Monday, October 8, 2012

Another tax scam obscurity - Nashville Depoe

Certainly a hard one to track down, The Nashville Depoe's "Disco Train" stands as one of the rarer and more costly releases on the Guinness tax scam label.  That rarity goes a long way to explaining the absence of any bibliographical information on the outfit, let alone the fact you can't find a detailed review of the album. 
In typical tax scam style, there's precious little to be gleaned from the album liner notes - no production, or performance credits.  In fact, the only real information comes in the way of songwriting credits - the ten songs split between Michael Coleman and Harold Gilbert ...  anyone got a clue?  So don't let the group name (I initially feared this was going to be a country group), or album title put you off since only a couple of these tracks had a disco-tinged. In fact, exemplified by material like Falling for You'' and 'Things, Things, Things' old school soul was the predominant sounds.  Musically the LP wasn't particularly consistent and at times it almost sounding it had been cobbled together from demos (not necessarily from the same group).  Perhaps it was just a coincidence but the five instrumentals were all credited to Gilbert while the five vocals were all Coleman compositions and to my ears they sure sounded like two different acts.  Regardless judging by tracks like 'I'm A Lover' and 'Things, Things, Things' there was clearly some talent behind these grooves, but the collection lacked a unique sound, or a 'breakthrough' composition.  Ironically the album's biggest problem wasn't artistic, rather was technical.  About half of the tracks suffered from lousy sound quality, including muddy production, poor microphone placement, and even occasional sound drop off. 
- Yeah, it was pretty hard to listen to this one and not think about The O'Jays far superior 'Love Train'.  Luckily, in spite of the lame title and a mindless mid-song vamp, 'Disco Train' was actually a pretty decent slice of up-tempo soul.  Nice horn charts ...  rating: *** stars
- 'Shovelong Coal' was a catchy, horn-powered soul instrumental.  As mentioned above, the track would have been even better with some decent sound engineering.  As it was, the sound was flat and hollow, almost sounding like someone had taped it off of the radio with one of those cheapy cassette recorders.   rating: *** stars 
- Opening up with some tasty jazz-tinged guitar, 'Falling for You' was a bluesy ballad that sounded a bit like B.B. King's 'The Thrill Is Gone'.  Mind you, the lead singer wasn't nearly as good as King and the mid-song vamp was almost comical, but the overall impact was still quite impressive.    rating: **** stars
- A nice soul instrumental, 'Steaming' actually sounded like an unfinished demo.  Kicked along by a cool Steve Cropper-styled guitar riff, the track certainly had a catchy melody and with a bit of post-production work could well have had commercial potential.   rating: *** stars
- Another track with sub-standard sound (in addition to sound drop out, at times it sounded like the lead singer had actually swallowed one of the microphones), 'Check Me Out' was an old-school vocal ballad.  This one actually almost had a late-'50s vibe to it.  The technical flaws notwithstanding, this one was actually quite pleasing and had one of the album's best guitar solos.   rating: *** stars
- One of the album highlights, kicked along by a great bass line and some punchy horns, 'Things, Things, Things' was a funky, but elegant commentary on modern day life that would have made Curtis Mayfield proud.  Kudos to Coleman for penning the lyrics that remain as insightful today as when penned.  I can't help but smile every time I hear *States going broke ..."  Shame it wasn't longer.   rating: **** stars
- Another Gilbert instrumental, the horn powered 'All Aboard' may have been recorded ten years before the genre appeared, but showcased what was for all intents and purposes an adult contemporary jazz feel.  Regardless, it had a surprisingly slinky groove.   rating: *** stars
- Other than suffering from some extremely dated '70s zodiac-themed lyrics, 'I'm A Lover' was a first-rate, slinky, funk workout.  Again, the track seemed to have been abruptly edited down.   rating: **** stars
- Not sure where the title came from 'cause 'Disco Caboose' was about as far from the genre as you could get.  Instead, this offered up another slice of horn powered adult contemporary soul.      rating: ** stars
- Another mis-titled track, 'Trestle - Bump' really wasn't that danceable.  This time out horns shared the spotlight with keyboards giving the track the same adult contemporary feel as those earlier selections.      rating: ** stars
Having heard so many crappy tax loss albums, this one's a pleasant surprise.  In spite of the technical flaws, well worth looking for.
"Disco Train" track listing:
(side 1)
1.) Disco Train   (Michael Coleman) - 
2.) Shovelong Coal (instrumental)   (Harold Gilbert) - 
3.) Falling for You   (Michael Coleman) - 
4.) Steaming (instrumental)   (Harold Gilbert) - 
5.) Check Me Out   (Michael Coleman) - 
(side 2)
1.) Things, Things, Things   (Michael Coleman) -
2.) All-Aboard (instrumental)    (Harold Gilbert) -
3.) I'm A Lover   (Michael Coleman) -
4.) Disco Caboose   (Harold Gilbert) -
5.) Trestle - Bump   (Harold Gilbert) - 

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