DISCO RECHARGE-VOYAGE 3-SPECIAL EDITION.

DISCO RECHARGE-VOYAGE 3-SPECIAL EDITION.

Since Harmless Records launched their Disco Recharge label in June 2012, they’ve revisited the first two of Voyage’s four albums, Let’s Fly Away and Voyage. For anyone who loves disco, these two albums were a very welcome rerelease and became part of their collection. Now for the latest instalment of the Disco Recharge series, compiler Mr. Pinks has made another welcome return to Voyage’s back-catalogue to bring you Voyage 3, which was released in 1980 on Able Records. However, there’s much more to Disco Recharge-Voyage 3 Special Edition than just Voyage 3. Like the other releases in the Disco Recharge series, Disco Recharge-Voyage 3 Special Edition is a double-album, which was released on 1st October 2012. Disc One of Disco Recharge-Voyage 3 Special Edition also features Special Instrumentals Volume 3. On Disc Two, there are five different versions of the two singles from Voyage 3, I Love You Dancer and Discotch. As if that’s not enough, there’s Sylvia Mason’s 1980 eponymous album Sylvia Mason and a trio of Voyage bonus tracks. Considering you’re getting essentially getting three albums and eight bonus tracks and this will only cost you less the £8, $12 or €10, this sounds like a real bargain. Is that the case, that’s what I’ll now tell you, when I tell you all you need to know about Disco Recharge-Voyage 3 Special Edition.

By 1980, Voyage were on something of a roll. Both of Voyage’s 1978 albums Let’s Fly Away had topped the US Billboard Hot Dance Charts. It’s no exaggeration to say that Voyage for Kings of Euro Disco not just in America, but in Europe. By 1980, the musical landscape had changed, after disco’s popularity had waned. Indeed, disco was something of a dirty word in some quarters, with record labels avoiding disco artists and both disco artists and disco labels not exactly popular. This had been caused by the Disco Sucks backlash, which came to a head on 12th July 1979 at Comiskey Park in Chicago. After that, disco nearly died. While that didn’t quite happen, it meant disco had to reinvent itself. So, Voyage would’ve a challenge when they set about recording what would become Voyage 3.

For Voyage 3, the lineup of guitarist Slim Pezin, keyboardist Marc Chantereau, drummer Pierre-Alain Dahan, bassist Saveur Mallia and lead singer Sylvia Mason wanted a new challenge. Voyage’s personnel were some of the best and most accomplished musicians of that time and as a result, weren’t content to stand still. It wasn’t for them to continue releasing album after album of similar music. This new challenge saw subtle changes to Voyage’s music. The six songs on Voyage 3 took on a funkier sound, with the bass and drums playing a more prominent role in Voyage’s sound. Recording of Voyage 3 took place in London, at the Trident Studios. This was familiar territory, as the two previous Voyage albums had been recorded at Trident. Another constant was producer Roger Takarz, producer of Let’s Fly Away and Voyage. On the release of Voyage 3, it was critically acclaimed, with I Love You Dancer, Do It Again and Music, Music all entering the top twenty in the US Billboard Disco Charts. While Voyage were still the same successful group, one thing was about to change, with Voyage about to lose one of its most important members.

Lead singer Sylvia Mason was about to sign a recording contract with Stiff Records to front their eighties take on the Motown sound, Sylvia and The Sapphires. Given how important a part Sylvia played in Voyage, this must have worried the other members of Voyage. Sylvia had been discovered in 1977 by Roger Takarz, when she was just eighteen. Soon, Sylvia became a Euro Disco star. She was a member of the legendary Birds of Paradise backing singers, along with Madeline Bell, Kay Garner, Sue Glover, Stephanie De Sykes and Vicki Brown. Some of the Birds of Paradise had also sung on albums by Cerrone and Don Ray, so they were experienced and in-demand. However, before Sylvia would release even a single with Sylvia and The Sapphires, she’d have released her debut solo album.

Sylvia Mason’s debut solo album Sylvia Mason came about purely by chance. Voyage had written too many songs for the first two Voyage albums Let’s Fly Away and Voyage. Seven of these songs became Sylvia Mason and Sylvia believes was Voyage’s way of thanking her. They were recorded at Trident Studios in London, with the members of Voyage accompanying her. Slim Pezin, Marc Chantereau, Pierre-Alain Dahan and Roger Takarz produced Sylvia Mason. Sadly, Sylvia Mason wasn’t a huge commercial success in the post-disco era. Since then, Sylvia Mason has never been rereleased on CD and is a rare and sought-after album among record collectors. Now for the very first time, Sylvia Mason’s debut album Sylvia Mason finds its way onto CD, as part of Disco Recharge-Voyage 3 Special Edition. Before I tell you about some of the highlights of Sylvia Mason, I’ll tell you about the highlights of Voyage 3. 

VOYAGE 3.

My first choice from Voyage 3 is I Love You Dancer one of the singles from Voyage 3. It’s an uptempo track, with a real joyous, good-time sound. Voyage’s funkier rhythm section are key to the track, with guitars, keyboards and percussion accompanying Pierre Alain Dahan’s lead vocal. Listening to the track, it’s hard to believe it’s over thirty years old. There’s a freshness to the track, and it’s quite different from the Euro Disco sound of 1980. Instead there’s more of a funk influence, courtesy of the rhythm section. Granted there’s still a Euro Disco sound, especially with the keyboards and  and synths, but very different from the Beautiful Blend and Boris Midney albums I recently reviewed. Gone is the pounding Euro Disco beat, replaced by a fusion of funk, Euro Disco, Euro Pop and even rock-tinged guitars. This combination is deliciously catchy, funk and timeless.

I’m Only Human has much more of a Euro Disco sound from the get-go. Moody, broody synths open the track and soon, Voyage’s pounding rhythm section create the track’s heartbeat. A sprinkling of percussion, chiming guitars and futuristic keyboards join the fray as the arrangement heads firmly in the direction of Euro Disco, albeit with a rocky twist. Pierre’s deliberate vocal has a Euro Disco style, while the arrangement mixes elements of Euro Pop and rock. You can date the track just by listening to it and referencing its influences. This has 1980 written all over it. Sometimes, there are similarities with The Stranglers. Later, the Euro Disco beat becomes more prominent, and is augmented by space-age synths, an edgy vocal, percussion and driving rhythm section. Voyage’s determination to change their music has certainly worked here, with the track a melting pot of genres and influences that demonstrates Voyage’s innovative, creative and inventive side.

Do It Again is my favorite track on Voyage 3 and sometimes, makes me think of K.C. and The Sunshine Band’s Give It Up. Like K.C. and The Sunshine Band’ it’s certainly a slice of funky, good-time music with more than its fair share of poppy hooks. Straight away, you realize just how good a track this is. It has simply catchy lyrics delivered in a near falsetto style, while the arrangement features a funky rhythm section, flourishes of guitars, squelchy synths and punchy harmonies. Rolls of drums and chiming guitars seem to only highlight just how catchy and joyous a track this is. Again, it’s a track that’s stood the test of time really well and sounds incredibly fresh thirty-two years later. 

The last track I’ve chosen from Voyage 3 is I Don’t Want To Fall In Love Again. As the song opens, you hear brief similarities with Foreigner’s Cold As Ice, as a rocky track unfolds. A punchy, rock-tinged driving rhythm section and stabs of keyboards accompany a vocal delivered in a choppy, dramatic style. Searing guitars accompany the punchy rhythm section as the arrangement fuses Euro Pop and rock with a pounding beat. Although there isn’t the same Euro Disco sound as the two previous Voyage albums, this shows a very different side to Voyage’s music, especially later, when the guitars are more like something from a rock album. Not only is this very different in style, but it shows how versatile and multi-talented Voyage really were.

These four tracks are just my favorite tracks from Voyage 3 and are also a good indication of how Voyage’s music was evolving. They weren’t content to stand still, continuing to release similar albums to Let’s Fly Away and Voyage. That wasn’t an option, given how music had changed. It was more a case of adapt or die. Voyage adapted and in doing so, showed that they weren’t one trick ponies. Far from it. Listening to Voyage 3, it seems that Voyage were able to flit seamlessly between musical genres and influences, and sometimes, incorporate them all into the one song. That’s what makes Voyage 3 such a compelling collection of tracks, where Voyage set about reinventing themselves and in the process, come up with their third successful album, that saw them retain their crown as Kings of Euro Disco.

SPECIAL INSTRUMENTALS VOLUME 3.

Special Instrumentals Volume 3 was released by Voyage in very limited quantities. Since then, it’s become a prized album for collectors and extremely rare and expensive. It’s a seven track album, which sees Voyage journey through musical genres and influences. Listening to Special Instrumentals Volume 3, I wonder why the album was released in such small quantities, given it’s such a good album. No wonder it’s so highly prized. Again, part of the charm and success of Special Instrumentals Volume 3 is how Voyage incorporate influences and genres. There’s everything from funk, jazz, Euro Disco, rock and classic disco. Sometimes, all these genres are thrown into the melting pot, like on Let’s Get Started. Follow the Brightest Star has a rock-tinged, dramatic Euro Disco sound, with a twist of funk added for good measure A trio of tracks from Voyage 3 feature on Special Instrumentals Volume 3, including the dramatic, space-age Music, Music, complete with synths and rocky guitars. So too do I Love You Dancer and Do It Again which are very welcome additions and two of Special Instrumentals Volume 3 highlights. After thirty-two years of being unavailable, at long last Special Instrumentals Volume 3, is available once again and I for one, am really pleased about that and so will you, when you hear it for the first time.

SYLVIA MASON-SYLVIA MASON.

Sylvia Mason released her debut album Sylvia Mason in 1980. Since then, it has never before been released on CD until now. It’s on Disc Two of Disco Recharge-Voyage 3 Special Edition. The seven tracks that makeup Sylvia Mason were actually tracks that had been written for Voyage’s first two albums Let’s Fly Away and Voyage. When these tracks weren’t used, Voyage gave them to Sylvia Mason as a thank you and they became Sylvia Mason, which I’ll now pick the highlights of.

We’ve Gotta Dance was the single released from Sylvia Mason, and it almost explodes into life. A funky rhythm section and chiming guitars drive the arrangement along, before a piano and the Sylvia’s vocal joins. Her vocal is delivered with a sense of urgency and is powerful and joyous. Stabs of blazing horns and backing vocalists sweep in and out, as old school synths join the mix. Dramatic thunderous drums and Latin percussion give way to Sylvia’s vocal and the pounding, jumpy arrangement as funk, Euro Pop and Euro Disco is combined. Together, they create a hugely catchy, hook-laden hidden gem that even thirty-two years later, will light up any dance-floor.

Shadow In the Sun is one of the best tracks on Sylvia Mason. It has a really understated sound when the track begins, with just keyboards, a subtle rhythm section and chiming guitars accompanying Sylvia’s heartfelt vocal. This is a very different track, more of a ballad, with a sultry saxophone adding a beautiful jazzy sound. The saxophone drifts in and out, providing a perfect foil and contrast to Sylvia’s vocal on this beautiful track, that demonstrates a very different side to Sylvia and her music.

You’re Like A Silent Movie sees Sylvia demonstrate her vocal versatility. Her vocal is much higher, and you wonder will Sylvia manage to deliver the vocal. She manages to do so and  must have a wide vocal range. The higher scale suits the song, adding to its wistful, melancholy sound and is accompanied by an arrangement that veers between understated with just the rhythm section, percussion and keyboards providing the backdrop. When the arrangement grows slightly, backing vocals join Sylvia, with their vocals providing a contrast to Sylvia’s vocal. This is quite different from the other two tracks I’ve mentioned, but like Shadow In the Sun isn’t a dance-floor track. Instead, it’s a track with a poppy sound, where some melancholy, wistful lyrics allow Sylvia’s vocal versatility to shine.

I Love You Dancer is the last track from Sylvia Mason I’ve chosen. When the track opens, the arrangement almost gallops along. Synths, Voyage’s rhythm section and guitars drive the track along, with the tempo slowing when Sylvia’s vocal enters. Throughout the arrangement the tempo slows and quickens, allowing Sylvia’s vocal to shine. As the arrangement speeds up, you realize that this track isn’t short of poppy hooks. Given Voyage’s track record this is no surprise. They fuse Euro Disco, pop and synth pop with drama and hooks, as Sylvia delivers one of her best vocals on Sylvia Mason, combining power, drama and emotion.

Although Sylvia Mason featured seven tracks that didn’t make it onto Let’s Fly Away or Voyage, they’re far from second-rate tracks. Indeed, why Voyage didn’t include them on Voyage 3 or keep them for their fourth album seems strange. Voyage almost gave these seven tracks away. They must have thought a lot of Sylvia Mason  to give her tracks as good as this. While Sylvia Mason was just twenty-one when she recorded Sylvia Mason, it’s an accomplished album, that showcases her not inconsiderable talents. She combines dance-floor friendly tracks with ballads and poppy tracks. After this Sylvia Mason would join Sylvia and The Sapphires, Stiff Records Motown revival band. Later, Sylvia would go on to sing backing vocals with artists like Roger Waters and Robbie Williams. During that period, Sylvia Mason has been unavailable on CD. Thankfully, it’s now available after thirty-two long years, with Sylvia Mason plus three bonus tracks as part of Disco Recharge-Voyage 3 Special Edition, which was released on 1st October 2012. Disco Recharge-Voyage 3 Special Edition is quite simply a double-album crammed full of quality music, including two albums from Voyage, Voyage 3 and Special Instrumentals Volume 3, plus Sylvia Mason’s debut album Sylvia Mason. That’s why at less than £8, $12 or €10 Disco Recharge-Voyage 3 Special Edition is one of the biggest bargains you’ll find this year, or indeed any year. Standout Tracks: I Love You Dancer, Do It Again,  We’ve Gotta Dance and Shadow In the Sun.

DISCO RECHARGE-VOYAGE 3-SPECIAL EDITION.

Disco Recharge: Voyage 3: Special Edition

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