Produced by Mike Theodore and Dennis Coffey, these are the unreleased masters from one of the defining acts of the disco era.
A couple of years ago Mike Theodore, one half of the legendary
production duo with Dennis Coffey, told us that he had some unreleased
tapes by C.J. & Co which he had recorded when they were signed to
Westbound. Would we be interested? We already had some unissued tracks
by the group but not enough for a new compilation, so of course we were.
The new tracks ranged from the earliest recordings the group made for
Westbound and the previously unheard original mix of their biggest hit
‘Devil’s Gun’ to some soulful disco masterpieces shelved at the time,
possibly because disco’s moment had passed.
C.J. & Co’s history goes back to the competitive Detroit scene of
the mid-1960s when they were known as the Strides. By the early 70s they
had become a mixed-sex group consisting of Curtis Durden and his wife
Connie, Cornelius Brown Jr and Joni Tolbert. They signed to Sussex,
where Theodore and Coffey produced them as C.C. & Co just before the
label stopped operating, whereupon Westbound bought their contract.
Initially they worked on soul-styled material, including the recent club
hit ‘Let Them Talk’, but it was the coming of disco and ‘Devil’s Gun’ –
written by the British team of Barry Green, Ronald Roker and Gerry
Shury – that changed their fortunes. The original master of ‘Devil’s
Gun’, presented here, shows a real Norman Whitfield/Undisputed
Truth-influence but a remix by Tom Moulton redirected it to the
dancefloor and made it a big worldwide hit. Significantly, it was the
first record played at Studio 54 when it opened in 1977.
In the midst of this success C.J. & Co released the albums “Devil’s
Gun” and “Deadeye Dick”, each aimed firmly at the dancefloor, yet they
were far more prolific and versatile than that. The bulk of the tracks
here have a disco feel but they are great songs that showcase the
group’s vocal prowess and the production skills of Theodore and Coffey.
The title track is a storming dancer with incredible vocal interplay,
while ‘Rainbow Music’ and ‘The Golden Touch’ are equally good dance
records and ‘Get Lucky’, with its electronic bass line, sounds like
something Giorgio Moroder might have thought up for Donna Summer.
This compilation shines a light on the hidden history of one of the best-known disco outfits. (Ace Records)