One of my favorite compilations of 2012 so far, is Al Kent’s The Best of Disco Demands, a five-disc box set full of some delicious delights of disco music. Al Kent’s The Best of Disco Demands was released on 12 February 2012 on BBE Music, and is one of the best disco compilations I’ve come across in many a long year. Not for a Al the same familiar, tired tracks, available on many inferior compilations. Instead, Al Kent digs way deeper, looking for hidden gems and long forgotten classics. Many of these tracks the artists may have long forgotten even recording. So, what Al does, is bring them back to life, sometimes reediting the tracks, sprinkling them with some of disco dust. However, Al Kent’s The Best of Disco Demands, was neither Al’s first disco compilation, nor his first released on BBE Music. Previously, Al has released two other compilations of hidden disco gems, Disco Love released in February 2010 and Disco Love 2 in April 2011. Both are double albums, with one disc mixed, and the other disc unmixed. This means the mixed CD gives you a flavor of one of Al Kent’s DJ sets, while the mixed CD allows you to hear the track in full, allowing you to discover each of the tracks subtleties, hidden charms and beauty. I’ll now pick some of the best tracks from the first of these compilations Disco Love.

Released in February 2010, Disco Love is a double-album released on BBE Music. Disc One is the mix CD which sees Al seamlessly mix the eighteen tracks together, during the smoothest seventy-nine minute set you’ll have the privilege of hearing. Here, Al Kent demonstrates not just how talented a DJ he really is, but also his reediting skills. Some of the tracks on Disco Love have been reedited by Al, which breathes new life into these tracks, making them not only more dance-floor friendly, but more DJ friendly. Together with his seamless mixing skills, Disc One of Disco Love is mix to treasure, from one the multitalented Al Kent, crate DJ, re-editor, digger and record collector extraordinaire. While Disc One of Disco Love is mixed, Disc Two is unmixed. There are eighteen tracks on Disc Two of Disco Love, with the music a treasure trove of disco delights. Given the quality of music on Disco Love, trying to pick a few tracks to mention isn’t easy, given how good each track is. However, after much deliberation, here are my septet of delicious, disco delights. 

My first choice from Disco Love is the track that opens the album, Black Rock’s New York City Bump. Released in 1975, the track is mixed by Tom Moulton. When I first heard this track, it made me think of arrangements by Issac Hayes. After a sample of a train station, wah-wah guitars, a funky rhythm section and soaring male falsetto converge. Although the arrangement is almost understated, there’s a sense of anticipation, that the arrangement will reveal something glorious. You’re not disappointed, female vocalists joins cascading strings, wah-wah guitars, that funky rhythm section and hissing hi-hats drive the groove along. There’s a real contrast between the sound of the lush strings and the rest of the arrangement. Add to an arrangement that marries elements of funk with disco strings, a punchy vocal and soaring falsetto, then you’ve a track that’s not just intriguing and compelling, but one that’s of the highest quality.

Sweet Daddy Floyd’s I Just Can’t Help Myself was released in 1978 on Super-Star Records and  is one of the highlights on Disco Love. With its dramatic introduction of percussion, steel drums, stabs of punchy, rasping horns, cascading, swirling strings and the rhythm section, the drama and sense of anticipation is built up for ninety-seconds. During this time, the arrangement reminds me of seventies American funk tracks, especially the type you’d hear in low-budget movies. Just as you’re wondering where the track is heading, a curve ball is thrown, catching you off guard. That’s when an emotive and impassioned male vocal enters, singing of being in love, and how good he feels. Accompanied by female backing vocalists, plus a myriad of percussion, sweeping, lush strings, flourishes of piano and stabs of horns. Together with the rhythm section they combine to create a track that’s soulful, beautiful and has a real feel-good sound. This is true hidden gem, unearthed by the disco detective, Al Kent. 

Bob William’s funk tinged I’m Alright, released in 1979, is an intriguing track, that combines disco, soul and funk. It features blazing horns, woodwind and a funk drenched rhythm section, as the arrangement sweeps along at 120 beats per minute. Meanwhile disco strings sit above the arrangement, as horns drift in and of the track, accompanying a powerful, passionate vocal. Backing vocalists provide a soulful backdrop, as a myriad of sounds that wouldn’t sound out of place on an African funk track punctuate the track. With a soulful vocal and arrangement that combines disco with elements of funky music, this track isn’t just intriguing, but is one with an irresistibly catchy sound.

Crosstown Traffic feature on Al Kent’s The Best of Disco Demands, contribute another track Party People. Here, their contribution is Love Your Family, released on D.C. Records, this track was the B-side of Party People. Given the quality of the track, it seems incredible that this was just a B-side. Although described as a disco track, there’s a real funk influence in this track. With stabs of Hammond Organ, handclaps and the rhythm section combining, this gives the track a real disco sound. From the start of the track, it has a joyous, uplifting sound, which is added to when the vocal and then growling horns enter. This gives way to the funky part of the track, when a loping bass-line, one of the funkiest on Disco Love enters. It’s accompanied by punchy vocals during this funk masterclass, before the track returns to its earlier disco sound. By the end of the track, you’ve been won over by the track’s disco delights and its joyous, uplifting, feel-good sound.

JNB’s I’ll Be the One is another of those hidden gems that Al Kent seems consistently able to discover. Released on Glyn Records, this was the B-side to Kansas City Woman. Originally, the track was just under three minutes long, but the version on Disco Love is nearly five minutes long. Straight away, this track has disco written all over it. With the lushest of strings, chiming guitars that weave their way across the arrangement, combine with braying horns and keyboards. Then comes a gorgeous female vocal, their voice gentle and lilting, while the arrangement almost floats and swirls behind her vocal. There’s everything you could possibly want on a disco track, lush strings, rasping horns, flourishes of keyboards and of course that beautiful vocal. Together, the combine to make this not just one of the most beautiful tracks on Disco Love, but one of the best.

The Midas Touch’s The Nightlife (Lets Get It On) is one of the most soulful cuts on Disco Love. Against a backdrop of growling, rasping horns, stabs of Hammond organ, rhythm section and percussion emerges a really soulful, emotive male vocal. Accompanied by equally soulful, female backing vocalists the track meanders and floats along. Flourishes of organ, stabs of braying horns, soaring backing vocals accompany the impassioned vocal, which is drenched in sincerity and emotion. This is very definitely the rare soul that’s mentioned on the cover of the album. When I hear a track like this, I always wonder why it wasn’t a big hit, given its sheer beauty, quality and soulfulness. 

New Ghetto Express’s cover of Funkadelic’s Standing On The Verge Of Getting It On is a track that seamlessly marries elements of disco and funk majestically. With keyboards, rhythm section and searing, chiming guitars combining with cascading string that sweep and swirl, the track meanders along beautifully. The rhythm section sprinkle funk into the track, while keyboards, percussions and strings deliver some disco delights. There’s even a jazzy sound to the guitar and other parts of the arrangement. Later, rasping horns enter, as the rhythm section and strings help the track floats beautifully and elegantly along, seducing you with its beauty, subtlety and hidden charms, resulting in a quite brilliant cover version of Funkadelic’s original. This might be heresy to say, but I much prefer this version to Funkadelic’s original.

My final choice from Disco Love is my favorite track from this compilation, The Four Sonics’ If It Wasn’t For My Baby, released on JMC Records and produced by Jimmy Roach. What makes this such a standout track is the impassioned, emotive male and female vocals. Meanwhile, the arrangement combines lush strings, blazing horns, percussion and the rhythm section. The arrangement is a combination of drama and emotion, while the male vocal delivers their part with raw emotion. It’s the female vocalist who plays a much bigger role, her vocal is full of emotion, passion and deeply soulful, delivering the lyrics if she really means them. These vocals are augmented by backing vocalists who to the track’s drama and emotion, while horns growl and rasp, and the lush strings add to the emotion of the track. Of the eighteen tracks on Disco Love, this is my favourite, a track that’s soulful, dramatic and laden with emotion and passion.

Although I’ve only mentioned eight of the eighteen tracks on Disco Love, I could just as easily have mentioned any of the tracks. From the first to final track, Al consistently keeps up the quality of the music. Unlike so many inferior disco compilations, there’s neither any poor tracks nor filler. Instead, Al Kent, the disco detective, has dug deep in his pursuit of all this soulful and disco music. In doing so, he’s discovered some hidden gems including Sweet Daddy Floyd’s I Just Can’t Help Myself, JNB’s I’ll Be the One The Midas Touch’s The Nightlife (Lets Get It On) and The Four Sonics’ If It Wasn’t For My Baby. With tracks ranging from soulful and funky to delicious, disco dancers, there’s an eclectic quality to Disco Love. What makes this such a great compilation, is Al doesn’t choose the usual tired tracks, that crop up far too often. Instead, he unearths long-forgotten B-sides, cover versions and a crate load of hidden gems. Truly, a lots effort has gone into putting together this Disco Love, given the obscurity and rarity of some of the tracks. For that, Al Kent deserves huge credit for that. Not only that, managing to compile a compilation as good as Disco Love, is no easy task. To do so, requires a crate digger extraordinaire, an extensive record collection and impeccable musical taste. Al Kent is blessed with this, as well as being a hugely talented DJ and re-editor. The proof of this can be found on the two discs that make up Disco Love, released on BBE Music. Standout Tracks: Sweet Daddy Floyd I Just Can’t Help Myself, JNB I’ll Be the One The Midas Touch The Nightlife (Lets Get It On) and The Four Sonics If It Wasn’t For My Baby.


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