on July 25, 2001
Sylvester, as has been said many times, transcended categories of music and contributed so much to music. He seemed many times to be a reluctant enlistee in the disco ranks, and he pushed in his first 6 albums (except for "Stars") to include soul, rock, gospel, and show-type tunes. He could master all of these genres, although he was most loved for his dance music. Following the absolutely stunning third album "Stars" (where he uncharacteristically went all dance, to incredible results), he released this album of three live sides and a studio side. He showed that disco was not necessarily just a product of the studio, and could be gorgeously performed in a live setting. No lip-synching, no backing tracks. As always, he gave wide berth to his impressive backup singers, and the songs were often more instrumental than vocal. His charisma shines through on this recording, his larger than life persona apparent. The one gripe I have with this CD version is its omission of the studio track "In My Fantasy," one of the two best songs Sylvester ever recorded and one of the 10 best dance songs of the 70's.
on August 31, 1998
This is music history, an experience that can never be repeated. The only officially released concert album, from 1979, and it shows a musical genius at the peak of his form. Although Sylvester tends to be marginalized today as purely a disco singer, this album helps dispel the myths with a cross-section of gospel, soul, and the purest rhythm and blues to ever hit the stage. Absolutely a first-rate concert album, catching the warmth and incredible rapport between Sylvester and his audience.
The album is like a highlight reel. The extended concert versions of "You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)" and "Dance (Disco Heat)" are tremendous, showing wit and a highly developed theatrical sense, as Sylvester shares the spotlight with an incredible cast of musicians, including backing singers Martha Wash and Izora Rhodes (later the Two Tons o' Fun / Weathergirls), famed 1970s synthesizer master Patrick Cowley, guitarist James 'Tip' Wirrick, pianist Eric Robinson, and backing vocalist Jeanie Tracy.
These original songs are matched and topped by the cover versions and re-makes from the rest of the concert. Sylvester turns songs from artists as diverse as the Beatles ("Blackbird"), Billie Holiday, a relation of his ("Lover Man"), and Thelma Houston ("Sharing Something Perfect Between Ourselves") into his own, with his blazing, soulful falsetto vocals. Other highlights from the album include a gorgeous duet with Martha Wash, the medley "Could It Be Magic / A Song for You," and the soaring vocal brilliance of "You Are My Friend."
The musical value of the concert is matched by the historical value. Patrick Cowley would be dead from AIDS within three years, Sylvester would follow in 1988. In addition, the album captures Wash, Rhodes, and Tracy right before they would all go on to solo careers. This album also marks the crossroads between Sylvester's pure disco albums ('Sylvester,' 'Step II,' 'Stars') and his more soul/pop later albums (notably 'Sell My Soul' (1980) and 'Mutual Attraction' (1986)).
After listening to this album, it is easy to play 'what-might-have-been?' Sylvester was still recording stunning music, this time on the major Warner Brothers label, up until falling too sick to go on in 1987/88. It is easy to see what heights he could have attained from listening to 'Living Proof.' In the closing minutes of the concert, the entire audience is chanting and humming along to the strains of "You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)." Sylvester leads them along, dividing the audience in sections, having each section sing a chorus, bringing in the background singers for solos. The only regret is that the concert, the album, and the career did not go longer.
on September 6, 2002
I just recently discovered Sylvester's music, and I regret that I missed out on it when he was still around. "Living Proof" is the first Sylvester CD I sampled, and it absolutely floored me.
I love a good live album, but I'm picky. Speaking strictly as a music fanboy as opposed to a musician: there are a few live CDs that I think are absolutely phenomenal, a handful that are really good, and plenty of stinkers. This is definitely on my top five phenomenal list! If Sylvester's other performances were even half as good as this 1979 show, I envy the lucky folks who had the opportunity to catch his live shows.
What struck me even before listening to the CD was reading the playlist and finding a medley combining my favorite Leon Russell tune with Barry Manilow's "Could This Be Magic?" Impatience got the best of me and I spun this tune first. The whole CD is awesome, but this is the piece that gives me goosebumps. This cat had a beautiful voice, and his flawless high pitch gives this medley sheer emotional punch. Trust me, this tune alone is an audio treat that you owe yourself.
on April 5, 2005
This was recorded in just one day at the San Francisco Opera House,
March 11th 1979. My friend Gary and I went. The place was packed with Sylvester's fans and people! There was a heavy fog
of pot smoke filling the entire auditorium and you would get
a whiff of poppers every few minutes.
The crowd was ON FIRE!! everyone standing and moving/dancing
in their seat. The addition of TWO TONS OF FUN (later to become THE WEATHER GIRLS) was wonderful! They backed-up Sylvester many times before. They launched into "You Make Me Feel Mighty Real"
and "DISCO HEAT" and the energy intensified throughout the show.
The incredible voices of Martha Wash and Izora Rhodes are highlighted in the song "You Are MY Friend" with a solo of
Martha's sweet and soulful style followed by Izora's DOWN DEEP,
HEAVY DUTY, INDUSTRIAL STRENGTH, GUT WRENCHING, Soooouuuul!
(Martha has cut a new album and finally got credit for her vocals on "Gonna Make You Sweat" with C+C Music Factory and
"Takin' Over" with C+C Music Factory.) (Izorha Rhodes passed over several years ago in Germany where she lived with her
.....Anyway Great Show ! The CD version of what was original
on vinyl as a 2 record set still catches the energy and joy
of one of my favorite shows ever!!!!
on September 22, 2005
This album, along with Donna Summer's original Live and More, are the finest live albums of the Disco genre. Like Summer, Sylvester is a multi talented artist (I say is, although sadly we lost him far too young), and this albums shows him at his best.
His hits are here, and You Make Me Feel Mighty Real, and Dance (Disco Heat) are Dance Classics for a reason. Another Disco song is his cover of the Pointer Sister's hit from 1979, Happiness.
However most of the covers he chose to sing allowed him to show off his versatility. From the Beatle's Blackbrid, to Patti LaBelle's You Are My Friend, to a spine tingling medley of Could It Be Magic and A Song For You, Sylvester's shows off the fusion of R & B, Gospel, and Pop that few others could master.
The classic Lover Man (Oh where can you be) is also given the Sylvester touch.
Now that CD's can hold more tunes per disk, it would be great if the full album would be reissued on CD, as the vinyl copy includes more live tracks, including Cry Me A River, and another great Sylvester Dance Track, In My Fantasy (a studio recording).
Also worth noting is the ballad that he dedicated to his then lover (in the audience), Sharing Someting Perfect Between Ourselves. Long before artists started to finally come out of the closet in the late 80's and 90's (Melissa Etheridge, Frankie Holly, Boy George, George Michael) there were a group of brave artists who came out during the Disco Craze, Sylvester amoung them (other include DC LaRue, Paul Parker, The Skatt Brothers). THEY were the true trailblazers.
and finally, this release has the added treat of the Two Tons on backing vocals, long before they were The Weather Girls, they were holding down the vocals with Sylvester, and they had their own hits as well
(see my review of The Weather Girls, Super Hits).
on November 9, 2003
I recently attended the "final" concert of Cher's Farewell Tour, and one of her opening acts was Thelma Houston, a singer famous for her disco hit, "Don't Leave Me This Way". The diva performed that classic, but she also performed a medley of Sylvester's "Dance (Disco Heat)" and "You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)". What struck me was that not many people were familiar with the songs or with Sylvester.
When people think of disco, many think of Donna Summer, Bee Gees and Saturday Night Fever, but few think of Sylvester, his incredible music, and his groundbreaking image and persona.
Sylvester, like Donna Summer and Whitney Houston after him, was one of the first artists to fuse dance, R&B and gospel in his music (just listen to the excellent version of "Mighty Real" which transists from an uptempo groove into a gospel version).
He was also one of the first out gay singers who was unapologetic about his sexuality and even performed in drag.
Perhaps one day someone will make a film of his life or a documentary (there is one about the Crockettes - a group Sylvester performed with in drag in the early 70s floating out there), and maybe then some attention will be paid to Sylvester and his legacy.
Otherwise, I recommend this excellent live album, with Sylvester in top form and voice, performing hits like "Dance (Disco Heat)", and covers (Blackbird, Could It Be Magic/A Song For You), effortlessly.
on July 24, 2003
Just a few years ago, I really started to get into disco music and after watching a television special featuring the greatest dance songs, I found out about Sylvester.
This is my first purchase from Sylvester and I love this album. This man's voice is too good. He has the best falsetto and upper register for a male singer I have ever heard.
This album starts off with a great overture that builds up to a a great album.
You Make Me Feel
You Are My Friend- The Weather Girls aka Two Tons are given lead roles on this song and those two woman are incredible.
Lover Man - A classic song, he sings with such ease and ends on a jazzy note with some scatting.
Medley: A Song For You - I have heard many versions of Donny Hathaway's classic (sung by Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, Natalie Cole and Gerald Levart,) and his ranks as one of the best.
I am looking forward to more purchases from Sylvester.Buy This Album
on June 19, 2005
You'll wish you were at the party back in 1979! Features the dazzling rendition of "You Are My Friend" with The Two Tons --and the wonderful "Could It Be Magic/A Song For You" medley with keyboardist Eric Robinson. You gotta love the 11 minute live version of "Dance (Disco Heat)."
on January 9, 2006
When I put this album on, I go through a range of emotions:
Laughter & Joy (reminiscing about the good ol' days!)
Sadness & Melancholy (thinking of how we lost this
talented artist and larger-than-life personality,
as well as many of my great freinds from that era
to the scourge of AIDS!)
There aren't a lot of us around still who can
remember when Sylvester's star was shining bright
but thank goodness this special night was captured
on record for us to hear & stroll down memory lane,
and for a new generation to discover
one of the true grand divas of disco!
They're all on here: "Dance (Disco Heat)",
"You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)", "You Are My Freind",
which was his popular rendition of a Patti Labelle song.
(One of his idols and later a freind!)
He also covers another disco diva's songs..
Donna Summers' beautiful and haunting "Could This Be Magic",
which was penned by Barry Manilow.
He and "Two Tons O' Fun" (Martha & Izora) also do a snappy
churchified version of Lennon & McCartney's classic "Blackbird".
You can feel the energy and love between the artists and
the audience on that fabled night in March 1979!
Too bad his other disco classic "Do Ya' Wanna Funk?"
wasn't even recorded at the time this concert record was made.
That would've taken it over the edge!
R.I.P. Sylvester, Patrick Cowley & Ms. Izora "Queen Mother" Rhodes!!
P.S.>>Check out the biographical book on Sylvester's life
called "The Fabulous Sylvester"..it captures his life and times
as well as the social climate of San Francisco in the 70's
to a tee! I really enjoyed reading this book and you will too!
on January 31, 2001
Disco Diva is a misnommer for this artist, and this album is exactly what it claims, Living Proof! Its all here, soul, r&b, disco, gospel, and the charisma that was Sylvester! Only here does it sparkle for you, and give you a glimpse of what was his true genius. It was the twilight year of a genre, and he transcended it! Still as fresh now as it was over 20 years ago. What do i love most about Sylvester? ah well, he made us all feel mighty, mighty real!!