We’ve been going ages on how amazing the Disco Discharge series is and this new batch of four double CDs is no different. Split over the usual themes America, fusion, gay and (our fave, the more synthetic) Euro, it offers a compelling mixture of hits, underground club tracks and choice rarities that by no means should be overlooked. Finally the dj’s angle on disco is being thoroughly explored and it is finally possible to own on CD many of the forgotten classics which rocked the clubs before house (and in full length). This collection should be owned by every dj.
Anyone who found themselves on Twitter during BBC4’s disco night in March will have witnessed the repudiation of rock history on grand scale. The sheer joy was palpable as Friday night stay-at-homes, broadsheet columnists, ageing keepers of the flame and fascinated ingénues agreed that this stuff—gaudy, camp, ridiculous but birthed out of genuine outsider bloodymindedness—was way better than most pillars of the rock canon. “Funny how disco has lasted better than punk,” noted one self-designated old punk.
It has, but at a cost. Disco was born in ‘70s America out of rising consciousness in its gay audience, jaded post-Watergate hedonism among the straights, and aspirations towards the beautiful life for everyone—impulses as revolutionary as anything happening down the King’s Road or at CBGB’s. But since then disco has fallen into the grisly hands of the ’70s Night brigade with their rainbow Afro-wigs and tired pimp suits.
It deserves better, and the Disco Discharge series, now three years old, delivers. Each of these lovingly-compiled double CDs brings together 20 or so disco rarities which are immediate and powerful enough to feel as familiar s a Mighty Real or a Boogie Wonderland.
Most accessible of the latest four releases, the pizza-punning American Hot collection has its share of cheese (hold the Tony Orlando) but chiefly it demonstrates that this music wasn’t always frantically trying to hump your leg through its spandex Speedos. Tom Moulton, master architect of the stoned and ecstatic wing of disco, lent a stately, almost parodic grace to album opener Love For The Sake Of Love by Claudja Barry, who was briefly a member of Boney M. This was the essence of disco in its imperial period: gliding strings and opulent melodies for glossy urban fantasies. If the singer feels like a star in New York and a star in LA then maybe the listener can too.
And perhaps both parties can go star-crazy. See, for example, the ludicrously brilliant New York By Night by one Dennis Parker, otherwise known as Wade Nichols, star of such underappreciated adult dramas as Teenage Pajama Party and Boynapped (you get the picture). The record is an epic travelogue through the city’s unseemly underbelly and sounds like the overture for the great lost disco musical. Which, to be frank, all the best disco records did anyway.
The Exotica and Europa sets show disco falling in love with the synthesizer and under the thrall of patron saint Giorgio Moroder whose juddering basslines and psychedelic soundscapes set a two-decade template for Europop. Here are lubricious electro game-changers such as Klein & MBO’s Dirty Talk, epics of Eurotrash like Baltimora’s Italianate chantalong Tarzan Boy, and artists with names such as Lee Marrow and Voggue with two G’s.
The general listener will probably find that the Midnight Shift edition—with its cover shot of an oiled-up gentleman working out with a dumbbell—is a little too rich for their blood. This collection is post-disco hi-NRG at its pumpingest, least compromising and, let’s face it, gayest. But there is much to entertain, not least the suspicion that for many of these artistes English is not their first language. “I’m like a cake that wants to be baked,” sing the girls on Slice Me Nice by Fancy, a German producer and friend of Siegfried & Roy. “I’m like a pie for hungry guys.” Fantastische!
What else leaps out? There’s disco’s strange and touching fixation on the ‘20s and ‘40s, and its underappreciated and overpowering musicality: half of these records sound like urban symphonies and the rest explore mantric repetition with as much dedication as Can or Philip Glass.
Above all, these neglected records remind you of music’s real purpose. Preposterous, sentimental, tasteless and bizarre, disco still knew the only truth that matters. We were born to be alive.
Four CDs of disco rarities that reclaim the ‘70s dancefloor back from cheesy novelty nights. The American Hot disc exemplifies the appeal, showing disco at its glossy and imperial best.
So So Gay Magazine
Disco Discharge, the brainchild of Brightonian Mr Pinks and released on Harmless Records in volumes of four, features a collection of ‘sure fire classics as well as some tracks never before released on CD’. Each disc comes in a distinctive sleeve and they overall cover every sub-genre of disco. The latest installment carries Disco Exotica, American Hot, Europa and Midnight Shift.
Disco Exotica kicks it all off, the perfect soundtrack to those electro sex parties when you too often don’t know what to put on. And disco it is too, authentically and brilliantly 70s. Track 7 is the disco ‘House of the Rising Sun’ – and if you’ve often thought that what the song had been missing was extra drama and the sound of a woman climaxing over 14 minutes then you’ve come to the right place. Elsewhere, Sylvia Love’s ‘Extraterrestrial Lover’ (Instrumental 12″ mix) impresses with a maniacally wayward xylophone while track 4 has a seductively dangerous guitar.
Disc 2 starts off a little softer, a decidely more sultry affair – all whispered come-ons and flirty promises. Jeanette’s ‘Don’t Say Goodnight To A Lady of Spain’ exemplifies the erotic holiday atmosphere. Track 7, Patrick Juvet’s ‘Swiss Kiss’ carries bongoes, cymbals and a whole plethora of noisy percussion. Some of the songs put you in the mind of ‘My Cherie Amour’, which is appropriate because at number 8 that’s exactly what we have, courtesy of Boney M.
Disc 2 of American Hot opens with the John Carpenter synths of ‘I Need Somebody To Love Tonight’ by Sylvester featuring Patrick Cowley. Track 2 is the kind of thing appropriate for an afternoon on the patio with a lemonade, in the hot tub with friends or in the downstairs rollerdisco, while track 3 is endearingly and wonderfully camp – ‘touch me baybay – on my hot spot!’. ‘New York By Night’ by Dennis Parker has elements of The Village People to it.
Europa begins with Taco’s ‘Puttin’ on the Ritz’ – easily reproduced on any keyboard – and is campy, lispy, futurisic-as-seen-in-the-80s fun. Originally released in ’83, it was named VH1′s 53rd greatest one hit wonder of the 80s, no less. A cover of the popular song written in 1929 by Irving Berlin for the musical film of the same name, Taco nevertheless chucks on a bit of ‘Another One Bites the Dust’ and ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ for the hell of it. What we’re left with is, as you might imagine, absurdly enjoyable. Radiorama’s ‘Hey Hey’ can’t but feel a little pedestrian after that.
Silver Pozzoli flies the flag for Italy on ‘Around My Dream’ and proves that no amount of dodgy pronunciation of English lyrics can impede a song of such blatant amazingness. Followed by Baltimora’s ‘Tarzan Boy’ (why have I never previously owned this?), Europa’s disc one is a stand-out.
‘Go Go Dynamo’ by Cleo on disc two definitely shares DNA with Debarge’s ‘Rhythm of the Night’, and is no worse off for the fact. The genealogy of bands like New Order and Pet Shop Boys can be traced to much on the rest of this CD.
Midnight Shift is where it gets really sexy (as if the chap sweatily pumping iron on the sleeve wasn’t already a clue). It opens with Bette Middler’s exhilaratingly silly ‘My Knight in Black Leather’; ‘This is my story and I ain’t ashamed to tell it…’, she calls to us as the first piano notes chime in. The song is coloured with shades of ‘It’s Raining Men’ and gospel, and reaches its peak near the end, when Bette recalls ‘he smelled just like a brand new car, cos everything he owned was made of leather…’ before ‘losing her shit’ altogether and breaking into a roar with ‘and the chaps – and the pants – in the rain!’. Seriously, this must be heard.
Elsewhere Hairspray’s ‘You Can’t Stop the Beat’ is found to have almost certainly derived inspiration from Lipstique’s bouncy ‘At the Discotheque’, while Kim Carnes clears her throat over the dark synths of the sexy ‘Voyeur’ at number 9.
There is no doubt that Disco Discharge is a fun set but there is the question of how best to consume it. It is, after all, eight discs of music, each carrying a hefty amount of listening (the average song length on Disco Exotica disc one is 7.30 minutes) - often with a long stretch of ‘instrumental’ – and there is sometimes the risk of disco-fatigue. However, these would be wonderfully suited to mixing, so DJs will consider these discs a treasure, and what’s stopping you from importing all of this into your iTunes library and assembling a definitive 18-track disco juggernaut for yourself?
Ultimately what Disco Discharge represents is a lovingly put-together compilation of disco classics (some forgotten, some lesser-heard) that would delight any fan of the (multi-stranded) genre. We humbly recommend you get down.
The trouble with disco is that while it’s played more than The Beatles, Rolling Stones and Beach Boys combined it tends to be the same 100 or so records.
Which is where Disco Discharge come in. They’ve been scouring the vaults for forgotten disco classics and putting them out in double-CD packages.
Disco Exotica rounds up everything from Boney M doing Stevie Wonder’s My Cherie Amour to very rare Bette Midler and Toni Basil tracks.
While it’s not all top-notch stuff it makes a nice change from I Will Survive and Night Fever.