In the first of a series of Late Late Reviews to mark Pride celebrations happening around the world, this week Tom disco delves into the world of Sylvester and his 41 year old album, Step II.
As a bit of background before we bust into this review, June is widely considered to be Pride Month, in remembrance of the Stonewall Riots of June 1966 – where put upon LGBT+ staff and patrons at the Stonewall Bar rose up against the police who were widely known for harassing the community. Rumour has it that the funeral of Judy Garland the day before caused the tension and subsequent backlash against the authorities. What cannot be denied is that this raised the profile of the LGBT+ community and pushed the civil rights movement in this area across the globe.
With that in mind, June will be dedicated to LGBT+ performers, directors, actors and themes. This week: Sylvester!
Release Date: September 1978
Achievements: Certified gold in the USA and topped the American dance Chart. Earned a number of awards too!
Rating: Fairly positive reviews all around for this album, including the accolade of being “as good as disco gets” according to Rolling Stone magazine.
Sylvester was an androgynous, flamboyant icon of the LGBT+ community and made a massive impact on the world of disco. He was initially unsure whether the genre was for him, but ultimately joined the greats like Donna Summer, Gloria Gaynor and Grace Jones in the Disco Hall of fame.
He was a staple of the San Francisco Castro gay scene, and was good friends with Harvey Milk (the first gay man to be elected into public office and subject of the film Milk) and even got to perform at his birthday party. He also had two backing singers, Martha Wash and Izora Rhodes (later known as The Weather Girls) who remained close friends until his death.
The record opens with the absolute belter You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real). You can’t miss this one. It’s upbeat, it’s fast and it’s joyful. This was Sylvester’s first Top 10 hit here in the UK and it’s not a surprise that it achieved success.
What is a surprise, however, is that the song was initially recorded as a mid-tempo gospel song. The producer Patrick Cowley saw a rehearsal of the song at a disco in San Francisco and offered to remix the song which is how it ended up in its ultimate form.
The album is truly an icon of disco. It’s hard to listen to Step II without finding a smile on your face. It has a clear sound and is full of great songs. It’s not the longest album, but I’d imagine if it was much longer it might be a bit too much. That said, it has great songs like Dance (Disco Heat) and Grateful on it too which makes it such a strong album.
It’s definitely a product of its time. I doubt it would be as popular overall if it was released now, but it can still be appreciated for what it is. I highly recommend it.
Is there an iconic film or album you think I should have experienced by now? Let me know @MoveToTRASHUK #latelatereview