One of the phenomenons of the disco era was the disco orchestra. Following the success of The Salsoul Orchestra, other record companies decided they too, wanted their own disco orchestra. Soon, disco orchestras were springing up throughout America. It seemed no American city was immune from the phenomena of the disco orchestra. Neither was Canada. 

In Toronto, Ian Guenther and Willi Morrison founded the THP Orchestra, which was influenced by the Euro Disco sound. Between 1976 and 1979, the Toronto based THP Orchestra released four albums. The THP Orchestra’s 1976 debut album was Early Riser, with Too Hot For Love following in 1977. After that, 1978s Tender Is The Night and 1979s Good Too Me followed.

SSince their release, neither Early Riser nor Too Hot For Love have been released on CD. Thankfully, that will soon be rectified. On 15th April 2013, Disco Recharge will rerelease Early Riser and Too Hot For Love as a double album, complete with bonus tracks aplenty. For fans of the disco orchestra, Disco Recharge-THP Orchestra-Early Riser and Too Hot For Love is a very welcome rerelease, which I’ll tell you about.


Although Willi Morrison was born and brought up in Glasgow, Scotland his desire to enjoy a career in the music industry saw him head to Toronto, Canada. Once settled in Toronto, he worked as pizza deliveryman, salesman and then pop journalist. Then he landed a job with a company that published music for EMI. It was during this time when Willi first met Ian Guenther, a classically trained violinist. This was the start of a fruitful musical partnership that would flourish during the disco era.

It was in early 1976 that the THP Orchestra would make its recording debut. Willi Morrison was called into a meeting by the president RCA Records, who Willi and Ian had a production deal with. Until then, RCA had distributed the commercially successful ABC-Dunhill label in Canada. However, this contract was about to expire. The only problem was that one of ABC-Dunhill’s tracks was one of the biggest hits on the chart. This was Rhythm Heritage’s Theme From SWAT. With the contract just about to expire, RCA were about to lose out on the financial success of a hit single. So, the company president wanted Willi and Ian to record a cover version. There was a problem though, the cover had to be completed in a weekend.

Between the Friday, when the meeting took place and the Monday, when the single was sent to the pressing plant, musicians had to be found, they’d to learn the track and the B-side, it had to be recorded, mixed and mastered. Somehow, Willi and Ian managed it. Within a week the THP Orchestra’s debut single Theme From SWAT was released. Delighted with the success, RCA Victor wanted an album to cash in on the success of the Theme From SWAT. This album would become Early Riser, which was one of the first ever Canadian Disco albums.

Early Riser was a combination of cover versions of familiar songs and new material. The cover versions included the bubblegum pop of The Archies’ Sugar, Sugar, The Shadow Of Your Smile and Sleepwalk, which gave Santo and Johnny Farina a hit in 1959. Then there were tracks from film soundtracks. This included Manha De Carnival, the the principal theme to the art-house movie Black Orpheus and More the title-theme to the 1962 Italian documentary Mondo Cane. Together with Eric Robertson’s Crazy and the Willi Morrison penned Easy Riser and Crazy, Crazy, this became THP Orchestra’s debut album Early Riser.

Recording of Early Riser took place at Toronto’s Phase One Studios. The THP Orchestra included bassist Paul Zaza, drummer Barry Keane and guitarists Bob Mann, Brian Russell and Terry Bush. Eric Robertson played keyboards, Bob Lucier steel guitar, Brian Leonard, Dan Reddick and Dave Brown percussion and Matt McCauley synths. The horn section included saxophonists Gary Morgan, Jack Zaza and Roy Smith, trombonists Russ Little and Ted Rodderman and trumpeters Russ Little and Arnie Chycoski. Billy Bumpp and Debbie Discoe took charge of the vocals for Early Riser, which was released later in 1976.

When the THP Orchestra released Early Riser, it was only released in Canada. There was no release of Early Riser in the US or UK, which in retrospect, you’d think was a missed opportunity, given disco was at the height of its success. However, that would prove to fortuitous given what was about to happen to the THP Orchestra.

Sadly, Early Riser didn’t match the commercial success of the Theme From SWAT. At least the singles proved popular. It wasn’t just in Canadian clubs the singles were popular. Further afield, DJs picked up on singles like Early Riser, Manha De Carnival and the non-album track Fightin’ On The Side Of Love, which featured vocalist Wayne St. John. Despite this, commercial success eluded the THP Orchestra.

Listening back to Early Riser, there’s a real Euro Disco influence running through the album. To that Euro Disco influence, you can add elements of classic US disco, funk and soul. Theme From S.W.A.T incorporates elements of dramatic funk and disco. Blazing horns join lush dancing strings as the funky rhythm section drive the arrangement along.

More is a much more urgent and soulful slice of disco, while there’s an almost experimental and sensual side to The Archies’ Sugar Sugar. It benefits from the disco makeover. Here, the THP Orchestra transformed the track into something that’s much more meaty and meaningful than the original. This is something that a disco orchestra in full flight are capable of. 

Dawn Patrol has an exotic, mysterious sound as it begins to reveal its secrets. Layers of instruments play their part in this track, as a complex fusion of funk, jazz, disco and Latin music unfolds at breakneck speed. It’s very different to anything else on Early Riser. Having said that, it’s an innovative, genre-sprawling track.

The best way to describe Early Riser is a dramatic, funky slice of disco. There’s everything you could want in a great disco track. Whether it’s dancing strings, growling horns or a funk-laden rhythm section, the THP Orchestra have all that and much more. Crazy, Crazy picks up where Early Riser finished, and takes things further. The result is an uplifting, joyous and hook-laden slice of funky disco.

Thanks to the THP Orchestra, Shadow Of Your Smile takes on a moody, cinematic sound. Then all of a sudden, it bursts into life and a hustle sound unfolds. This is reminiscent of what you’d expect of The Salsoul Orchestra in their pomp. The THP Orchestra then repeat their magic on Manha De Carnival. It follows a similar template to Shadow Of Your Smile. It begins moodily and mysteriously, before taking on a hustle sound. Then  swathes of lush strings and growling horns are introduced as the rhythm section drive the arrangement along, mixing elements of soul, funk and disco. This is a compelling combination, which sees a classic track transformed, and into something quite beautiful and melancholy.

Closing Early Riser is Sleepwalk, which has a real vintage sound. Bathed in steel guitar, with a slow, pensive rhythm section and piano providing the backdrop, it’s like being transported to another musical age. Even the strings and horns sound like they’re from a track from the late-fifties or early-sixties. Quite simply, it’s a miraculous transformation, which is timeless, enchanting and breathtakingly beautiful.

Listening to the THP Orchestra’s debut album Early Riser, it’s a compelling and captivating combination of cover versions and new material. With the cover versions, new life and meaning is breathed into them, transforming them into something the writer never imagined or envisaged. To do this, the THP Orchestra combine everything from Euro Disco, disco, funk, soul, jazz and Latin music. For several tracks, including Theme From SWAT, Early Riser and Crazy, Crazy funk and disco seamlessly become one. Then on Shadow Of Your Smile and Manha De Carnival, both tracks veer between moody and cinematic to pulsating, funky disco. Sleepwalk which closes Early Riser is like returning to an earlier musical era and as a result, has a totally timeless sound. Throughout Early Riser, there’s neither any filler nor faux pas. Instead, it’s just quality music all the way, from the creative partnership of Ian Guenther and Willi Morrison, who were responsible for Early Riser, Canada’s first ever disco album.  As an added bonus, Disc One of Early Riser features eight bonus tracks. This includes 7” version of Theme From SWAT and Manha De Carnival. Then there’s 7” and 12” version of Early Riser and 7” 12” and instrumental versions of Fightin’ On The Side Of Love.

Sadly, Early Riser it didn’t match the commercial success of the single Theme From SWAT. However, despite this, commercial success wasn’t far away for the THP Orchestra. Indeed, once the dust had settled on Early Riser, the THP Orchestra set about recording their next single..Too Hot For Love.


For the THP Orchestra’s next single, Ian Guenther and Willi Morrison were asked by Alfonso Juan Cervantes of Los Angeles-based Butterfly Records to record something specifically for the US Disco market. They got to work, and came up with fifteen minutes of sheer sensuality, entitled Too Hot For Love. Filled with moans and groans aplenty, and set against a Euro Disco backdrop, Too Hot For Love was a five-piece suite reminiscent of Donna Summer’s Love To Love. The five parts included Four-Play, Excitement Part 1, Excitement Part 2, Climax and Resolution. Too Hot For Love gave Alfonso Juan Cervantes the massive American club hit he wanted. Then with Too Hot For Love having given Alfonso the hit he wanted, he decided he wanted a new THP Orchestra album in the shops within 24 hours. That was doable though.

The reason it was possible to get the THP Orchestra’s new album in shops within 24 hours was due to the limited release of Early Riser. It had been only released in Canada. So the five-part suite Too Hot For Love became Side One of Too Hot For Love. Side Two of Too Hot For Love featured four tracks from Early Riser. They were Early Riser, Manha De Carnival, Dawn Patrol and Crazy Crazy. Essentially, the THP Orchestra’s new album Too Hot For Love was only half a new album, so Alfonso Juan Cervantes of Butterfly Records was able to have the new THP Orchestra in the shops within 24 hours. However, would it prove the huge hit he’d hoped?

On the release of Too Hot For Love in 1977, the THP Orchestra’s sophomore album gave Alfonso and Butterfly Records the hit he’d hoped for. Too Hot For Love reached number sixty-five in the US Billboard 200 and number fifty-seven in the US R&B Charts. Black Orpheus (Manha De Carnival) and the fifteen-minute Magnus Opus Too Hot For Love were released as singles. They gave the THP Orchestra club hits and made them a household name throughout America.

In many ways, it was fortunate that Early Riser hadn’t been released anywhere else apart from Canada. That meant that when the single Too Hot For Love became a huge commercial success, that the THP Orchestra could quickly release an album to cash-in on its popularity. What was their sophomore album Too Hot For Love, was in reality culled from Early Riser. So, within 24 hours Too Hot For Love was released and gave the THP Orchestra and Alfonso Juan Cervantes of Butterfly Records the hit album the all had been hoping for.

Now, the THP Orchestra were on their way to becoming one of the most successful disco orchestras of the disco era. Granted they weren’t going to surpass the commercial success and critical acclaim of The Salsoul Orchestra. They were by far the most successful disco orchestra of the disco era. However, the THP Orchestra were now chasing them down, providing some sort of opposition. Over the next few years, the number of disco orchestras would grow, including John Davis and The Monster Orchestra and The Charlie Capello Orchestra. Like The Salsoul Orchestra, the THP Orchestra were capable of producing innovative, groundbreaking music. Too Hot For Love, the THP Orchestra’s sophomore album, just like its predecessor Early Riser, was full of innovative, timeless music. This timeless and innovative music was a fusion of Euro Disco, disco, funk, soul, jazz and Latin music.

Since the THP Orchestra released Early Riser and Too Hot For Love, they’ve never been rereleased. Thankfully, that’s about to be rectified. On 15th April 2013, Disco Recharge-THP Orchestra-Early Riser and Too Hot For Love will be rereleased by Harmless Records’ Disco Recharge imprint. Disco Recharge-THP Orchestra-Early Riser and Too Hot For Love is a very welcome rerelease of some hugely innovative, groundbreaking and timeless music. Standout Tracks: Manha De Carnival, Shadow Of Your Smile, Sleepwalk and Too Hot For Love.


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: