Reviewed on this page:
France Joli - Tonight - Now - Attitude - Witch Of Love
Forget Celine Dion and Alanis Morissette (please), my favorite French-Canadian singer is dance diva France Joli, who cut
one terrific album - the brainchild of Tony Green, also otherwise unheralded - and rapidly sank into oblivion. She started out with a
remarkably pure but wild voice - not as unrestrained as Jill Jones, but the same basic idea - though over time
she started to sound overtrained: technically flawless, but not often convincingly from the heart. After about ten years away from the
scene, Joli went back to recording and cut a 1998 album I haven't been able to find.
The fan site is kind of sketchy, but I guess I shouldn't
France Joli (1979)
Out of print for decades, Joli's debut is one of the few disco records that's solid all the way through.
It's unusually rich because writer/producer Tony Green bridges the gaps between various subgenres. There are lush sweeping arrangements
characterizing early disco driving tunes of a length usually seen only in late disco. The rushed metronomic rhythms normally found in Europe
are supplemented by noisy percussion - particularly timbales ("Let Go") - and solos on everything from vibes to sax, more common to
American records. The classic "Come To Me" embodies these contradictions: insanely overdone yet moving and sincere; endless but never
boring; ridiculous but unforgettably catchy - it may be the best disco song of all time, certainly in the top three with "Dim All The Lights" and "Love Hangover."
Even a silly track like "Playboy" is elevated from mediocrity by deft keyboard and rhythm guitar lines, and Joli manages the
tightrope act of oversinging just enough to give the material undeserved weight ("Don't Stop Dancing"), without boiling over into
self-parody. The musicians are Green (guitar), Peter Dowse (bass), Derek Kendrick (drums), Robby Goldfarb (keys), Dennis Lepage and Richard
Baudet (horns), Miguel Fuentes (percussion), and Barbara Ingram, Carla Benson and Evette Benton (backing vocals).
While so many disco acts wore out their welcome with ever more soulless, ceaseless dance tracks, writer/producer Tony Green erred by
abandoning the dancefloor in favor of Helen Reddy-worthy schmaltz. Harps crop up on the opening "This Time (I'm Giving All I've Got)"
and the title track, a shameless ripoff of the Commodores' "Easy." "The Heart To Break The
Heart" is the one clear attempt to recapture the glory of "Come To Me," but its slow opening, male secondary vocal and maudlin lyrics
add up to a joyless, obvious retread. And Joli doesn't have the pinache to elevate such mawkish material: she's 90% as potent as Olivia Newton-John
doing "Would A Little More Love," but the missing 10% is crucial.
I will confess to a sneaking affection for the Supertramp-style pop rocker "Stoned In Love," and Green's production is competent even
when the material isn't, so it's a disappointment but not a disaster. Brian Smith replaced Dowse on bass, otherwise the same musicians
Joli split with Green after this release.
"Your Good Lovin'," arranged and produced by Eric Matthew and Darryl Payne, is a quintessential early 80s NYC dance track, like "Love Come Down" or "Juicy Fruit."
The rest of the disc was produced and arranged by Ray Reid and William Anderson from Crown Heights Affair, and it's imitation Chic - long out of style by 1982 but not unpleasant ("Gonna Get Over You"; "Can I Fall In Love Again," a solid tune reminiscent of "I Want Your Love"). The songwriting is by a bunch of hired guns (Allee Willis wrote the title track), and it's all so contrived and impersonal the album winds up
having the same relationship to a good pop album that a statue has to a human being: everything's the right size and in the right place, but there's no heart, no feeling, no life.
The CD release, which I don't have, includes several remixes of "Gonna Get Over You" including a Spanish-language version.
Joli's Flashdance-inspired off-the-shoulder sweater is the tipoff: she's shifted to irritating synth-pop ("Walking Into A Heartache")
based on merciless quarter-note synth and crashing programmed drums ("Girl In The 80s," where Joli sounds suspiciously like Pat Benatar).
Produced by Pete Bellotte, exec produced by Giorgio Moroder and arranged by Ritchie Zito.
Joli's own "Dumb Blonde" manages to be even sillier than the rest, and I'm definitely a stupider
person for having listened to "Blue Eyed Technology."
The Pips guest on a cover of the Four Tops' "Standing In The Shadows Of Love,"
which unfortunately is as high tech and soulless as the rest.
The first of her two records at Epic; if it weren't for Joli's vocal ability, this would be the perfect bad early 80s record.
Witch Of Love (1985)
Produced by George Duke, and his by-the-numbers pop rock and hack songwriting ("In The Darkness," by
Kelly and Steinberg)
are an improvement over Bellotte's trendriding - Joli winds up being practically the only artist who improved in this phenomenally desolate year.
Duke operates in his two modes: braindead dance tunes ("Party Lights") and romantic claptrap ("Give Me Your Love").
At least the midtempo "Attitude" has a memorable melody and lighthearted groove.
Players include the usual set of studio cats: Paul Jackson Jr., Kim Hutchcroft, Neil Stubenhaus, Ernie Watts
and the reclusive Paulinho Da Costa.
Epic dropped her after this didn't sell, and she didn't record again for years.
In 1996 Joli and Green reunited for a single, "Touch."
If You Love Me (1998)
Contains "Touch," the 1997 followup "Breakaway," and nine more tunes. (DBW)
Wilson's a lonely man...