Longtime Todd Rundgren fans are familiar with the renaissance man’s numerous genre excursions, from pop to rock and everywhere in between: psychedelia, soul, electronica, even metal. But comparatively fewer fans have heard Rundgren’s one and only full-blown excursion into disco. Shortly after completing 1976’s Faithful LP, the iconoclastic producer took the members of Utopia into the studio to create the album known as Disco Jets. Yet the album crafted by Willie Wilcox (drums), Roger Powell (keyboards/vocals), John Siegler (bass/vocals) and Rundgren has never seen release under its original name, although the tracks were included on the Japan-only Todd Rundgren: Demos and Lost Albums compilation. Esoteric Recordings, a division of the Cherry Red Group, is changing all that with the March 26 release of Disco Jets, continuing its series of latter-day Rundgren and Utopia reissues. But that’s not all coming from the enterprising label. Traffic legend Jim Capaldi is celebrated with a pair of his earliest albums, 1972’s Oh How We Danced and 1974’s Whale Meat Again, both due on the same March 26 date.
Roger Powell recalled in 2010 to author Paul Myers that Utopia spent one weekend “cranking out” Disco Jets, basically for the hell of it: “It was a disco spoof, but it was a hoot to record and I remember laughing so hard I cried.” John Siegler (who departed Utopia shortly after recording the lost album, citing fatigue) opined, “It was not one of our stellar moments.” Myers, however, believes that the all-instrumental album is hardly worthy of dismissal and is “musically as interesting as anything Utopia ever did.” It’s not hard to believe; it wouldn’t be the first time (nor the last) that Rundgren would spin musical gold from something intended to be tongue-in-cheek.
Hit the jump for more on Disco Jets, plus two albums from Jim Capaldi!
Highlights of the album’s ten futuristic tracks include a disco version of Alexander Courage’s famous “Star Trek” theme and a sci-fi answer song to the then-ubiquitous “Convoy” by C.W. McCall. The song’s title? Why, “Cosmic Convoy,” of course. One of the more impressive moments on Disco Jets is the funky workout “Space War,” based on a previous jam session called “Bassball.” The band even tipped its hat to the bicentennial festivities then sweeping the nation with “Spirit of ’76” and poked fun at an novelty fad with “Pet Rock.” According to the label, Esoteric’s first-time release of Disco Jets has been completely remastered from the original master tapes. Fans of Rundgren’s Bearsville period have plenty about which to look forward; watch this space for more news on the next round of Edsel’s fantastically comprehensive Rundgren reissue program!
Recorded while Traffic was on sabbatical, Jim Capaldi’s Oh How We Danced marked the influential musician’s solo debut. Recorded in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, the album featured the famed Muscle Shoals rhythm section of Roger Hawkins (drums), David Hood (bass) and Barry Beckett (keyboards) joining the British guitarist. Capaldi brought along some of his famous friends, including Steve Winwood, Chris Wood and Dave Mason of Traffic, and Paul Kossoff of Free. Esoteric’s remastered edition includes new liner notes and the album’s original artwork, as well as one bonus track, “Going Down Slow All the Way,” the B-side of the album’s single “Eve.”
Capaldi followed Oh How We Danced with Whale Meat Again (1974). The album was released just prior to the final Traffic album of the decade; the band would reunite in coming years. Capaldi was free to follow his muse, and returned to the scene of the crime of Oh How We Danced. The Muscle Shoals rhythm section was again in place, as was Steve Winwood, and the result was another soulful, funky excursion miles away from the sound of Traffic. The album has been expanded by one bonus track, the single “Tricky Dicky Rides Again,” the A-side of “Oh How We Danced,” and has been remastered from the original tapes. New liner notes have been penned and artwork elements of the original LP have been reproduced.
All three titles arrive in the U.K. from Esoteric Recordings on March 26, and approximately one week later in the U.S.; pre-order links are just below!
Jim Capaldi, Oh How We Danced (Island LP 9187, reissued Esoteric ECLEC 2317, 2012)
- Big Thirst
- Love is All You Can Try
- Last Day of Dawn
- Don’t Be a Hero
- Open Your Heart
- How Much Can a Man Really Take
- Oh How We Danced
- Going Down Slow All the Way (from Island single WIP-6127-B, 1972)
Jim Capaldi, Whale Meat Again (Island LP 9254, 1974, reissued Esoteric ECLEC 2318, 2012)
- It’s Alright
- Whale Meat Again
- Yellow Sun
- I’ve Got So Much Lovin’
- Low Rider
- My Brother
- Summer is Fading (including We’ll Meet Again)
- Tricky Dicky Rides Again (from Island single WIP-6165-A, 1973)
Utopia, Disco Jets (Esoteric Recordings ECLEC 2319, 2012)
- Disco Jets
- Cosmic Convoy
- Time Warp
- Star Trek
- Pet Rock
- Space War
- Rising Sign
- Black Hole
- Spirit of ‘76
All tracks recorded 1976 and first issued on Todd Rundgren: Demos and Lost Albums (Nippon Crown, 2001)