Moonshoes: Boogieland
Souple Records

VA: Under The Influence Vol. 3 compiled by James Glass
Z Records

Is there a ‘70s renaissance in the works? If the Paris-based multi-instrumentalist Gilles Paulet has anything to say about it, there definitely will be. Paulet, the one-man producer, composer, arranger, and performer behind the Moonshoes project, resurrects the sounds of Kool & the Gang, Deodato, KC & the Sunshine Band, Curtis Mayfield, The O'Jays, Billy Preston, and others on his Boogieland album. Think of it as a sixteen-song tour of the ‘70s, with all of Paulet's blue-eyed soul and disco jams packed into a thirty-six-minute soundtrack.

The Moonshoes sound is a full-bodied one, to say the least, with Paulet convincingly simulating a mini-orchestra packed with electric piano, horn, wah-wah guitar, Moog synthesizer, drum, and bass players. On purely technical grounds, it's a remarkable feat of production sleight-of-hand, but it's also a dizzying roller-coaster ride of musical pleasures, too. Both vocal (natural and vocodered) and instrumental cuts abound, and transitions happen fast, with only one track (the uplifting serenade “Someone”) pushing past the four-minute mark.

In “Monkey,” silken vocals glide across a funky, clavinet-heavy backing, while “A Thousand Kisses” augments the sax playing of Florent Dupuit (the MVP contributes inspired flute and sax playing to six tracks) with Philly-styled string stabs and “Everybody” traffics in a kind of plastic soul sure to appeal to Jamiroquai fans. You'll be forgiven if while listening to Boogieland, memories of Quincy Jones, The Crusaders, Isaac Hayes, and The Temptations' “Papa Was a Rollin' Stone” re-emerge. Listeners bereft of nostalgic affection for ‘70s music might be well-advised to steer clear, but for those with a soft spot for the decade, the Moonshoes sound has much to recommend it.

James Glass also has a jones for funk, disco and boogie, as evidenced by his contribution to Z Records' Under The Influence series (Red Greg and Paul Phillips handled the first two volumes). Glass is an ideal choice for the project: after growing up in London, he moved to New York in the late ‘80s before landing in San Francisco, where he established a reputation for crafting intricate DJ sets packed with rare ‘70s soul, disco, and early house tracks. Glass also operates two labels: he's been running Golden Goose, which specializes in left-field and cosmic rock, with DJ Garth since 2005; and manages Grimy, whose focus is underground disco, with Chicago DJ Zernell Gillie.

Most of the cuts are rarities that only a well-schooled crate-digger like Glass, as much historian as compiler and curator, would exhume for a compilation project such as Under The Influence (consider Magnum's “Squivatch,” a too-funky, tenor sax-driven B-side blazer that originally appeared on the Wackies label, a case in point). Sweet Talks leaps from the jungle and onto the dancefloor with their 1979 “Do The Beat,” all jamming horns, strings, wah-wah guitars, agile bass, and slamming disco-funk groove (listen closely and you might hear a trace of The Average White Band's “Pick Up the Pieces” echoing in the background). It's also easy to bask in the timeless disco splendour of Eleanore Mills' 1974 “Same Routine,” which sees her vocal breezily gliding o'ertop a steamy, strings-heavy backdrop by the Rimshots.

Glass widens the compilation's scope to include other genres, however. Emblazoned with horns, electric piano, and female vocal accents, Harold Butler's “Do It Anyday” roars with all of the energy one would expect from a jazzy exercise in ska-driven dub, while Expansives' “Life With You (Instrumental)” reveals where Italo Disco originated, even if the Expansives cut exudes a raw and earthy vibe, like many of Glass's selections. He branches off from the disco-funk trail for a bit of punkish new wave in including Electric Chairs' “So Many Ways” (the British group apparently was Jayne County's backing band from 1977 to 1979), plus there's a funk-fusion instrumental from Energy Crisis called “Energy” that Glass resurrected from an obscure Crisis Records B-side. More than anything, though, the collection is about groove, a point emphatically brought home by the inclusion of Manteca's percussion-heavy jam “Afro Funky.” 

June 2013