Gloria Gaynor ‘Park Avenue Sound’ (BBR) 4/5

Gloria-GaynorSomething of an underrated and forgotten gem. Gloria Gaynor hooked up with the Philadelphia International backing band and producers for this sumptuous and ever so classy disco album that, although situated in New York where it was indeed recorded, is really a homage to Philadelphia and the soulful groove that emanates from the city of brotherly love. Co-produced by Ron Tyson and Allan Felder and featuring MFSB member and guitarist Norman Harris, you know you are in for a treat with a strong selection of dance-oriented cuts. It should be remembered that Gaynor and Harris hooked up for the first time in 1973 when disco was still in an embryonic state and Harris produced a younger Gaynor on ‘Honey Bee’ which at the time was a failure. Second time around, however, with the Earl Young hi-hat cymbals and a significantly lower mix for the buzzing guitar, ‘Honey Bee’ was revamped and re-released in 1974 for MGM and became a smash disco hit which set the scene for what was to follow. If ‘Park Avenue Sound’ pre-dates the anthemic ‘I will survive’ by a year, it contains a whole slew of underground dance-floor winners that are now being re-discovered. Pride of place probably belongs to ‘This love affair’ which is featured with an extended 12″ version, one of four 12″ elongated interpretations in total, and it is a stunning number that stands the test of time easily. Almost as compelling is the mid-tempo groove of ‘Every time you make love to me’ while others will undoubtedly marvel at the reworking of a Motown classic, ‘You’re all I need to get by’, first sung by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell. This follows in a line of Gaynor re-interpretations of the Motown back catalogue with the Jackson Five’s ‘Never can say goodbye’ and the Four tops ‘Reach out I’ll be there’ immediately springing to mind. A real left-field song and one that emphasises the soulful side of Gloria’s voice, is ‘For the first time in my life’ with a terrific intro while the flute and funk-tinged bass intro to ‘Kidnapped’ (originally a B-side to ‘This love affair’ but deserving of AA side status) is just the sort of vehicle that First Choice in their prime might have attempted. Excellent sleeve notes and photos as ever from BBR make this an essential listening experience. Tim Stenhouse