Words & selections by Balearic Mike.
Patrick Adams, one of the greatest producers in the history of disco music sadly passed away last month. Here’s just a handful of his incredible records…
Donna McGee – Make It Last Forever – Red Greg Records 1978 / Groove Line Records 2014
This LP is simply stunning from start to finish, with not a second of its 30-minute duration wasted. That it wasn’t huge at the time is completely bonkers.
Donna McGhee had come to attention of Patrick Adams while singing with The Fatback Band. Patrick then asked Donna to contribute vocals to both his Phreek project which included the original version of the classic, Weekend) and Universal Robot Band tracks, before he had the idea of recording a solo album with her. Teaming up with long term collaborator Greg Carmichael, the pair conjure up a mini-disco-masterpiece, writing, playing, producing, and arranging everything.
While the LP only contains 5 tracks, all are stone-cold classics. Opener, and title track, Make It Last Forever, sets the scene perfectly – this being one of my favourite disco songs. Its mid-tempo groove is the ideal accompaniment to Donna’s gentle, sultry vocal delivery. Do As I Do ups the pace a little but keeps the sexy disco vibes flowing.
On side 2, Patrick digs out a couple of belters that he’s already recorded with other acts. It Ain’t No Big Thing was recorded and released under the name Personal Touch, and was actually the first record released on P&P Records. Here it gets a very similar treatment, but isn’t split into 2 parts like on the original 7”. It’s gorgeous. Mr Blindman is next, and then the album closes with a version of a song previously released by Bumblebee Unlimited, Love Bug.
The whole LP is killer, which makes its total lack of success even more bizarre. In the UK they at least pulled a single from it – Do As I Do / Mr Blindman – with the B-side big at places like the Blackpool Mecca. Then it was consigned to cult status.
I love this album so much that I have 3 copies! An original US Promo, a 2004 reissue, and possibly the best version, the deluxe 2014 reissue on Glasgow’s Groove Line Records, which is on 2×12”, so it’s a great pressing.
Four Below Zero – My Baby’s Got E.S.P. (Special Disco Version) – Roulette Records 1976
Patrick Adams had already been active in the music industry, enhancing his reputation as a producer to watch, for several years when he met Peter Brown. Peter had been working behind the scenes in the record industry and wanted to start his own label. Patrick was working on this record, and Peter brought it to the attention of music industry mogul, Morris Levy, persuading him to release it on his Roulette Records imprint. Levy was so impressed by the record, and the two P’s, that he offered to distribute their new Harlem based label / venture. P&P Records, and the myriad subsidiary labels and off-shoots, such as Queen Constance, Sound Of New York USA, Heavenly Star and Land Of Hits were born.
This record is a masterpiece, and also a bridge between genres and eras in dance music history. It sits perfectly at the intersection between soul music and disco music, finding fans amongst lovers of the new Philly sound – which was becoming the sound of disco – and satisfying those who’s love of soul music was still firmly rooted in the 1960s. It’s a track that found a place on the dance-floors of Manhattan`s underground nightclubs, but also had fans on the UK`s Northern Soul scene, it being a big record at Blackpool Mecca for Ian Levine. It boasts an astonishing, gorgeous, full throttle vocal, soulful – a disco anthem of a record – and was also one of the earliest commercially available 12” singles, being released in 1976, so right at the forefront of what was coming. If you don’t love this record there is probably a part of your soul which is irretrievably damaged – or you might be a Conservative or something.
Cloud One – Cloud One Patty Duke – Sound Of New York, USA 1979
Cloud One is yet another of Patrick Adams` many aliases – and the man has many, especially if you include the countless studio-based groups that he’s also responsible for: Phreek, Musique, Inner Life, Bumblebee Unlimited, The Universal Robot Band, Rainbow Brown… the list is seemingly endless. This, however, is one of his solo projects, and perhaps his most critically, if not commercially acclaimed of those.
There are other more famous records produced under the Cloud One moniker, but I’ve chosen this one as it stands out for several reasons. It`s almost certainly my favourite of the Cloud One releases. It is such a simple and effective record: rough, basic, and funky as fuck. Just a hypnotic, looping bass-line and drum pattern, which sorta does nothing much for just under 6 minutes, while Patrick freestyles with various synths over the top, creating a wonderfully psychedelic groove.
It perfectly encapsulates the raw, funky sound of these early label releases, in that it would work equally well at a Manhattan disco and a block party in The Bronx – where I believe it was a favourite track, like many from the P&P catalogue, for early MCs to rap over in the newly burgeoning hip hop scene.
I was blissfully unaware of the tune until Nick The Record included it on his superb P&P Records compilation, Disco Juice, at the turn of the millennium. I was instantly smitten, so much so that I had to have an original copy. This turned out to be an expensive decision on my part, becoming the second most expensive record that I have ever bought. I obtained a copy from the same Mr. The Record, who decided it would be funny to leave the record in the sleeve it originally came in, which had a huge “$1” scrawled across it in marked pen. I have since replaced the sleeve. That guy! I was, however, pretty happy to see that it’s actually gone up in value since I bought it, so that’s OK! Utter genius!
Bumblebee Unlimited – Lady Bug – Red Greg Records 1978
Yet another moniker for Patrick Adams to hide behind. This studio project sees him join forces with long-time collaborator and fellow musical genius Greg Carmichael again.
This record is both brilliant, and yet insane! Over one of the all-time killer disco bass-lines, they basically make a novelty record! Christ knows what they were smoking in the studio that week. The vocal parts are all sped up, like those children’s chipmunk records from the `60s, although instead of chipmunks, they’re supposed to sound like bumblebee’s or bugs! They then sing the most mad lyrics and make lot’s of ‘buzz buzz buzz’ style adlibs and terrible insect related puns! Honestly, it’s crackers…but then there’s the music: as I said, one of the greatest disco bass-lines, and piano riffs, ever recorded. I first heard the piano part when it was sampled by Rio Rhythm Band on Carnival Da Casa back in 1990, and had to find the original.
Then, early `90s, there was that now legendary DJ Harvey re-edit on Weekend Records Inc. which is a total dancefloor destroyer of a version. Unfortunately, it takes out all the bonkers vocals – and Balearic Wife and I love singing along to those bonkers vocals – so much prefer this incredible 9 minute remix from John Morales and Frank Trimarco. It really is solid gold!
While writing this I have only just realised that they very subtly steal a small string section from Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s classical piece Flight Of The Bumblebee! How the hell have I not spotted that before. Hilarious, fun, and total genius piece of music.
Cloud One – Atmosphere Strut LP – P&P Records 1976
I couldn’t conclude my all too short tribute to Patrick Adams` music without including this, possibly his greatest solo release. The first Cloud One record. Patrick does everything on this LP, except play the drums and sing. Those jobs being admirably performed by Richard Taninbaum, who plays on dozens of Patrick`s productions, and Venus Dobson, who likewise sings on loads. Patrick even takes the photo on the sleeve!
What we have are 6 killer tracks of raw, funky, minimal, and futuristic sounding disco, all with sparse vocals, mostly consisting of a couple of repeated phrases, over which Patrick gets freaky with his synthesisers. The standard is so high in fact, that all 6 songs got released as either A or B sides of 12”s.
Disco Juice is almost certainly the most famous track here. The album was reissued in ’94 on Canada’s Unidisc label, and soon after, that cheeky Norman Cook fella sampled it for one of his pre-Fatboy singles, as Mighty Dub Katz. The following year the original appeared on an excellent compilation called, Jumpin’, with the Patrick-produced, Musique track of the same name also included. This might have been the beginning of Patrick Adams mania!
My favourite, though, is probably either Atmosphere Strut, or Spaced Out. Maybe the title track just edges it, with its rolling, hypnotic, shuffle, soaring, insistent synth parts and beautiful repeated chorus of “We’re going to fly, fly away…”.
Either way, this LP is an essential item in anyone’s disco collection. I scored my nice – sealed – US original pressing from Chris “Soft Rocks” Galloway when he ran his Pure Pleasure Music business. It could probably do with a nice official reissue.
Thank you for the music, Patrick!!!
You can also check out the super silk screen prints of “Balearic Wife” over at @jo_lambert_print – personally I think they’d make damn fine record sleeves / disco bags.