Many, many years ago, in the eighties in the last century, long club mixes on 12” vinyl were everywhere. As a top producer, Mike Thorne’s aim (on records for Soft Cell, Bronski Beat, The Communards, The The and many more) was to keep the dance floor moving while also making substantial music that you could listen to. Times changed.
Club mixes in the 21st Century are mostly pure utility music: just keeping the beats going with little musical development or change. Not so much to chew on. Thorne thought it was time to combine the best of now with the best of the good old days, and so delivered ‘The Contessa’s Party’. This groundbreaking CD has eight tracks lasting 74 minutes. This is the record to put on at a party. But as well as keeping dancing, the music changes fast and dramatically. Think of each track as a settled groove with the quick-change-impact of a single.
Thorne’s collaborators are several well-known criminal associates from his murky past. Sarah Jane Morris was the female voice in the Communards (‘Don’t Leave Me This Way’) and has carved out a solo career since. BETTY are the three unique activist new York women, currently prominent in ‘The L Word’ TV series. Kit Hain sang one of the seminal 80s singles, ‘Dancing In The City’. Lene Lovich needs no introduction, besides being unclassifiable as an artist, providing all manner of odd vocal noises and gestures. Instrumentals are boosted by New York’s Uptown Horns, among the very best horn sections in the US, Nigerian master Johnny Folarin on congas and bongos and top New York drummer Allan Schwartzberg.
The songs are partly co-written with the singers, partly covers. ‘Grandma’s Goodbye’ uses an old English folk poem as its chorus: ‘to go to work, to make some money, to buy some bread, to make us strong, to go to work…’ ‘Fire’ is a twelve-minute expansion of Arthur Brown’s #1 single from the sixties, and features a specially-recorded rap from the great man himself. ‘Can Catch’, co-written and sung by BETTY is about the slipperiness of lovers and politicians. ‘Bach’, the only instrumental, is a free reworking of the composer’s classic piece for organ – and still it dances.
Sarah Jane Morris: vocals
Kit Hain: vocals
Lene Lovich: vocalese
Elizabeth Ziff: backing vocals
Arthur Brown: rap
Allan Schwartzberg: acoustic drums
The Uptown Horns: section
Crispin Cioe: alto saxophone
Arno Hecht: tenor saxophone
Larry Etkin: trumpet
Bob Funk: trombone
Congas, bongos: Johnny Folarin
Mike Thorne: rhythm, synthesizers, keyboards
Produced by Mike Thorne
Running time: 74 minutes.
With 16-page full color booklet
Much more detail at the Stereo Society website (see link at left)