PETER JACQUES BAND-FIRE NIGHT DANCE.

PETER JACQUES BAND-FIRE NIGHT DANCE.

Between 1979 and 1985, the Peter Jacques Band released a trio of albums, starting with Fire Night Dance, which was rereleased by BBR Records in November 2011. After this followed 1980s Welcome Back and then, five years later, the group’s final album Dancing In the Street. Of these three albums, Fire Night Dance is perceived as a disco classic, one which features the vocals of Leroy Burgess, who before this, had been a member of Black Ivory. Together with Mauro Malavasi and Jacques Fred Petrus, Leroy Burgess created probably, the Peter Jacques Band’s finest moment, Fire Night Dance. Although Fire Night Dance only features four tracks, they’re four of the finest Italo-disco tracks of the late seventies. Before I tell you about the music on Fire Night Dance, I’ll tell you about the Peter Jacques Band and how they came to make a disco classic.

During the late seventies the sound of Eurodisco was a familiar sound, not just throughout Europe, but in the US too. Producers like Giorgio Moroder were among the best known purveyors of the Eurodisco sound. Groups like The Three Degrees and Donna Summer had fallen under his spell, resulting in massive hits for both artists. One man paying attention to Eurodisco’s popularity was Jacques Fred Petrus. Fred was a man who loved soul music, and used to include soul music in his DJ sets. This was very different to his former job as a ship mechanic. Having arrived in Bologna, Italy, Fred opened a record shop Goody Music, which was a part of the US chain Sam Goody. Little did Fred know it, but this would lead to him later launching his own record label, which would become established both sides of the Atlantic.

Having opened Goody Music, Fred decided to diversify, using the profits from his shop. His partner in the newly formed Goody Music Productions, launched in 1978, was Mauro Malavasi, a hugely talented musician. The new label operated as both a production and publishing company. Goody Music Productions first success was Macho’s I’m A Man, which was licensed in the US through their own offices. Originally, the track had been released as a B-side of a single by The Spencer Davis Group. However, this was something very different, something that proved hugely popular and attracted the attention of Prelude Records, where Patrick Adams was based. Patrick would help Goody Music get his old friend Leroy Burgess onboard for their next project, which would be the Fred Jacques Band.

Before Leroy was hired as lead vocalist of the Fred Jacques Band, Mauro Malavasi had been busy recording instrumental tracks at the Fonoprint Recording Studios in Bologna. With a team of musicians that included a rhythm section of bassist Davide Romani, drummer Gabrielli Melotti and guitarist Fabbri Giorgino, plus saxophonist and percussion player Rudy Trevisi. These musicians were augmented by the Goody Music String Ensemble and backing vocalists. It seems that Mauro was intent on creating his version of M.F.S.B. in Bologna, who recorded the instrumental tracks over which Leroy Burgess would add his vocal.

With the backing tracks completed, Leroy Burgess was hired on a one-day deal to sing lead vocalist for the Fred Jacques Band, Mauro Malavasi had two songs for him to sing on. These were recorded at Sigma Sound Studios in New York, scene of so many famous recordings. Over just one day, Leroy Burgess, ever the consummate professional, laid down his vocals. Now that the four tracks were completed, the Fred Jacques Band would release their debut album, Fire Night Dance.

On the released of Fire Night Dance on Prelude Records in January 1979, the album reached number six in the US Disco Charts. Two singles were released from the album, but neither Walking On Music nor Fire Night Dance charted, although both were hugely popular in clubs. However, critics loved Fire Night Dance, praising not just its style, but its sound and quality. It seemed they recognized Mauro Malavasi’s talent as composer, arranger and producer. However what does Fire Night Dance sound like, that’s what I’ll now tell you.

Opening Fire Night Dance is the first of two singles released from the album Walking On Music. The track opens with synths, before pounding drums drive the track along. From there, the lushest of cascading strings and synths join the mix, before female backing vocalists enter. They help to create a joyous, uplifting sound, while behind them, the tempo is really quick at 136 beats per minute. This works really well with the catchy sound of the arrangement and vocal. Later, a percussive breakdown allows dancers to get their breath back. However, respite is brief, as the drums kick in, driving the track along, with the tempo just as quick. Together with synths, the rest of the rhythm section, keyboards and the backing vocalists, this hugely catchy, hook laden track heads towards the finish. Listening to this track, it’s hard to believe that it’s thirty-three years old, given its timeless sound. It truly is a hidden gem of a disco classic.

Devil’s Run opens with crisp, crunchy drumbeats, moody synths and an equally broody bass. Then when strings cascade in, to be joined by backing vocalists the earlier darkness is replaced, especially when blazing horns enter. They signal the arrival of Leroy Burgess’ vocal, with his delivery quick. His vocal is high, laden with emotion, as he delivers the vocal at breakneck speed. Meanwhile, the arrangement is a mass of crisp drums, blazing horns, percussion, swirling strings and synths, with Leroy accompanied by backing vocals. It’s impossible not be swept away by this irresistible sounding track. Gradually, it draws you in, until resistance is hopeless as the arrangement combines the lush strings of a Philadelphia International arrangement with the tempo of a Hi-NRG track. This is a potent combination, which will sweep you up after tempting you with its irresistible charms. 

The title track Fire Night Dance was the second single released from the album, as is a track that sees the tempo rise to 132 beats per minute. Starting off with percussion and pounding drums, synths sidle in, starting off low and slow, before growing in power. They’re accompanied by a funky bass, cascading, swirling strings and braying horns, before Leroy’s vocal enters. It’s impassioned and emotive, with the quality you’d expect from a vocalist as talented as Leroy. As strings sweep and swirl, horns rasp, synths atmospherically slide in and out of the arrangement. Meanwhile drums pound, before percussion joins the fray, while the arrangement grows, now featuring a glorious sound that’s the result of Mauro’s skills as arranger and producer. There’s everything you could want and more in this arrangement. Whether its lush strings, blazing horns, a tight but funky rhythm section and a healthy sprinkling or percussion, it’s all here and more, including the vocal of Leroy Burgess. This leads you to wonder if you’ve entered disco heaven?

Closing Fire Night Dance is Fly With the Wind, a track that has a real Italo-disco sound. It’s a combination of synths and crunchy, pounding drums that open the track, before a wash of atmospheric sounding synths enter. This produces a contrast to the synths and drums that drive the track along. Another contrast is the female backing vocals that enter, they’re dramatic, delivered quickly, with a touch of echo used on them. By now, you realize that this is quite a different track, both in style and sound. Gone are the lush strings and blazing horns, replaced by just synths and drums, plus much later, percussion. Taken together, this offers a much more moderne, technological based sound, due to the reliance on synths. Here, the Peter Jacques Band explore the Eurodisco sound, combining it with the nascent technology that became available during the seventies, and pioneered by groups like Kraftwerk. When it’s all combined, it works well, resulting in a track that’s got a real Italo-disco sound throughout the arrangement, and is made all the better by the addition of the female backing vocalists.

Having spent some join reveling in the sound of Peter Jacques Band’s debut album Fire Night Dance, I can very definitely say that this is an absolute classic an album, one that combines Italo-disco and the classic American disco sound. Fire Night Dance belongs in the collection of anyone who loves disco music. A mark of the quality of the music on Fire Night Dance, is that Leroy Burgess sings vocals on both Devil’s Run and Fire Night Dance. The addition of Leroy’s vocal adds to the quality of otherwise excellent tracks. Three of the tracks have Walking On Music, Devil’s Run and Fire Night Dance have a more traditional American disco sound, while Fly With the Wind has a much more Eurodisco, Italo-disco sound. Of the trio of albums the Peter Jacques Band released during their six year lifetime, Fire Night Dance is, in my opinion, the best of these three albums. Last year, in November 2011 Fire Night Dance was remastered and rereleased by BBR Records, including seven bonus tracks, with single and disco versions of Walking On Music, Fire Night Dance and Fly With the Wind included. All of this makes BBR Records rerelease of the Peter Jacques Band debut album Fire Night Dance the ideal opportunity to either rediscover or discover a classic disco album either again or for the first time. Standout Tracks: Walking On Music, Devil’s Run, Fire Night Dance and Fly With the Wind.

PETER JACQUES BAND-FIRE NIGHT DANCE.

 

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