When Ed Kushins and Mel Cherin founded West End Records in 1976, they had no idea that their newly founded label would become one of the most important, influential and innovative labels of the disco era. Now nearly four decades later, West End Records is held in the same esteem as Salsoul, Prelude, Casablanca and SAM Records. West End Records built up an inevitable roster of artists, including Loose Joints, Taana Gardner, Raw Silk, Barbara Mason, Karen Young and the N.Y.C. Peech Boys. Soon, West End Records was providing the soundtrack to disco and post-disco era. Critically acclaimed and commercially successful, West End Records’ releases were favorites of DJs like Larry Levan, who helped Ed and Mel forge their unique. This sound that came to define the sound of New York during the late seventies and early eighties. Since then, West End Records’ popularity has never waned. New generations of DJs and music lovers are rediscovering the label and its timeless music. However, like many of disco’s legendary labels, West End Records’ back-catalogue is one of the most underexploited labels.

Just like SAM Records, Casablanca and to some extent Salsoul Records, there’s a lack of compilations and reissues of West End Records’ back-catalogue. So, for anyone looking to discover the delights of West End Records they’re hardly spoiled for choice. Sadly, no record label has decided to give West End Records’ back-catalogue an extensive reissue program. Granted a few compilations have been released, but they vary in quality. Thankfully, Gold Legion Records have decided to release a new West End Records’ compilation, The West End Records Story in April 2013. The West End Records Story features ten tracks, including Tanna Gardner, Loose Joints, Barbara Mason, Raw Silk, Phase II and Billy Nichols. This is similar to Gold Legion Records’ recently released The Salsoul Records Story. Like Salsoul, West End Records were one of disco’s premier labels and The West End Records Story features some of the label’s best releases, which I’ll now tell you about.

Opening The West End Records Story is Taana Gardner’s When You Touch Me. Released in 1979 and produced by Kenton Nix, Larry Levan mixed this ten and a half minute epic. An understated combination of rhythm section, percussion and pensive strings usher in Taana’s vocal. It’s gentle and subtle vocal, before soaring high above the arrangement. Crunchy beats accompany keyboards, sweeping strings and percussion, as this epic track reveals its hidden charms and subtleties. Suddenly, with the beats pounding, the tempo increases, and the arrangement kicks loose. When the bass and keyboards enter, they give the arrangement a jazzy feel that’s a contrast to the pounding beats. Then spurred on, Taana unleashes an impassioned, heartfelt diva-sque vocal. Her powerful delivery is peerless, while the rhythm section and keyboards drive the arrangement along, magically mixing funk and disco during this epic track.

Another West End Records classic is Loose Joint’s Is It All Over My Face. It was released in 1980 and demonstrates how dance music was changing. Written and produced by producer Arthur Russell and DJ Steve D’Aquisto, this marked the start of the post-disco era. The track incorporates an early house sound thanks to the drums and has a hypnotic bass line. Add to this a sassy, feisty female vocal that struts across the arrangement, and it’s remarkable how dance music had changed within a year. However, like Taana Gardner’s When You Touch Me, this is a timeless dance track, that thirty-three years later, has a contemporary sound.

Although Barbara Mason’s career started back in the sixties, she released the best music of her career between 1972 and 1975, when she was signed to Buddah Records. Albums like Give Me Your Love and Lady Love contain Barbara’s best music. Then in 1983, she reinvented herself as a dance-floor diva, releasing Another Man on West End Records. Written and produced by Butch Ingram, Another Man saw Barbara’s music head in a very different direction. The arrangement married elements of eighties electronics and boogie. This meant drum machines and synths, which was very different to her work with Norman Harris. One thing didn’t change, her vocal. It was sassy, sultry and filled with emotion and frustration, as she brought meaning and life to the lyrics.

Mahogany’s Ride On the Rhythm was released in 1982 and features a vocal from Bernice Watkins. Squelchy synths, cascading strings and rasping horns combine with the rhythm section before Bernice’s vocal enters. Her voice suits the arrangement, fusing emotion, passion and controlled power. Behind her, the arrangement magically marries funk and soul, providing the perfect backdrop for her vocal. When you listen to the track, you realise how sophisticated a track this is, one that’s quite unlike much of the music of the time. It’s very different to much of the music of the time. Maybe that’s why it’s aged well and remains one of the gems of the West End Records back-catalogue.

Let’s Go Dancin’ by Sparque is an uplifting and joyous track that was released in 1981. It was arranged and produced by Larry Joseph, while Larry Levan and Francois K mixed the track. Like so many West End Records releases, this track benefits from a great vocal, almost diva-like in its quality. It’s sung against an arrangement that combines electronic music with disco and funk. With plenty of percussion, keyboards, synths and a rhythm section that injects some funk in to the track, it’s a track with a real joyful, feel-good sound and of course that diva-esque vocal.

Another track that demonstrates how dance music changed during the early eighties is Shirley Lites Heat You Up. It was released in 1983 and produced by Nick Martinelli and David Todd. Gone are the lush orchestral arrangements of the disco era. They’re replaced by drum machines and synths which take the track in the direction of boogie and Hi-NRG sound. Unlike many similar tracks, this one has stood the test of time. No wonder, given a stunning, sensual vocal, which is accompanied by dramatic, soaring and sassy harmonies. Like so many West End Records’ releases, it’s the vocal that’s key to the track’s success. That’s definitely the case here.

Raw Silk were a studio group assembled by producers Bert Reid and Ron Dean Miller. They released two of West End Records best known tracks 1982s Do It To The Music and 1983s Just In Time. Do It To The Music which was written, arranged and produced by Ron Dean Miller, features on The West End Records Story. This is Raw Silk’s finest moment. Quite simply, it’s seven minutes where a boogie arrangement, tender, heartfelt and impassioned vocal and cooing harmonies unite. Add to this a sultry jazz-tinged saxophone and the result is one of the highlights of The West End Records Story play their part in a track where soul, boogie and jazz become one.

Recently, I reviewed Michelle’s debut album Magic Love, which was released on West End Records in 1977. Quite simply, Magic Love is a true hidden gem of the disco era. So too is the single Can’t You Feel It, where a funky bass line, wah-wah guitars, stabs of blazing horns and a pulsating disco beat sets the scene for Michelle’s tender breathy vocal. The Sweethearts of Sigma add cooing, sweeping harmonies as Michelle’s vocal grows in power, passion and sensuality. Meanwhile, the rhythm section create the pounding disco beat. Bursts of growling horns, percussion and the sweetest of harmonies envelop her vocal. Thunderous drums and a strident bass provide the heartbeat as Michelle takes on the roll of disco diva. Confidently and with just the right mix of sass and sensuality, she struts her way through this delicious slice of American disco.

Forrce are another group who only released one single for West End Records. This was 1982s Keep On Dancin’ (Phase II). It was mixed by Francois K, who was responsible for the overdubs. Thanks to the banks of keyboards, the arrangement has a tougher, funkier sound. Percussion and chanted vocals are added, giving the track a hypnotic sound. Then when the vocal enters, it’s a feisty rap that takes its inspiration from hip hop. By now, you realise that this is very different from anything else on The West End Records Story. Indeed, it’s an innovative fusion of musical genres and influences, and one that deserves to bare the West End Records’ logo.

Closing The West End Records Story is Billy Nichols Give Your Body Up, which was released in 1979. Mixed by Larry Levan, this track has a much more classic disco sound. That’s thanks to the blazing horns, swirling strings and the arrangement’s percussive delights. It’s a track laden with drama and energy. Quite simply, from the get-go you’re hooked. Keyboards, rhythm section and stabs of horns drive the arrangement along while strings dance. Billy’s vocal veers between urgent and vampish, while backing vocalists join the horns in adding to the drama. The arrangement and Billy’s vocal compliment each other. They drive each other to greater heights, becoming a musical ying and yang, who play their part in this irresistible, hook-laden slice of disco.

While The West End Records Story only features ten 12” versions, they’re ten great tracks. Indeed, some of the tracks on The West End Records Story are the real highlights of the label’s history. There’s neither filler nor flops, just one great track after another. The ten tracks just fly by, bringing back memories from the late seventies and early eighties. These tracks are a mixture of disco and post-disco tracks. The compiler has chosen well, digging deep into West End Records’ back-catalogue. There’s a combination of familiar faces like Loose Joints, Taana Gardner, Raw Silk, Barbara Mason and Karen Young. Then there’s hidden gems from Michelle and Sparque and the innovative sound of Forrce. These ten tracks will give a newcomer to West End Records’ back-catalogue a tantalizing taste of what delights are in-store for them on the voyage of discovery that they’ll surely head upon. It’s just a pity that The West End Records Story wasn’t a double or triple album, as there’s so much more great music within West End Records’ back-catalogue. Maybe they’re saving that for volumes 2 and 3? Until then, The West End Records Story which will be released in April 2013, will give newcomers to West End Records a tantalizing taste of one of disco’s premier labels. For veterans of West End Records, then The West End Records Story will bring back musical memories of the disco and post-disco eras. Standout Tracks: Taana Gardner When You Touch Me, Barbara Mason Another Man, Michelle Can’t You Feel It and Billy Nichols Give Your Body Up.




  1. Hans Keesmaat

    So it’s august 2014 now. Is this album finally released? I don’t have that impression. I would like to order it, but it isn’t listed for sale anywhere except for GoldLegion’s own web site. And I’m hesistant to order from them, given the numerous bad reviews that can be found all over the internet. Especially since the item hasn’t been released yet. I’ve read horror stories about people pre-ordering CDs and having to wait a year or more because the release date of the disc in question keeps being pushed into the future.

    • Hi Hans,

      Sorry to hear about the problems you’ve been experiencing finding a copy of Gold Legion’s release The West End Story. Sadly, this is a common occurrence.Sometimes, I’m sent a CD to review and the release date has been set. It then often gets pushed back. This keeps on happening. There’s a CD I reviewed two years ago, that’s still to be released. The only thing I can suggest is look for another West End Records compilation. Masters At Work did an album of remixes of West End Records’ tracks. However, it’s a real rarity. That’s why I was so pleased to see the release of The West End Records’ Story.

      About Gold Legion, you’re not the first person to contact me about them. A lot of people have experienced problems buying direct from the company. There are, as you said, some horror stories on the website.

      You didn’t say where you live, but it looks like you’re in the Netherlands. If you’re looking to buy CDs or vinyl online, I’d suggest Amazon and Juno are really good for all things funk, soul, disco, boogie and dance.

      Hope that helps.


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