Loose Joints’ “Is It All Over My Face” is a classic of forward thinking disco from 1979. A collaboration between avant-garde musician Arthur Russell and DJ Steve D’Acquisto, and remixed to another level by Paradise Garage’s Larry Levan, it’s a staple of disco clubs and the gay/drag ballroom scene (see Paris Is Burning). Arthur Russell died in 1992, but there has been a huge resurgence of interest in his music in the last decade, and quite a cult has grown around him. Always open to re-interpreting his own music (with recurring melodies and themes in a lot of his work), a new generation have taken his baton and run with it.
Arthur’s Landing is a group of musicians based in New York City, some of whom played on Russell’s original recordings, who come together to play his compositions. They have just released an album on the UK’s Strut label, and tomorrow night sees the US launch party in New York (details further down). Here is one of their slow, hypnotic versions of “Is It All Over My Face”, now given the song’s original title of “Love Dancing”. This version does not appear on the album, and is perfect Sunday afternoon listening material:
Band member Steven Hall told Dangerous Minds about the beginnings of the group:
“It was originally just a bunch of friends getting together to play Arthur’s songs for pleasure. Steve D’Acquisto heard us play and wanted to record us live, so he produced several days of recordings in a huge studio (Excello) in Brooklyn many years ago. Nothing happened for years and in the meantime Arthur’s music became more and more popular.
After I put the band on MySpace, then Facebook, we got a tremendous response and started playing gigs—we found a ready-made audience who already liked us because they loved the material. So we didnt have to “pay our dues” in the traditional showbiz sense, although ironically we have been playing these songs for more than thirty years. Now suddenly we are getting a lot of attention. This makes us feel good because we enjoy sharing this amazing music!”
I still remember the first time I heard “Is It All Over My Face (Female Vocal)” and I still remember having to pick my jaw up off the floor. A song so fresh as to be inconceivable that it was made in the 70’s, it was the gateway record that made me take disco seriously as a musical art form, and want to investigate it more fully. Yes, I had already heard and loved the record of Chic and Donna Summer, but this was something else completely:
Loose Joints “Is It All Over My Face (Female Vocal)”
The most widely known version of this song is the above clip, the Larry Levan “Female Vocal” mix. However, the 12” features, on the flip, the “Male Vocal” mix (not by Levan) which is the perfect example of Russell’s approaching the same material and melodies from different perspectives. Gone is the concrete-heavy dub stylings of Levan’s mix, and instead comes a clattering, percussive version that sounds a bit like Afrobeat. On drugs. In outer space:
Loose Joints “Is It All Over My Face (Male Vocal)”
Keeping this tradition alive, Arthur’s Landing have made public a few different versions of their own “Love Dancing”. Here is a live version recorded live at Music Gallery, Toronto on September 18th of last year, featuring special guests James Duncan (trumpet) and Nick Storring (cello), and given the remix treatment by Buddhist Army (aka Steven Hall).
As mentioned above, tomorrow sees the US launch of Arthur’s Landing’s self-titled debut album, with a party at NUBLU, 62 Avenue C from 9pm, with special guests. More info on that here.