on 29 July 2013
In 1978 the official Queen of Disco returned to her former `Never Can Say Goodbye' Philly hit formula to craft Park Avenue Sound, her fifth and perhaps most soulful album for Polydor. The original album only contained seven tracks, as glorious as they were, but our reissue superheroes at Big Break have outdone themselves this time, by diving into Polydor's vaults to produce this twelve-track soul-dance fest; which is perhaps worthy of that terribly overused word, `expanded'.
This Love Affair, the opening track and popular underground UK hit, is undoubtedly one of the most sophisticated recordings of the entire 70s decade. This is confirmed by the fact that its 7inch manifestation, included here as a bonus, has been exchanging hands for big money at record fairs over the last thirty years! The delightfully clever lyrics were co-written by our Glo, whose dominant voice is perfectly matched to the lush 'Philly Sound' production. She is well supported by the always helpful `Sweethearts of Sigma', who, incidentally, sound like they're having as much fun as Gloria: "Check it out, check it out..." The included disco promo mix features the slick electric piano bridge and some alternative add-libbing at the end, making it a very worthy alternative to the original album mix. For The First Time In My Life is a gorgeous mid-tempo pop swayer with more charm than a disco queen's crown, but the other stand out track for me is the unashamedly sexy, and very danceable, Everytime You Make Love To Me, which finds Queen Gloria unleashing one of her most soulful performances ever, and I'm convinced the microphone must have been demolished by it: "Ooh, when I hear your key turn in the door, honey I know what's in store. Give me more, more, more...more, more..." Sizzling stuff! Gloria later goes on to tell her Part-time Love that he's a full-time job: "I don't wanna be second best, cos I know I'm as good as the rest...just put me to the test, baby." She then allows her heart to be Kidnapped by a funky pursuer - but she doesn't want to be rescued, mind! This wonderfully happy song finds Gloria at her patent sing-along best, and the result is a blistering dance floor filler, and yet another album highlight.
Her rendition of You're All I Need To Get By is a fairly predictable disco affair, but together with the more immediate Kidnapped, it graced Billboard's disco chart back in '78; but Linda Clifford was not budging from the top spot with her If My Friends Could See Me Now LP. You get a bonus disco mix of You're All I Need here, featuring zipping harps, which help to lift the original album mix. To my ears, each of the four promotional disco mixes on this reissue, although very welcome, offer only very subtle differences from the original album versions - Tom Moulton was NOT in da house - but it's still great to have them here; 'alternative mix' would be a more accurate description, in my view. Anyway, like most of the other tracks, they are on CD for the very first time. The pace slows completely for Gloria's sensuously beautiful cover of Engelbert Humperdinck's After the Loving, and she thoroughly enjoys herself as she ad-libs "sweet sounds" for her very lucky baby. I have a rare video of Gloria performing this song, but it's probably crumbling now, together with the rest of my VHS collection. Englebert was so impressed that he later invited Gloria to duet with him on his single, Love is the Reason; a lovely tune of which there is also another rare (BBC Pebble Mill) video (song and interview). Hmm, shame she didn't help him out with his disastrous Eurovision entry.
With the usual high quality remastered sound that we've come to expect from Big Break, and first class liner notes by J Matthew Cobb, featuring stunning pics of the delectable glorious one, this is yet another essential CD for your collection. I was touched to find my name in the 'thank you' section; I made BBR aware of the four included bonus mixes. Thanks back, chaps! So, like the opening lyrics advise, "check it out, check it out", all the way to the checkout! Btw, the UK follow-up single to This Love Affair was an extremely rare recording by Gloria, called...hmm...er...oh yes, I Will Survive. I'm not sure about you, but I've never heard it. I understand that some wise (and highly paid!) record company executive decided it was only B-side material. Duh!
This CD is pretty perfect as it is, but I still wish it was longer. Hello, Mr Tom Moulton!