10 essential Warner Bros Disco classics… The establishment of an identity happened to be the ultimate key word by the end of the 70’s. Be it musically with the arrival of producers settin’ up a distinctive sound. As visually with trends applying to social if not political categories. With the same applying for many independent structures which came to symbolize what a label is supposed to be: an entity synonymous with a certain standard of quality!
Even though Disco (and later on House Music) happened to most likely be the thing of independent labels (Philadelphia International Records, Prelude, Salsoul, West End or SAM Records), the major companies eventually jumped on the wagon, with more or less commitment. The first coming to mind being Columbia, RCA, with Warner Bros. makin’ no exception…
Warner Bros. pretty much embodies the American dream, as illustrated by the story of its founding members. Not to mention its dimensions. Warner Bros., as a company, saw the light back in 1918, at the initiative of 4 brothers – Larry, Jack, Albert and Sam Wanskolaser who were Jewish immigrants who were hailing from Poland. Even though their story started 15 years earlier with the launch of their first movie theater – the Cascade – in New Castle, PA, followed by the one of a distribution company the year after.
Warner Bros. has pretty much been associated with innovation along with time. Producing movies with sound in the 20’s, then delivering the first all-color film with sound by the likes of ‘Noah’s Ark’ in 1929.
The company strenghtened its impact while producing famous cartons such as ‘Bugs Bunny’ in the 30’s . They are also responsible for the memorable ‘Casablanca’, a film shot during the World War II starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, standing as a timeless masterpiece.
Although Warner Bros. already had a successful music publishing company, Warner Bros. Records only got formed back on Mar. 19, 1958, a few months after Jack Warner had taken the control of the company on his sole own.
And in 1960, The Everly Brothers got offered the first million dollars deal in the history of the recording industry.
From then, Warner Bros. which had become Warner Bros. – Seven Arts after Jack sold it to Seven Arts Productions started growing significantly first with the absorbtion of Atlantic Records. But also serving as a distributor for countless structures like Curtom Records, Sire Records, RFC or Geffen Records. Not to mention Quincy Jones‘ label Qwest Records and Prince‘s imprint Paisley Park among others.
Warner has never been a Disco label as such, but one could feel the influence of the genre on many of their releases at the time, be they blended with Soul, Jazz, Funk or even with Rock influences (ie. Rod Stewart, Leo Sayer). Here we go with some of their most significant releases at the time…
Better known as Chaka Khan, Yvette Marie Stevens formed her first group in her native Chicago at the age of 11. Replacing Baby Huey of Baby Huey & the Babysitters after Huey‘s death in 1970, she remained with them until their disbanding the year after. She soon after caught the attention of two members of The American Breed, soon after known as Rufus.
She launched her solo career with WB in 1978 although she continued recording with the band until the early 80’s. She went straight to the top with the Ashford & Simpson penned ‘I’m Every Woman’. One of her signature songs along with ‘Ain’t Nobody’. ‘I Feel For You’ completing the list back in 1984. An explosive cover version of a 1979 Prince song, featuring Grandmaster Melle Mel on the rap intro and Stevie Wonder on harmonica.
George Clinton started it all by the end of the 50’s while forming The Parliaments. This Doo-Wop formation gave later birth to both Parliament and Funkadelic whose respective line-ups varied upon circumstances along with time (and eventually disagreements or disputes).
With Parliament getting to the forefront in the second half of the 70’s, a growing tension could be felt between the members of the combos. This resulted in Thomas Grady‘s departure from the venture back in 1977, after financial and management disputes with Clinton. Funkadelic releasing their biggest album ever – ‘One Nation Under A Groove’ the year after, followed by the 1979 released ‘Uncle Jam Wants You’ which featured the electronic flavored ‘(Not Just) Kneep Deep’, which stands as one of the group’s signature jams…
Much if not everything has been said about Prince Rogers Nelson who mpanaged to be to Warner what Michael Jackson happened to be to Epic Records. A musician, a singer, a producer, an actor and an entrepreneur, he remained with the label from his debut until 1994, eventually launching his own structure by the likes of Paisley Park. The success would start with the release of his second album – Prince – back in 1979. An album which featured ‘I Wanna Be Your Lover’ and ‘I Feel For You’, initially written as demos for Patrice Rushen, and ‘Sexy Dancer’.
One of the most clever minds of his generation, Prince had a unique gift to play with words and attitudes. ‘Controversy’, taken from his 1981 album of the name perfectly illustrating this. As a response to the speculations back then around his sexuality, gender, religion, and racial background. In the spirit of the memorable ‘If I Was Your Girlfriend’ taken from his ‘Sign O The Times’ album 6 years later.
Born in Sussex to an English father and an Irish mother, Leo Sayer first started as a songwriter before becoming himself a recording artist back in 1973. Geared towards Pop, he obviously loved Dance vibes as illustrated on the 1974 released ‘Long Tall Glasses (I Can Dance)’.
He would eventually reach his peak by the second half of the seventies with the Disco-styled ‘You Make Me Feel Like Dancing’. A cut soon after followed by the vibrant ‘Thunder In My Heart’. There, you could feel how he really sang his heart out, surrounded by Ray Parker, Jr. on guitar and Jeff Porcaro on drums, with production work by the likes of Phil Perry.
A cut given a second life 24 years after by Craig Dimech aka Meck.