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Monday, July 20, 2009

First Choice - Armed and Extremely Dangerous

Name: First Choice
Album: Armed and Extremely Dangerous
Year: 1973
Style: R&B Disco
Similar Bands: Martha & The Vandellas, Supremes, Donna Summer, Chic
"One-Word" Review: Poppy-Sentimental-Soul-Doo-Wop
Based Out Of: Philadelphia, PA
Label: Philly Groove Records, Bell, Columbia Pictures Industries Inc,
Armed & Extremely Dangerous - Cover & Record
Armed & Extremely Dangerous - Back & Record

Armed & Extremely Dangerous (1973)
  1. Smarty Pants 2:38
  2. Runnin' Out of Fools 3:32
  3. A Boy Named Junior 3:41
  4. Love and Happiness 6:57
  5. Wake Up to Me 3:45/
  6. Newsy Neighbors 5:57
  7. Armed & Extremely Dangerous 2:48
  8. This Little Woman 3:50
  9. This Is The House 2:57
  10. One Step Away 3:10
Album Rating (1-10): 7.5

Members & Other Bands:
Rochelle Fleming - Vox (Debonettes)
Joyce Jones - Vox (Debonettes)
Annete Guest - Vox (Debonettes)
Norman Harris - Producer, Guitar (MFSB)
Stan Watson - Producer
Ronnie Baker - Bass (MFSB)
Earl Young - Drummer (MFSB)
Wardell Piper
Mulaney Star
Don Renaldo - Violins
Albert Barone - Violins
Charles Apollonia - Violins
Angelo Petrella - Violins, Viola
Diane Barnett - Violins
Romeo Distefano - Violins, Cello
Rudy Maliazia - Violins
Joe Donofrio - Violins
Christine Reeves - Violins
Davis Barnett - Viola
Clinton Nieweg - Harp
James Grant - Bass
Rocco Bene - Trumpet
Rebert Hartzell - Trumpet
Fred Linge - Bass Trombone
Ricci Genovese - Bass Trombone
Edward Casceralle - Bass Trombone
Frederich Jainer - Tenor Trombone
Leno Zachery - Alto Sax
Joe De Angleis - French Horn
Danny Eillions - French Horn
Scott Temple - French Horn
Milton Phibbs - French Horn
Larry Washington - Congos, Bongos
James Hicks - Congos, Bongos
Roland Chambers - Guitars
Bobby Eli - Guitars
Prime Cut - First Choice's Back-up Group
Joe Tarsia - Cheif Engineer
Jay Mark - Chief Engineer
Don Murray - Cheif Engineer
Joel Brodsky - Photography
Beverly Weinstein - Art Direction

Unknown-ness: I’ve never heard of this band. But looking at the polyester clothes in the cover photo, and the pimp attire of the gentleman in the wicker chair, it screams soulful disco. However, the portrait on the back of the ladies looks very Motown; like a Supremes headshot or something. So perhaps the records will favor more to the Doo-Wop/R&B sound of Detroit. The album is a Philly Groove record, so that adds a local flair for me. I really wanted to give this album a try.

Album Review: “Smarty Pants” starts out very Broadway play theatrical, with a complete image of jazz hands as a chorus of the title is repeated over a conga drum and orchestral string bursts. The chorus is very catchy, disco in nature, but it has an underlying Motown groove too. The end of the song is just the chorus repeated to a fade, which is usually overkill, but on a short 2.30 song, it is just the way to go.“Runnin' Out of Fools” is a steady walking paced soulful disco groove. The bass and guitar drive the song, but as the chorus approaches, the strings take over. There are a couple of short catchy hooks all strung together with the delicate and emotional vocals continuously flow in the foreground. The end of the song, again, relies on the repetition of the chorus and adds a sax as the musical driving force, until the whole project fades out.
“A Boy Named Junior” is a slow ballad, based on its string section and slow and selective guitar strumming. It feels like it is a goodbye song, whether that is for the passing of a young boy, or a summer love. This is a slow dance on roller-skates.
“Love and Happiness” is a jazzy, bluesy take look on the slow ballad. This is a cover of an Al Green song. After 45 seconds, it becomes a sexually charged groove, still bluesy, but with a more confident and sensual appeal as an Al Green song should demand. After the first verse, the song reaches for its disco structural basis, with brass and strings overpowering the funky bass, tambourine and guitar. The two styles do share the platform, taking turns as the song progresses. The sexual vibe is lost to a frantic dance-battle. The two styles of disco and bluesy evolve into a generally funky get down, which is extended through the final 3 minutes of the song. As, yet again, the chorus is repeated throughout to the fade-out ending.
“Wake Up to Me” feels very similar in production to “A Boy Names Junior.” It has the slow Motown ballad vibe, as it slow dances through the slide stepping waltz. The disco elements. The strings and choppy melody are still there, but overall, it is an oldie slow jam. Following suit, the chorus repeats until it fades out.

“Newsy Neighbors” Picks up the pace at the start of side two with a conga drum beat and disco string arrangement. The chorus is very catchy, and follows the basic formula of “Smarty Pants” minus the theatrical aspect. The verse smartly stumbles into the chorus, which is a sudden and almost unexpected bonus. This is another song I could visualize being played in a smoky 70’s disco club. The chorus’s melody is quickened for a stanza near the end of the track before the instrumental conga and trumpet section carries the song, chorus in trail to the fade out.
“Armed & Extremely Dangerous” is a much more funky disco approach, beginning with a police warning to call all cars in pursuit of the band overlaid the quick paced conga drum and disco supplement. Stripped down of all the funky disco, this would still be a fun Motown song, and I could even hear this song slowed down to really let the vocals shine.
“This Little Woman” is a reflective slow ballad. And with the choir in the background it feels like a gospel number. There is a fake ending, where I actually thought it was not going to end with a fade out, but after the vocals held for their final note, the music picked back up, which did, in fact fade out.
“This Is The House” is a flute based pop number which is only disco if you intently think about it. The fast pace and upbeat tempo reminds me of a Smokey Robinson song. But the females vocals soar over the chorus, boldly and emotionally fulfilled, which seems ironic, since the lyrics are “This is the house where love was lost.”
“One Step Away” feels like a straight forward pop number. It is light on the disco elements and light on the Motown effects, but what it does is focus on the lead vocals and its wide range of tones and abilities.

Stand Out Track: This Is The House

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