Back in 1983, when Elbow Bones and The Racketeers released their debut single A Night In Yew York it sounded like the soundtrack for a forties nightclub, with its big band sound given a contemporary eighties twist. You could imagine the smokey atmosphere where movie stars, hustlers and gangsters sat side by side, sipping whiskey, gambling and smoking while Elbow Bones and The Racketeers’ provided the perfect jazz drenched, big band soundtrack. Truly, the music was like revisiting another era, but updated for the eighties. A Night In Yew York was one of these irresistible tracks that you couldn’t help but fall in love with. It put a smile on your face, with its sultry, retro sound. Wherever you went, it seemed that A Night In Yew York was playing. Cars, bars and malls and whenever you turned on the radio, there was Augustus Darnell’s latest creation. Following on from the success of A Night In Yew York, Elbow Bones and The Racketeers released their debut album New York At Dawn. On New York At Dawn, which will be released on 26 March on Hot Shot Records, was more of Elbow Bones and The Racketeers’ unique fusion of forties big band music with eighties dance music. This seemed to strike a chord with its retro sound proving popular with people on both sides of the Atlantic. However, who were Elbow Bones and The Racketeers who produced this magical fusion which was New York At Dawn? That’s what I’ll now tell you, before telling you about the eight tracks that make up New York At Dawn.

Elbow Bones and The Racketeers’ New York At Dawn was the latest project from the flamboyant, bon viveur and musical maverick Augustus Darnell. His latest project was a band that never really existed in the traditional sense. Instead, they were a studio band, existing only in the listener’s  imagination. Like a casting director, Augustus set about finding singers and musicians who would fit the part for his vision of a contemporary big sound. Many of this new “band” was made up of people who hadn’t yet made it in music, but whom Augustus felt deserved to have their talents and voices heard. Among the people who featured on New York At Dawn were singer Stephanie Fuller, whose sultry, sensuous vocal can be heard on Take Me For A Night In New York. Joining her were Frank “Pago Pago” Pasalacqua, Gichy Dan, Ken Fradley, Lee Robertson and Carol Coleman, one of Kid Creole’s Coconuts. Now the band had been assembled, all that was needed were some songs for Elbow Bones and The Racketeers.

So with this studio band was made up of some of Augustus’ wide range of contacts throughout the New York area, Augustus asked his songwriting friends from his Savannah Band and King Creole and The Coconuts days to come up with a number of songs for the album. Eventually, eight songs were conceived and chosen for the album. They were written by a variety of songwriters and songwriting partnerships, Augustus co-writing four tracks. Ron Rogers and Debbie Clarkin’ cowrote the most memorable and magical song on New York At Dawn, A Night In New York. However, the masterstroke was getting Stephanie Fuller sing the lead vocal. Her sultry, sensuous vocal goes a long way to making Take Me For A Night In New York such a special and memorable track. Little did anyone connected with the project just how big an impact either A Night In New York or New York At Dawn would have before heading to the recording studio.

With Augustus having assembled a cast of musicians and singers that could deliver his vision of fusion of big band and eighties dance music, Elbow Bones and The Racketeers headed to the studio. recording took place at two studios in New York, Electric Lady and Media Sound studios, with Augustus producing and directing his cast of characters. Once the eight tracks that would become New York At Dawn were recorded, the album would be released late 1983. However, before that, a single would be released, with the one chosen, one that would win the hearts of music fans young and old, A Night In New York.

A Night In New York was released as a single in November 1983. Straight away, people were won over by its retro, big band sound which was given a new twist by Augustus. The single reached number thirty-three in the UK, while reaching number eighty-two in the US R&B Charts and number twenty-four in the US Disco Charts. This disappointed Augustus, who’d been thinking terms of gold and platinum sales. Worse was to come, when New York At Dawn was released, with the album failing to chart. A small crumb of comfort was the release of the second single Happy Birthday, Baby reached a lowly ninety-four in the UK. Suddenly, cold reality struck, with Augustus realizing there wouldn’t be album number two from his latest creation Elbow Bones and The Racketeers. Instead, he’d return to his other projects. Kid Creole and The Coconuts would release a further ten albums, while The Savannah Band, would release their next album not long after New York At Dawn. However, everyone connected with Elbow Bones and The Racketeers would remain forever grateful to Augustus for providing a showcase for their musical talents, talents which can be heard on New York At Dawn, which I’ll now tell you about.

New York At Dawn opens with the track that won the affection of music fans on both sides of the Atlantic, A Night In New York. Featuring Stephanie Fuller’s gorgeous, inviting vocal, the track is a mass of sultry, rasping horns interspersed with drama and atmosphere. Opening with punchy, prominent drums, they give to rasping horns and flourishes of piano before Stephanie’s sweet and inviting vocal. There’s a sultry, breathless sound to her vocal, while the rhythm section, jazz guitars and percussion combine with the horns, to create a sound that’s roots are in forties big band music. This is given a contemporary makeover by Augustus, with his placing of the pounding drums and its importance in the track’s sweet, swinging horn drenched sound. By the end of the track, the majestic combination of the big band arrangement and gorgeous vocal is absolutely irresistible. I defy anyone not to be won over by its charm and sweetness.

Other Guys was co-written by Ron Rogers and Debbie Clarkin’ who cowrote A Night In New York. The track also features Stephanie’s vocal, which is slow, emotive and dramatic. Again, horns are at the heart of the arrangement, while Latin percussion accompanies the rhythm section. As the track meanders atmospherically along, a myriad of percussion and thoughtful horns are key to the arrangement. Meanwhile Stephanie’s deliver is softer, her style confessional as she sings “I’ve been dating other guys,” in an almost carefree and guilt free style. It demonstrates another side to Stephanie, and another side to Augustus on a song that although very different from the previous track, has a similar quality.

Stephanie Fuller makes her third appearance on Happy Times another quicker track, with a contemporary sound. Gone is the big band sound of the opening track. This is replaced by pounding drums, with a real dance music sound and style. These drums are at forefront of the arrangement, while a piano, bursts of rasping horns and strings combine with Stephanie’s subtle, which drifts in and out of the track. There’s a grandiose, old-fashioned style to the piano playing, which like the horns and string are from another era. With chiming guitars, they help the arrangement to swing gently along, before towards the end, the track takes on a very eighties sould. Similarly, the drums are very much from the eighties, and sound like something you’d still hear in dance music. Together, a fusion of music from two eras is combined to create a track with a real contemporary sound, that’s still sounds good today.

Glichy Dan takes over the vocal duties on Our Love Will Always Stand, the second consecutive song from the Augustus Darnell and Stony Browder Jr. penned track. Accompanied by blazing horns, pounding drums, percussion and keyboards Glichy’s joyous vocal enters. The arrangement has a similar joyful sound, with the horns serenading him. Meanwhile, drums crack, eighties’ keyboards and backing vocalists augment the arrangement. It’s a hugely catchy, joyful, horn drenched track, made all the better by Glichy Dan’s vocal.

The track that closed Side One of New York At Dawn was the second single from the album Happy Birthday, Baby. Co-written by Augustus and another of his songwriting partners Peter Schott, who played keyboards in King Creole and The Coconuts. When you hear this track, you wonder why it didn’t fare better than the lowly number four it reached in the UK. It has a similar bight, feel-good sound of other tracks. Here, the tempo is quick, 122 beats per minute, with horns key to the arrangement. They blaze in and out of the track, accompanied by keyboards that are also key to the arrangement. Using just subtle, but effective chord changes they’re  key to the song’s uplifting sound. Glichy’s vocal has a similar joyous sound to the previous track, perfectly suited to a stunning arrangement, that’s one of the best on the album. 

Mama’s In Love Again was the track that opened Side Two of New York At Dawn. This is the perfect track to open the second side of the original album. It’s hook laden, swinging sound literally explodes into life. With the now familiar sultry, punchy, rasping horns serenading Glichy vocal, it’s a track with a real feel-good sound. It’s perfect track for a dance-floor, with a sound that you’d think is from another era. Zoot suits, spats and hats are what you’d imagine Glichy to wear as he delivers his vocal, while a myriad of horns, pounding drums and flourishes of keyboards accompany him. For four and a half minutes you’re transported to another era courtesy of Elbow Bones and The Racketeers, with their hook-laden, catchy, irresistible sound.

Everlasting love is explored on I Got You, another song written by Augustus Darnell and Stony Browder Jr. The track sees Stephanie Fuller and Glichy sing a duet against an arrangement that fuses Latin and jazz music. Opening with horns, piano and percussion, Stephanie and Glichy’s vocal enters. Stephanie’s vocal is sweet and subtle, while Glichy’s is louder and more powerful. They combine well, and when their vocals drop out, are replaced by punchy braying horns that spray their jazzy sound throughout the lightning quick arrangement. Drums, piano and percussion are also used to drive the track along as Stephanie and Glichy deliver the lyrics about everlasting love in an impassioned and heartfelt style.

I Call It Like I See It was written and sungby Dutch Robinson. It’s the first in a trio of tracks Dutch wrote. Listen carefully, there’s a slight Steely Dan influence to the arrangement, especially the guitars. There’s a rawness and honesty to the lyrics, while the arrangement combines a dramatic, punchy horn punctuated arrangement with a hugely emotive, impassioned vocal. Again, dynamic, blazing horns are used in an effective way to create drama and emotion. They help give the track its punchy sound, which works well with a vocal full of emotion and drama. Augmented by a rhythm section and guitar that have a slight Steely Dan sound, keyboards also add to the track’s drama. From this track, you can hear the album coming to its dramatic and soulful crescendo. If the next two tracks are as good as this one that mixes funk, jazz and even rock, then they’ll be something special.

On I Belong To You the theme of everlasting love is revisited again, on a track that continues in similar vein as the previous track. The drama and emotion of that track continues here, thanks to the vocal. Accompanied by punchy backing vocalists, while a piano, braying horns and the rhythm section provide a backdrop that’s drama laden. Strings grandly sweep and swirl, while Dutch’s vocal is impassioned emotive and full of drama, all of which is reflected in the arrangement.

There’s a different sound to You Got Me High, sung by Dutch. The arrangement is slightly slower and Latin tinged, because of the percussion and drums. However, Dutch’s vocal has the same emotion and passion of the previous track. Here, he sings of love, and the effect his partner on him. His voice is high, nearly quivering with emotion, while the drums, percussion and keyboards accompany him, on the last of a trio of tracks he wrote and sung. It’s a beautiful and fitting closing track to New York At Dawn.

Listening again to Elbow Bones and The Racketeers’ New York At Dawn is like taking a wander down memory lane, where you meet an old friend A Night In New York. It brings back memories from nearly thirty years ago, when the track was filled the airwaves. Unlike anything else being released, A Night In New York became a big hot, loved my young and old. After the success of A Night In New York, people thought that when New York At Dawn would be a similar success. Sadly, that wasn’t to be. The album failed to chart, while Happy Birthday, Baby only reached a lowly ninety-four in the UK. However, New York At Dawn deserved to fare much better, given the quality and standard of music on the dawn. With its fusion of big band music and dance music, the album was an intriguing and compelling combination of music that was irresistible. After it release in 1983, New York At Dawn was unavailable for far too long. Thankfully, Hot Shot Records have remastered and rereleased New York At Dawn, allowing people to revisit and rediscover the music of Elbow Bones and The Racketeers. As if that isn’t enough, there are six bonus tracks included on this rerelease. This includes bonus the single and twelve inch versions of the single, plus the previously unreleased I Wanna Remind You. All of this, plus the remastered version of New York At Dawn make this the perfect opportunity to discover or reacquaint yourself with the music of Elbow Bones and The Racketeers. Standout Tracks: A Night In New York, Our Love Will Always Stand, Happy Birthday, Baby and Mama’s In Love Again.


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