The day was a fierce bright grey which seemed to envelop everything in its sight, blinding the common man of the beauty that lay in the land. The type of Brooklyn winter day that could change the attitudes of every native New Yorker from a happy “Hey fuck you” to a GhostBuster Two, ancient sorcerer baby thief. I stepped out of my six hundred square foot steam heated box for my weekly hunt at the 5th Ave Record Shop in hopes of finding what we record fiends refer to as a “Jewel.” This record shop is hit or miss. I usually spent my day rummaging through the entire shop until I found something I could go home with. I had been strictly looking for 45’s at the time since the LP’s were not in the greatest condition (and overpriced), but for those past couple months the store had been completely dry.
The shop is operated and owned by an older fellow by the name of Tony who seems to have perfected time travel for he is a seem-less product of 1962. He is a small, brute, Italian man with white hair, thin wire glasses, and a seemingly infinite amount of short-sleeved button-up shirts tucked into pastel colored slacks. His musical taste is a narrow range spanning from 60’s rock to doo wop, which is good to know if you’re looking for something he doesn’t hold dear to his heart like The Sylvers 45’s on Pride, you will more than likely get it for a low price. Upon inspection the shop is so cramped it appears to be falling in on itself and gives off an odd smell of wet cardboard and stale farts. On any given day you can go in and find a couple of semi- homeless looking characters from the neighborhood loitering about the shop, chatting up inside jokes.
This day I came in on a disco kick. I entered and said hello to Tony. In his thick bristly Brooklyn accent he acknowledged my presence with a stuttering, “Ah hey hey hello!” completing the phrase in song form moving up in frequency and note on the end hello. As I went through the first bin of LP's, the album Made In U.S.A. caught my eye. The cover is on that classic coke induced disco look. It has the seven members posing on a drawing of the United States, wearing red polyester suits with the lead Madam Jann Harrison holding the floor. I noticed that this LP was on the De-Lite label (Kool & The Gang's label). I placed the record on the dilapidated Numark portable turntable, which balanced on a stack of records in such an precarious way that one could only take it as artistic. I dropped the needle in the first groove, giving myself to the hypnotic sounds of science. Within a few seconds I knew I had found a keeper. Without listening to the rest of the album I paid Tony and went on my way through a sea of screaming teenagers doused in bright colored clothing, chanting and waiving their hands toward a blanket of grey sky, as if the soft amorphous being had them under some sort of spell. As I passed Fifteenth Street, a homeless man sprawled on the ground keeping warm under an afghan rug yelled out in a drunken slur, “spare some change young blood!” “awright, awright, a vinyl man!, awww-right. Made in U.S. Of A, ohhh! Hey you wanna see some-in crazy?” He stumbled onto his feet swaying back and forth resembling some sort of distorted youth christian rock concert goer entranced by the sweet pop melodies of God. He pulled four teeth out of his frayed front jacket pocket, “These are the teeth of Daryl Gibbs. I won them in a poker game, I won these motherfuckers! Awright.” He then popped the four canines into his mouth like baby aspirin and swallowed. This was my cue to leave.
Made In USA (Made In Unity, Strength, Ambition) formed in 1975 and had a very short run in the music industry. Freida Nerangis and Britt Britton, produced the album and picked the band line up with the help of Brooklyn native and alto sax player, Darryl Gibbs. The other members, also from Brooklyn, were Jann Harrison (vocalist), Willie Slaughter (bass), Herbert Aikens (tenor sax), Kevin Hood (keyboards), Charles Morais (guitar), Ruben Faison (alto sax), and Greg Henderson (trumpet). Harrison, a statuesque beauty had sung with The Exciters. The horn section consisted of the players from Crown Heights Affair. As stated on discogs.com, “Their first and only LP Melodies hit the public in 1977. It was a true indicator of the groups' skills, and contained no overdubs, or extra musicians because it was important to the band to be able to duplicate their recordings live.” Nerangis and Britton composed most of the songs including the title track Melodies. The single sold well in New York and Florida but had a stagnant period when De-Lite experienced distribution problems. Then their follow up Shake Your Body failed to move up the charts. It became harder for the band to get gigs in NYC and soon the members disbanded.
This album is disco at its best. The compositions are seamless with electrifying horn riffs and bounce-tastic bass. A lot of the tunes have beautiful synth lines accompanied by a drummer that is consistently in the pocket. Side A is much better than Side B. However, on side B the song, Shake your Body is a banger. The song starts with the kick and hi-hat preparing you for the groove. Jann Harrison comes in with the help of the band singing “move your body, move your body, move it from side to side.” This song is synth driven with sexual moans and creamy horn lines. It is mind blowing to me that a band with this much talent had so much trouble getting their name out. If you happen to cross paths with this record you should pick it up, you won’t be disappointed, and if you’re in Brooklyn and happen to run into the proud owner of Daryl Gibbs teeth remember, poker is a card game involving strategy, homelessness is a title full of adventure and smelliness, teeth are for aardvarks and vinyl is forever in the hearts of audio wizards whom understand the world’s history through the use of sound waves.