DISCO RECHARGE: VOYAGE-ONE STEP HIGHER.

DISCO RECHARGE: VOYAGE-ONE STEP HIGHER.

By 1982, Voyage had established themselves as one of Euro Disco’s most innovative groups. Since 1978, Voyage had released a trio of critically acclaimed, cutting-edge albums. Their debut was 1978s Voyage, with Fly Away following later in 1978. Two years later, in 1980, came  Voyage’s third album Voyage 3. Now two years after the release of Voyage 3, Voyage would release One Step Higher.  This would prove to be Voyage’s final album. Just like Voyage’s three previous albums, musical genres and influences would be seamlessly fused. The man behind Voyage’s musical journey was guitarist Slim Pezin. 

Joining Slim in Voyage, were three more of France’s top session musicians. Together, keyboardist Marc Chantereau, bassist Sauveur Malia, drummer Pierre-Alain Dahan and Slim were Voyage. These four musicians, were at the heart of the French Euro Disco scene. Previously, members of Voyage had played on albums by Don Ray, Cerrone and Alec R. Constandinos. Quite simply, Voyage were a group with rich musical heritage. So it’s no wonder that Voyage had established a reputation as one of Euro Disco’s most pioneering groups. When Voyage reconvened to record One Step Higher, this would prove to be Voyage’s final album. Since then, One Step Higher has never been rereleased…until very soon. On 18th February 2013, Harmless Records’ Disco Recharge imprint will release One Step Higher as Disco Recharge: Voyage-One Step Higher. 

Just like the three previous Voyage albums Disco Recharge have rereleased, this is no ordinary rerelease. Instead, Disco Recharge: Voyage-One Step Higher is a luxurious double album. Disc One features the original version of One Step Higher, remastered from the original master tapes in Paris. Then Disc Two of Disco Recharge: Voyage-One Step Higher features fifteen original, alternate and remixes of Let’s Get Started, One Step Higher, I Surrender, Nowhere To Hide and Magic In The Groove. An added bonus is the previously unreleased track Almost Made It. As you’ll realize, Disco Recharge: Voyage-One Step Higher this is no ordinary rerelease. Mind you, One Step Higher was no ordinary Euro Disco album, as you’ll realize when I tell you about the music on Disco Recharge: Voyage-One Step Higher.

When Voyage reconvened to record One Step Higher in 1982, music was very different to when they released their 1978 debut Voyage. By 1982, computers were becoming much more commonplace in recording studios. Similarly, synths and drum machines played a much bigger role in recording an album. Most importantly, music was changing. Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five released their debut album The Message, Afrika Bambaataa released Planet Rock and Michael Jackson released Thriller. Hip hop and electronic music were starting to challenge the now dominance of rock music on the UK, European and US charts. The times they were a changing. So too was Voyage’s music.

For One Step Higher, Voyage would fuse musical genres and influences aplenty. Granted, they’d been doing this since their debut album Voyage. However, they were incorporating the latest musical influences and seamlessly fusing them with a multitude of musical genres. Everything from Euro Disco, funk, soul, rock, electronica and poppy hooks were fused. There’s even a hint of reggae, Latin and Caribbean music by the four members of Voyage over seven tracks.

The four members of Voyage cowrote seven tracks. They’d become One Step Higher, which was recorded at Studio 56, Studios Ferber in Paris and at Farmyard Studios in Little Chalfon in Buckinghamshire. Joining guitarist Slim Pezin, keyboardist Marc Chantereau, bassist Sauveur Malia and drummer Pierre-Alain Dahan were many musicians and backing vocalists Voyage had previously worked with.

Among the musicians and backing singers joining Voyage for the recording of One Step Higher, were the backing vocalists the Birds of Paris. This included Stephanie De Sykes, Kay Garner and Vicki Brown. They were joined by vocalists Anne Calvert, Carole Fredericks who was the sister of Taj Mahal and Arthur Simms who sang the lead vocal on Come and Get It. Tony Bofils played bass on two tracks and Georges Rodi programmed the synths. Once One Step Higher was recorded and mixed at the Farmyard Studios, it was released in 1982.

On the release of One Step Higher in 1982, it may not have been a commercial success, but proved hugely popular in clubs. The single Let’s Get Started, released in 1982, also failed to replicate the success of Voyage’s earlier singles. However, One Step Higher, which was a genre sprawling album, where musical genres and influences were seamlessly fused, has since become a Euro Disco classic, which I’ll now tell you about.

One Step Higher opens with Let’s Get Started, which is the perfect title. From the get-go, Voyage grab your attention, fusing musical genres. Rock, funk and Euro Disco combine, as Voyage remind you of their early albums. Searing rocky guitars riff and thunderous drums pound. Banks of synths and the rhythm section then build the drama. Stabs of synths, the funkiest of basses and vibes combine, while sizzling guitars weave their way across the arrangement. Then comes the lead vocal and accompanied by the sweetest harmonies. They’re delivered urgently and dramatically, but soulfully, in a call and response style. This reflects the flourishes of flamboyance that punctuate the arrangement. Other times, there’s a solidity, precision and tightness to the arrangement. In many ways, this is classic Voyage, doing what they do so well, producing an anthemic, hook laden track.

Come And Get It features Arthur Simms’ lead vocal and sees no let up in the sense of urgency. Like the opening track, Voyage fuse musical genres, while incorporating the latest technology. Synths and sound effects are at the heart of the choppy, driving arrangement. The rhythm section power the arrangement along, while horns growl and rasp and a phone rings. Arthur’s vocal is delivered powerfully, with passion and urgency. Harmonies sweep in, soaring above an arrangement dominated by synths and the rhythm section. Funk, Euro Disco, soul and eighties’ electronic music are the destination. Voyage seamlessly blend these into one. It’s a hopeful, urgent and joyous musical roller coaster journey, where Voyage act as your tour guide.

Latin percussion and spacious rolls of drums open the dramatic sounding One Step Higher. When the vocal enters, Voyage sound not unlike Cameo. The resemblance is uncanny. A tough, sassy and deliberate vocal takes centre stage. With just percussion, rolls of drums and riffing guitars for company, you hear a very different side of Voyage. It’s an innovative, reinvention. From here, you feel, Voyage could’ve forged a career in eighties funk. Handclaps, synths, Latin percussion and Afro-beat influenced drums accompany the synthesized, sneering vocal. Again, this demonstrates that Voyage were never content to stand still. Instead, they strived to innovate and reinvent their sound, like they do here.

I Surrender sees funk and Euro Disco combine with soulful harmonies. It’s another uplifting track where Voyage fuse musical genres and add a plentiful supply of hooks. Unlike many similar songs, I Surrender has stood the test of time. Indeed, like a fine wine, it’s matured with age. Sometimes, there’s even a Talking Heads’ influence to the song. The vocal is sung call and response style, with soaring, soulful harmonies for company. Swathes of synths, blazing horns, percussion and a funky rhythm section joining Chic-style chiming guitars. Key to the song’s success are the sumptuously soulful harmonies. As if spurred on, Voyage produce a funky backdrop. It’s as if they’ve raised their game One Step Higher.

Nowhere To Hide has a uptempo, joyous and singalong eighties sound. Synths are joined by the rhythm sections while whoops punctuate the arrangement. When the vocal enters, Voyage start spreading a plentiful supply of hooks. Melodic, memorable and infectiously catchy, perfectly describes this eighties dance track. Quite simply, resistance is impossible. A pounding bass, chiming guitars, braying horns and harmonies join the synths. Together, they play their part in another uptempo, hook-laden track, where Euro Disco, funk, soul and eighties electronica become one.

Magic In The Groove literally, bursts into life. Soon, you’re on another musical Voyage. Probably, roller coaster is a more fitting description. At breakneck speed, chiming guitars and the rhythm section power this swinging arrangement along. A holler and bursts of laugher signal what’s to come. That’s one of the best vocals on One Step Higher. The vocal is akin to musical sunshine. Along with gospel tinged harmonies and Caribbean percussion and drums three minutes of uber funky, irresistibly catchy music unfolds. Euro Disco, Caribbean percussion and drums, reggae and funk are all thrown into the mix, given a stir by Voyage and hey presto, a delicious dish that’s best tasted often, and regularly, is served up by them.

Closing One Step Higher is Follow The Brightest Star. A thunderous rhythm section, complete with rolls of dramatic drums builds and builds the drama. Then stabs of synths, percussion, pounding drums and funky bass take charge. Somehow, they continue to build the drama. Jazz, funk, Euro Disco and electronica combine. If proof was needed, this demonstrates just how talented and versatile a group of musicians Voyage were. Then midway through the track, punchy, soulful harmonies which remind me of Chic enter. Just when you thought things couldn’t get any better, they do.  Voyage then decide to showcase their considerable musical talents, which they do with considerable panache and aplomb. Not only does that provide the icing on the cake to One Step Higher, but is the cherry on top. It’s a fitting finale to One Step Higher and Voyage’s recording career.

While Follow The Brightest Star closed One Step Higher and Disc One of Disco Recharge: Voyage-One Step Higher, there’s still Disc Two to enjoy. This includes fifteen original, alternate and remixes of Let’s Get Started, I Surrender, Nowhere To Hide and Magic In The Groove. An added bonus is the previously unreleased track Almost Made It. That’s what’s in store on Disc Two of Disco Recharge: Voyage-One Step Higher.

Disc Two of Disco Recharge: Voyage-One Step Higher includes four remixes of Let’s Get Started. This includes the original 7” and 12” mixes, plus the alternate and short versions. My favorite is the original 12” mix. Only the original version of One Step Higher features on Disc Two, while there are three mixes of I Surrender.  Then there’s four separate versions of Nowhere To Hide. Two versions of Magic In The Groove are featured on Disc Two. There’s the Original 12” Mix and the TV Mix. The previously unreleased Almost Made It isn’t just an added bonus, but a very welcome surprise for Voyage’s many fans. Just like Disc One, Disc Two of Disco Recharge: Voyage-One Step Higher is a tantalizing reminder of why Voyage were one of Euro Disco most successful groups.

So, One Step Higher was Voyage’s final album. In many ways, this was a fitting finale to their recording career. Like their three previous albums, One Step Higher was an innovative, genre-sprawling fusion. During the seven tracks on One Step Higher, Voyage fuse everything from Euro Disco, funk, soul, rock, electronica and poppy hooks. There’s even a hint of reggae, Latin and Caribbean music. Listen carefully and layers of music will unfold, revealing the influence of classic disco, eighties electronic, Chic, Talking Heads and Philly Soul. It’s all there, mixed together by the four members of Voyage.

Unlike so many albums released during the early eighties, Voyage’s One Step Higher hasn’t just stood the test of time, but matured like a fine wine. Thirty-one years after its release One Step Higher, sounds just as good, if not better, than it did in 1982. It was almost fitting that an album as good as One Step Higher closed Voyage’s career. Since then, Voyage have been remembered as one of the pioneers, innovators and finest purveyors of Euro Disco. Disco Recharge’s rerelease of One Step Higher as Disco Recharge: Voyage-One Step Higher, on 18th February 2013, is the perfect tribute to one of Euro Disco’s pioneering groups. If you’re unable to wait until then, then I’d suggest you investigate the many delights of Voyage’s first three albums, 1978s Voyage, with 1979s Fly Away and 1980s Voyage 3, which have all been previously rereleased by Disco Recharge. That will keep you occupied to their swan-song, Disco Recharge: Voyage-One Step Higher. Standout Tracks: Let’s Get Started, One Step Higher, Nowhere To Hide and Follow The Brightest Star.

DISCO RECHARGE: VOYAGE-ONE STEP HIGHER.

 

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