Noel: Dancing Is Dangerous – US- 7″ 
- Dancing is Dangerous [7″ edit] 3:42
- The Night They Invented Love [7″ edit] 3:45
With Sparks dominating my listening since seeing “The Sparks Brothers” documentary the weekend before last, i have now turned my Monastic focus to the Noel 7″ that I bought way back in 2013. The story behind this record is scanty, but in 1979 the Mael brothers created what amounted to a parallel side project to their “No. 1 Song In Heaven” album as produced by Giorgio Moroder. Having made that landmark record, the brothers next worked with a reputed model-slash-singer called Noel. Like the Sparks record, the brief was apparently five long electronic disco songs written and produced by Ron + Russell Mael.
“Is There More To Life Than Dancing” was released in many territories in 1979: UK, Canada, France, New Zealand, Australia, Greece, Germany…and Nigeria? It seemed like a late model “production disco” record of the kind that gave me a bad taste in my mouth by 1978 for the genre, but that of course, did not take into account the involvement of the Maels as well as the quirky, Malcolm Garrett cover art. Those being two factors that would always have currency with my ears and eyes. Now was the time to see how this project stacked up from the sliver of sound they carved into a single only in America on the early attempt by Virgin records to establish a beach head on these shores.
There is also a US 12″ single with the full length 9:45/9:16 album tracks, but what we have are the 7″ edits coming down to reputable pop song length. Squelchy synths and conga drums showed the disco sound the Maels were aiming for. This track sounded less like the Moroder motorik of “No. 1 In Heaven” and more along the lines of what ZE Records was doing at the same time, albeit more electronic in nature. In the intro the juddering sequencers finally tipped their Moroder influence as Noel sang the lyrics doubled to thicken the sound. A typical producer’s trick to get the most out of an untrained vocalist.
That’s not to say that Noel was a poor vocalist. The singing was on pitch and I liked the vocals just fine. This was not like a Madonna record. I will assume that all vocals were Noel, as the BVs were not credited, but were credibly Noelesque. The lyrics were not recognizably Sparkian for “Dancing Is Dangerous.” One got the sense of Sparks trying their level best to color inside the lines and to quash their natural instincts to aim for a commerciality that normally was incongruent with their typical work. This was straightforward electronic dance music with lyrics above the workmanlike level, yet not in the Sparks camp.
If anything, the song’s chorus seemed to to be telegraphing the future of the band Berlin. With Noel harmonizing two or three vocals together, it was not unlike hearing Terri Nunn singing to a similar backing track by Berlin, maybe a few years down the line, in all honesty. “Dancing Is Dangerous” had a vibe not unlike what Moroder would bring to Ms. Nunn on “Dancing In Berlin” several years later. The chorus was similarly anthemic and Noel really let loose with some belting [that was solo and not multiplexed] in the coda that only cemented her similarity to Terri Nunn in my mind. 1979 was perhaps a few years too early in the zeitgeist for this to have become a hit. I suspect that a re-issue in 1983 might have gone over well.
If the A-side was good, the B-side was amazing. “The Night They Invented Love” was, for a start, every inch a Sparks song. True the subject was love, that old chestnut; but they approached the topic from a very creative angle that clearly spoke of its Sparks origins. I can say that I could imagine Russell singing this track on a Sparks album without so much as a bead of perspiration on my forehead.
The compressed drums and hi-hats were clearly coming from “Angel Eyes” Roxy Music territory, and the congas were rightly higher in the mix than on the A-side. The pulsating sequencers here were even fatter than on the A-side and the only element I would question was the very MOR sax that sounded for all the world like something from a Quarterflash record three years in the future. But we’ll let that slide when the results are this good.
These edits were done well, but “The Night They Invented Love” was so good, I am now eager to hear the nearly three times longer LP version. This album remained a cult item sought out by Sparks fans because it really played like a follow up that could sit between the Moroder-produced “No. 1 In Heaven” and the Harold Faltermeyer-produced “Terminal Jive.” Moreover, consensus seems to point to the Noel album as having the edge over “Terminal Jive” songwise! So I have penciled this album in on the Infinite Want List®. Noel emerged for one more album in 1982 under the name of Noel + The Red Wedge. This single was so promising that I’m curious as to what Noel got up to without Sparks in charge. That’s on iTunes so I can at least sample it. There’s a US CD said to be really nasty LP rips so maybe I would be better off sourcing an LP and doing it myself if it passes muster. Watch this space [as usual].