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Istanbul (Not Constantinople) - The Ritchie Family - Arabian Nights


Label: Derby - DBR 81609 • Format: Vinyl LP, Album • Country: Italy • Genre: Electronic • Style: Disco
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Main page. At first the Ritchie Family was known for wild Labelle -like costumes and ambitious if tacky medleys, but as disco devolved and personnel changed they started cranking out the same kind of overlong, minimalist camp as everybody else. The group Istanbul (Not Constantinople) - The Ritchie Family - Arabian Nights recording as disco faded from the airwaves, but they are currently touring together, and working on some new material.

Apart from an e-mail I received from singer Dodie Draher, I haven't found much on the Net about the group; the Disco Museum has a decent page. Draher leftreplaced by Linda James. Brazil On this debut, Morali and Rome's arrangments use an admirably varied instrumental palette: Side One is a medley that includes everything from Latin percussion breakdowns "Frenesi" to jazz sax solos "Brazil," a hit Nasty Reputation - Axel Rudi Pell - Knights Live and innovative use of strings "Peanut Vendor".

Side Two has shorter, more structured pop songs, including the snappy "Lady Champagne," though there's also a fair amount of silly 20's nostalgia recalling early Pointer Sisters "Life Is Fascination"not to mention Donna Summer.

Corroborating my Motown-inspired-disco theorythe album ends with a nifty Supremes imitation "Pinball". Recorded at Philadelphia's Sigma Sound Studios ; musicians aren't listed. The near-instrumental "Baby I'm On Fire" is fun, with guitar and vibes banging out the bouncy ascending theme, and perky woodwinds adding counterpoint. Plus, this time there's no overarching theme to give the material structure. But the best moments are truly fine: the swirling strings and madcap buildup of "Long Distance Romance"; the devil-may-care campiness of "Lady Luck"; and the sheer insanity of the mistitled sock hop "Disco Blues.

Unusual percussion is one of the keys to the disc: Mario Grillo's timbales contrast with furiously arpeggiating strings on "Summer Dance"; Anthony Robinson's congas are featured in Les Baxter's Exotica classic "Quiet Village," together with lush strings, breathy vocals and deliberately vamping bass, it's a cold shower-inducingly sexy number. Throughout, Babatunde Olatunji plays a variety of African drums and shakers while Ralph MacDonald adds more pedestrian elements: tambourine, triangle, cowbell.

DBW American Generation Judging from the cover photo, the vocalists were replaced by identical triplet models. Morali produced and wrote nearly all the tunes, but it seems by now the Village People - more commercial and perhaps closer to his heart - were getting the lion's share of his inspiration.

Istanbul (Not Constantinople) - The Ritchie Family - Arabian Nights clear high point is a darkling, clavinet-buoyed cover of " Big Spender. The unbearably shrill title track, with a refrain recalling the Four Seasons Frankie Valli, not Vivaldi and decorated with tinkling synths, is the nadir.

Also, the mix of medleys and short songs has given way to a uniform Týr - Valkyrja to eight-minute track length.

The only way to tell one song from another is the chorus melody, and on this record there's not much to choose from: I assume the title track was the single, but its girl-done-wrong theme is hackneyed; Side Two's progression of titles - "It's A Man's World," "Where Are The Men," "Sexy Man" - reveals a simplemindedness unusual even for disco.

Most of the lyrics flowed from the Nothing Is Gonna Be Allright - Backseat Girls - The Black Album of Village People frontman Victor Willis. Practically the only plus is the Istanbul (Not Constantinople) - The Ritchie Family - Arabian Nightswhich have the same outrageous, edge-of-hysteria quality as Patti LaBellethough without LaBelle's delicacy. The title track from the Can't Stop The Music soundtrack, as was "Sophistication" is a working-class feminist anthem!

And though ballads were never Morali's strong point, "All My Love" is lean and memorable, and sung with flair. Not really better than Sister Sledge 's itself-no-great-shakes Love Somebody Today released the same year, but I goosed the rating because this is easily the best of the Family's late period.

In fact, so many people started using the same formula in the same year, I suspect a common source but I don't know who it was. Anyway, the songwriting is undistinguished, the refrains are commonplace "Be My One And Only"and the group's vocals are so self-effacing they sound like their own backup singers. Produced by Fred Petrus; arranged and conducted by Giuliano Salerni. DBW Give me a break.

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