DISCO DISCHARGE-CLASSIC DISCO, DISCO LADIES AND DISCO FEVER USA.

DISCO DISCHARGE-CLASSIC DISCO, DISCO LADIES AND DISCO FEVER USA.

Throughout the history of popular music, various artists and types of music have managed to provoke a variety of reactions. From the release of Billy Haley and The Comets’ Rock Around the Clock in 1955, to the shock and horror that greeted Elvis Presley’s gyrations on American national television, music can provoke reactions and divide opinion. In the UK, both The Beatles and The Rolling Stones provoked controversy during the early part of their career. Some of their antics, controversies  and misjudged comments shocked older generations and opinions were divided over their influence on youth culture. Fast forward to the seventies and two very different musical genres played an important role in the decade’s musical history. Punk raised its ugly head around 1976, and quickly, became the latest genre of music to provoke controversy and divide opinion. With its DIY attitude to music, and nihilistic outlook on life, this bleak music reflected an equally bleak time in the UK. Over the Atlantic, one of the most distasteful reactions to music was taking place, the Disco Sucks movement. 

After disco had moved from the underground to become a musical phenomenon, sweeping the world along in it its sweet, musical wake, a backlash began. From being one of the most popular types of music, thanks to films like Saturday Night Fever, suddenly the tide turned, and disco was no longer de rigueur. This cumulated in the DIsco Demolition Night in Chicago, when the Disco Sucks movement not only tried to destroy a musical genre, but nearly destroyed the Chicago White Sox’s stadium. This event had started as a supposed “prank,” but manifested itself into something quite distasteful, which reeked of homophobia and racism. Having encouraged locals to bring along disco records to the stadium which would be blown up. The local disc jockey responsible for the event, whipped up the “good ole boys” watching into a distasteful frenzy, before blowing up the pile of discarded records. Disco however, nearly had the last laugh when the “prank” nearly backfired, just about demolishing the stadium and the “good ole boys” watching. However, despite the best efforts of all those involved, and the abandonment of disco by radio stations and the music industry, disco never died. Instead, just over thirty years later from that fateful day, disco is just as popular as ever, with many labels rereleasing some of the brilliant music from that magical time back in the seventies, when disco ruled the airwaves. 

One of these labels is Harmless, who during 2009, 2010 and 2011, released the Disco Discharge series. On twelve albums, so far, they’ve revisited some of best disco music ever released. They’ve spilt the music into subsections, with one disc featuring Classic Disco, another Disco Ladies, while Euro Disco, Boogie and some of disco’s hidden gem’s are unearthed by the good people at Harmless. It seems no stone has been left unturned in the pursuit of the best disco music ever recorded. During this article, which will be the first of a series of articles on the Disco Discharge series, I’ll introduce you to some of the compilations, and tell you what awaits the listener on my first three choices from the Disco Discharge series.

DISCO DISCHARGE-CLASSIC DISCO.

Like all the Disco Discharge compilations, the Classic Disco compilation is a two-disc set and does indeed feature some classic disco tracks. Thankfully, the compilers have resisted the urge to feature the usual predictable tracks that grace supposed classic disco compilations. This compilation is something quite different, and sees the compilers dig deeper into the disco archives to find tracks that deserve the tag classic disco. Classic Disco was released in 2009, and features twenty-one full length tracks that are unmixed. Thankfully, the compilers have resisted the urge to release this as a mixed CD, allowing the listener to hear the tracks in their full glory.

Disc One features some great music, with two of my favorites including Cheryl Lynn’s classic Got To Be Real and Rose Royce’s Do Your Dance. This is from Rose Royce’s number one US R&B album Rose Royce II: In Full Bloom, which also reached number nine in the US Billboard 200. The album was produced by Norman Whitfield, and is what I’d refer to as classic Rose Royce.

Another of the highlights has to legendary drummer Idris Muhammed’s Could Heaven Be Ever Be Like This. Of all the tracks on the album, this is one of the curveballs the compilers have thrown. However, the track sits well with the other twenty tracks on the album, and has long been a track that I’ve loved.

Esther Phillips  is another legend of music who features on Classic Disco. The compilers have chosen to include the title track of her 1975 album What A Difference A Day Makes, which was one of Esther’s best albums for the Kudi/CTI label, one of her most commercially successful albums, reaching number thirteen in the Us R&B Charts. Her version of What A Difference A Day Makes totally transforms the track, giving it a unique twist with her unique vocal style. 

Disc two of Classic Disco sees The Players Association contribute Turn the Music Up, which to me, is one of disc two’s best track. This was the title track from their 1978 album Turn the Music Up, which reached number fifty-four in the UK charts. When the track was released as a single, it reached number eight in the UK and number fifty-nine in the US R&B Charts. How a track of this quality never fared better in America, seems strange. However, it’s given another chance to shine here on Classic Disco

The quality continues with Cerrone’s Look For Love and Glen Adams Affair Just A Groove. One track I particularly like is Don Ray’s epic track Got To Have Loving, which benefits from an excellent arrangement. 

Overall, Classic Disco is an album which is packed with some excellent disco tracks.  It’s very much a case of it does what it says on the tin. Classic Disco is the title, and that’s what you get. Of the twenty-one tracks on the two discs, the only one that surprised me when I originally bought the album was the inclusion of a Johnny Mathis track. However, when I listened to the track I got a welcome surprise, with the track much better than I’d originally thought. What I do like about this compilation is that the tracks are full length and original versions, not chopped down versions that you sometimes find on similar compilations. If you’re a fan of disco and haven’t discovered the Disco Discharge series, then this is a good place to start.

DISCO DISCHARGE-CLASSIC DISCO.

DISCO DISCHARGE-DISCO LADIES.

During the disco era, many a disco diva was discovered and many other female singers were unexpectedly and suddenly transformed into disco divas. Disco Ladies features some tracks that will be familiar to many people, and few that will take you be surprise. However, they will be a welcome surprise once you hear them. The album combines solo artists and groups, with twenty-one quality tracks from some of the stars of the disco era.

When you listen to disc one of Disco Ladies, you’re in for an aural treat that will soon have you trying to resist the urge to dance along to theses hook laden classics. The disc opens with Fern Kinney’s sweet sounding track Groove Me, while Sister Sledge contribute the irresistible You Fooled Around. It’s from the second album Niles Rogers and Bernard Edwards produced for Sister Sledge, Love Somebody Today, released in 1980. That is one of my favorite tracks from the this album, along with a true classic, Stacy Lattisaw’s hook heavy Jump To the Beat. Add to this diva Lucy Hawkins’ dramatic and sweeping Gotta Get Outta Here and you get an idea of the sheer quality of music on Disco Ladies. One other track that deserves a mention is A Taste of Honey’s sweet and catchy Boogie Oogie, which reached number one in the US R&B and US Billboard 100 charts in 1978. This is just the latest in a line of quality disco tracks on disc one.

Although the first disc is full of classic tracks, this isn’t one of these albums where the second disc disappoints. Often, two-discs sets are top heavy on quality on disc one, while disc two slides into mediocracy. Not here, no way. With Melba Moore’s Pick Me Up, I’ll Dance from her 1978 album Melba. This track was often played by the legendary DJ Larry Levan at the Paradise Garage. With such a pedigree, there’s no higher recommendation. 

While many people in the UK will always remember Phyllis Nelson for her 1984 number one single Move Closer, it’s another of her biggest hits that features on Disco Ladies, I Like You. The version included is the excellent Sheb Pettibone Remix. I Like You gave Phyllis’ number one her biggest hit in America, reaching number one in the US Dance Charts in 1985.

Of the other tracks on disc two of Disco Ladies Silver Convention’s Get Up and Boogie (That’s Right) is a true classic, while The Richie Family’s Give Me A Break is one of my personal favourites.

Like Classic Disco, Disco Ladies is a mixture of the familiar and a few surprises. One of the surprises was the inclusion of Janis Ian’s Fly Too High. However, like the Johnny Mathis track on Classic Disco, this works and is a welcome addition. Of the twenty-one tracks, the compilers have managed to keep up the standard throughout the two discs, without letting their standards drop. As someone who has bought many similar compilations over the year, I was really impressed when I first bought the album in 2009. It allowed me to hear some tracks that have long been favourites of mine, alongside some that I wasn’t quite as familiar with. For anyone who loves good quality disco music sung by some of the divas of the seventies, then this is a compilation that’s well worth buying. 

 DISCO DISCHARGE-DISCO LADIES.

DISCO DISCHARGE-DISCO FEVER USA.

Disco Fever USA was one of the Disco Discharge compilations in 2011, and is absolutely chock full of some delicious disco music. Of all the compilations in the series, this is one that features some of the biggest names of the seventies. This includes Earth, Wind and Fire, Gloria Gaynor and Teddy Pendergrass. Add to this, Fern Kinney, Cissy Houston, Marlena Shaw and Linda Clifford and you’ll see not only how comprehensive and eclectic a compilation this is. In total, there are twenty-two tracks on the two discs, with just one track in particular being a surprising choice, Johnny Mathis’ Original Disco Version of Begin the Beguine seeming a strange track to include. However, apart from that one track, there’s some great music on Disco Fever USA.

Fern Kinney’s Baby sensual Let Me Kiss You opens side one of Disco Fever USA. Although best known for other disco hits Together We Are Beautiful and Groove Me, which features on Disco Ladies, this is another of the former Poppies vocalists best tracks.

Claudja Barry contributes Why Must A Girl Like, with the Tom Moulton Mix used, with its swirling strings and backing vocalists playing an important part in this joyous track.

Cissy Houston, mother of Whitney and aunt of Dee Dee and Dionne Warwick provides one of the best tracks on disc one You’re the Fire. This is very different from Cissy original music with the Sweet Inspirations, when she combined gospel and soul. Although You’re the Fire didn’t replicate the commercial success of her other disco hit Think It Over, it managed to come in second in the 1979 World Popular Song Festival, winning Cissy the Most Outstanding Performance Award. 

Although there’s an Earth, Wind and Fire track on the album, Boogie Wonderland, this is an instrumental version of their hit single. The original reached number six in the US Billboard 200 and number two in the US R&B Charts, while it reached number four in the UK. Even without the vocal, the instrumental version of Boogie Wonderland deserves its place here. 

Like the first disc, the second disc features some great music, with one of my favorites Teddy Pendergrass’ Life Is A Song Worth Singing. This is the title track from Teddy’s second Philadelphia International album Life Is A Song Worth Singing. It reached number eleven in the US Billboard 200 and number one in the US R&B Charts, being certified platinum having sold over one million copies. Written by the Thom Bell and Linda Creed songwriting partnership, it’s Teddy at his very best.

You could hardly have a series of disco compilations without including one of Gloria Gaynor’s tracks. The one chosen by the compilers is Love Is Just A Heartbeat Away (Nocturna’s Theme). This original disco mix was from the soundtrack to Nocturna, and is an interesting choice of track. Many compilers would choose one of Gloria’s more familiar tracks, either from her Never Can Say Goodbye or an old and tired chestnut like I Will Survive. Thankfully, we’ve been spared another outing of I Will Survive, with this a much more interesting and in my opinion, a much better track. The compilers should be thank for their inventiveness and left-field choice of track.

Another diva to feature on Disco Fever USA is Linda Clifford and her version of If Her Friends Could See Me Now. This was the title track from her 1978 album If Her Friends Could See Me Now, which reached number twenty-two in the US Billboard 200 and number nine in the US R&B Charts. When the track was released as a single, although it only reached number fifty-four in the US Billboard 100 and number sixty-eight in the US R&B Charts, it gave Linda a number one in the US Dance Charts. This was deserved, given the dramatic arrangement that builds and builds, with Linda’s soaring, joyous vocal sitting on top. Of the eleven tracks on disc two, this is one of the highlights.

My final choices from disc two are Slick’s Space Bass and Boys Town Gang’s version of Yester-Me, Yester-You Yesterday, originally recorded by Stevie Wonder on is My Cherie Amour album. Boys Town Gang’s version is quite different but has a gospel tinged sound, with a lovely thoughtful, slightly dramatic vocal. Although it isn’t as quick as some of the songs on the album, it’s quite beautiful and a very welcome addition to Disco Fever USA.

Disco Fever USA is another album crammed full of some quality disco music, with the compilers surpassing themselves yet again. Sometimes, they’ve chosen to eschew the obvious, throwing a few curve balls. Three examples of this are the instrumental version of Earth, Wind and Fire’s Boogie Wonderland, not choosing a more obvious Gloria Gaynor track and the lovely mid-tempo version of Yester-Me, Yester-You Yesterday by Boys Town Gang. Other compilers would’ve stuck to more familiar territory, including the original version of Boogie Wonderland and one of Gloria Gaynor’s better known tracks. Not Harmless, no they’ve thought outside the box, bringing us a compilation that although features some familiar tracks, has a few surprises along the way. With disco divas sitting next to soul superstars and  Hi-NRG heroes, Disco Fever USA features some of the magical and majestic disco music that swept America by storm, and not long after, the rest of the world. This compilation gives you the chance to relive these glory days, and prove to the doubters that disco doesn’t suck, and never did.

 DISCO DISCHARGE-DISCO FEVER USA.

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