Norma Jean Wright – 1978 – Norma Jean

‘Norma jean’ is the kind of disco/Funk album that time has been kind to. In 1978 and up against so many other top quality releases this album failed to make a huge impression but now with soul, disco, funk collectors and revivalists keen to search for ‘under appreciated gems’ the album has finally attracted the attention it deserves.

If you are one of those that still can’t get over the fact you didn’t have the money to buy every single Chic production back in the late 70’s when Nile Rodgers & Bernard Edwards ruled the dancefloors, this one is for you!

Norma Jean was the first female Chic singer, apearing on the first two albums in 77 en 78. Her solo album is a full blown Rodgers/Edwards production, and easily compares to all Chic albums from those days like C’est Chic and Risque.

Including floorfillers Saturday and Sorcerer it’s one of the best kept secrets from the Chic era, when Nile and Nard not only brought us Chic itself, but also their famous productions for Sister Sledge, Sheila B Devotion and Diana Ross.

Tracks
A1 Saturday 6:05
A2 Having a Party 4:28
A3 I Believe in You 5:11
B1 Sorcerer 4:58
B2 So I Get Hurt Again 4:48
B3 This Is the Love 3:03
B4 I Like Love 5:42

Vocalist Norma Jean Wright,  was named the Top New Vocalist of 1977 by Billboard Magazine for the talent she brought to the popular band Chic. The Chic song “Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah)” reached into the top 10 of both the Pop and R&B Billboard charts in early 1978.

Norma left Chic in late-1977 in order to pursue a solo career. While her album “Norma Jean”, released in July 1978 by Bearsville Records, was not a big commercial success, it did produce two important singles, “Saturday” and “Sorcerer“. “Saturday” was named by Newsweek as the song that represented the disco lifestyle. 

This album has the classic Edwards / Rodgers stamp all over it; rock solid groovy b lines & funky as hell whacka whacka guitar riffage… layered on top of this foundation are some classy soaring string & brass orchestration & of course Norma’s sweet soulful voice.

One of the best tracks is the joyous, Chic sounding ‘I Like Love‘ with its incessant guitar work, bubbling bass and awesome drums and percussion its the Chic classic that never was. A pure goose-pimple inducing disco funk soul gloriousness…  Opening with a simple Rodgers guitar riff, layering on an Edwards bassline & suddenly giving way to a full on orchestration & vocals which builds & builds until it suddenly drops away at 3.03 where we are treated to a jaw-droppingly glorious 2 minutes worth of midsection breakdown with Rodgers riffing his heart out building with incremental layers of Edwards bassline, strings & Norma Jean vocals until kicking back in at 4.04 with a full on crescendo & outro…

Saturday” is a  typical Chic-style disco anthem, and they are very effective in conveying an exhuberant party atmosphere. “Sorcerer” is a fascinating dance song with special ‘mystical’ and ‘explosive’ sound-effects and great guitar and bass playing. “Having A Party” is a cover of Sam Cooke’s 1962 classic, and highlights Alex Foster on saxophone.

 “I Believe In You“, “So I Get Hurt Again“, and “This Is the Love” are the album’s three ballads, with”I Believe In You” a beautiful and perhaps the most enjoyable of the three.

The 1979 songs “Hold Me Lonely Boy” and “High Society” were intended to be part of a second full Norma Jean album, but this album never materialized. Both songs along with all extended 12″ versions are included in the the 2011 Edsel Records CD re-release. 

Three Norma Jean Wright singles were released in the 1980s. These were “Love Attack” (Mirage, 1983), “Shot in the Dark” (MCA Records, 1984), and “Every Bit of This Love” (MCA Records, 1985).

Norma was a background singer on many other important and groundbreaking albums of the 1970s and 1980s. She sang in Sister Sledge’s 1979 multi-platinum disco album We Are Family, which included famous songs like “He’s the Greatest Dancer”, “One More Time”, “Thinking of You”, and “We Are Family”. In 1980, Norma provided background vocals for the group Fantasy on the song “You’re Too Late”, which topped the disco charts in January and February of 1981. Then she sang on Luther Vandross’s 1981 debut solo album Never Too Much, which sold over 2 million copies and topped the R&B charts with the superb song “Never Too Much”. She joined Luther again on his next album, “Forever, For Always, For Love” (1982). She was also a vocalist on 1982’s synth-dance record “Jump to It” by Aretha Franklin, which Luther produced. Another 1982 pop/dance album on which Norma sang was “Sex and Material Possessions” by Fantasy, released by Pavillion Records. A year later, she sang on Madonna’s dance album “Madonna”, released in 1983. This album included the hit single “Holiday”. You can also find Norma singing background vocals on the 1986 album “Abstract Emotions” by Randy Crawford. Then she sang on the 1988 album “Will Downing”…..

  The Complete Guide to Norma Jean from  her page on Discosavvy.Com here

Read an amazing interview of Norman Jean Wright, here by pocat for CHICtribute.com.