JOHN DAVIS AND THE MONSTER ORCHESTRA-AIN’T THAT ENOUGH FOR YOU.

JOHN DAVIS AND THE MONSTER ORCHESTRA-AIN’T THAT ENOUGH FOR YOU.

By 1978, John Davis had established a reputation in music as a successful songwriter, arranger and producer. Ever since the early seventies, he’d been working in Philly, with groups like First Choice, The Intruders, The Soul Survivors and artists like William DeVaughn. Then when he joined the nascent SAM Records, John began developing a reputation as one of disco’s pioneers. He was playing his part in making SAM a label to challenge Salsoul as disco’s premier label. To do this, John had formed his own disco orchestra, John Davis and The Monster Orchestra, to rival the legendary Salsoul Orchestra.  Not only had they played on most of SAM Records’ releases, but released two albums. They were 1976s Night and Day, then 1977s Up Jumped The Devil. Soon, John Davis and The Monster Orchestra would release their third album, Ain’t That Enough For You in 1978. Given that The Salsoul Orchestra had lost Vince Montana Jr, its founder, leader, conductor and driving force, the title of disco’s greatest orchestra was up for grabs. Could John Davis and The Monster Orchestra snatch their crown with Ain’t That Enough For You?

With the title of disco’s premier orchestra up for grabs, John Davis and The Monster Orchestra got to work on Ain’t That Enough For You. John wrote the title-track Ain’t That Enough For You, Disco Fever and A Bite Of The Apple. With guitarist Craig Snyder he cowrote I’ll Be The Music. They also cowrote Stay With Me with Vince Fay. David and Dee Ervin cowrote I’ve Got The Hots For You, while Mark Bauman and Marty Markiewicz wrote Whatever Happened To Me and You. The other track might not have seemed like a controversial choice, but it was. It was a cover of the Kojak Theme. Covers of tracks like this, plus novelty songs, were providing ammunition for the anti-disco bandwagon. It was beginning to gather pace. According to them, this was proof that disco was lacking in direction and imagination. Disco they believed, was about to implode. This would prove prophetic in 1979. That was still to come. Before that, John Davis and The Monster Orchestra began recording Ain’t That Enough For You.

When recording of Ain’t That Enough For You began, many of the musicians that featured on Up Jumped The Devil were there. This included guitarist Craig Snyder, bassist Vince Fay, percussionists Larry Washington and Jimmy Walker, while Don Renaldo provided the strings and horns. John Davis played flute, keyboards, saxophone and took charge of vocals. Absent were The Sweethearts of Sigma, who’d played a big part in the success of Up Jumped The Devil. Instead, adding vocals were Billy Harner, Carolyn Mitchel and Vaneese Thomas, daughter of Rufus Thomas. Once Ain’t That Enough For You was completed, it was released in 1978.

Ain’t That Enough For You was released in 1978, but wasn’t a commercial success. The title-track, Ain’t That Enough For You was the lead single, and proved popular in clubs. In the UK, it reached number seventy. Released as the second single, was the Kojak Theme. This may have been to cash-in in the program’s popularity. However, it seemed a strange choice for a single. After all, there were much better tracks on Ain’t That Enough For You, as you’ll realize, when I tell you about the album.

Opening Ain’t That Enough For You, is the title-track, which was one of two singles released from the album. It’s a six-minute epic that explodes into life. A pulsating rhythm section and percussion drive the arrangement along. Then searing, rocky guitars, dramatic keyboards and horns join the fun. Next, the lushest of strings dance in. They dance joyously, above the pulsating arrangement. When a female vocal enters, her vocal is equally joyous, filled with enthusiasm and emotion. Her vocal is swept away, on top of the lushest strings. By now, the track takes on a Euro Disco sound, which when combined with disco and elements of Philly Soul, funk and rock, is a delicious, and heady brew that’s truly dance-floor friendly.

Rolls of drama open Disco Fever, which has a heavier, funkier sound. Tight, urgent and soulful harmonies join the funky rhythm section, percussion, keyboards and chiming guitars. Flourishes of strings and stabs of horns join bursts of dramatic drums. While the arrangement is crucial to the song’s success, so are the harmonies, which are delivered with power and emotion. Later, a growling saxophone solo proves to be the finishing touch, as funk soul and disco unite. That seems to set John Davis and The Monster Orchestra on their way. Spurred on, they continue spreading hooks and happiness aplenty, on this infectiously catchy, soulful and funky slice of classic disco.

Like the previous tracks, I’ll Be The Music just bursts into life, grabbing your attention and taking you on a musical journey. You float along amidst the lushest of strings, while harmonies serenade you and horns salute John Davis’ genius. Meanwhile the rhythm section provide this joyous, uplifting track’s heartbeat. Horns growl and kick, drums pound and horns swirl and cascade, as John Davis and The Monster Orchestra demonstrate just why they were one of the best disco orchestra’s and challenging for The Salsoul Orchestra’s crown

Side One of Ain’t That Enough For You closes with I’ve Got The Hots For You. This is a quite different track. It’s slower, funkier and has a much tougher sound. Vaneese’s sassy, feisty and snarled vocal is accompanied by a P-Funk influenced arrangement. The rhythm section and guitars provide an uber funky backdrop. They’re joined by keyboards and blazing horns. Together, they play their part in a track that’s very different from what’s gone before, but demonstrates there’s much more to John Davis and The Monster Orchestra than disco.

A Bite Of The Apple was written by John Davis. He appears to have found biblical inspiration. It opens Side Two of Ain’t That Enough For You. A pounding, pulsating disco beat is joined by a Spanish guitar as the arrangement becomes jaunty and funky. Flourishes of strings sweep and swirl above the sweet, punchy harmonies as the arrangement gallops away. Spanish horns sound, while percussion and the pulsating beat combine with cascading strings. As Euro Disco and disco are combining, a growling saxophone solo adds a jazzy twist. For five-minutes the track gallops along teasing and tempting, daring you take A Bite Of The Apple, which is quite delicious.

As Stay With Me begins, you sense something is about to unfold. There’s this sense of anticipation when percussion and rhythm section combine. Then flourishes of strings and rasping horns join the punchy, pounding beat. That’s a clue that something is about to make a grand entrance. What it is, is a strutting, soaring vocal.  Urgent and dramatic, it joins the swathes of swirling strings, stabs of horns and pounding beats. It’s the missing link. Now everything falls into place. You just sit back and luxuriate in this track where elements of Earth, Wind and Fire, disco and Philly Soul combine. The next six minutes fly by. When the track ends, you can’t resist the temptation to play it again SAM.

Earlier, I mentioned that the inclusion of the Kojak Theme was controversial for many people. However, they’ve probably never listened to this string-drenched fusion of funk and disco. It features the lushest of strings, a funky rhythm section and sassy, sensual harmonies. It’s orchestral, dance-floor friendly, dramatic and funky. If it didn’t happen to be the theme from a popular television show, it would’ve been hailed as a musical triumph.

Whatever Happened To Me and You closes Ain’t That Enough For You. This is four minutes of soulful, disco. The sweetest of harmonies sweep in, accompanied by lush strings, while the rhythm section march the arrangement along. It’s the bass that leads the way, before Craig Synder’s rocky guitar add to the heartache and drama of the lyrics. Later, John Davis unleashes a saxophone solo, as he takes centre-stage. When his solo is over, he passes the baton to the harmonies. They’re at the heart of this beautiful and heartbreakingly sad fusion of disco and soul. This seems the perfect way to close Ain’t That Enough For You, with John Davis and The Monster Orchestra proving whether it’s disco, funk, Philly Soul or Euro Disco, they’re equally at home.

Just like Night and Day, then Up Jumped The Devil, John Davis and The Monster Orchestra’s third album Ain’t That Enough For You continued their ascendancy to the towards becoming disco’s greatest orchestra. Good as Ain’t That Enough For You was, and it’s one of the finest albums by a disco orchestra, John Davis and The Monster Orchestra didn’t quite take the crown from The Salsoul Orchestra. They were still the best disco orchestra. John Davis and The Monster Orchestra were a close second with their fusion of disco, funk, Philly Soul and Euro Disco. During the eight tracks on Ain’t That Enough For You they demonstrate why. Not only were they capable of creating some of the most soulful and dance-floor friendly music, but seamlessly, they could switch between musical genres. There’s no way you could describe John Davis and The Monster Orchestra as a one-trick pony. Not at all. Instead, you could describe them as versatile and multitalented. The eight tracks on Ain’t That Enough For You demonstrates this. Even the Kojak Theme works in the hands of John Davis and The Monster Orchestra. This refuted the accusations that disco lacked direction and imagination. Instead, the hook-laden, soulful and dance-floor friendly Ain’t That Enough For You proved beyond all reasonable doubt that John Davis and The Monster Orchestra were one of the most innovative, influential and multitalented disco orchestras. Standout Tracks: Ain’t That Enough For You, Disco Fever, Stay With Me and Whatever Happened To Me and You.

JOHN DAVIS AND THE MONSTER ORCHESTRA-AIN’T THAT ENOUGH FOR YOU.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: