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Disco legend Sylvester comes to Dark Entries with Private Recordings: August 1970, an intimate collection of vintage jazz, blues, and gospel. While Sylvester is best known for his chart-topping collaborations with producer Patrick Cowley, such as “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real),” this release reveals his passion for the sounds of the 30s and 40s. In 1970 a 22-year-old Sylvester had moved to San Francisco and found himself involved with the Cockettes, the infamous psychedelic performance art troupe. Among this milieu was Peter Mintun, a pianist and record collector living in a commune devoted to retro culture. According to Mintun, “We were like hippies who lived in the twenties. We lived in a house that didn’t have anything modern in it. Nothing in it was made after World War II.” Mintun and Sylvester bonded over their love of Black singers of yore and were allotted a slot during Cockettes performances reviving the music of the Prohibition Era. One afternoon, Sylvester and Mintun recorded a number of their shared favorites using a high-end microphone a friend had acquired. Private Recordings features 9 songs from this session, including standards like “Stormy Weather,” “Happy Days Are Here Again,” and “God Bless the Child.” Sylvester’s unmistakable falsetto brings depth and a dash of camp to these familiar tunes. The recordings are casual and intimate, even capturing banter between Sylvester and Mintun; their brief rendition of “When My Dreamboat Comes Home” has the duo working out a melody in real time. In addition to their sonic explorations of decades past, Sylvester and Mintun also staged photographic shoots in vintage couture. Private Recordings comes with a 16-page booklet on firm cardstock featuring images from these never-before-seen shoots as well as liner notes from Mintun detailing his friendship with Sylvester and their experiences recording. All this is housed in a metallic silver sleeve designed by Eloise Leigh featuring a 1920’s Art Deco aesthetic.
The record will be released on September 6th which would have been Sylvester’s 76th birthday, and all proceeds from Private Recordings will go to the two charities that Sylvester left his royalties after his death: Project Open Hand and PRC (formerly AIDS Emergency Fund). This essential release documents the earliest known recordings from one of disco’s greatest talents.