Despite naysayers and various outside forces that sought to destroy the good times had on dance floors around the globe in the mid to late 1970s, you can still hear disco influences in the music of today. Even in the early ‘80s, a time when it was thought that the music had fled the airwaves due to an unwelcoming climate, artists such as Michael Jackson, Prince, Madonna and Queen borrowed liberally from this movement. Hyperactive basslines, bpms and tales of spinning round and round under the glittery disco ball didn’t immediately die after a disc jockey threw the Disco Demolition at Chicago’s Comiskey Park in the summer of 1979. (Though the nomenclature did shift to “dance music” in the ensuing months and years.)

That night, untold numbers of disco platters were destroyed, and though haters could smash and thrash records with their angry mitts, they just couldn’t kill the beast. Sure, record company executives and radio programmers could turn their backs on anything that carried a faint whiff of the D-word but the sounds lived on, creeping into stereo speakers and burrowing deep into pop music lovers’ collective psyche. Where did David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” come from? What about Duran Duran’s most tantalizing hits? Disco lurks in those grooves like a pair of lonely platform shoes in the night.

For Discos Only collects some of the better sides from the Fantasy and Vanguard imprints, records issued between 1976 and 1981, and weaves them together lovingly on this three-disc set. The names here are not exactly of the household variety. Rainbow Brown’s “I’m The One” sounds fantastic here even if neither the tune nor the act are as recognizable as Saturday Night Fever. Fat Larry’s Band, represented via “Lookin’ for Love,” had a fairly lengthy career, ultimately disbanding in 1987, nearly a full decade after disco glory faded.

Ike Turner shows up with “Party Vibes,” featuring Tina Turner and Home Grown Funk. It’s unsurprising, even if just a scintilla out of character. Two Tons O’ Fun isn’t the most recognizable name, but the outfit eventually morphed into the Weathergirls and became a multiplatinum success via “It’s Raining Men.” Two Tons had started off backing Sylvester, who scored a string of hits stretching from the 1970s into the 1980s. He’s represented here with three brilliant tracks including “Dance (Disco Heat),” “Over and Over” and “I Need Somebody to Love Tonight.” The first two are given epic, extended workouts that stretch toward the 10-minute mark.

These tunes had an undeniable impact on the remix sounds of the ‘80s and beyond, and if not everything here shimmers like sequins in the night, one still gains a powerful sense of what the music meant to its original audience. There’s something undeniably liberating in the way the divas of the time reach for the high notes, the way that the rhythm sections groove and grind their way into the most hypnotic reaches of musical space, the way that the listener can’t help but feel they’re being transported to some place safe or exotic via these sounds.

Bill Summers and Summers Heat suggest that the Boz Scaggs classic “Lowdown” did not, in fact, have the ultimate rhythm track of the era. Frisky’s “Burn Me Up (With Your Love)” meanwhile suggests that those who parodied the genre had plenty of fodder for fun, and yet the tune isn’t without its funky merits, including bass and horn lines that remain impossible to resist.

Slick, the collective that also brought the world “Sexy Cream,” thrives with “Space Bass,” nearly seven minutes of funk served up as it could have only sounded in the halcyon days of 1979. Free Expression’s “Chill-Out!” doesn’t necessarily summon the same immediate enthusiasm, but it does speak to the zeitgeist without apology. Roni Griffith’s “Mondo Man” will either summon shrieks of excitement or groans of agony, but like so much of this collection, it is an important artifact.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Check Also

Hunt Sales Memorial: Get Your Shit Together

Stamped into his personality and his music is a boldness that commands respect. …