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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Roberta Kelly - Zodiac Lady

posted by on April 15 at 12:48 PM

Its hard to imagine now, when albums about all sorts of depraved shit get released regularly, even if they do have the “Parental Advisory” sticker on them, but there was a time when record labels refused to release albums they found objectionable at all.

One of the most interesting example of this from the disco era is this fine 1976 album by Roberta Kelly, Zodiac Lady.


In 1975 Roberta recorded an album with Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte called Troublemaker. The album was wall to wall disco smash after disco smash. It was a dancers album, the kind that had no huge hits, but was a sensation to those who loved to just get up and boogie. Her highest charting track from Troublemaker was the sensational cover of “Love Power” (A cover of obscure r&b vocal group The Sandpebbles 1968 hit, which went on to win a Grammy for Luther Vandross when he covered it in 1990). The album was essentially Moroder and Bellotte’s first certified disco hit.

They of course went on to release Donna Summer’s first big Disco album, Love To Love You Baby that same year, and went on to super stardom.

Roberta was, sort of, left in the dust, and when they brought material to her for a second album, even though it was rehashing the same throaty, gospel inflected vocal style, the b-list material was explicitly secular in nature.

Zodiac Lady is all based on songs about the zodiac and the stars. Tracks like “Zodiacs” and “I’m Sagittarius” reference the disco-era fad, but other songs like “Love-Sign” and “Moondreaming” seem attached by a thread to the album. Regardless, all the Munich Machine regulars play and sing on it, so the quality of the 4/4 beat is peerless.

Surprisingly as the album became a hit in European country after country (there are versions released in the U.K., Spain, Italy, France, and Germany), America balked. Casablanca Records, the label that had distribution rights to most of Moroder’s work, refused to put out the album as they thought the references to star-signs and zodiac would be frowned upon by a conservative stateside populace.

Remember, disco was just beginning, and at this point those who went to discos were looked down upon as nothing short of a newer cleaner version of the “hippie”.

Luckily for us, the Italian distributor of the album made enough releases that the album was imported to America to become a cult, if not a chart-topping hit. The album can be found, but is rare on the west coast as most imports landed in NY and were eaten up by the nascent loft party and club scene there.

Roberta would repent for her sins as the Zodiac Lady two years later and release the only full on hi-nrg gospel/disco album I know of produced by Giorgio Moroder called Gettin’ The Spirit. Disco fans were not pleased, and while it did spawn a couple of dancefloor fillers, Roberta Kelly faded into musical obscurity.

Of note: Roberta Kelly was one of Donna Summers best friends while Donna was in Munich and Europe recording her first few albums with Giorgio Moroder, and it is rumoured that Roberta Kelly is responsible for Donna Summer’s “coming to Jesus” moment in the late “70’s that caused such a kerfuffle for her in the future. In fact, Kelly worked in the front office of Summer’s music publishing firm throughout the early 80’s and sang back-up on a number of her albums from that decade.

To here the full glory of “Zodiacs” and more from the album check out this link.

And here is the wonderous vido of her singing the track for an “enthusiastic” German audience. Enjoy!


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Posted by Sagittarius Horoscope | April 18, 2008 4:03 AM

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