Earlier this year, fashionistas and tastemakers forecasted that the summer of 2013 would be “the summer of disco.” It was official, disco was back in fashion. The advice from those in the know, was dust off your flares, polish your disco ball and let’s recreate the heady, hedonistic days of disco. Providing a soundtrack would be  the numerous disco and Nu-Disco compilations released weekly.

These compilations were a mixed bunch, whose quality varied from the good, bad and downright ugly. It was a case of buyer beware. No wonder. in some cases, barrels were being definitely being scraped. Quality control seemed nonexistent. Tired and predictable describes many of the compilations. Some albums were released for the umpteenth time. Many of the compilations and reissues resembled a musical Quasimodo. This included many of the hyped-up compilations. They proved to be among the dampest of squibs. At least there were a few highlights of the supposed “summer of disco.”

Among the highlights were John Morales Presents The M&M Mixes Volume 3 which was released on BBE Music. An early contender for compilation of 2013, it’s yet to be bettered. Then there’s BBR Records’ rereleases of Salsoul Records’ back-catalogue. That’s not forgetting rereleases of albums by The Trammps, Gloria Gaynor and The Ritchie Family. Another of the highlights of “the summer of disco” is Octave Japan’s series of DJ mixes. The latest installment is Disco and Boogie In NYC Volume 1: Seeds Of Club Music, a DJ Mix and Edit By Watusi of Coldfeet. 

Disco and Boogie In NYC Volume 1: Seeds Of Club Music was released by Octave Japan on 23rd August 2013. It features twenty-two tracks from the back-catalogues of Salsoul Records and West End Records. Among the artists on Disco and Boogie In NYC Volume 1: Seeds Of Club Music are Barbara Mason, The Salsoul Orchestra, Double Exposure, Loleatta Holloway, First Choice, Charo, Aurra, Inner Life, Instant Funk and Karen Young. With some of the best music from Salsoul and West End Records’ back catalogues, choosing my ten favorite tracks won’t be easy. Here goes.

My first choice from Disco and Boogie In NYC Volume 1: Seeds Of Club Music is Silvetti’s Spring Rain. It featured on his debut album World Without Words in 1976. Licensed to Salsoul, it featured a track that’s innovative and timeless. That was Spring Rain. Listening to the track, It’s hard to believe it was released in 1976. It’s a track that was way ahead of its time and proved influential. Indeed, several generations of house producers have been influenced by Spring Rain.

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 version chosen is the 12” version. Its 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

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 jazz, soul and boogie become one on the 12” vocal version of a classic.

Double Exposure’s debut album for Norman Harris’ Gold Mind Records was Ten Percent. Released in August 1976, it reached number 129 in the US Billboard 200 and number forty in the US R&B Charts. It featured three singles, including the Baker, Harris, Young produced My Love Is Free. Drums, shakers, swirling strings, guitars and flourishes of keyboards, give way to Jimmy’s vocal. Punchy harmonies, rasping horns, disco strings, percussion and the Baker, Harris, Young provide a pounding, funky heartbeat. Jimmy’s powerful, impassioned pleas are augmented by soulful harmonies. Combine the vocal with the dancing dancing strings, chiming guitars, blazing horns and Baker, Harris, Young at their best. The result is a musical marriage made in heaven, where drama and emotion create a timeless disco classic.

Charo and The Salsoul Orchestra’s Cuchi-Cuchi was released in 1976, reaching number 100 in the US Billboard 200. Dance A Little Bit Closer was the lead single. It’s a song that’s become synonymous with Charo. Drums pound, before keyboards, a pounding bass line, lush strings and growling horns signal the arrival of Charo’s breathy vocal. She’s accompanied by blazing horns, Vince Montana Jr’s vibes and swathes of lush strings. They glide elegantly into the arrangement. Earl Young’s drums provide the heartbeat, while The Sweethearts Of Sigma accompany Charo. Later, her vocal becomes sassy, as disco and Latin music are fused seamlessly during this irresistible track.

Tough and funky describes Make Up Your Mind, the lead single from Aurra’s 1982 debut album A Little Love. The funkiest of slap basses, synths, hypnotic drums and harmonies combine, before Curt’s vampish vocal struts centre-stage. His vocal is full of emotion and confusion. When Starleana Young’s vocal enters, it’s tender, heartfelt and determined to soothe Curt’s troubled soul. As their vocal drops out, the arrangement fuses elements of funk and boogie. Add to that the soul supplied by Curt and Starleana and it’s a potent combination.

Loleatta Holloway released Love Sensation in July 1980. As Baker, Harris, Young combine with percussion, piano and cascading strings, you anticipate the entrance of Loleatta’s strutting, strident vocal. Accompanied by dancing, disco strings, rasping horns and a punchy rhythm section, Loleatta gives a vocal masterclass. Her voice becomes an impassioned roar, while The Sweethearts Of Sigma accompany her. They provide the perfect accompaniment for an arrangement that’s a mass of lush strings, dramatic drums and blazing horns. Add Loleatta’s powerful vocal and the result is timeless, dramatic, classic.

(Knock Out) Let’s Go Another Round featured on Inner Life I, which was released in 1981. Stan Lucas wrote and arranged the track which he produced with Greg Carmichael. It’s a boogie track, with Greg Carmichael’s influence all over it. The introduction sounds like a cousin of Ain’t No Mountain High Enough. That similarity is only brief, and quickly, the track takes on its own identity. Percussion, a funky rhythm section, swathes of synths and handclaps combine to create a catchy backdrop, even before Jocelyn’s powerful vocal enters. Her vocal struts in, sassy and full of confidence, with the banks of keyboards accompanying the rhythm section who provide the funky heartbeat. Inner Life tease you relentlessly when the vocal drops out. Synths and keyboards take centre-stage, before Jocelyn’s vocal returns. This pattern continues. You sit back and enjoy an irresistible track unfold, with Jocelyn Brown key to the track’s sound and success.

Double Cross was a track from First Choice’s fifth album Hold Your Horses. It was written by Ron Tyson and Norman Harris, who arranged and produced the track.  A funky rhythm section with Jimmy Williams’ bass anchors Larry Levan’s 12” version of this track. He combines lush cascading strings and guitars before Rochelle delivers a vocal that’s variously heartfelt, dramatic and fiery, and sometimes, full of frustration and regret. Tight, soaring harmonies that compliment Rochelle’s vocal, as Norman Harris’ classy arrangement unfolds. He uses Don Renaldo’s grand, quivering strings, growling horns and the funky rhythm section to reflect the drama, passion and emotion in what’s an emotive vocal masterclass from Rochelle.

The Salsoul Hustle, is my final choice from Disco and Boogie In NYC Volume 1: Seeds Of Club Music. Written, arranged and produced by Vince Montana Jr, not only did it give The Salsoul Orchestra their first hit single, but launched Salsoul. With a pounding, funky Baker, Harris, Young key to the track’s hustle sound, percussion, searing and guitars join the arrangement, before the lushest of sweeping, swirling strings enter. They’re joined by Vince Montana Jr’s vibes and stabs of growling, blazing horns. By now, The Salsoul Orchestra have kicked loose and are in full flow. It’s a hugely impressive sound. Strings dance, while stabs of horns and the  rhythm section create the track’s pulsating heartbeat. Later, Vince lays down a vibes solo, before Bobby “Electronic” Eli unleashes a searing solo. Together, some of Philly’s greatest musicians create a genre-melting, classic, where disco, funk and Philly Soul unite.

For Disco and Boogie In NYC Volume 1: Seeds Of Club Music, Watusi of Coldfeet dug deep into the back-catalogues of Salsoul Records and West End Records. From two of disco’s most illustrious back-catalogues, Watusi chose twenty-two tracks. Just like previous installments in Octave Japan’s mix series, the success of Disco and Boogie In NYC Volume 1: Seeds Of Club Music is down to track selection. That you could argue is the same with any compilation. I’d argue with a mix CD, track selection is even more important. The music has to flow seamlessly. Twenty-two tracks have to become one. Previous mixes from DJ Nuro, DJ Norri and Towa Tei prove my point. Watusi’s track selection just reinforces this. With Watusi having two back catalogues to choose from, made his job either easier or harder.

Two back-catalogues meant more choice for Watusi. Whether it hampered him or made his job easier, only he knows? What I’d say is, that it makes for a much more eclectic and intriguing compilation. Rather than sticking with the tired and familiar, Watusi pulls a few musical rabbits out of hats. This includes Barbara Mason’s Another Man, Sparque’s Take Some Time, Shirley Lites’ Heat You Up (Melt You Down), Carl Bean’s I Was Born This Way and The Salsoul Orchestra’s Heat It Up. These tracks make Disco and Boogie In NYC Volume 1: Seeds Of Club Music an intriguing musical journey. Just like Forest Gump’s box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get. That isn’t always the case. 

Sometimes familiar flavors provide a tantalizing taste of the heady, hedonistic days of disco. That’s unlike The Beat Goes On: Salsoul Classics Mixed By Towa Tei. He neglected Salsoul classics. Watusi doesn’t. Indeed, Disco and Boogie In NYC Volume 1: Seeds Of Club Music isn’t short of classics. Far from it. Compiler Watusi hasn’t forgotten familiar faces and old favorites from Salsoul’s disco heyday. Loleatta Holloway, First Choice, Double Exposure, Charo and The Salsoul Orchestra all take a bow. Then as disco died and boogie was born, Aurra, Inner Life and Instant Funk played starring roles in the Salsoul story. Over at West End Records, Raw Silk joined divas Karen Young, Sybil Thomas and Barbara Mason. These tracks in the hands of Watusi, result in another mesmeric mix.

Disco and Boogie In NYC Volume 1: Seeds Of Club Music is the latest installment in Octave Japan’s latest compilation series. They ask innovative DJs to pick some of their favorite disco classics and mix them in their own, unique DJ-ing style. This time it’s Japanese DJ Watusi, of Coldfeet. Seamlessly, he mixes twenty-two tracks in just eighty minutes. They become one pulsating and mesmeric hook-laden, collage of boogie and disco. A glorious reminder of disco’s heady, hedonistic heyday, Disco and Boogie In NYC Volume 1: Seeds Of Club Music shows that disco never died. Far from it. Disco is even more popular. A new generation of music lovers are discovering disco, through DJs like Watusi and compilations like Disco and Boogie In NYC Volume 1: Seeds Of Club Music. Standout Tracks: Barbara Mason Another Man, Loleatta Holloway Love Sensation, First Choice Double Cross and The Salsoul Orchestra Salsoul Hustle.


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