DISCO RECHARGE: VOYAGE-VOYAGE.

DISCO RECHARGE: VOYAGE-VOYAGE.

When Harmless Records launched their new label Disco Recharge back in June 2012, the new label’s first release was Voyage’s eponymous debut album Voyage. Released in 1978, this sees Voyage embark upon a worldwide whistle-top tour, where they pay homage to various styles of music. Their whistle-top tour ends in America, the spiritual home of disco. Voyage close their debut album with Lady America, a glorious slice of classic disco. Although Voyage pay homage to the world’s music, they manage do so in just seven tracks. These seven tracks that comprise Voyage would become a Euro Disco classic. However, the first volume of Disco Recharge, Voyage’s Voyage, there was much more to the album than seven tracks. Disco Recharge is a double album, where Mr. Pinks and everyone at Harmless Records dug deep, way deep. On Disc One, there are nine bonus instrumental tracks, while Disc Two has sixteen bonus tracks. For disco lovers everywhere, then Harmless Records new label Disco Recharge was Disco Heaven 127, especially given Voyage’s debut album is a Euro Disco classic, which I’ll now tell you about.

When Marc Chantereau, Pierre-Alain Dahan and Slim Pezin started collaborating on Voyage’s debut album Voyage, they hit upon a theme for the album. This theme saw Voyage pay homage to the various musical style of the various regions of the world. The idea was Voyage jumped on a jet, and in true jet-setting style, made a whistle-top tour of the world, before returning the disco’s spiritual home America. With the idea in place, Marc Chantereau, Pierre-Alain Dahan and Slim Pezin cowrote seven tracks.

With the seven tracks that became Voyage written, Voyage set about recording the seven tracks. Marc Chantereau, Pierre-Alain Dahan and Slim Pezin would arrange the seven tracks, with Roger Tokarz producing the album. Many of the instruments on Voyage were played by the trio of Marc Chantereau, Pierre-Alain Dahan and Slim Pezin. They brought in a variety of other musicians to play the more specialized instruments like fiddles and bagpipes, which gave the album’s its authentic “world” sound. One women was vital to Voyage’s sound and success…Sylvia Mason. She added her crystalline vocals, with the backing vocalists the Birds of Paris accompanying her. Among the Birds of Paris were Madeline Bell, Kay Garner, Sue Glover, Stephanie De Sykes and Vicki Brown, some of whom had sung on albums by Cerrone and Don Ray. With such talented personnel having collaborated on Voyage, surely the album would become a huge commercial success, especially since disco was at its commercial peak?

On the release of Voyage’s debut album Voyage in 1978, it reached number forty in the US Billboard Charts and number fifty-seven in the US R&B Charts. Voyage fared even better in the US Disco Charts, reaching number one. One of the singles from Voyage, From East To West reached number eighty-five in the US R&B Charts. Over in the UK, East To West reached number fifteen in the UK charts. It seemed that not only had Voyage embarked upon a whistle-top tour of the world, but were sitting on top of the world, after the success of their debut album Voyage. However, why was Voyage so successful? That’s what I’ll tell you after I’ve told you about the music on Voyage?

Voyage’s jet-setting journey begins as they head From East To West.  For a minute, Voyage’s pounding rhythm section, guitars and keyboards and combine, creating a dark, dramatic sound, which unfolds in waves, The drama builds and builds, but soon, things change drastically. From the darkness comes light. Layers of keyboards, wah-wah guitars and percussion create a joyous, melodic slice of disco. Lush strings are added, as you’re transported to Disco Heaven. Just when you think things can’t get any better, Sylvia Mason’s beautiful vocal enters, with bursts of punchy horns and handclaps accompanying her. Later during a breakdown, Voyage take a detour into dramatic funk. You get the sense they’re building the drama up. That’s the case, with Sylvia and the Birds of Paris floating atop the lush strings while horns serenade her. Although this is just the opening leg of Voyage, this will prove to be the most memorable Voyage you’ve experienced.

Point Zero sees Voyage touch down in the hot, humidity of the African jungle. The track is like something from a Cameroon saxophonist and vibes player Manu Dibango’s seventies albums. Interestingly, when Manu settled in Paris, Voyage guitarist Slim Pezin  played on several of Manu’s album. Maybe this is where the inspiration for Voyage fusion of funk with Afrobeat emanates from. Here, Voyage mix spiritual chants, rich in glorious rhythms, with rolls of dramatic drums and swathes of percussion augment the chants. While they provide an authentic Afrobeat sound, sizzling, searing guitars add a contrast. However, it’s the irresistible Afrobeat arrangement that has you spellbound and mesmerized majestically,

From the heart of Africa, we’re aboard the Orient Express, with Voyage in the driver’s seat. They combine Asian and Japanese music seamlessly. It’s a compelling combination, with percussion, synths, cascading string and drums combining. Just as you’re enjoying this fusion of musical melodies, Voyage throw a curveball. Rock-tinged guitars enter, with the West meeting East. The guitars strut across the arrangement, giving way to the strings that dance gracefully and elegantly. Meanwhile whistles, percussion and pounding drums combine as the rocky guitars and strings toy for your attention, Western and Eastern influences and music combine to create a track that’s both elegant and dramatic.

As someone born in Scotland, I’ve always thought that the bagpipes were just a bit twee, a bit one-dimensional. Many people think that, but after hearing Scotch Machine, you’ll change your mind. Why? Well, you’ll hear bagpipes played in a way that you’ve never heard before, playe with swing to a disco beat. Before that piano, wah-wah guitars and a driving rhythm section combine.  Swathes of synths resonate above the arrangement as Voyage create a blistering, funky arrangement, complete with pulsating disco beat. Then Voyage throw another curveball, the bagpipes enter swinging along. Thankfully, the bagpipes are used sparingly as Voyage fuse funk with a pulsating disco beat.

When Voyage arriving in Bayou Village it’s not to a disco but a square dance. Fiddles and drums combine at breakneck speed, while whoops and hollers aplenty encourage Voyage to sample another, very different type of dance. Disco it isn’t, bit regardless of that, Voyage enjoy the party atmosphere.

With only two legs of Voyage left, Voyage embark upon a Latin Odyssey. It’s an arrangement with two different sounds and sides. While percussion and drums provide an authentic Latin heartbeat, sizzling guitars, sweeping, swirling strings, a punchy rhythm section and blazing horns provide a flamboyant, dramatic side, full of flourishes. As the two merge, the results is compelling and irresistible. The longer the track progresses, the more the flamboyance, flourishes and drama grows. It’s truly impossible to keep still, it’s music for the heart and the feet.

As Voyage’s Voyage ends, we head for the spiritual home of disco America, meeting Lady America, the First Lady of Disco. It’s as if Voyage was building up to this track, heading to the home of disco music. Pounding drums and piano combine before a male vocal enters,  accompanied by the Birds of Paris’ tight harmonies. They coo “America” as if giving thanks at the altar of disco. Bursts of punchy blazing horns punctuate the arrangement, as the rhythm section and piano take turns at driving the arrangement along. Later, percussion and vibes enters, taking their reference point from the Philly Sound and percussionist Larry Washington and vibes supremo Vince Montana. So good is this part of the Voyage that you hope it’ll never end.  Sadly, after seven minutes your whistle-top tour of of the regions of the world is over, but what a place to finish your Voyage in the spiritual home of disco…America.

Although Voyage’s Voyage was only a seven stop whistle-stop tour, where they pay homage to various styles of music, there’s much more than that on the first installment of Disco Recharge. Apart from the seven tracks that comprise Voyage, Disc One of the double album features nine instrumental tracks, which are a combination of Voyage’s first two albums Voyage and Fly Away. Among the highlights of these nine tracks are the instrumental versions of Souvenirs, From East To West and Latin Odyssey. As if that’s not enough of a bonus, Disc Two features eleven single and twelve-inch versions, plus various remixes. The Special Extended version of From East To West the original twelve-inch version of Lady America are two of the many highlights of these tracks. Added to this are two tracks Voyage recorded as V.I.P. Connection, Please Love Me Again and West Coast Drive. Both the original single and twelve-inch versions feature here and are a very welcome addition and bonus. These twenty-four extra tracks extend Voyage’s Voyage making it more akin to a Grand Tour of old, albeit with a pulsating disco beat. Harmless Records and Mr. Pinks deserve credit for unearthing Voyage’s classic disco album once again. It’ll prove a  very welcome addition to many disco lover’s collection. So whether you’re rediscovering again, or discovering Voyage’s Voyage for the first time, enjoy the journey. Standout Tracks: From East To West, Orient Express, Latin Odyssey and Lady America.

DISCO RECHARGE: VOYAGE-VOYAGE.

Disco Recharge: Voyage

 

 

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