Glitterball disco from husband and wife team.
Paul Lester 2009
Take one former pupil of the Royal Academy of Music who has recorded soul sessions with everyone from James Brown to Joss Stone and been the anonymous singer on nearly a dozen top 40 dance hits, and a backroom writer-producer, and you’ve got a disco double-act to rival Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards of Chic.
One Man Woman, sung by Shena and written with and produced by her husband James Winchester, is a bit like one of those Best Disco Album in the World... Ever! various artists compilations, each of these tracks recalling a classic act or moment from the golden age of disco.
The first half is superb. Surging, symphonic opener My Fantasy will carry you back to the Boogie Wonderland of Earth Wind & Fire, Shena playing the part of the Emotions as hubby’s horn blowers reach ecstatic heights. Can’t Stop The Rain is probably the best Chic pastiche since early-80s Italian-American disco troupe Change built a career based on Nile ’n’ Nard’s cool, spare productions. A Love Sensation is horn-drenched dance pop, recorded on a budget in Dorking but with a slick uptown New York sound. Nasty Little Rumour is another Chic-y number, with a bitter aftertaste that is very disco.
What would have closed side one of the vinyl is My Brave Face, all shivery strings and a melody that recalls those sublime Rose Royce ballads like Wishing on a Star or Love Don’t Live Here Anymore.
But it’s an album of two halves, because none of the remaining five tracks are in the same class. Don’t Get Me Wrong is Eurodisco, like a slightly superior Boney M. Sex Factor is a ghastly number about how sexy yet ballsy, “streetwise, independent and free” Shena is: it’s a Primark version of Destiny’s Child’s Independent Women, basically. And One Man Woman has terrible lyrics - you can almost hear Winchester yawning as his wife rhymes “tender” with “surrender”.
Album closer Shameless recalls one of those ditties from the fag-end of disco such as Fern Kinney’s 1980 one-off hit Together We Are Beautiful, a mid-tempo shuffle with synth-drums to make Anita (Ring My Bell) Ward wince. Still, half a great album from a genre notorious for being a singles-only milieu isn’t bad. The disco revival continues apace.