Review Summary: Join disco outfit Boney M. on their nocturnal journey to the planet Venus.
No doubt this modest group is often surpassed by other larger pop/disco acts at the time, but Boney M. is essentially just as fun and as invigorating as other similar disco performers. Their 1978 album [i]Nightflight to Venus[i] is cool, stylistic, experimental and at times even a bit conceptual. This is indeed what gives them a rounded, complete sound and thought-provoking design, setting them apart from other quintessential acts at the time such as Donna Summers
, the Bee Gees
Producer Frank Farian
is the architect of this record and indeed the group. His musical influence is noted, but the real sound of the group dwells within the fashionable production of the album. Farian manages to find a suitable equilibrium between spongy walls of sound and wobbling pieces of jelly-like arrangements; each track manages to share this quality in some manner. There is no track without warm bass, dynamic percussion, multi-genre articulations, some sort of clever instrumental lick, or experimental sound effect hook. Farian takes almost any opportunity to fill every space and gap with something attractive. Despite this occupied sound, the record is still completely made of disco candy, and very much something to bop to, rather than to immerse yourself in.
Beginning with the title track, one may be somewhat amused by the rendition of the setting, involving a launch pad and transistor infected voice counting down from 10 to a blastoff. Soon to follow is the stereoscopic drum rhythm that sways between your speakers. The effect rather leaves you hypnotised, before you’re strung seamlessly into the following sequel track, Rasputin, an account of the Russian spiritualist, Grigori Rasputin
. The introductory percussion that's signified in the first opening tracks also decorates the album as a whole. This inevitably drives the sound around the disco floor as if it were on a set of rails, and also hardens the candy like arrangements. While the album isn’t amongst classic disco creations of the time, it is of its own importance, and this is showcased in hit single tracks such as the beach party anthem "Rivers of Babylon," and the wacky wheeled, brassy "Brown Girl in the Ring." Other distinguishable tracks include "Voodoochild" and "Never Change Lovers in the Middle of the Night," both of which are powerfully modelled towards the disco movement itself. Then there is the very guitar driven "Painterman," a mix between pop-rock and dance fusion, followed immediately by the very slick and cool sounding "He Was a Steppenwolf," reliant on a curving bass line and catchy chorus.
At times the album is a hairs length too viscous, and does become churned in its own achievements a little bit excessively. It isn’t so much that it becomes degrading to the sound, but rather more tedious in its structure. So why is this so bad? Well it isn’t really but it will affect anyone who isn’t used to the motive of the genre itself. This release is certainly not a good introductory album for someone yearning to explore the genre, but it is nonetheless well presented in its own right.
As a whole the piece is thoroughly pleasing, both musically and lyrically (yes lyrically!), and not completely filled with middle-class tracks. They all can be enjoyed, or at least danced to in some way. Nightflight to Venus is one of Boney M’s healthier accomplishments (possibly one of the better disco records to emerge from the late 70’s), and therefore a must for any unyielding disco fan wishing to submerge themselves in the warmth of a multicoloured light display, complete with complementary ear-candy.