Reviewed on this page:
Love In C Minor - Cerrone's Paradise - Supernature - The Garden Of Love - Cerrone IV - Cerrone V - Dancing Machine
French drummer/producer Jean-Marc Cerrone first got into the music business booking bands for Club Med, and maybe it's too easy to point out that his disco productions share a hedonistic, clothing-optional, singles bar aesthetic with the resort chain.
In 1973 Cerrone joined the band Kongas, where he met aspiring songwriter
Alec R. Costandinos. After working together on the minor Kongas hit "Anikana-O," they teamed up for the side-long disco magnum opus "Love In C Minor" and an album of the same name. Soon after, the two split up, but employed the same strategy of putting out ornately orchestrated disco LPs with extremely long tunes and extremely risqué album covers.
Unlike Costandinos or Boris Midney, Cerrone didn't hide behind fake band names or get distracted by grand concepts, and he didn't stop putting out records when disco faded, continuing to release albums straight through the 80s and 90s.
Anikana-o (Kongas: 1974)
Not released in the States until 1978, this early collaboration with Costandinos led to Cerrone's solo success. Oddly, Kongas was nothing like the orchestral work of the two principals, but was as percussion-heavy as you'd think from the group's name: the title track sounds like a Santana session without Carlos.
Love In C Minor (1976)
The fifteen-minute title track is a classic example of Costandinos weaving driving dancefloor sections together with lighter interludes to form one coherent whole. The opening theme (after a female spoken intro) is a stark pentatonic riff played on bass, but it melds into an airy countertheme, followed by some silly panting, after which all three elements combine and recombine. However, none of the themes are particularly exciting by themselves, so the album's flip side is actually better: a remake of Los Bravos' "Black Is Black" is impressively single-minded, a heavy dance groove that doesn't let up a bit, and "Midnite Lady" is a masterpiece, moving imperceptibly from one magical melody to the next.
Recorded at Trident Studios with Mo Foster (bass), Hughie Burns and Colin Green (guitars), Alan Hawkshaw and Don Ray (keyboards) and Cerrone on drums.
Africanism (Kongas: 1977)
Cerrone produced one LP for his old band.
Most of Side One is a cover of the Spencer Davis Group's "Gimme Some Lovin'," and it brings the robotic percussion and bellowing of "Anikana-O" into the disco era, with touches of strings and horns and plenty of high hat, kick drum and bass vamping.
On the flip, "Dr. Doo-Dah" also relies heavily on percussion, though female background vocals and squeaky Moog replace the horns and yelling, and there's basically no tune.
Cerrone's Paradise (1977)
This time out, Cerrone co-wrote everything with Alain Wisniak. As was common in the genre, the title track took up the whole first side, with Side Two made up of relatively brief tunes. Without Costandinos, Cerrone doesn't have much interest in shifting moods, so "Cerrone's Paradise" sticks to the same basic groove for sixteen minutes (though the arrangement does vary somewhat), not counting a coda at the end of the LP. "Take Me" is lively and uptempo, driven by group female vocals, recalling mid-period Ritchie Family. "Time For Love" is a drippy ballad - a weakness to which Costandinos was also prone. Lene Lovitch is thanked; I believe she translated the lyrics.
The House Of The Rising Sun (Revelacion: 1977)
A spinoff band, which covered the same Animals-popularized blues standard simultaneously recorded by Santa Esmeralda. If you didn't get enough of "Time For Love" the first time around, it returns in instrumental form. Arranged by Don Ray.
This is probably the place to start with Cerrone, as it contains every style he tackled in one place. If you remember the Kenny Everett Video Show, the nagging title track, making heavy use of electronic sounds and a la Giorgio Moroder's Donna Summer productions, was that show's theme. "Supernature" is part of a sidelong medley that also features "Sweet Drums" - a percussion showpiece recalling Kongas - and the chilled-out, almost ambient synth piece "In The Smoke."
Side Two is another medley, but in Cerrone's usual orchestral style: the opening "Give Me Love" is a treat, with salsa syncopation and swirling strings. After the transitional "Love Is Here," "Love Is The Answer" continues the good-time dance vibe with soulful female group vocals, though the main theme is not one of his finest.
The Garden Of Love (Don Ray: 1978)
Cerrone co-wrote and co-produced this solo album by his longtime keyboardist. There's an unusually wide instrumental palette, as Ray makes good use of horns and even works some of the "Supernature" pulsing electronics into "Standing In The Rain." While most of the record is midtempo ("Got To Have Loving"), they slow the pace down for the lush, romantic title track. Naturally, though, there's plenty of the trademark string-laced disco that made their respective names ("My Desire"; "Midnight Madness," a shameless ripoff of Heatwave's "Boogie Nights" enlivened by a fine piano solo).
The core band is Ray, Cerrone and Foster plus Slim Pezin and Larry Juber on guitars, Ray Cooper on percussion, and Madeline Bell, Sue Glover and Kay Garner on vocals.
Brigade Mondaine (1978)
Somehow, Cerrone also found time to compose soundtracks for a string of French exploitation movies (the title translates as "Vice Squad"). He does take some shortcuts, notably recycling "Give Me Love" from Cerrone III, and stringing together barebones instrumentals ("Generique" - oui, oui!). But there's some fine stuff here, as his backing musicians get more chances to stretch out (the lovely guitar feature "Deauville"). Full review probably not coming soon.
Cerrone IV: The Golden Touch (1978)
The same basic package as Supernature, but nothing's very good, as the melodies and arrangements have an assembly-line quality.
"Je Suis Music" was the single, based on a pounding bass riff recalling "Love In C Minor," and it's corny but not in a good way.
Similarly, "Look For Love" is rather pat apart from a stirring percussion breakdown and "Music Of Life" incorporates Latin rhythms but doesn't bring much to them.
The one big instrumental change is a sudden reliance on distorted guitar soloing, not just in the uptempo disco-rocker "Rocket In The Pocket" but throughout.
The same basic band as Garden Of Love, with Kay Garner and Cerrone himself handling lead vocals.
Cerrone V: Angelina (1979)
Recorded in Hollywood rather than London, with pop-rock backing from the likes of Jeff "Skunk" Baxter, Paul Jackson, Steve Lukather, Chuck Rainey, David Hungate, Greg Mathieson and, yes, Paulinho Da Costa. And indeed, Side One sounds like a Toto album, only with some French guy with not much of a voice on lead. More important than genre, it's irritating and unimaginative (the opening "Rock Me" rips off the lead guitar riff from "Hot Stuff"). Side Two is more like Cerrone's usual disco, though with more horns than he usually uses ("Living On Love") but it's similarly flat and forgettable.
Don't Give A Damn (Révelacion: 1979)
Note accent mark appearing in the band name. (DBW)
Brigade Mondaine: La Secte De Marrakech (1979)
The title track from the Révelacion album appears here in a shortened form. Apart from the pensive marimba feature "Tiger Paper," this soundtrack is a big step down from the previous one: both the synth mood pieces ("Overdose") and the jumpy dance tunes ("Assassinat") are predictable and drab.
In Concert (1979)
A double-LP; unusual as other disco auteurs such as Meco and Boris Midney never put out live releases. (DBW)
Cerrone VI: Panic (1980)
From here on in, Cerrone's albums were released in Europe but not in the US. (DBW)
Brigade Mondaine: Vaudou Aux Caraïbes (1980)
Cerrone VII (1981)
Jocelyn Brown contributed lead vocals to the funky, knowing single "Hooked On You."
Cerrone VIII: Back Track (1982)
With "Supernature 2."
Cerrone IX: Your Love Survived (1982)
A two-LP set: one disc of new material, and one of remixes. The new material features lead vocals from R&B Lite smarmster Arthur Simms.
The same year, Cerrone produced one more Kongas track: "Why Can't We Live Together."
Cerrone X: Where Are You Now (1984)
A synth-pop medley of the Four Tops' "Standing In The Shadows Of Love" with Cerrone's own "Freak Connection" was a 1983 single, but doesn't appear on this album.
Cerrone 11: The Collector (1985)
In 1986, Cerrone wrote, produced and contributed duet vocals to Latoya Jackson's "Oops, Oh No!" - an extremely ordinary raid on sister Janet's Control sound.
Way In (1990)
Dancing Machine (1990)
This double-LP was the soundtrack to a movie written by Cerrone. There's a cover of "Supernature" by Erasure, but most of the music is new, and it's generally quite good: "I'm Gonna Take Another Chance On You" is light dancefloor froth; "Evolution" is a percussion showpiece; "Nostalgie" is a soothing drum-led instrumental.
The sound is hi-tech, a bit jarring if you're expecting Cerrone's patented disco, but not unpleasant: "I Want Love," with winsome vocals from Ricky Lee, is a fun number not far from "Supernature."
Even when it's uneven, it's unpredictable: the opening "Confidence" is unconvincing Janet Jackson-style Minneapolis funk, and "Wake Up To Your Love" is an overwrought ballad with a Bob Seger-ish vocal from Steve Overland.
Musicians include Robbie Buchanan and Charles Olins (keys); Jackson, JJ Belle and Dominique Muller (guitars).
Human Nature (1996)