a guitarist in M.F.S.B. Later, Bobby became a successful arranger and producer, as well as playing numerous sessions. The track was originally two and a half minutes long, but is transformed into five energetic and dramatic minutes of music. Percussion, keyboards, rhythm section and rasping horns give way to George’s vocal. It’s swathed in percussion and horns, while backing vocalists and guitars accompany him. As the song builds up, the drums play an important part. Throughout the track, the energy hardly ever drops, with the percussion, drums and horns vital to this. This is also testament to Tom Moulton’s skill as a remixer. Like other tracks on the album, he extends percussive parts of the track, before dropping in other parts of the track, like the vocal and horns. As with other tracks, this works well, transforming a slice of uptempo soul into something magical, laden with energy and emotion.

Since I first bought Disco Gold: Scepter Records and The Birth of Disco last year, it’s been a compilation I’ve loved, full of great music, remixed by Tom Moulton. Even though they were some of Tom’s earliest remixes, they’re of the highest quality. Given how time-consuming and laborious work this was, and that he literally had to invent a way of remixing tracks this is testament to his talent and I dare say, his patience. It probably helped that the original music Tom was remixing was of the highest quality. After all, even a talented remixer like Tom Moulton, couldn’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. Having remixed the twelve tracks on Disco Gold: Scepter Records and The Birth of Disco, they featured on Scepter’s two volumes of Disco Gold, the first volume winning Billboard Magazine’s 1974 Trendsetter Award. Since then, these remixes have become the holy grail of disco music, loved my many people, including several generations of DJs. So, if like me you loved disco music, then Disco Gold: Scepter Records and The Birth of Disco features twelve stunning slices of disco music, full of swirling strings, blazing horns and soulful vocals. Standout Tracks: Patti Jo Make Me Believe In You, South Side Movement Mud Wind, Ultra High Frequency Back On the Right Track and The Independents Arise and Shine.

DISCO GOLD: SCEPTER RECORDS AND THE BIRTH OF DISCO.

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