For the last thirty years, many people have mocked the seventies West Coast sound. They viewed the lush harmonies, slick sound and clever chord progressions with disdain. One of the reasons for this was that West Coast rock was perceived as the music of the establishment. When punk came along, groups like the Sex Pistols took to mocking West Coast rock. These groups cast themselves as class warriors. Helping spread their message was the music press. Unquestionably, they parroted the message of these new class warriors. Their message was met by slavish approval.

Across the country, a generation who previously had grownup listening to the West Coast sound did a swift volte face. Suddenly, West Coast rock wasn’t fashionable any more. Worse still, they believed it was the music of the establishment. They were told that the West Coast sound epitomised everything that was wrong with music. Incredibly, a generation of young people believed this. What’s even more incredible, is that they believed that the fakery of groups like the Sex Pistols was the future of music. 

Suddenly, it helped if you couldn’t play an instrument. Up and down the country, bands were formed. It didn’t matter that they couldn’t even play three chords. No. Their nihilistic outpouring of anger was perceived as music. Deluded late night DJs even played these records. Incredibly, people even bought these records. This was The  Great Rock ’N’ Swindle.

Buying this pseudo music was a new generation of well balanced class warriors. By that, I mean they have a chip on each shoulder. They preferred to “keep things real.” The West Coast sound was they believed was the music of the establishment. So they openly mocked West Coast sound. This wasn’t for them.

Punk was were their musical drug of choice. It wasn’t because they liked the music. No. Instead, it was because this was what they thought they should like. These people read the music press and like lemmings jumping of a cliff, they believed the hype about punk. They swallowed the hype hook, line and sinker. Years later, it’s only now that they realise they’ve been conned.

All these years later, they were still mistakenly clinging to the belief that they were right all along. Then one night, they dug out their only singles and gave them a spin. It was only then that they realised what deep down, they’d known all along. They’d been conned. It was then that they realised that Public Enemy were right, Don’t Believe The Hype. Belatedly, they realised that the West Coast sound, not punk was what they preferred. 

No wonder. Look at the music the West Coast sound gave us. This includes the Beach Boys, The Eagles, The Doobie Brothers, Fleetwood Mac, Chicago, Foreigner, Supertramp and REO Speedwagon. These groups enjoyed widespread commercial success and critical acclaim. That’s no surprise. Their music was always slick, full of clever hooks and always memorable. So, it’s no surprise that nearly forty years after the heyday of the West Coast sound, the music is just as popular as ever.

Recently, a number of compilations celebrating the West Coast sound have been released. This includes Too Slow To Disco, which was recently released on the How Dare You Are Recordings. Compiled by DJ Supermarkt, Too Slow To Disco is like a who’s who of the West Coast sound.

The nineteen tracks on Too Slow To Disco, include contributions from some of the finest purveyors of the West Coast sound. This includes The Doobie Brothers, Fleetwood Mac, and Chicago. There’s also contributions from Tony Joe White, Rupert Holmes and Matthew Larkin Cassell. Some of these tracks aren’t the artists biggest hits. 

No. Many of the track were recorded before the artists struck West Coast gold. That doesn’t matter. The tracks aren’t dance tracks. No. They’re Too Slow To Disco. Instead, the songs are best described as mood music. This is what the beautiful people listened to in the seventies. No wonder.

Each of the tracks ooze quality. They’re best described as mellow and laid back. They epitomise everything that’s good about the West Coast sound. This means lush harmonies, clever chord progressions and well written songs. They play their part in the West Coast sound’s slick, hook-laden sound. Quite simply, the tracks on Too Slow To Disco epitomise everything that’s good about the West Coast sound. You’ll realise this as I pick the highlights of Too Slow To Disco.

My first choice from Too Slow To Disco is Micky Denne and Ken Gold’s Let’s Put Our Love Back Together. Micky and Ken were two British singer-songwriters who worked together during the seventies and eighties. Together, they penned numerous hit singles. In 1977, they decided to released an album together. Denne And Gold was released on MCA Records. The lead single was Let’s Put Our Love Back Together. Written by Micky and Ken, it’s a mid-tempo track that epitomises what the West Coast sound was all about. Lush strings, harmonies and slick production play their part in what’s an irresistible hidden gem.

Rupert Holmes is another purveyor of the West Coast sound born in Britain. He’s best know for his hit single, Escape (The Pina Colada Song). That was still to come. In 1975, Rupert released his eponymous sophomore album Rupert Holmes. Released on Epic, it showcases Rupert’s songwriting skills. His music is witty, cerebral and full of hooks. The arrangement is smooth, with dancing string and searing guitars. It’s a reminder not just of how talented Rupert Holmes was, but why the West Coast sound was so successful.

Many people might not have heard of White Horses. That’s a great shame. They were a multitalented group featuring some musicians. This includes drummer Jeff Porcaro and British-born pianist Billy Nicholls, White Horses released their eponymous debut album in 1977. It was released on Capitol Records and is best described as a combination of the West Coast sound, soft rock and funk. There’s even a nod towards Steely Dan. One of White Horses’ many highlights was Over and Done With. That’s thanks to the tight harmonies, washes of Hammond organ and the lead vocals of emotive, needy vocals from Billy Nicholls and Jon Lind.

Straight away, it looks like Nicolette Larson is heading for the dance-floor on Lotta Love, a track from her 1978 debut album Nicolette. It was released on Warner Bros Records. This was the first of a quartet of albums Nicolette released for Warner Bros Records. She’s a hugely underrated and versatile singer. Her career began when she was asked to sing backing vocals on Neil Young’s 1977 album American Stars ’N’ Bars. A year later, Nicolette was signed to Warner Bros.  Accompanying her were a crack band of session musicians. Nicolette combined folk, country rock and funk on her debut album. Lotta Love showcased Nicolette’s ability to make lyrics come to life. Her vocal is a heartfelt outpouring of emotion on this soulful and mellow track. 

Brian Elliot released his eponymous debut album in 1978 on Warner Bros. It’s a genre-hopping album. Everything from pop, disco, rock and funk combines. That’s apparent on Room To Grow. It’s soulful, funky, dance-floor friendly and full of poppy hooks. Gospel tinged backing vocals add the finishing touch. Sadly, this was the only album Brian ever released.

By July 1972, when Chicago released their fifth album on Columbia, they were a hugely successful band. Two of their albums were certified platinum and two double-platinum. Chicago V kept up the commercial success and critical acclaim. It was certified double-platinum. Saturday in the Park was released as a single and reached number three in the US Billboard 100. No wonder. It oozes quality. Everything from Robert Lamm’s lead vocal to the crystalline guitar and braying horns draw you in. You’re spellbound as Chicago paint pictures about that Saturday in the Park.

Matthew Larkin Cassell seems to have been inspired by Steely Dan. That’s apparent from Rendezvous, a track from Matthew Larkin Cassell’s only album Pieces. It was released by Matthew in 1977. He financed and released Pieces. On Rendezvous, he combines jazz, funk, soul and rock. It features a tender, needy vocal. It’s delivered  against a slick, jazz-tinged arrangement, where Matthew pays homage to Steely Dan.

The Doobie Brothers’ Losin’ End is a track from their 1976 album Takin’ It To The Streets. It was released on Warner Bros and reached number eight on the US Billboard 200. Losin’ End is quite different to The Doobie Brothers’ earlier music. It’s as if the rough edges have been smoothed away on this slice of blue eyed soul, which features a vocal masterclass from Michael McDonald.

Fleetwood Mac were formed in London in 1967. By 1975, they were about to enter the most successful period of their career. They released their eponymous album in July 1975. It was certified gold in the UK and reached number one in the US Billboard 200 charts. This resulted in Fleetwood Mac being certified platinum five times over. No wonder. It was the best album Fleetwood Mac had released in several years. There’s no filler, just quality music. One of the highlights is the anthemic Sugar Daddy, which showcases Fleetwood Mac’s unique brand of soft rock.

Tony Joe White’s I’ve Got a Thing About You Baby is my final choice from Too Slow To Disco. This is a track from Tony’s fifth album The Train I’m On. Released in 1972, on Warner Bros, Tony fuses blues, folk and Southern Rock. The understated arrangement allows Tony’s needy, hopeful vocal to shine.

Although I’ve only mentioned ten of the nineteen tracks on Too Slow To Disco, I could’ve picked any of the tracks. That’s how good Too Slow To Disco is. It’s quality all the way. There’s neither filler nor padding on Too Slow To Disco. Compiler DJ Supermarkt has made sure of this. He’s dug deep to find the music on Too Slow To Disco. 

Classics, hidden gems and rarities sit side-by-side. There’s contributions from West Coast royalty. The Doobie Brothers, Fleetwood Mac, and Chicago. There’s also contributions from Tony Joe White, Rupert Holmes and Matthew Larkin Cassell. Many of the tracks aren’t the artists biggest hits. 

Instead, many are album tracks. This makes a pleasant change. Usually, compilers look no further than singles. However, that’s not DJ Supermarkt’s style. He eschews the obvious for long forgotten album tracks.  Many people won’t remember these tracks. No. They’ll only be remembered by diehard fans. Not any more. Now a new generation of music lovers will get the chance to hear these tracks. The same can be said of the West Coast sound.

Too Slow To Disco is the perfect introduction to the delights of the much maligned West Coast sound. It received a bad press in the late-seventies and early-eighties from blinkered musicians and music journalists. They perceived the West Coast sound as the music of the establishment. As a result, the West Sound incurred the wrath of these class warriors. They encouraged a generation to ignore the many, and varied, delights of the West Coast sound. That was a great shame. Hopefully, a new generation of music lovers won’t make the same mistake. After all, there’s a cornucopia of great music awaiting discovery. The nineteen tracks on Too Slow To Disco are just a tantalising taste of the West Coast sound. Hopefully, How Dare You Are Recordings will release further volumes in the Too Slow To Disco series and a new generation will discover the delights of the West Coast sound.



1 Comment

  1. Thanks for this celebration of West Coast sounds. And don’t forget Steely Dan, my own favourite, who moved west to LA. West Coast jazz went through a similar process until fairly recently in musical history.

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