DISCO RECHARGE: FESTIVAL-EVITA SPECIAL EDITION & BORIS MIDNEY-THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK.

DISCO RECHARGE: FESTIVAL-EVITA SPECIAL EDITION & BORIS MIDNEY-THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK.

By 1979, Boris Midney had established himself as one of the most prolific and pioneering producers of the Euro Disco era. Indeed, it’s no exaggeration to call Boris Midney one of the founding fathers of Euro Disco. Having defected from Russia, Boris became a member of the Russian Jazz Quartet. Soon, Boris had established a career in the music industry. This is no surprise, given he was  multitalented musician, a true multi-instrumentalist who could read and write music. By 1976, at just as disco was becoming the most popular musical genre, Boris launch his career as a producer.

Two years later, in 1978, Boris released two albums by studio bands he’d created. These were  USA-European Connection’s Come Into My Heart and Beautiful Blend’s Make That Feeling Come Again. A year later, in 1979, Boris released three further albums. This included USA-European Connection’s sophomore album USA-European Connection, Masquerade’s Pinocchio and his debut album as Boris Midney, Caress. By then, Boris Midney had established a reputation as a prolific, innovative producers, who pioneered 48-track recording. For Boris’ next album, it wouldn’t be new material, but songs composed by others, which he’d reinterpret.

In 1979, Boris met Robert Stigwood, who in 1977, had produced Saturday Night Fever. He was also the owner of RSO Records and manager of The Bee Gees. Robert had a proposal for Boris. His idea was that Boris would reinterpret the work of other composers. This wasn’t a new idea. The Salsoul Orchestra had been doing this for several years, reinterpreting The Wiz, Fiddler On the Roof and West SIde Story. However, Robert’s idea was that Boris reinterpret songs from the musical Evita, written by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber. With Evita about to be launched as a musical in America, this would help promote the show. Boris accepted the commission. Released in 1979, by another Boris Midney studio band, Festival, Evita resulted in his most commercially successful album.

After the success of Evita, Robert commissioned Boris to do the same with The Empire Strikes Back’s soundtrack. It was released by Boris Midney in 1980, but didn’t replicate the success of Evita. Since then, both Festival’s Evita and Boris Midney’s The Empire Strikes Back have become disco classics. Now over thirty years later, Harmless Records’ Disco Recharge imprint are rereleasing both albums, complete with bonus track. They’ll be rereleased as Disco Recharge: Festival-Evita and Boris Midney The Empire Strikes Back on February 18th 2013. Before I tell you about the music on Evita and The Empire Strikes Back, I’ll tell you about the background to two classic albums.

FESTIVAL-EVITA.

Evita was the latest musical from lyricist Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber. Based on the life of Eva Peron, the wife of Argentine President Juan Peron, Eva became known as the first Lady of Argentina. Born into poverty in 1919, she rose to become a revered figure within certain section of Argentine society. Known as Evita, Eva Peron died of cancer, aged just thirty-three in 1952. It was Evita’s story the Rice and Lloyd Webber team transformed into a musical.

June 21st 1978 saw the premier of Evita in London’s West End. By then, the Evita Soundtrack had been released. It became a commercial success, reaching number one throughout Europe. Julie Covington sang the track Don’t Cry For Me Argentina, which gave her a huge hit single. She didn’t want to appear in the West End show, so Elaine Paige was chosen instead. By 1979, Evita was about to be premiered in America.

There was a problem with staging Evita in America. Neither the Evita Soundtrack, nor Julie Covington’s Don’t Cry For Me Argentina had been commercially successful. So with Evita about to open in Los Angeles, a publicity campaign got underway. As part of this campaign, Robert Stigwood hit on the idea of giving Evita a disco makeover. To do this, he headed to see Boris Midney. Soon, Boris was commissioned to record seven tracks from Evita, using the newly formed studio band Festival.

Festival headed to Boris Midney’s legendary 48 track recording studio Eras, in New York. Boris had built the studio from scratch, to his own specification. He was able to properly utilize the potential of the 48 track studio, fusion soul, disco and symphonies. WIth bassist Francisco Centeno, guitarists Brad Johnson and Ray Volpe, percussionist Johnny Santana, harpist Reinhardt Elster plus a string and horn section, recording got underway. Catalina Seviilla, Kevin Owens, plus Lucia and Sylvia  Suarez delivered the vocals.Six of the tracks were from the original soundtrack, while Boris wrote Evita’s closing track, Eva’s Theme: She’s A Women. Boris arranged, produced and played keyboards on Evita, and was responsible for the album cover. Once Festival finished recording Evita, Boris Midney’s most intriguing and compelling project would prove the biggest commercial success of his career.

On the release of Evita in 1979, on Robert Stigwood’s RSO Records, the album soared to number one in the US Billboard Disco Charts and reached number fifty in the US Billboard 200. Evita also reached number three in the Dance Music/Club Pay Charts. Don’t Cry For Me Argentina was released as a single, reaching number seventy-two in the US Billboard 100 Charts. However, what made Evita such a commercial success? That’s what I’ll tell you.

Opening Evita is the nine-minute epic Buenos Aires, which sees a wistful piano and subtle strings combining. Gradually, Boris builds the drama, fusing tender, soulful harmonies, percussion and flourishes of piano. That signals the arrangement’s explosion into life. Latin percussion, harmonies and a pounding Euro Disco beat combine, as Festival drive the arrangement along. With Boris keyboards, flourishes of harpsichord and growling horns join swathes of strings it’s a delicious combination. When the punchy harmonies enter midway through the track, you realize a classic is unfolding. They’re joyous, punchy and soulful, the perfect foil for Boris’ disco symphony. Euro Disco, soul and Latin music combine seamlessly and sometimes, dramatically and grandly. As Buenos Aires fades into the distance, you hungrily await the next six tracks.

There’s no let up in tempo on I’d Be Surprisingly Good For You. A pulsating disco beat, dancing strings, rasping horns, Latin percussion and funky rhythm section join forces. Then the heartfelt, sincere vocal enters. Cascading harmonies accompany the vocal, while Festival mix funk, Euro Disco and soul. Melancholy strings sweep and swirl, horns bray and the rhythm section provide a pounding, funky backdrop, as hooks aplenty are delivered by Festival.

Most people will have heard Don’t Cry For Me Argentina, but never like this. Rather than a slow ballad, it’s reinterpreted by Boris an uptempo dance track, with a poppy twist. Layers of lush strings, dramatic horns and tight harmonies combine, while the rhythm section create a the arrangement’s pulsating heartbeat. The lead vocal is delivered emotively and dramatically, but quicker than the original version. This suits a track, where disco and pop unite. Here, Boris breathes new life and meaning into a familiar song, while giving it a dance-floor friendly makeover.

From the opening bars of High Flying Adored, a pulsating Euro DIsco beat thunders along. Horns growl, strings quiver and percussion and keyboards then join the arrangement. Even before the punchy harmonies enter, you’re smitten, by this irresistibly catchy slice of Euro Disco. They accompany a deliberate vocal, which tells the story of Evita at the peak of her popularity. High Flying Adored, with a long way to fall describes her situation perfectly. The interplay between the vocal and harmonies is seamless. It’s as if they drive each other to greater heights, as one of this irresistible track proves one the highlights of Evita.

Rainbow High picks up where High Flying Adored left off. Flourishes of Boris’ keyboards, blazing horns and dancing strings unite with the rhythm section. Like other tracks, they provide the track’s pulsating Euro Disco beat. Urgent, choppy, cascading harmonies join percussion and handclaps. Then at just the right time, Boris drops the strings and horns in. During a breakdown, harpsichord and piano take charge, as Boris teases and tantalizes. Then, he unleashes the rest of the arrangement. It’s as if he can no longer hold it back. What unfolds, is classic Boris Midney, forever the musical innovator, always a leader and never a follower.

She Is A Diamond sees Kevin Owens take charge of vocal, on the last of the original tracks from the Evita soundtrack. Drums pound, horns rasp and strings dance, as the arrangement explodes into life. Meanwhile, a funky bass helps drive the dancing arrangement along. Kevin’s vocal is deliberate and pensive, while harmonies are similarly melancholy, as they question. Later, Johnny Santana unleashes a percussive masterclass, before the track bursts back into life. It’s Euro Disco, funk, soul and Latin music combined, and then given a symphonic twist by Boris. It’s compelling, captivating and sweeps you along, holding you spellbound.

Closing Evita is Eva’s Theme: She’s A Woman, written by Boris. Piano, harpsichord, Latin percussion and cascading strings combine with growling horns. Add to that a pounding, Latin-tinged beat and breathy harmonies. From there, the arrangement dances elegantly, grandly and beautifully along. Harmonies soar soulfully, strings sweep and swirl and horns punctuate the arrangement. It seems Boris is determined to create a track that brings Evita to a dramatic and memorable high. This he does, using a Latin twist to pay homage to Evita, in a way she’d surely approve of.

While Eva’s Theme: She’s A Woman, closed Festival’s Evita, it doesn’t close Disc One of Disco Recharge: Festival-Evita and Boris Midney The Empire Strikes Back. Not at all. Indeed, there are four other tracks. Two are 12” Promo Mixes released by RSO. They’re Evita Special Dance Music Version Pt. 1, a three-part movement and Evita Special Dance Music Version Pt. 2, a four-part movement. Then there’s the 7” and 12” Version of the single Don’t Cry For Me Argentina. These four tracks are a very, welcome added bonus for collectors of Boris Midney’s work. Indeed, the rerelease of Evita, which was Boris’ most commercially successful album will be welcomed by anyone who loves disco or Euro Disco. Evita saw Boris Midney doing what he did best, pioneering, innovating and fusing musical genres and influences aplenty. So it’s no surprise that following the success of Evita, Robert Stigwood commissioned Boris to give another soundtrack a disco makeover, The Empire Strikes Back.

THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK.

The Empire Strikes Back, which was the fifth installment in the Star Wars series, was released in 1980. Like previous films, the script was written by George Lucas. Produced by Gary Hurtz, directed Irvin Kershner and starring Carrie Lucas, Harrison Ford and Mark Hammil The Empire Strikes Back was an space opera. British composer and musician John Williams had written the soundtrack to The Empire Strikes Back. It was these songs that Boris Midney would reinterpret when he gave The Empire Strikes Back a disco makeover.

Many of the same musicians and vocalists joined Boris at his Eras Studios in New York. Bassist Francisco Centeno, guitarists Ray Volpe and percussionist Johnny Santana were joined by Bob DePasquale’s Ensemble, who provided the strings and horns. Just like on Evita, Boris arranged, produced and played keyboards on The Empire Strikes Back. He was also responsible for album cover’s photo. When The Empire Strikes Back was released, disco was no longer as popular. 

When The Empire Strikes Back was released by Boris Midney in 1980, this came a year after the Disco Sucks’ movement had almost killed disco. It came to a head at Comiskey Park, Chicago on 12th July 1979. After that, disco was no longer as popular. Instead, record companies weren’t releasing disco albums. Disco artists suffered, having been cast aside, in favour of the next musical trend. So, when The Empire Strikes Back wasn’t a commercial success, it’s no surprise. Since then, Boris Midney’s The Empire Strikes Back has become a disco classic, which I’ll tell you about.

Yoda’s Theme opens Boris Midney’s The Empire Strikes Back. There’s a dramatic, sci-fi sound as the track opens. Distant drums boom, synths beep and squeak and then drums, searing, rocky guitars and blazing horns add to the drama. With percussion, keyboards and a pounding, funk-laden rhythm section, complete with hissing hi-hats the arrangement reveals its secrets. Quickly, the drama builds, with urgent harmonies, bursts of grizzled horns and swirling strings combining Euro Disco, funk, classical music and elements of jazz. Elegant, symphonic and grand describes this disco concerto. Later, the arrangement takes on a rocky sound as this dramatic, space opera takes shape. For over seven-minutes, Boris takes you on a genre-fusing journey, that’s bold, brave, dramatic and like all his work, truly groundbreaking.

A sci-fi sound opens The Imperial March (Darth Vader’s Theme), before hissing hi-hats, harpsichord percussion and shivering strings combine. Then having resisted the temptation to drop the rhythm section in earlier, they drive the arrangement along. Soon, they’re like a musical juggernaut, a funky one at that. Strings dance above the arrangement, quivering and shimmering, while horns growl and blaze. By now, funk, Euro Disco, jazz, Latin music and classical music have become one. Breathy harmonies urgently accompany jazzy horns and Latin percussion, as musical genres and influences melt seamlessly into one, molded by the maestro, Boris Midney.

As if from a faraway, distant galaxy, Han Solo And The Princess (Love Theme) meanders into being. The arrangement prowls along. Elements of it briefly remind me of the Love Unlimited Orchestra, albeit with a slow, moody, funky twist. Melancholy, wistful horns, keyboards and the rhythm section create a quite beautiful, pensive sounding track. Percussion is added, while sultry horns and thoughtful keyboards and a slow, but funky rhythm section combine. Later, pizzicato string add to the arrangement’s wistful, pensive and beautiful sound, resulting in this being the highlight of The Empire Strikes Back.

Closing The Empire Strikes Back, is Star Wars (Main Theme). Beeps and squeaks combine with percussion, Blaxploitation era horns and a funky rhythm section. From a slow, moody opening, Boris and his band kick loose one last time. Elegant harmonies, lush strings, braying horns and chiming guitars combine. For their part, the rhythm section provide the necessary funky beat, creating a six-minute Magnus Opus, which closes Disc Two of Disco Recharge: Festival-Evita and Boris Midney The Empire Strikes Back.

Just like Evita, The Empire Strikes Back saw Boris continue to innovate and fuse musical genres. On The Empire Strikes Back, the Euro Disco influence isn’t as prominent. Granted it’s still there, but much more subtle in parts. In its place, Boris combined elements of everything from funk, soul, classical, Latin and rock music. The result was as equally captivating, innovative musical journey as Evita. Listening to The Empire Strikes Back, I wonder whether Boris Midney could’ve made a career composing film soundtracks? He certainly had the vision, talent and creativity to do so. Like Evita, The Empire Strikes Back sees Boris combine and fuse musical genres and influences. Indeed, his influences and inspiration are eclectic. To his beloved Euro Disco, Boris delves deeply into his musical palette. Like an artist, he produced in Evita and The Empire Strikes Back two very different albums. Ever since their release in 1979 and 1980 respectively, Evita and The Empire Strikes Back have become disco classics. 

Both Evita and The Empire Strikes Back have been unavailable on CD for many years. Now, Harmless Records’ Disco Recharge imprint are rectifying this. On February 18th 2013, Disco Recharge will rerelease Disco Recharge: Festival-Evita and Boris Midney The Empire Strikes Back as a lovingly compiled and luxurious double-album. This is just the latest rerelease from Disco Recharge of Boris Midney’s music. Previously, Disco Recharge-Boris Midney Volume 1-Beautiful Blend and Caress and Disco Recharge Come Into My Heart and USA-European Connection-Special Edition. Joining these two rereleases, will Disco Recharge: Festival-Evita and Boris Midney The Empire Strikes Back, the next installment in the musical career of Boris Midney, one of Euro Disco’s founding fathers, and a man who is worth of the description visionary, innovator and pioneer. Standout Tracks: I’d Be Surprisingly Good For You, High Flying Adored, Yoda’s Theme and Han Solo And The Princess (Love Theme). 

DISCO RECHARGE: FESTIVAL-EVITA SPECIAL EDITION & BORIS MIDNEY-THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK.

 

 

 

9 Comments

  1. Johnny Santana

    Hello Derek

    My name is Johnny Santana, I was fortunate to have taken part of this amazing project with Boris back in 1979, we had lots of fun creating this great album.
    Just wanted to commend you on your review for the new release of Festival Evita/ Disco Recharge.

    Thank you
    Johnny Santana

    P.S. I was wondering, I am putting together a personal music book for my family and wanted to know if it would be possible to use a short part of this review which includes my name. This will only be for personal use.

    • Hi Johnny,

      Thanks for your comments. I’m so pleased that you enjoyed my review of Festival’s Evita and Boris Midney’s The Empire Strikes Back. Please feel free to use part of my review for your book. Have you received a copy of the forthcoming release of the Disco Recharge release? If you haven’t, let me know your details and I can get in touch with the record company. As usual, Disco Recharge, part of Harmless Records, have done a wonderful job with the reissue. It really is a lovingly compiled release. You can contact me at delthelaw@yahoo.co.uk and I’ll sort things out for you. This is the latest in a series of Boris Midney releases have released. Thanks for your comments.

      Best Wishes,
      Derek.

      • Johnny Santana

        Hello Derek, how are you? Hope everything is going well. Derek, I was just wondering if you already received a copy of the Festival Evita/ Empire? I was just doing a little search today for a friend of mine who is interested in buying a copy. However, when I looked at the credits, I found that on the Empire Strikes Back they have me listed on percussion and a Peter Martin on congas, this has to be an error because he had no association relating to this session. Just wanted to know if you would be able to confirm that or if it’s just a typo error on the site that has the information.

        Thanks for your help Derek
        all the best
        Johnny Santana

      • Hi Johnny,

        Good to hear from you again. I’m fine, and hope you’re well. A copy of Disco Recharge Evita and Empire Strikes Back is being sent to you. I emailed you to tell you. I hope you’ll enjoy it.

        I checked the sleeve-notes to Disco Recharge Evita and Empire Strikes Back, and Peter Martin is listed as playing congas on both albums. I’ll inform Disco Recharge of the error. Incidentally, Peter Martin is listed as playing congas on USA-European Connection, which was rereleased along with Come Into My Heart. He’s also listed as playing congas on Caress which was released along with Beautiful Connection. Did peter play on these sessions? If you could let me know, that would be really helpful. Thanks for that.

        Your friend will be able to buy a copy of Disco Recharge Evita and Empire Strikes Back on Amazon. I hope they enjoy the albums as much as I did. They brought back some great memories.

        Thanks for pointing out about Peter Martin, I’ll let the record company know. Keep in touch.

        Best Wishes.
        Derek.

  2. Johnny Santana

    Hello Derek

    Just wanted to let you know that I just received the promo copy of Festival Evita/ Empire Strikes Back from Disco Recharge. I really want to thank you, without you this wouldn’t have happened and it was very kind of you to arrange this. Derek, would you send them my thanks in my behalf?

    I know I am going to enjoy this edition.
    Thanks again
    All the best
    Johnny Santana

    • Hi Johnny,

      Good to hear from you. Glad that you’ve received your promo copy of Festival’s Evita/Empire Strikes Back. I hope that you’ll enjoy it, and that it bring back memories. I’ll let the record company know that you received it. Glad I was able to help.

      Best Wishes,
      Derek.

  3. Happy New Year Derek, just wanted to say hello its been a long time. Hope all is going well and may this year bring you much happiness and health.

    Best,
    Johnny Santana

    • Happy New Year Johnny,

      Good to hear from you. It’s been a while.
      Something happened to my Facebook account, and I lost everyone that was on my friend’s list. Facebook weren’t exactly helpful.

      Are you still making music? Hope you are. Look after yourself.

      Regards,
      Derek.

  4. Johnny

    Hi Derek

    It’s been a long time and I wanted to say hello, hope all is well with you. I have question for you. My website is being redesigned and should be finished soon, I am in the process of getting the web designer all the content needed, photos etc.. I was wondering if you would give permission to use the review you did for Boris Midney/ Disco Evita, I would love to add this added this on my news page. I will let you know when the site is finished so you can take a look it.

    Best always,

    Johnny Santana

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