Jean-Marc Cerrone, better known by only his surname, may not roll off the tongues of fans of disco and early electronic dance music. However, his impact is vast as modern dance music may not have been possible without his music.
The trance-like Supernature, a Billboard Dance/Disco number one and UK Top Ten hit, is an understandable opener. It continues to captivate with its hypnotic, sinister synths and hidden environmental message. It is further proof that 1977 is a watershed year in popular music, as this track came out at the same time as the equally memorable Giorgio Moroder-produced I Feel Love by Donna Summer.
Cerrone’s output was released amongst the hedonistic 1970s, as evident by the sensual backing tracks and simulated moans on tracks like Love In C Minor, Cerrone’s Paradise and Midnite Lady destined to cause uncomfortable listening. Classier moments exist on the sumptuous, island-like Music of Life and the cooking Cristal La nuit pour nous.
The camp factor is on high, with dramatic vocal delivery and sweeping strings galore on tracks like You are the One. Look for Love may have inspired Better the Devil You Know with its breathiness, corny disco drums and fantastical feel. Striptease (with Brigade Mondaine) has a sci-fi, intergalactic vibe with its outer-worldly synth bass. Got to Have Lovin’, a collaboration with fellow disco producer Don Ray and their band Kongas, mixes primitive 1970s synths and real brass, charging ahead with the urgency of tracks of that era like Boogie Wonderland.
There are questionable covers like one pointless thumping of The House of the Rising Sun and Africanism, which strips all of Steve Winwood’s soul from a lifeless rendering of Gimme Some Lovin. However, an updated version of Supernature featuring the Shoes and Gossip’s Beth Ditto is a sonic and vocal delight.
Cerrone’s influence on later dance artists is obvious on the grittier Rocket in the Pocket, where a funkier section may have inspired Chic extraordinaire Nile Rodgers’ production on Duran Duran’s Notorious single. Panic evokes a bit of new wave, and listeners can almost hear touches of that same band’s Girls on Film here and there.
Calmer, instrumental moments exist on the oriental-sounding, meditative Secte de Marrakech (suite), he unfortunately unmemorable Générique Fin, Soumission and the effortless In the Smoke.
Cerrone’s music may have seemed really uncool after the ‘disco sucks’ backlash of the late 1970s. The Best of Cerrone Productions runs a tad long (and even misses a few tracks), but is proof that electronic dance music artists since then have been inspired by Cerrone in some way or another.