Red Lips is the latest addition to the discography of producer, drummer, composer, and legendary disco pioneer, Cerrone (along with collaborator Skalp). There are guest artists galore on this record, including our favourite disco icon Sir Nile Rodgers, each of whom bring their own personality and style to the song they feature on. Something that makes this album so interesting is hearing where Cerrone, an old school artist, fits into today's music industry.
The opening track, ‘Therapy’ featuring James Hart, initially begins like an old Windows PC start-up sound (which seemed odd on the first listen), however this goes into a guitar that is so damn funky you are immediately hooked to the sound of the album. This funky guitar style is prominent in ‘Illuminate Me’ featuring Sam Gray, because the man behind it is our boy Nile, it’s an unmistakeable style which plays alongside classic disco bongos; this track, along with much of the album, feels like a viable way for disco to enter the commercial charts.
You would be forgiven for assuming that Mr. Rodgers features on the whole album, sadly it’s only on the one track, but most of the songs actually have the talented Kamil Rustam. On bass guitar, Robert “J.J.” Smith is the respective Bernard Edwards to Rustam’s Nile Rodgers, they both sound wicked throughout this album and keep it real funkaaay. The rest of the musicians on this album all sound wicked, alongside some notable singers who feature on the record, such as soul man Aloe Blacc on ‘C’est Bon’. There’s also an appearance from ‘Hideaway’ singer Kiesza, she features on standout track ‘Ain’t No Party (Like Monday Night)’, who has a great vocal style for this type of music; it helps that Kiesza is accompanied by some tasty basslines and cool synths.
The best guest artists for me are Brendan Reilly and Alexis Taylor, the former brings a smooth blend of Lemar and Justin Timberlake vibes to his performance, referencing idols James Brown and Michael Jackson on disco funk number ‘Move Me’. Reilly also has a great track under his belt with ‘Take Over’, it feels like a faster disco version of some Luther Vandross or George Benson songs. The influences here are clear, but when Alexis Taylor (of Hot Chip) appears on ‘Steal Your Love’ his voice is instantly recognisable, and it just makes so much sense for him to be on a Cerrone record. There's also a nice nod to Cerrone's classic track 'Supernature' in the song 'Time Machine', with Sam Gray coolly singing 'Spin me like a disco ball, let’s go Supernatural’. The only track that tries something quite different is '2nd Chance', the final song on the album, which opens similar to 'Shaft' and has such a big string and horn section, it has a really epic sound. '2nd Chance' features renowned Nigerian drummer Tony Allen, an icon from the Afrobeat and Afrofunk scene, and it sounds like it's straight from a film soundtrack.
The whole album brings disco into the contemporary world, blending tropes of nu-disco with classic disco to create both a modern and old school sound. The sound for Red Lips is just spot on, and it draws inspiration from so many 70s and 80s artists, you can just hear Kool and the Gang or Shalamar seeping their way onto this album. Cerrone produces consistently good numbers on this release, the music looks forward and back, with his familiar synth style playing a part still. The electronic sounds throughout Red Lips have this weird effect where they remind you of the old school but also add a futuristic element, which immediately gives the album a kind of timelessness (and hopefully some lasting endurance). The whole album features banger after banger and simultaneously sets a new trend that contemporary disco music would be wise to follow. Thankfully Cerrone remembers the roots of the genre and the grooviness that came with it, Red Lips keeps disco relevant to dance music and proves that Cerrone has certainly still got it.