Tag Archives: K.C. & The Sunshine Band

Rocks In The Attic #637: Boney M. – ‘Nightflight To Venus’ (1978)

RITA#637When I think about all the great disco groups of the 1970s, I’m not usually thinking about Boney M. To me, great disco was solely an American proposition – K.C. & The Sunshine Band, Chic, Earth, Wind & Fire, The Trammps. Even the Manx-born / Australian-bred Bee Gees sounded American during their genre-defining Saturday Night Fever period.

So a foreign-born – and most importantly, a foreign-sounding – disco band like Boney M. never really fit in anywhere. The band hail from the West Germany of the 1970s, with members originally from Jamaica, Aruba and Montserrat. If they had travelled north from the Caribbean, and landed in the USA they might have indeed been a vital part of the American disco scene.

Instead, their music is blighted by an economical, soulless Europop production by Frank Farian – the German producer behind the Milli Vanilli lip-syncing scandal of the 1980s. They’re more Eurovision than Saturday Night Fever; more James Last than Nile Rodgers.

While the more artistically and commercially successful Abba have remained timelessly relevant on the strength of both their songwriting and the production of their material, Boney M. just feel synthetic, a product of the capitalist West Germany. They’re hugely successful however – having sold over 150 million records worldwide, so somebody must have liked them.

Once you look past the big singles – Rasputin, Rivers Of Babylon and Brown Girl In The Ring – this record isn’t too bad. The production-heavy opening track, Nightflight To Venus, gives drummer Keith Forsey a moment to shine on an otherwise dull record in terms of percussion (the rest of the album is very much driven by a straight 4/4 beat, with very little variation).

But it is the record’s final track, a cover of Neil Young’s Heart Of Gold, that is the most surprising thing of all – surprising because it’s actually quite interesting in its vocal harmony arrangement. But of course, hearing one of Shakey’s better-known songs covered by a West German / Caribbean disco band has to be heard to be believed.

Hit: Rivers Of Babylon

Hidden Gem: Heart Of Gold

Rocks In The Attic #214: Various Artists – ‘Saturday Night Fever (O.S.T.)’ (1977)

RITA#214This might be outdated, a relic of a bygone age, or a warning to the future about the dangers of bad taste…but you can’t deny it’s full of good songs.

I’ve never had a problem with Saturday Night Fever. I’ve never found myself stealing the show on a multicolour, lighted dancefloor, but I’ve often found myself strutting down the street eating a slice of pizza and carrying a can of paint. The film itself is very good, and much darker than anybody gives it credit for, but for me the one thing that has stood the test of time is the soundtrack. A hundred years from now, if an enquiring mind asked what ‘disco’ was, the fastest way to show them would be to play them this soundtrack and show them the album cover.

I really struggled to choose a hidden gem for this album. It’s full of them. I used to like Fifth Of Beethoven by Walter Murphy, but it’s sort of been done to death by every film or TV show which wants to juxtapose any staid environment with an incredibly funky song.

The inclusion of The Trammps’ Disco Inferno and K.C. & The Sunshine Band’s Boogie Shoes gives the many, many Bee Gees songs a run for their money – particularly Night Fever and Jive Talkin’ (sounding more in its right place here than it ever did on Main Course) which are both fantastic; but it is Ralph McDonald’s Calypso Breakdown that I like the best. The lead guitar breaks in the first half of the song are great, and purely as a piece of soundtrack it’s used in one of my favourite parts of the film. I challenge anybody not to move their hips when they hear this song.

Hit: Stayin’ Alive – Bee Gees

Hidden Gem: Calypso Breakdown – Ralph McDonald