Canadian Disco

One of my favourite things about doing a radio show is following the requirements of the Canadian Radio and Television Commission (CRTC), which mandates that broadcasters must play a certain percentage of Canadian content (fondly referred to "CanCon"). I always play at least one Canadian song every week, but I decided to put together a full half-hour set of some of my favourites for my June 11th show.

The pool of Canadian disco is larger than you might think, but also not limitless, and so it's likely some of these songs will show up again on later episodes. No matter! I wanted to add a few links here for listeners who wish to do some more reading about the artists I played.

Purple Flash - We Can Make It (Instrumental) (1984)
Will Straw has a really interesting article about Quebec disco, called Music from the wrong place: on the Italianicity of Quebec disco, in which he discusses Pierre Perpall, who recorded as Purple Flash, Purple Flash Orchestra, and Pluton and the Humanoids, as the perfect example of music that some people will dismiss as being made "in the wrong place" (Canada, not Europe) and too late (1984, not the late 70s), stylistically speaking. The article unpacks this curious idea in an innovative manner, looking at language politics, and what it means for music trends to be transplanted and translated to different places and cultures. Straw also provides some helpful biography about Pierre Perpall, a Quebecois of mixed race born in 1948, who sang in some of the home-grown soul groups that began to appear in Québec in the 1960s, including the Beethovens, and had a second phase of his career during the disco era.

Gino Soccio - Love Is (1980)
For Gino Soccio, the place to start is Jered Stuffco's extensive feature article about him for Wax Poetics, Invisible Man. Jered managed to secure an interview with the famously elusive artist, shedding light on many aspects of his career. Today, Gino Soccio is, I would argue, the best known and most influential Canadian disco artist. His strong songwriting, coupled with a distinctive, minimal, electronic style that make his productions and arrangements leap out at you, means that many of his songs -- songs like Dancer and Remember -- have stood the test of time and remain staples of house and disco DJs today.

Laurie Marshall (aka Laurice) - (All Day And All Night) We Will Make Love (1976)
Laurice Daniels, a gay, Welsh-born Canadian songwriter and singer, who releases music today as Laurice, released disco hits under the pseudonym Laurie Marshall after moving to Canada from the UK. Today he lives in British Columbia and has a YouTube channel for his music, as well as a website for all things Laurice! We Will Make Love, which I played on the show, features a coveted Tom Moulton mix, which sounds fantastic.

For me, the most magical moment of this song is a riveting 40 second break when everything drops out except some very slow drums, an occasional chime glissando (think Tinkerbell), and some very faint metalic rustling ever so lightly applied. So striking in its stillness and emptiness, it immerses the listener (or dancers) in a moment of suspended affect that feels like it could last forever.  Following, as it does, a section of extended erotic vocalizations, this inscrutable break abandons the listener's imagination to its own devices. There may be another song out there with an effect like this, but I can't think of one.

Geraldine Hunt - It Doesn't Only Happen At Night (1981)
Rosalind Hunt (aka Cheri) - Murphy's Law (1982)
Geraldine Hunt is another of the significant Canadian disco artists, most famous for her song Can't Fake the Feeling. She is a mother of three, including singers Freddie James and Rosalind Hunt. The family moved from Chicago to Montreal in 1975. Rosalind Hunt was one half of the group Cheri, and their song Murphy's Law was written by her mother Geraldine with Daniel Joseph. Today Geraldine Hunt is represented by The Entertainment Agency.

Mac Thornhill - Fantasy (1981)
Mac Thornhill (Facebook) was born in Canada in 1944, and released dance music throughout the 80s (including under the Mac Mac moniker). He has received two Juno nominations, and continues to release music today.

Space Project - Lady Capella (1978)
Finally, Space Project was a studio group comprised of songwriter and arrangers Dominic Sciscente, Michel Daigle, and Jacques LaflĂȘche. They had a hand in a number of other disco productions in Quebec, including Black Light Orchestra.