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Click below for a Machine sample:

There But for the Grace of God Go I

 

 
Among the many indignities that disco suffered during its peak was the constant charge by rock fans that the music was all style and no substance.  These people had never heard of Machine.   The band's musical foundation of Melvin Lee (bass), Kevin Nance (keyboards), Lonnie Ferguson (drums) and Jay Stovall (guitar) combined with singer Clare Bathe to continue the tradition of socially relevant music that had dominated the early 70s.  In Nile Rodgers' account of his life, he reveals that Bathe was considered for inclusion in Chic but was turned down because of lack of dancing ability.  August Darnell of Dr. Buzzard's Original Savannah Band found out about them and became their producer, one of several acts he was involved in prior to morphing into his Kid Creole character.

The first record they cut was the anthemic "There But for the Grace of God Go I," a story about the life of a child who leaves home because of her well-meaning but overbearing immigrant parents.   It was immediately recognized as a classic song and formed the backbone of their self-titled debut.  For the next album, Moving On, they branched out to include a more diverse sonic menu while keeping the intelligence quotient high on "Power and Reason (Mr. Exx-on 52nd Street)," a critique of the oil industry.   

While a dance band with a social sensibility would likely be a huge hit today (see the fawning over the musically uninteresting Moby for proof), in Machine's case, it was too much too soon.  Apart from the #91 position "There But for the Grace of God Go I" attained, their records did not chart and they broke up after Moving On.  

Machine's Deepest Grooves

Machine (RCA, 1979)
The other notable cuts on here are "Mr. Destiny" and "Marisa."  The reggae vibe of "Give It A Go" is surprising for those expecting straight 4/4 rhythms for the entire record. 

Moving On (RCA, 1980)
Nothing as superlative as "There But For the Grace of God," but this is actually a stronger album.  "Power and Reason" has never seemed as timely as today. "Is It Love" is the club classic here, as well.  The group displays some surprisingly potent rock chops on "Thunder, Lightning and Rain."  

There But for the Grace of God Go I (Unidisc, 1990s)
Collects the highlights of both LPs on one disc.

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