DISCO 2: A FURTHER FINE SELECTION OF INDEPENDENT DISCO, MODERN SOUL AND BOOGIE 1976-80.

DISCO 2: A FURTHER FINE SELECTION OF INDEPENDENT DISCO, MODERN SOUL AND BOOGIE 1976-80.

Just seven months after Soul Jazz Records released Disco: A Fine Selection of Independent Disco, Modern Soul and Boogie in November 2014, the London based label return with the sequel, Disco 2: A Further Fine Selection of Independent Disco, Modern Soul and Boogie 1976-80 on 29th June 2015. Just like its predecessor, Disco 2: A Further Fine Selection of Independent Disco, Modern Soul and Boogie 1976-80 is a double album, featuring nineteen tracks. These tracks range from tracks from the vaults of disco’s biggest labels, including Salsoul Records and T.K Records, right throughout to private pressings. This mixture of the well known and unknown records were released during an important part in disco, and dance music’s history.

From 1976 through to July 1979, disco’s star was very much in the ascendancy. Then on 12th July 1979, the disco era ended. However, what is unclear, is when the disco era began. Was it in 1971, 1972, 1973 or 1974? 

Thirty-six years after disco died in Chi-Town, its birth is still disputed. The dispute surrounds what was the first disco record? Even today, this provokes fierce debates among music critics and cultural commentators.

So much so, that if one was to ask a hundred music critics, there would be no consensus. Even trying to narrow down the year disco was born isn’t easy. That too, is disputed.

Some critics believe disco was born in 1971, with Barry White and Isaac Hayes pioneering the disco sound. Other critics think 1972 was the year disco was born. They point towards singles like  The O’Jays’  Love Train, Jerry Butler’s One Night Affair or Manu Dibango’s Soul Makossa. Even 1972 might be too early for disco’s birth?

It could be that disco wasn’t born until 1973, when the Hues Corporation released Rock The Boat. That argument would find favour with many critics. However, some critics dispute Hues Corporation being one of the earliest disco records. They think disco was born in 1974.

Nowadays, a number of critics think George McCrae’s 1974 number one single got the disco ball rolling. It was released on Henry Stone’s T.K. Records in April 1974 and reached number one in America. Some critics will try to convince you that George McCrae and Henry Stone’s T.K. Records were responsible for getting the disco ball rolling. Others beg to differ.

It’s thought that disco was already celebrating its first birthday by then. The first article in the music press about disco was penned by Vince Aletti for Rolling Stone magazine in September 1973. Little did Vince know, he’d just written the first article about a true musical phenomenon.

Disco was born in America. Music historians have traced disco’s roots to clubs in Philly and New York. These two cities would play an important part in a disco. Philly and New York were where many of the most successful disco records were recorded. They were also home to some of disco’s top labels, Salsoul Records, SAM Records, West End Records and Casablanca. This quartet of labels are perceived as disco’s premier labels. They provided the soundtrack to America’s clubs for the next few years.

Many clubs became synonymous with disco. Especially New York. It was also home to some of the top clubs, including David Mancuso’s Loft, Paradise Garage and Studio 54. While these trio of clubs were soon perceived as some of the most influential clubs of the disco era, disco was making its presence felt worldwide.

Although born in America, soon disco’s influence was being felt worldwide. Around the world, dancers danced to the pulsating disco beat. Disco crossed the continents and provided the musical soundtrack to dance-floors worldwide. 

Among the most successful purveyors were Salsoul Records, SAM Records, West End Records and Casablanca. They were creating what is remembered as some of disco’s finest moments. Other labels and artists looked on enviously. Soon, they decided to jump on the disco bandwagon. 

Before long, artists whose career had been on the slide for years, were reinventing themselves as disco stars. Johnny Mathis, Cissy Houston, Herbie Mann, Tony Orlando, Aretha Franklin and Donald Byrd were all willing to undergo a disco makeover to revive flagging and failing careers. A few onlookers realised that the disco era wasn’t going to end well. After such crimes against music, it didn’t deserve to.

Especially with so much bandwagon jumping going on, and a mountain of third rate disco being released It was as if disco was the only musical genre left standing. That was ironic. The seventies were one of the greatest musical decades ever. Some of the greatest rock music ever was being released. Yet all radio program directors wanted their listeners to hear was disco. Someone had to make a stand. Enter Steve Dahl.

Right up until Christmas Eve 1978, Steve Dahl was a DJ on WDAI, a Chicago radio station. WDAI had been a rock station for a long time. Then on Christmas Eve 1978, it was announced WDAI was going to become a disco station. Given the change in music policy, Steve Dahl was fired. Little did anyone know, that Steve Dahl’s firing would result in disco’s death.

Steve wasn’t out of work long. He was soon hired by WLUP, a rival station. WLUP played rock, which suited Steve Dahl. He had a feeling that disco wasn’t long for this world. The disco bubble was about to burst; and it wouldn’t take long.

Steve wasn’t a fan of disco, and took to mocking disco on-air. Openly, he mocked WDAI’s “disco DAI.” It became “disco die” to to Steve. Soon, Steve had created the Insane Coho Lips, his very own anti-disco army. Along with cohost Gary Meier, they coined the now infamous slogan “Disco Sucks.” The backlash had begun.

From there, the Disco Sucks movement gathered momentum. Events were held all over America. This came to a head at Disco Demolition Derby, which was Steve Dahl’s latest anti-disco event. Each one was becoming bigger, rowdier and attracting even more publicity. Disco Demolition Derby, which was held at Comiskey Park, Chicago on 12th July 1979 surpassed everything that went before. WFUL were sponsoring a Chicago White Sox game at Comiskey Park. if fans brought with them a disco record, they’d get in for ninety-eight cents. These records would be blown up by Steve Dahl. An estimated crowd between 20-50,000 people attended. Quickly the event descended into chaos. Vinyl was thrown from the stands like frisbees. Then when Steve blew up the vinyl, fans stormed the pitch and rioted. Things got so bad, that the riot police were called. After the Disco Demolition Derby, disco nearly died.

Following Disco Derby Night, disco’s popularity plunged. Disco artists were dropped by major labels, disco labels folded and very few disco albums were released. Disco was on the critical list, and suffered a near death experience. It took a long time to recover. After disco’s demise, dance music changed. 

No longer were record labels willing to throw money at dance music. Budgets were suddenly much smaller. Gone were the lavish productions of the disco orchestras of the seventies. This was epitomised by The Salsoul Orchestra and John Davis and The Monster Orchestra. Strings and horns were now a luxury. Music would have to go back to basics. 

Replacing strings and horns would be sequencers, synths and drum machines, which during the last couple of years, had become much cheaper. Previously, they were only found in studios or were used by wealthy and famous musicians. Now they were within the budget of many musicians. This would prove crucial in the rise and rise of boogie, and later, modern soul, as the musical genres that replaced disco. They became the favoured choice of music for discerning dancers and DJs.

For DJs all over America, boogie and modern soul were the answer to their prayers. Disco’s demise had proved problematic. What were they going to play? If they even dared to drop a disco track, they risked clearing the dance-floor. As DJs wrestled with this problem, boogie was born.

Boogie was born out of necessity. It was very different from disco. Gone were sophisticated arrangement. There were no strings or horns. The music was made with drum machines and synths. Its critics called the music sterile, mechanical and soulless. Despite this, it found an audience.

Soon, boogie was providing the audience to clubs across America, and much further afield. Producers including Patrick Adams, Peter Brown and Leroy Burgess were producing some of the most successful boogie. They released music on Salsoul Record, SAM Records, West End Records and P.P.P. These labels were looking for music to release in the post-disco era. So, it suited all parties. 

The genre that was almost born out of necessity, had become the choice of discerning DJs. So did modern soul. Boogie and modern soul became part of the soundtrack in the most fashionable clubs. They replaced disco, which by 1980, was already perceived as yesterday’s sound. It was a remnant of music’s past. Little did anyone who so readily discarded disco to readily, realise that thirty-five years later, it would still be as popular?

Very few of these people thought that in 2015, the latest wave of disco compilations were about to be released. Among them, is Disco 2: A Further Fine Selection of Independent Disco, Modern Soul and Boogie 1976-80, a double album which I’ll pick highlights of.

Opening Disco 2: A Further Fine Selection of Independent Disco, Modern Soul and Boogie 1976-80 is Stevo’s Pay The Price. It was released in 1979, on T.K. Disco. By then, the disco era was drawing to a close. As a result, a number of tracks were overlooked, including Stevo’s Pay The Price. It’s funky, sassy, soulful and epitomises the Miami Sound. There’s also a brief nod to boogie, which was just about to replace disco in popularity. However, Pay The Price is a real find and the perfect way to get the disco ball rolling. 

Dunn Pearson Jr.’s Groove On Down is a real find. It was released in 1978, on Shyrlden Records, a subsidiary of Greg Carmichael’s Red Greg Records. Groove On Down was written and produced by Dunn Pearson Jr. This was was Dunn’s debut single. He was already an experienced musician, songwriter, arranger, and producer. However, the only thing Dunn hadn’t done, was release a single. So, in 1978, Dunn released Groove On Down, which has everything a good disco single needed. There’s a soulful vocal, swathes of lush strings, horns and harmonies. They play their part in the single that launched Dunn Pearson Jr.’s solo career.

Choosing a name for a band isn’t easy. However, whoever thought up Mad Dog Fire Department deserves a medal. They sound like a sixties psychedelic band. That’s not the case though. Mad Dog Fire Department were a funk band, who released their only single Cosmic Funk on T.K. Disco in 1979. It’s a fusion of funk, disco and proto-boogie, that would still fill a dance-floor thirty-six years on.

In 1979, Needa made their way to The Platinum Factory, in Brooklyn, New York. There they recorded a truly innovative track, Come On And Rock. It was written by Bill Moore, James Johnson and Juanita Holloway. Bill Moore produced this groundbreaking fusion of boogie, disco, funk, hip hop and soul. There’s even a blistering rocky guitar added. It’s the finishing touch to this genre melting hidden gem. Sadly, when Come On And Rock was released on the Leomini label, it never made the journey from the dance-floor to the charts. Only now, will a new generation of music lovers discover what the previous generation missed out on.

By April 1979, disco was still in good health. To most people, it looked like the disco boom was going to last forever. Plenty of disco singles were being released, including Anita Maldonado’s What Can I Do To Make You Dance. It was released on Queen Constance Records in April 1979. What Can I Do To Make You Dance was penned by Barbara Youngblood and Rowland Johnson, and produced by Patricia and Peter Brown. They’re responsible for what’s an slice of uber funky, soulful disco. 

The Shades Of Love climbed onboard the disco bandwagon in 1979. Their first single was Come Inside. It was arranged and produced by Lonnie Johnson, and released on his Scorpgemi Records. Against Lonnie’s arrangement, Lisa Fischer adds a sassy, sultry vampish vocal. 

Jahneen Otis’ Everybody’s Dancin’ opens disc two of Disco 2: A Further Fine Selection of Independent Disco, Modern Soul and Boogie 1976-80. It was the B-Side to Changes, a single released on the Flashha label. Everybody’s Dancin’ was produced by Bill Moore and Kenny Williams. They combine elements of disco, boogie, funk and soul to create another dance-floor friendly hidden gem. 

Paper Doll’s Get Down Boy is one of the earliest tracks on Disco 2: A Further Fine Selection of Independent Disco, Modern Soul and Boogie 1976-80. It was released in 1976, on Heavenly Star Records. Patrick Adams arranged Get Down By, while it was produced by Harvey Miller. They give the song a classic disco arrangement. Everything is dropped into place at the right time. As a result, nearly forty years later, the song has a timeless sound, unlike many later disco singles.

By 1980, boogie was flavour of the month for DJs and dancers. For labels who thrived in the disco era, it was a case of change or die. Henry Stone’s T.K. Disco realised this, and incorporated boogie, disco, funk and soul on Paco and Flaco’s He’s Here. It was released in 1980, on T.K. Disco and has a foot in the disco and boogie camps.

Five years after releasing their debut eponymous album, Ripple released their sophomore album Sons Of The Gods in 1978. It was produced by Floyd Smith, Loleatta Holloway’s husband, and released on Salsoul Records. When Son Of The Gods hit the shops, it sold badly, and failed to chart. Ripple it seemed, were destined to be a singles band. However, one of the highlights of Sons Of The Gods was Victorious. It’s the perfect showcase for the multitalented Ripple, who a year earlier, had enjoyed a hit with The Beat Goes On And On.

Closing disc two of Disco 2: A Further Fine Selection of Independent Disco, Modern Soul and Boogie 1976-80, is Otis Brown’s Grade A’s Strut On (Strut Your Stuff). It was released on OTB Records, in 1980. Just like other tracks from 1980 on the compilation, it has a foot in both the boogie and disco camps. However, there’s also a healthy dose of funk, plus elements of soul, Latin and even hip hip. Together, they create a dance track for a new decade.

Just like its predecessor, there can be no complaints about the quality of music on Disco 2: A Further Fine Selection of Independent Disco, Modern Soul and Boogie 1976-80. The compilers have dug deep, comping up with selection of familiar tracks and hidden gems. 

Among the familiar faces, are tracks from the vaults of T.K. Disco and Salsoul Records. These tracks will be familiar to many disco veterans. After all, T.K. Disco, like Salsoul Records was part of the disco soundtrack. However, it’s on the lesser known tracks where the disco gold is to be found. 

Tracks that were privately pressed nearly forty years ago, are being rediscovered. Many of these tracks will have been long forgotten about. However, they receive a welcome airing on Disco 2: A Further Fine Selection of Independent Disco, Modern Soul and Boogie 1976-80. Some of these tracks were written, arranged and produced by some well known names. This includes Patrick Adams and Peter Brown. They were part of the disco and boogie booms and released singles on some of the biggest labels in disco history including Salsoul Record, SAM Records, West End Records and P.&.P. However, for Disco 2: A Further Fine Selection of Independent Disco, Modern Soul and Boogie 1976-80 many of these releases have been eschewed.

That’s no bad thing. Anyone can throw together a compilation of the usual disco and boogie suspects. It’s been done before, and will be done again. All a record company needs to do, is strike a licensing deal with the owners of the rights to Salsoul Record or SAM Records. Then pick some of the label’s biggest “hits” voila, you have a disco compilation the easy way. The alternative is do compile a compilation like Disco 2: A Further Fine Selection of Independent Disco, Modern Soul and Boogie 1976-80. 

Soul Jazz Records have taken time to compile Disco 2: A Further Fine Selection of Independent Disco, Modern Soul and Boogie 1976-80. It’s a lovingly combined compilation, where the nineteen familiar tracks and hidden gems sit side-by-side. These tracks document a in important four year period in the history of dance music. This period is covered on what is without doubt, one of the finest disco compilations the first six months of 2015, Disco 2: A Further Fine Selection of Independent Disco, Modern Soul and Boogie 1976-80. Its success is down to eschewing the familiar, and digging deeper than other compilers dare to dig.

DISCO 2: A FURTHER FINE SELECTION OF INDEPENDENT DISCO, MODERN SOUL AND BOOGIE 1976-80.

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1 Comment

  1. Thanks for such an informative and well researched article..wow…….so grateful to be recognized and included..Jeannine Oits/Jahneen

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