Often when I see any compilation that’s reached its ninth volume I shudder. Why? Well usually, by volume nine you can hear the sound of barrel scraping. By then, the compilers have exhausted their supply of quality music and instead, have resorted to padding out compilations with second and sometimes, third rate music. For example, I can think of one once-successful compilation who have released over twenty volumes, with the last eleven painful listening. However, sometimes, compilers manage to succeed in continuing to compile compilations of quality music. One example is a compilation I’ve reviewed before The Original Masters-Disco series. Previously, I reviewed The Original Masters-Disco 8, which was released in May 2012, which regular readers will remember featured some glittering disco gems. Then three months later, as if by magic came the next installment, The Original Masters-Disco Volume 9. When I looked at the track listing I was wondering would The Original Masters-Disco Volume 9 match the previous volumes? On the face of it, things looked good, with tracks from three legends of the Philly Sound, Billy Paul, Teddy Pendergrass and the Vince Montana Orchestra. There are also tracks from Dunn Pearson Jr, Climax Blues Band, David Christie, Biddu Orchestra and Baby O. So The Original Masters-Disco Volume 9 looks promising, but as we all know, when it comes to music, looks can be deceiving. Will The Original Masters-Disco Volume 9 contain some more glittering disco gems or will looks deceive? That’s what I’ll tell you, after I’ve picked the highlights from The Original Masters-Disco Volume 9.

D.C. LaRue’s I Don’t Want To Lose You opens The Original Masters-Disco Volume 9. It’s a fourteen minute epic from D.C. 1976 album Ca-The-Drais released on Pyramid Recording Co Ltd. The first thing I notice is the crackling sound that makes me wonder rather than the master-tapes being used, this is taken from an old vinyl copy. This was something I noticed on Volume 8 a couple of times and although it might seem pedantic, it’s worth mentioning. Once the track gets going, the quality isn’t the best I’ve heard. Far from it, it lacks clarity and sounding cloudy. At least the music makes up for it. Swathes of strings, wah-wah guitars and synths are combined with a pulsating disco beat. Taking centre-stage is an impassioned, dramatic vocal. You’re then taken on a musical journey where disco strings, growling horns, a funky rhythm section and guitars fuse disco, funk and soul, while synths add a Euro Disco sound. Good as the track is, the quality of music lets the track down..badly.

With a name like Climax Blues Band, you might wonder why they’re featuring on a disco compilation. Trust me, they belong here. Couldn’t Get It Right is a track from their 1976 album Gold Plated. Here, they combine an irresistible fusion of funk, soul, rock, blues and disco. It’s three of the best minutes of music you’ll hear in a long time. They combine disco strings, with searing rock guitars, bursts of punchy vocals and the funkiest of rhythm sections. Add to the mix growling horns and everything is right with the world. It’s catchy, joyous and guaranteed to fill any dance-floor. At just three minutes long, it’s one of these songs just begging to be remixed and turned into a real epic. Even better, the problems with sound have been rectified.

Back in the seventies, Gamble and Huff were using music to get across important social messages. On Billy Paul’s When Love Is New there were a trio of songs with a social conscience, one of which was Let the Dollar Circulate. It’s an example of Billy Paul and Gamble and Huff at their best. The rhythm section, chiming, shimmery guitars and blazing horns combine with sweeping strings during a lengthy, dramatic introduction. They’re just building up Billy’s entrance. He delivers lyrics about America’s economic woes and how to solve them. His vocal is a mixture of frustration and hope, and behind him, the arrangement unfolds. It’s a combination of sweeping strings, clavinet, punchy rhythm section and braying horns. They create an arrangement that marches along to the beat of Earl Young’s drums. Meanwhile, the Sweethearts of Sigma’s tender harmonies provide a contrast to Billy’s frustrated vocal, as a heartfelt, sincere vocal full of hope for the future. Over thirty years later, the song is just as relevant and just as good as ever.

It would almost be remiss of me not to mention Dunn Pearson Jr’s Groove On Down, released in 1978. For over eight minutes, Dunn mixes floaty, elegant strings, that dance with joy, while tender, soulful harmonies, flourishes of piano and a a rhythm section that create a pounding, pulsating beat. Later, rasping horns enter, while the tight, soulful harmonies take centre-stage as the rhythm section create a funky beat and chiming, searing guitars are unleashed. Taken together, this  glorious mixture of disco, funk, jazz and soulful harmonies results in a real glistening gem that for far too long, has been hidden unloved in the dusty disco vaults.

In 1978, Vince Montana Jr, left Salsoul Records and signed a contract with Atlantic Records. Heavy Vibes is a track from the Vince Montana Orchestra, the man who invented the concept of the disco orchestra. Thunderous drums drive the arrangement along, before percussion bongos enter. Gradually, the track reveals its secrets. A pounding bass, stabs of keyboards and a myriad of percussion tease and tantalise, as eight minutes of Vince Montana Jr, magic unfolds. A dramatic wash of Hammond organ sets the scene for Vince’s vibes. He unleashes a peerless solo accompanied by the space-age, experimental sounding arrangement. For eight minutes, Vince demonstrates just how talented and innovative an artist he truly is, and what Salsoul lost the day he signed to Atlantic Records.

Having split from Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes, Teddy Pendergrass embarked upon a hugely successful solo career in 1977. A track from his debut album Teddy Pendergrass was You Can’t Hide From Yourself, a Gamble and Huff penned song. It’s an uptempo, dance-floor friendly track, with blazing horns, cascading strings and the rhythm section combining before Teddy’s powerful, joyous vocal enters. Accompanying Teddy are the Sweethearts of Sigma, who contribute equally joyful harmonies. Behind him, M.F.S.B. are in full flight and it’s an impressive sound. Guitars chime, strings sweep and swirl and horn blaze. A burst of drums signals all change and the drama grows. Then Teddy joyously and powerfully vamps his way through the rest of the track, with sweeping harmonies from the Sweethearts of Sigma and M.F.S.B. accompanying him. Although this is a track from Teddy’s debut solo album, he was already an accomplished artist and one of the greatest soul singers of the seventies. This track shows why.

The last track from The Original Masters-Disco Volume 9 I’ve chosen is the Biddu Orchestra’s Trippin’ On A Soul Cloud. This is a track from their 1976 album Rain Forest and sees soul, funk, jazz, disco and sixties psychedelia. Sadly, what’s a glorious track is let down by the slightly average sound quality. Thankfully, that doesn’t last long. As the track opens, it’s a bit like an old Northern Soul stomper, with a pounding, rhythm section, blazing horns and dancing strings combining with percussion. Then when the vocal enters, it’s reminiscent of a sixties psychedelia track, with a trippy sound. That vocal drifts in and out, and mostly, it’s just that stomping sound, with its fusion of strings, horns and thunderous rhythm section. Even though it was made in 1976, it’s a track that could’ve been made anywhere from 1965 onwards. Thirty-six years later, and this irresistibly, joyous stomper is still guaranteed to fill any dance-floor.

So having told you about seven of the twelve tracks that feature on The Original Masters-Disco Volume 9, you’ll be wondering whether this is a compilation worth buying? Well, before I do, I must point out a couple of things. The sound quality on a couple of tracks isn’t the best. Of the twelve tracks, the opening track D.C. LaRue’s I Don’t Want To Lose You leaves a lot to be desired and there are a few problems with the Biddu Orchestra’s Trippin’ On A Soul Cloud. While the latter is worse than the former, it’s slightly disappointing for a CD that states that all the tracks have been remastered. Talking of disappointments, the compilers have managed to get the name of the Teddy Pendergrass’ wrong. It should be You Can’t Hide From Yourself, not You Can’t Hide From. My final gripe is the lack of proper sleeve-notes, even proper credits. Although that wouldn’t bother many people, it would be nice to know who wrote and produced a track and for what label. When you open up the the booklet that comes with the CD, all you find are two empty pages. This was the case with The Original Masters-Disco Volume 8. For the casual CD buyer this might not matter, but many people want to know such details. Overall though, the quality of music on The Original Masters-Disco Volume 9 is just as good, if not better than The Original Masters-Disco Volume 8. With the complilers managing to unearth some quality slices of disco, including some glistening hidden disco gems. However, I’d say to the compilers please, if you decide to release The Original Masters-Disco Volume 10, then how about some decent sleeve-notes, plus a bit more TLC when it comes to the remastering process. Apart from that, just keep unearthing plenty more dusty disco gems, like those on The Original Masters-Disco Volume 9. Standout Tracks: Billy Paul Let the Dollar Circulate, Vince Montana Orchestra Heavy Vibes, Teddy Pendergrass You Can’t Hide From Yourself and Biddu Orchestra Trippin’ On A Soul Cloud.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: