• Legacy and Alchemy

Master Music Engineer Danny Leake


Guitarist Danny Leake was a Chicago recording studio mainstay in the '60s and '70s. An in-demand session player while still in his teens, Leake can be heard on numerous records that date from those times. Leake eventually expanded his talents by becoming a much sought-after live sound and studio recording engineer. Leake's exhaustive discography includes Chicago soul favorites Tyrone Davis, the Chi-Lites, and other acts produced by Carl Davis on Brunswick Records as well as vocal group Heaven and Earth. Now primarily a world-class engineer, Leake co-produced some exciting and interesting '70s disco that still sounds fresh today. In the late '70s, Leake formed a writing/producing partnership with English dance producer Ian Levine. Recording out of Chicago, the two recruited and developed local talent and in the process created some of the most crafted, infectious, and long-lived disco music released from that genre's heyday. Levine and Leake's productions weren't of the "shake your moneymaker" variety, but instead included songs with strong melodies and emotionally layered lyrics, surrounded by the highly inventive arrangements of Fiachra Trench, full orchestras, top session musicians, and sophisticated sound engineering. Two acts that Levine/Leake produced remain perennial favorites of classic disco lovers and serious dance aficionados: James Wells and Barbara Pennington.


In April 1978, Pennington's Midnight Ride was released by United Artists Records. The LP wasn't like some of the disco albums of the era; Midnight Ride had substance and variety. The catchy mid-tempo "All-Time Loser" has a bubbling percussion breakdown with patted and slapped bongos before sliding into a soft-samba interlude and returning back to the main part of the song. The mid-tempo "It's So Hard Getting Over" has jazz overtones, impassioned lead vocals, and a spoken word section, where Pennington says: "In life everybody goes through trials and tribulations/But I've come to realization that this eternal force that lies within me/And each and everyone of you/That all things are possible." Not your typical, hedonistic pop music.




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