Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Munich Machine "Munich Machine"

Munich Machine was the brainchild of prolific composer and disco hitmaker Giorgio Moroder. Comprised mostly of the studio musicians who backed his hit productions for Donna Summer (the group also appears under this name on the singer’s A Love Trilogy and Four Seasons of Love albums) and those under his own name, Munich Machine is everything you would expect – and more - from the man who held the patent on the mid 70s techno dance music that came to be defined as Eurodisco.

Like Gamble & Huff’s MFSB and Barry White’s Love Unlimited Orchestra (and to a lesser degree, K.C.’s Sunshine Band and Motown “groupings” like the Magic Disco Machine), Munich Machine allowed Moroder to show off more of his musical and instrumental leanings.

There were vocals to keep it all commercially appealing, but Munich Machine pushed those grooving German instrumentalists more toward the front of the microphone. Many of them, including Harold Faltermeyer (“Axel F,” of course, from Beverley Hills Cop, Fletch), Pete Bellotte (Elton John, Janet Jackson), Thor Baldersson (Walter Beasley, Keith Sweat) and Keith Forsey (producer of the great Billy Idol, Nina Hagen, The Psychedelic Furs, etc.) went onto make significant names for themselves not too much later on.

Munich Machine released only three albums under its own name between 1977 and 1979, including this, their eponymously-titled debut album. It’s making its very first appearance on CD now, some three and a half decades later(!), courtesy of Gold Legion, a specialist label that dedicates itself to reviving long-lost disco releases from the Universal Music family of labels. Gold Legion has also just issued a Moroder production of Roberta’s Kelly’s Zodiac Lady and promises soon to issue the Machine’s second album, the even more wonderful A Whiter Shade Of Pale (1978).

This album’s single great highlight is the 15 and a half minute dance classic “Get on the Funk Train,” a 12-inch monster that spun at many discos back in the day. Moroder and Bellotte conceive a joyous dance track that takes a few sinewy detours along the way, replete with the obligatory female chorus, sensual strings, horny horns and a whole array of electric keyboards, grooving guitars and four-on-the-floor bass drum time keeping. It confirms what most musicians claim: that you can’t describe music. You’re just supposed to enjoy it.

“Funk Train” recalls for this listener what jazz was created to do, especially back in the 20s in the brothels and the speakeasies – make people dance (maybe one or two other things too). It’s rather hard to accommodate “Funk Train” with any era’s varying definition of jazz. But I suspect that the appearance of music like this helped others in the disco movement look backwards at jazzier music for inspiration (Dr. Buzzard, Boney M., Taco, etc.) and made it easy for any number of real jazz players to fuse their thing with the dance floor. The song’s funkiest highlight comes at the 7:18 mark and lasts through to 10:05 mark.

While “Get on the Funk Train” takes up a full half of the record, it is also the only real original included here, despite Moroder and Bellotte’s participation on the remaining tracks. A string of Moroder/Bellotte hits are offered up as a long medley including “Love To Love You Baby” (a breakneck speed version, the title track to Donna Summer’s hit 1975 album), “Trouble-Maker” (the title track to Roberta Kelly’s 1976 album – which Gold Legion is also preparing to issue on CD), “Try Me, I Know We Can Make It” (from the 1976 Donna Summer album A Love Trilogy), “I Wanna Funk With You Tonite” (originally on Moroder’s 1976 album Knights In White Satin) and “Spring Affair” (from the 1976 Donna Summer album Four Seasons of Love). It all sounds pretty good but “Try Me, I Know We Can Make It” is the medley’s electrifying highlight.

It’s about time for some appreciation of Giorgio Moroder, who went on to even greater heights, including memorable film scores to Midnight Express, American Gigolo, Cat People, Scarface, Top Gun and a reconfigured version of Fritz Lang’s timeless Metropolis - and it’s about time that Munich Machine, while not as popular as some of the big names Moroder went on to finesse (Blondie, Japan, Irene Cara, Janet Jackson, Berlin, etc.), is getting its well-deserved renaissance. This is a highly worthwhile, if brief, chapter in Giorgio Moroder’s always interesting – and grooving – musical career.

Now how about some savvy reissuer chronicling the great Eurodisco group Easy Going and any of the grand disco projects former Goblin Claudio Simonetti was involved in between 1978 and 1984 (Vivien Vee, Kasso and, most especially, Capricorn’s brilliant “I Need Love”)?

1 comment:

ish said...

Having admired your work for years and poured over your discographies I am tickled pink to find you reviewing the Munich Machine! Nice work.