Songs #46 – 78: Narrative Disco

I have a friend who maintains that, when it comes to music, there is no such thing as a guilty pleasure.

Music is written to be enjoyed, he says. If you enjoy it, then the music has done its job and it should be celebrated for having done so. You shouldn’t sneak ‘shameful’ CDs into other, more worthy-looking boxes; you shouldn’t scratch the labels off the cassettes you copied when you had a tape recorder and you shouldn’t hide any MP3s away in secret folders.

If you don’t like something, he says, give it away or bin it. If you do like something though, then you should do so without qualification or caveat. You should display it proudly.

And so I present to you Alec R. Costandinos.

Alec R. Costandinos was a writer and performer at the forefront of the French disco scene in the 70s who released a staggering 13 albums between 1977 and 1979. An impressive enough feat in itself, but in amongst those 13 are three of the most wildly ambitious albums I’ve ever heard.

Costandinos decided to take three of the grandest stories ever told and rewrite them as sprawling, hour-long disco epics. Those three stories? The New Testament, Romeo and Juliet and The Hunchback Of Notre Dame.

Now, please do not mistake me. In no way do I think that this is how the stories are supposed to be told. Not for one minute do I believe that Alec R. Costandinos has captured the essence of these tales and finally managed to articulate them in the way that Shakespeare, Victor Hugo, or Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were really grasping for – but, still, I can’t help it. I love them.

Not in a kitsch, ironic, guilty pleasure sort of way. In a genuine, hand-on-heart, so-what-if-I’m-damned sort of way.

Alec R. Costandinos – An excerpt from Acts I & II
from Romeo and Juliet

Alec R. Costandinos – You Are Accused Before Us…
from The Hunchback Of Notre Dame

Alec R. Costandinos – Pontius Pilate
from The Synchophonic Orchestra


NB for pedants or disco completists: I am aware that Pontius Pilate doesn’t actually come from Costandinos’s reworking of the New Testament; it was a separate yet related track from his classical disco album, The Synchophonic Orchestra. Those looking for the New Testament disco album should search for “Alec R Costandinos Sphinx”.

Also listened to:
Alasdair Roberts and Robin Robertson – Another track from the Scottish literary indie project Ballads Of The Book. It actually sounds like an album made up of rather decent songs, though maybe not one I could listen to in one sitting. [site]

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