Disco Discharge-Europa released on 23rd April 2012, sees Harmless Records’ Disco Discharge compilation series celebrate its fifteenth birthday. This is the fifteenth Disco Discharge compilation since the series started in 2009, and following in the footsteps of Disco Discharge-American Hot and Disco Discharge-Disco Exotica, is the third compilation of 2012. It’s also the fourth compilation celebrating European Disco. Following the success of Disco Discharge-Euro Disco, Disco Discharge-European Connection and Disco Discharge-Euro Beats comes Disco Discharge-Europa, twenty-four slices of Euro and Italo Disco. Again, compiler Mr. Pinks has determinedly, dug deeper in his quest to bring you some of the best, and hottest, Euro and Italo Disco of the eighties. These will provide you with the perfect disco soundtrack to the summer. Among the twenty-four tracks, are tracks from Taco, Loco Loco, Rose Laurens, Adelph and Digital Emotion and that’s just on Disc One. On Disc Two, there are even more goodies with tracks from Cleo, Swan, Lee Marrow, Alan Barry, Vanessa and Dr. Groove. So, with so many delicious, disco delights on Disco Discharge-Europa, choosing just a few tracks to tell you about hasn’t been easy, but here are the compilation’s highlights.
On Disc One of Disco Discharge-Europa, there are a total of eleven full length versions of European and Italo Disco. Unlike previous Disco Discharge compilations, Disco Discharge-Europa isn’t crammed full of tracks from well known artists. In fact, unless you’re a connoisseur of European or Italo Disco, then you won’t have heard much of the music on Disco Discharge-Europa. However, once you’ve heard the music on Disc One, and of course, Disc Two, then you’ll be won over by the mixture of European and Italo Disco. Among the highlights of Disc One of Disco Discharge-Europa, are tracks from artists that include Taco, Loco Loco, Rose Laurens, Adelph and Digital Emotion. These are just a taster of the treats on the compilation, which to me, is the perfect primer for anyone new to either eighties European or Italo Disco. For veterans of the Disco Discharge series, they’ll have been introduced to European disco on previous Disco Discharge compilations Euro Disco, European Connection and Euro Beats. Like these compilations, Disco Discharge-Europa features some great music, the highlights of which I’ll tell you about.
My first choice from Disc One of Disco Discharge-Europa is a perfect example of how disco had evolved in just ten years. From the classic sounds of Salsoul, Casablanca, T.K. Disco and Prelude, ten years earlier, Lian Ross’ Say You’ll Never demonstrates where disco was at by the mid-eighties. The version included is the Original 12-Inch version, which was released in 1985 on ZYX Records and was produced by Bobby To. Punchy, stabs of synths and drum machines combine to create a sound that’s a combination of disco and synths pop. It’s a track that can’t be anything else but European in origin, given its sound. When the vocal enters, it’s sweet, but emotive and needy, accompanied by a a dramatic backdrop created by synths, keyboards and drum machines. This emotive and dramatic track perfectly demonstrates the changes in disco post-1979 and the Disco Sucks backlash.
Loco Loco’s Hey Mr DJ was released in 1986 by the Gira label, and like Lian Ross’ Say You’ll Never was co-written by Leroy Skeete. This a really compelling, mid-tempo slice of European disco, that has you hooked from the get-go. Bursts of squelchy synths, crunchy drumbeats and keyboards give way to bursts of dramatic synths before the vocal enters. The female vocal is shrouded in echo, while stabs of synths, drums and a meandering keyboard solo are key to the track’s success and sound. This is one of these tracks that gets under your skin, draws you in, and won’t let go. That’s what makes this such a compelling and compulsively catchy track.
One of the key ingredients for a great disco track is the vocal. On Africa (Voodoo Master), French singer-songwriter Rose Laurens delivers the best vocals on Disco Discharge-Exotica. Africa (Voodoo Master) was a track from her second album Rose Laurens, released in 1983 on WEA. This is a much quicker track, 120 beats per minute, laden with passion, mainly thanks to Rose’s vocal. When the track opens, it’s just the rhythm section and synths combining. Then when Rose’s vocal enters, it’s all change. She grabs the track, delivering the vocal powerfully and emotively, in an impassioned style, accompanied by backing vocalists. Their addition really helps and lifts the track, as does the saxophone solo and sound effects that are added. Together, they all play their part in making this track one of the highlights of Disc One of Disco Discharge-Europa.
One of the biggest Italo Disco labels was Time Records, who released Jock Hattle Band’s To Be Or Not To Be in 1986. During the eighties they were one of the most innovative, influential and successful Italo Disco labels. This is a perfect example of both the music they released and what Italo Disco is about. The track opens with pulsating drumbeats, a dark, haunting vocal and synths that are variously brash, punchy and dramatic and explodes into a classic and delicious slice if Italo Disco. Driven along by crunchy beats, washes and stabs of synths, keyboards and a dark, moody vocal, accompanied by multi-tracked backing vocals. Listen carefully, and there’s even a Sparks influence in what’s a totally irresistible and classic Italo Disco track.
The last track from Disc One of Disco Discharge-Europa I’ve chosen Digital Emotion’s Go Go Yellow Screen. This is a track from their 1984 album Digital Emotion, released on Break Records. The track sometimes, has a futuristic, space-age sound, but quickly, a dramatic, driving Euro Disco track unfolds. Synths reverberate above the arrangement, while the drumbeats are quick and crispy. Later, bouncy synths combine with dramatic drum rolls, while synths and sound effects seem to recreate the sound of an early Space Invaders video game. When all this combined, the result is a glorious, futuristic and dramatic sounding track, that although brings back memories of the early eighties has a sound that nearly thirty years later, is timeless.
Although I’ve only mentioned five of the eleven tracks on Disc One of Disco Discharge-Europa, I could just as easily have mentioned any of the other six. After all, there are some great tracks from Taco, Silver Pozzoli, Baltimora and Aleph. Here, Mr. Pinks has resurrected some classic tracks from the European and Italo Disco vaults. Many of these I’ve not heard for a few years, but straight away, memories come flooding back. I’m sure this will be the same for many other people of my “vintage.” Of the five tracks I’ve chosen from Disc One, the tracks by Rose Laurens, Jock Hattle Band and Digital Emotion are some of the best tracks on the compilation and make it worthwhile buying Disco Discharge-Exotica for these three tracks alone, such is their quality. Like the fourteen previous instalments of the Disco Discharge series, Mr. Pinks has succeeded in discovering a consistently high standard of music on Disc One of Disco Discharge-Europa. Can he do the same on Disc Two of Disco Discharge-Europa?
Although there were eleven tracks on Disc One of Disco Discharge-Europa, Mr. Pinks has managed to squeeze even more delights onto Disc Two. There are thirteen slices of delectable European and Italo Disco on Disc Two. This includes tracks from Cleo, Swan, Lee Marrow, Lili & Sussie, Alan Barry, Vanessa and Dr. Groove. Again, these are the original 12” versions which, many people will be hearing for the first time. These tracks are a perfect introduction to the two genres, and will allow the newcomer to either European or Italo Disco to go on a fantastic journey of discovery of labels and artists. As someone who is a fan of both European and Italo Disco, who has heard many of the tracks previous or have them in my collection, this will lead to a lifetime love of both genres. While I found it troublesome picking my highlights of Disc One, this was just as difficult with Disc Two. However, here are my highlights of Disc Two of Disco Discharge-Europa.
I just had to choose Cleo’s Go Go Dynamo as my first choice from Disc One, as it’s a joyous explosion of Italo Disco. Released in 1986, on Many Records, the track grabs your attention from the opening bars. A combination of synths, keyboards, drums and the vocal combine, before the vocal drops out. When it returns, it’s powerful, impassioned and laden with emotion. Meanwhile, crispy drums, synths and keyboards create a powerful, driving arrangement, that’s impossible to resist. Key to the track’s success and sound is the vocal, augmented by backing vocals. Although classified as Italo Disco, it’s a track with a real European disco sound, which is irresistible, you can’t help but succumb to it’s hook-laden charms.
Lili & Sussie were two Swedish sisters whose breakthrough hit single came with Oh Mama in 1987. This was a track from their 1987 album Dance Romance on 1987. Here, European disco and synth pop are combined, resulting in one of catchiest, most commercial sounding tracks on the compilation. Synths, keyboards and crispy drums combine to create an arrangement that’s quick, dramatic and catchy. Add to that, sweet vocals that are emotive and joyous, with an Abba-esque influence. Later, distant sounding backing vocals join the mix, before on the signal of the drums, the vocals explode back in. Catchy and commercial sounding, this is six minutes that represent what’s good about eighties European disco music.
Alan Barry Tell Me The Reason is another Italo Disco track, released in 1988 on Discomagic Records. To me, this is one of the real highlights of Disc Two of Disco Discharge-Exotica and demonstrates everything that’s good about late eighties Italo Disco. Here, Alan’s vocal is emotive and heartfelt, accompanied by pounding drums, percussion and washes of synths. Later, keyboards replace his vocal, combining with the pounding drums and synths, resulting in track that’s variously dramatic, driving and dynamic, but most importantly is of the highest quality.
Sweet Connection’s Need Your Passion was the title-track of their 1988 EP, released on the Blow Up label. Here, synth pop and European disco unite seamlessly for eight and a half minutes. Everything is in place for a successful synth pop/European disco track. This includes two impassioned, sensuous sounding female vocalists, a combination of pounding drums, synths and keyboards and a dance-floor friendly tempo of 120 beats per minutes. Of course, there’s more to it than that…you need a talented producer. That’s where Reinhard Franz comes in. He deploys these ingredients in an effective way, perfect for a late-eighties dance-floor. That includes lengthy percussive breaks where the vocal drops out, and the then popular vocoder which was still popular. The result is, a seamless combination of synth pop and European disco, with an Italo Disco influence that’s one of the highlights of Disco Discharge-Europa.
The last track from Disc Two of Disco Discharge-Europa is Dr. Groove’s Freak It Out Mr. DJ. Released in 1984 on Break Records, with tempo of 131 beats per minute, it’s another Italo Disco track, that’s five fantastic and frantic minutes of music that put a huge smile on your face. Stabs and washes of synth, crunchy, pounding drum beats and keyboards are combined with dark vocal and handclaps as the track bursts into life. Female vocalists then add their joyous sound while synths reverberate, drums pound and stabs of synths and keyboards augment the arrangement. There’s even a Visage influence in the synth and vocal sound, albeit the track is quicker and different in style. It’s the way the washes of synths unfold and the vocal arrangement that prompt comparisons. By the end of the track, Dr. Groove has worked his magic, curing ills without pills, with five fantastic minutes of magical Italo Disco.
Like Disc One of Disco Discharge-Europa, Disc Two is crammed full of some great examples of both European and Italo Disco. In choosing the five tracks to mention, some picked themselves, like Cleo’s Go Go Dynamo, Sweet Connection’s Need Your Passion and Dr. Groove’s Freak It Out Mr. DJ, while choosing other tracks was a lot harder. The consistency of quality meant that I could’ve just as easily picked any of the other ten tracks. Unlike other, lesser disco compilations, there are no tracks on Disco Discharge-Europa where you feel your finger hovering over the next button. Instead, you sit back and revel in the quality of the music, wondering how Mr. Pinks manages to consistently produce the disco goods. Does this man ever sleep in his quest for disco perfection, or is his life a twenty-four hour pursuit of disco nirvana? Who knows? All I know is that like the two previous installments of the Disco Discharge series, and previous fourteen compilations, he never disappoints. In fact, the Disco Discharge series is one of these rare compilation series you can safely buy without even checking the track-listing, safe in the knowledge that you’re guaranteed two discs of disco delights. So, if you’ve yet to discover the Disco Discharge series, then there’s fifteen volumes of the best in disco music to discover. This includes the latest volume, Disco Discharge-Europa, with twenty-four slices of European and Italo Disco awaiting your discovery. Standout Tracks: Jock Hattle Band To Be Or Not To Be, Digital Emotion Go Go Yellow Screen, Cleo Go Go Dynamo and Sweet Connection Need Your Passion.
jock hattle band to be or not to be