Reviewed on this page:
Encounters Of Every Kind - The Wizard Of Oz - Superman And Other Galactic Heroes - Christmas In The Stars
I always thought of Meco Monardo as a Eurodisco mastermind a la Alec R. Costandinos or Boris Midney, but it turns out he's from rural Pennsylvania. Anyway, after an early stint producing such luminaries as Gloria Gaynor, he and partners Tony Bongiovi and Harold Wheeler went into the lucrative "disco remakes" business, striking gold with a version of the Star Wars theme. They pressed their luck with a bunch of similar follows-up, and even ventured out of disco on occasion without much success. Meco played trombone on most of his own records and also as a sideman, notably audible on Diana Ross's "I'm Coming Out."
We don't usually link to fan sites anymore, because it's so easy to google them up on your own, but I want to draw your attention to the exceptionally thorough Official MECO Fan Site.
Star Wars And Other Galactic Funk (1977)
An edited version of the fifteen-minute title track was a huge hit single.
Encounters Of Every Kind (1977)
Someday I'll try to compare this to Vince Montana Jr.'s album-length take on Close Encounters. The concept here was to take the listener through history, so Side One is a bunch of tunes (composed by Wheeler) representing prehistoric times through the 19th Century, and Side Two covers 20th Century tunes - the show tune "Crazy Rhythm"; the Carpenters' "Topsy" - before finally coming across with the "Close Encounters" theme. But the funny thing is, Wheeler's originals are a heck of a lot more interesting than the covers: "In The Beginning," punctuated by Godzilla roars, is a blast, as is "Roman Nights" (set at an orgy in the Senate Bath House, the liner notes explain). The Native American war-whooping in "Hot In The Saddle" is as offensive as you'd imagine, but it's also totally awesome. "Topsy" and "Crazy Rhythm," though, are campy in a painful way, without capturing the spirit of the 20s the way, say, the Ritchie Family had. And the actual "Theme From Close Encounters" is nothing much to work with, just those five banal notes, so the album resembles a dining experience where the main course is overcooked and tough, but you don't care because you filled up on appetizers.
Each side is arranged as a seamless suite, with a brief linking theme ("Time Machine"), and Wheeler does an impressive job of negotiating all the transitions smoothly.
The Wizard Of Oz (1978)
Wow, a disco LP of music from The Wizard Of Oz has got to be the most homosexual album ever made, right? That's more homosexual than the Village People singing Liza Minelli covers on The Paul Lynde Show. Not to stereotype. Since the movie score has so many classic tunes, arranger Wheeler could have slept-walked through the disc, but instead he went the extra mile, working in some snazzy variations on "Over The Rainbow" and swinging vocal harmonies on "We're Off To See The Wizard." There are also moments like the sped-up Munchkins singing "Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead" that are fun or godawful depending on your taste in kitsch. Side Two isn't as solid, as all the best tunes come up early in the movie, but still I suspect this is Meco's finest album-length work. Did I mention my LP is printed on oh-so-cool yellow vinyl? (DBW)
Superman And Other Galactic Heroes (1979)
John Williams scored another blockbuster film, and Meco was right behind him with another disco knockoff. Apart from the main theme, none of the Williams material is particularly memorable, so although the segues are competent, there's nothing much to listen for. Again, the flip side is new material (by Wheeler and Meco), with copyright-dodging titles like "The Boy Wonder" (an amusing disco march) and "Lord Of The Jungle." "The Caped Crusader" is a dismal slow-burner that sounds like something you'd hear during a makeout scene on Charlie's Angels.
The last collaboration with Wheeler.
Just when you thought you had him pegged, Meco put out a whole LP with no movie theme material at all.
Meco Plays Music From The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
By now, Meco didn't have the playing field to himself: Boris Midney, for example, put out his own album of Empire Strikes Back arranged for the disco floor. But Meco had brought Lucasfilm on board, and they provided him with the genuine sound effects. Accept no imitation R2-D2s! Arranged by Lance Quinn.
Christmas In The Stars (1980)
More fruit from the Lucasfilm collaboration: C-3PO, R2-D2 and Chewbacca provide vocals for a bunch of original songs about Christmas, and it's almost exactly as horrible as it sounds.
Arrangements were split between Quinn and Wheeler, and none of it's disco; rather, it's a bunch of patter songs that sound like rejects from 30s musicals ("The Odds Against Christmas"), oddly contrasting computer noises with traditional elements like sleigh bells ("Sleigh Ride"). The lengthy spoken digressions are irritating ("Bells, Bells, Bells"), but worst of all is the overblown, eight-minute closer "The Meaning Of Christmas."
The execrable single "What Can You Get A Wookie For Christmas (When He's Already Got A Comb)?" charted briefly.
The disc's only value is to Star Wars or Bon Jovi completists: Tony Bongiovi's cousin John (later known as Jon Bon Jovi) sings lead vocals on "R2-D2 We Wish You A Merry Christmas."
Music From Star Trek/Music From The Black Hole (1980)
Science fiction flicks were coming out so fast even Meco's crew couldn't keep up.
This year, Meco also released a single containing his interpretation of the Shogun theme.
Meco's Impressions Of An American Werewolf In London (1981)
In 1981, Meco also put out a single with the Raiders Of The Lost Ark theme.
Pop Goes The Movies (1982)
An album-length medley of familiar movie themes.
Swingtime's Greatest Hits (1982)
Disco meets Big Band.
Also this year, Meco produced Kenny G's solo debut.
Ewok Celebration (1983)
By now, Meco and his arrangers didn't have the energy to raid the entire Return Of The Jedi score, so they just covered a couple of themes (title track) and padded out the disc with unrelated movie themes: "Maniac" from Flashdance, etc.
Hooked On Instrumentals (1985)
This is part of the Hooked On... series, conducted by Meco. At around this point, Monardo moved to Florida and became a commodities trader - how 80s can you get?
Star Wars Party (2005)
Remixes of some previous releases ("Empire Strikes Back"; "Lapki Nek"), re-arrangements of original film music ("New Star Wars"), and a number of new tunes inspired by the Star Wars series ("I Am Your Father").
Other galactic funk.