Saturday, May 27, 2006

SYLVESTER - Call me (1983)

"He didn't learn how to sing like that. His talent was a gift." -Gladys Knight


Megatone Records (Patrick Cowley)

Keyboards and Producer - James 'Tip' Wirrick

Tracklist :

01 Trouble In Paradise
02 Call Me
03 Good Feeling
04 He'll Understand
05 One Night Only
06 Too Late
07 Power Of Love
08 Band Of Gold

bonus tracks:
09 Trouble In Paradise (remix)
10 Call Me (remix)
11 Good Feelin' (remix)
12 Too Late (remix)
13 Band Of Gold (remix)

Links to download: Part 1. Part 2.

Biography ( part 1)
Sylvester James was born on September 6, 1947 into what he called "an upper middle class, black, bourgeois family in LA."
He was most influenced by his grandmother, Julia Morgan.With her encouragement he learned to sing at (Pentecostal) Palm Lane Church of God and Christ in South Los Angeles. Even at the age of eight his dynamic style and voice were already evident, and he became a pint sized local Gospel star."He would tear up the church." his mother explained.
As he got older and fell out of the spotlight the difficulties increased, and had serious problems with his father, who didn't like him, and his mother, with whom he constantly fought. He ended up moving in with his beloved grandmother, but troubles continued. Stifled by conventions, he began to skip school and stay out for days, hanging out at movie theaters and junk stores. When he was 16 he ran away. He lived on the Sunset Strip, "always on drugs...going out and having fun." He eventually finished high school and two years at Lamert Beauty College in LA where he studied interior decorating.
Sylvester was "suffocating in Los Angeles," and needed to go someplace where he could be free . . . where he could reinvent himself. He moved to San Francisco,took psychedelic drugs, and worked as a hairdresser and window dresser. He also began singing. At the Rickshaw Lounge in Chinatown he began performing drag under the name Ruby Blue.
"My life started when I moved to San Francisco.""Here I felt free," he would tell Rolling Stone several years later, "I could do anything I wanted to 'cause I had no past."
Sylvester was also performing sacred music at the time, and kept up his Gospel chops by performing in a church choir in Oakland. Musically he owed a great debt to the church,and he explicitly thanks God in almost every album's liner notes. Even at the peak of his Disco career he would always have a Gospel portion of his live show. Though he never explained it, clearly Sylvester was an artist who had a more comfortable relationship between Christianity and sexuality than Prince, Al Green and other artists who have struggled with the contradictions of those influences.
His reputation as a singer traveled and he was soon approached by one of the most notorious theater troupes in San Francisco. Sylvester was about to become a Cockette.

photo of Sylvester from The Cockettes era

"transvestite-glitter-fairy satiric masques." Alan Ginsberg

The Cockettes were hippies in drag with appreciations of amusement, acid, astrology and the absurd.Their fans included John Lennon, Truman Capote and Allan Ginsberg, who described their shows as, "transvestite-glitter-fairy satiric masques."In 1970 the Cockettes asked Sylvester to teach them to sing. He decided to show them, and added some color to the group. After his debut in the revue he soon found himself one of the Cockettes' star attractions.
Syl utilized his statuesque, youthful beauty and emotive falsetto to channel Black Jazz and Blues divas of the twenties and thirties, bringing to life his romanticized, fantasy interpretations of Billie Holiday and his grandmother.
He told Rolling Stone, "I want to do as near as possible a re-creation of what Black audiences saw in Harlem or on the South Side...I don't want to change anything. I do it in the original way." He dreamed of having an orchestra - a dream he would realize in less than decade - and he bathed in rose petals and champagne, visualizing himself on a far different plane than the rest of the pseudo-glamorous, yet grungy, troupe.
In November of 1971 The Cockettes made their New York debut at the Anderson Theater in the East Village in what was one of the biggest off-Broadway openings ever. However it was also the biggest disappointment the group would experience. Though they were the bomb in SF, they were a dud in NY, and they were sent home packing with their sequin covered penises tucked between their legs. They were still popular at home, but their spirit was broken.
Soon Sylvester found him in a new band called Sylvester & The Hot Band.
People didn't know exactly what to make of Sylvester & The Hot Band. It almost made sense, a band of competent rockers fronted by a glamorous diva, and it was probably this element of normalcy, as much as the gimmick that the diva was a big Black dude, that made Blue Thumb think this group could be successful when they signed them.In 1972 the label featured two Sylvester and the Hot Band songs on the compilation Lights Out, including the powerful Sylvester original, "Why Was I Born?" In 1973 they followed with two full length releases, a self titled LP and Bazaar,which received good reviews at the time.Though it didn't bring the fame that was expected, the Hot Band did get to tour nationally. His return to New York, at Max's Kansas City, was a far greater success than The Cockettes trip two short years earlier had been, but clearly he was the not the star he envisioned himself being. In '74 and '75 he spent time in London and Amsterdam, hanging with Bowie and Elton, and getting ready for his return to his city. The next time out he was going to get it right. . .

"Having been a Sylvester fan since the early days..."Dance Disco Heat" all I can say is this is a fantastic CD. I bought it when it was still on vinyl. The dance songs pump. The ballads are pure gospel at it's best. Dance music lost a great performer when this artist passed. If you love Sylvester's music there is a greatest hits CD import from Canada that is 2 discs full of the 12" hits, no fillers. Enjoy."

more info : the website of The Cockettes


Anonymous Ryoga said...

Well, I asked before, but I don't know if You have read it :). Do You have any albums of Bad Boys Blue? Especially I'm thinking about their first Lp from 1985, "Bad Boys - Hot Girls" (or something like that...). I've heard that this is their best album. The rest is good - "Heartbeat" from 1986 and "Love Is no Cram" from 1987, but only good. Any chance for one of those? I would like to hear it, and have my own opinion about their music. I'd be very grateful... :).

All the best!

9:22 PM  
Blogger RObert POland said...

@ryoga: First album BBB - link on my blog.


Greetings, Salty!

3:09 AM  
Anonymous Alex said...

Great album, but first link is dead :((

11:04 AM  
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