Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Cristina - Cristina (Vinyl Edition, 1980)

If there's one thing I try to avoid on this blog it's continuity. I prefer my posts jump around from '60s soul to '80s new wave to hardcore punk to '50s vocal groups and so on.

But I'll make an exception for Cristina (aka Cristina Monet), about whom I posted yesterday. Not only do I think she's an artist worthy of much more interest than she's gotten, but commenter Iron Toad agrees with me that her legacy was not served well by the reissue CDs of her albums.

As with my last post, this vinyl rip seeks to correct that wrong. Unlike the CD version of this album, there is no compression, no altering of the original graphics, and no changing of the title. (When this LP was reissued it was inexplicably retitled Doll in the Box.) This is the way the album sounded and looked when it was released.

Anyway, enough complaining. Let's discuss the album. For her first full-length effort, Cristina joined up with August Darnell, who was just forming Kid Creole and the Coconuts. Darnell had scored a #1 dance hit a few years earlier with Dr. Buzzard's Original Savannah Band, so the folks at ZE Records might have though he'd bring a magic "hit record" touch to the proceedings here. He does bring a sort of magic, but he does so with his outlandish arrangements and lyrics which were not even close to being hit-bound in 1980.

Speaking of hits, Dr. Buzzard's big one was an eccentric number titled "Cherchez La Femme." With this album, Darnell wrote five songs in a somewhat similar vein and Cristina included a cover of a French song (part of her background), so the album is more related to the pasts of both of these artists than what they'd do in the future.

Here, Darnell and Cristina almost make like the Rutles of disco. Most of these songs satirize either disco as a musical genre (like the opening number, "Jungle Love," with its exaggerated cartoon sexuality) or disco culture itself ("Don't Be Greedy" and the closing track). Cristina sings as if she's playing old time comic movie roles, playfully using accents and/or exaggerated mannerisms whenever the occasion calls for such things. And sometimes when it doesn't.

Darnell adds in all sorts of percussion instruments and lots of over-the-top brass, which keeps these songs as lively as possible. He also an underrated lyricist. Some of his couplets are hilarious, such as "I won't share you with another mate/I'm not that liberal and you're not that great." All of these songs conjure such a distinct visual image that you start to think maybe this pair would have been better off making the album into an off-Broadway musical.

To my ears, all of this makes for entertaining listening and I consider this one of the great lost albums of all time. But when I posted some of the tracks on Facebook years ago, I got comments like "Are you insane?" and "What on earth is this?!" I also remember that back in the '90s when I played a cassette dub of this in the car, the reactions of my passengers were, to put it nicely, unenthusiastic. So it's safe to say this album isn't for everyone.

So what. Satirists like Frank Zappa and early 10cc (to whom I compared Cristina in my last post) also weren't everyone cup of tea. But the people who like 'em really liked 'em. And if you still don't like it, well, maybe you should just "Blame It On Disco."

Related: Cristina - Sleep It Off (1984)

Track list:
1. Jungle Love
2. Don't Be Greedy
3. Mama Mia
4. La Poupée Qui Fait Non
5. (Temporarily) Yours
6. Blame It On Disco