The Second Disc

Expanded and Remastered Music News

Archive for August 15th, 2014

Tell Me How You Like It: Harmless Reissues, Expands Philly Disco From John Davis and the Monster Orchestra

leave a comment »

John Davis - Night and Day Two-ferWhat makes for a Monster Orchestra? For Philadelphia composer-arranger-conductor John Davis, it was an array of the best musicians the city had to offer. Between 1976 and 1979, Davis led his Monster Orchestra for four disco LPs on the SAM Records label, plucking its members from the A-Team of Philadelphia International’s MFSB and Salsoul Records’ Salsoul Orchestra. Guitarists Bobby Eli and Roland Chambers, percussionist/conga player Larry Washington, drummer Charles Collins, bassist Michael “Sugar Bear” Foreman, and string and horn leader Don Renaldo (plus stalwart backing vocalists Barbara Ingram, Yvette Benton and Carla Benson, a.k.a. The Sweethearts of Sigma) all joined John “The Monster” Davis (an alumnus of productions for Carol Douglas, Arthur Prysock, The Philly Devotions and William DeVaughn) for four of the most memorably musical albums in the disco canon. All four of those titles have recently been remastered and expanded on two 2-CD sets from Demon Music Group’s Harmless label and its Disco Recharge series.

Night and Day/Up Jumped the Devil pairs Davis and the Monster Orchestra’s 1976 and 1977 platters, respectively. Night and Day put Davis’ group on the map, adding a dance backbeat and a resplendent, symphonic overlay to the Cole Porter songbook. One can only imagine what Porter, who died in 1964, would have thought of the Monster Orchestra’s approach, but surely the great composer-lyricist would have approved of seeing his classic songs speak to a new generation and “Night and Day” rise to the Top 5 on the Billboard Disco chart. Davis gave the lavish disco treatment to six evergreens from the eternally witty, often risqué Porter songbook, drawing on hits from stage (“I Get a Kick Out of You” from Anything Goes, “You Do Something to Me” from Fifty Million Frenchmen, “Night and Day” from Gay Divorce, “It’s De-Lovely” from Red, Hot and Blue) and screen (“I’ve Got You Under My Skin” from Born to Dance, “In the Still of the Night” from Rosalie) alike. Much as Vince Montana frequently did leading his iteration of The Salsoul Orchestra on various standards, Davis balanced a certain, inherent amount of camp with an unwavering dedication to impeccable musicianship. He rounded out the LP with a couple of original compositions which he co-wrote with Monster guitarist Craig Snyder, “Tell Me How You Like It” and “I Can’t Stop.” The lyrics weren’t quite Porter, but they certainly kept listeners on their feet!

Up Jumped the Devil aimed for a funkier sound than its predecessor, which it accomplished via cuts like Davis’ title track and the Davis/Snyder co-write “Got to Give It Up.” Davis’ breezy “We Can Fly” recalled the sweet soul side of the Philadelphia players – a style they practically invented – while the epic medley of “The Magic is You/You’re the One/Recapitulation” was designed for club play and melded funk, rock and symphonic soul. All seven tracks were originals written or co-written by Davis, and the album succeeded in taking The Monster Orchestra in a new direction without losing the elements – and musicians – that led to its success in the first place.

Night and Day has been expanded with five bonus tracks – the 7-inch single edits of the title track, “Tell Me How You Like It” and “I Can’t Stop,” plus the extended 12-inch versions of “I Can’t Stop,” “Night and Day” and “I Get a Kick (Out of You).” Up Jumped the Devil has six bonuses, including both the 7-inch and 12-inch versions of the title song and “You Gotta Give It Up,” as well as the 7-inch edits of “The Magic is You” and “You’re the One.”

After the jump: a look at Ain’t That Enough for You/The Monster Strikes Again, and complete track listings and order links! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

August 15, 2014 at 10:11