Sunday, September 28, 2014

Village People - Live and Sleazy

Welcome to another edition of Seventies Sunday.

Today we are marking the thirty-fifth anniversary of Live and Sleazy, the fifth overall album from the Village People. This double-vinyl release went to number 57 on the US Billboard R&B chart, and spent twenty weeks total on the US Billboard Album chart where it peaked at number 32.

The album was split into two parts: two sides live (recorded in Los Angeles) and two sides of new studio tracks.

Side one opens the concert with “Fire Island”, from the band’s 1977 debut Village People. This party song celebrates the outer barrier islands near Long Island, NY, which was a place people retreated to for a getaway.

The dance party continues with the next track. “Hot Cop” first appeared on 1978’s Cruisin’ album.

Next is the medley of “San Francisco (You’ve Got Me)” and “In Hollywood (Everybody Is a Star)”, two more tracks from Village People. The songs pair well together as they highlight two well-known California locales. The group gets the audience involved in a call-response on the later tune.

Side two begins with their signature song “Macho Man” from the 1978 album of the same name. In the 70’s, this one became synonymous with working out and physical fitness.

The hit song “In the Navy” first appeared earlier in 1979 on the album Go West.

The chart-busting “Y.M.C.A.” also came from the album Cruisin’. The original single went to number 1 in almost a dozen countries; here in the US it was denied that top spot by Chic’s “Le Freak”. This nearly eight-minute long live version, which closed the concert, includes a funky reverberating synthesizer.

Side three starts the studio tracks with “Sleazy”, with lead vocals by David Hodo. As the second single, this dance track with a harder rocking edge went to number 87 in Canada and number 26 on the US Billboard Dance chart. It sounds exactly like an outtake of a disco song the Village People’s Casablanca Records label-mates KISS would have done.

“Rock and Roll Is Back Again” continues the harder edge. Clearly the Village People were looking to shift their image a bit as the 80’s were upon us. This one has a bit of a classic rock vibe to it, as if Sha-Na-Na embraced a disco beat. The hook is rather catchy even if the lyrics are a bit repetitive.

Side four commences with “Ready For the 80’s”. As the album’s first single, it went to number 52 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and number 26 on the US Billboard Dance chart. I remember quite well that the group performed this song on Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve on December 31st of 1979, with the song ushering in 1980 on the East Coast.

Next up are two versions of the same song, an interesting choice that you do not see that often on albums. First is a ballad version of “Save Me” with lead vocals by Alex Briley; it was released as the B-side to the first single. Briley has a good R&B voice, and this arrangement has a Luther Vandross/Teddy Pendergrass vibe going for it.

The side rounds out with a more up-tempo version of “Save Me”, the B-side to the second single. Ray Simpson provided the lead vocals on it; the beat is kicked up a notch as well. Personally, I think they could have done even more on it to help distinguish the two more.

Back in 1979, I owned a copy of Live and Sleazy on vinyl. I cannot recall if I bought it myself or if I had received it as a Christmas present that year. Either way, as a Village People fan, this one got a lot of spins on my turn-table for the next few years after. This record was definitely my first exposure to the tracks from the group’s 1977 debut.

For more of the Village People’s music, click here.

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