Sampler Daze: The WB/Reprise Loss Leaders, Part 13
A La Carte, the second Loss Leaders sampler from 1979, revisits the restaurant theme (remember Hot Platters and Appetizers?) but this time, with the sexy waitresses serving you on silver platters, they are much more … uptown. But at least Burbank’s not being as evasive as in the past: they proudly trumpet Swedish-born songstress Madleen Kane as “disco dynamite” and for former gospel shouter Candi Staton, the liner notes warn: “Watch out disco lovers everywhere – here comes Candi!”
Norman Whitfield made his name at Motown, where he wrote and produced such classics as “Money (That’s What I Want),” “I Heard It Through The Grapevine,” “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg” and “Papa Was A Rolling Stone,” among others. About 10 years later, Whitfield had his own label that was distributed by Warner Bros., one of his acts was a hot eight-piece called Nytro. “Nytro Express” is another song unashamedly touted as disco in A La Carte‘s liner notes: “It is disco. It is virtually unstoppable. And it is tasty.” Norman not only produced, but also wrote, this tasty bit of disco. In the early 1980s, Norman Whitfield went back to working at Motown, where he produced a later version of the Temptations and did other projects. Whitfield died in 2008 at the age of 68.
Due to Warners’ distribution deal with Island Records, more of those artists began to appear: the Gibson Brothers” “Cuba” fused disco with tropical riddims, British rock band Runner offered “Sooner Than Later” and Robert Palmer rocked the house with “Bad Case Of Loving You (Doctor Doctor).” Another Brit, Duncan Browne, showed up with “The Wild Places,” which was a big hit in the Netherlands, of all places, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band takes on Dylan’s “You Angel You” and the B-52s represent New Wave with their definitive “Rock Lobster.” The Bellamy Brothers took a country song and added enough pop touches to turn “If I Said You Have A Beautiful Body Would You Hold It Against Me” into a hit, while Emmylou Harris transformed the classic “Save The Last Dance For Me” into sophisticated roots music.
By the time of Monsters, the last 1979 Loss Leader, disco was fading into the sunset. Warner Bros. had launched its own disco label, Warner/RFC, and they rolled out Montreal artist Gino Soccio with “Dance To Dance,” but it was already too late. Punk rock was storming the barricades on both sides of the Atlantic and dancers were beginning to sit out the latest disco offerings, while the most interesting things were happening over in the mainstream. Monsters is proof of that: Rickie Lee Jones kicks things off in style with the fresh-sounding “Danny’s All-Star Joint” which would become a welcome radio hit.
Some familiar names are ready to take their music into a new decade: the Doobie Brothers, ridin’ high with their No. 1 album Minute by Minute, offers “Here To Love You”; Lowell George of Little Feat goes solo with “Can’t Stand The Rain” (he would die in 1979); Bob Marley and the Wailers, over at Island, revisit “Stir It Up” live; Van Halen takes another bow with “Dance The Night Away”; and Gary Wright keeps pluggin’ away with “Love’s Awake Inside.” Lonesome George Harrison becomes the only Beatle to officially appear on a Loss Leader with “Not Guilty,” which was actually written for the White Album but given new life on his Dark Horse Records (for a likely unofficial Beatle appearance, see Mike McGear).
And our old buddy Alice Cooper offers a bit of a morality tale with his “From The Inside,” co-written by Elton John lyricist Bernie Taupin. Alice had apparently spent some time drying out from alcoholism, this is the title song from his autobiographical concept album. We had sure come a long way from 1969.