Friday, September 18, 2009

Disco Discharge and Other Recent/Upcoming Disco Releases & Reissues

It has been a while since I've done one of these posts, but Harmless' new Disco Discharge series are honestly some of the most pleasing disco compilations I've heard in a little while now. While not 100% devoted to rarities and obscurities, compiled around specific names or niche categories like most of the disco compilations that tend to pique my interest these days, I was, to be honest, half-expecting to be a little underwhelmed. To my own surprise, I've spent much of the last week or so indulging in these, discovering songs I never knew about (the awesome Bobby O. production by Free Enterprise - "Make It On My Own," "Take Me To The Top" by Advance, Massara's "Margherita," Johnny Mathis' "Gone, Gone, Gone) and re-acquainting myself with well-known classics that I've long taken for granted (Rose Royce's "Do Your Dance", the Shep Pettibone mix of Phyllis Nelson's "I Like You), or never even bothered with in the first place (Fern Kinney's "Groove Me," Manhattan Transfer's "Twilight Zone/Twilight Tone"). I have to give them credit with this, not only have they managed to mark a fine balance between choice rarities and the more well-known commercial hits, but across the four double-disc volumes in this series (Classic Disco, Disco Queens, Gay Disco & Hi NRG and Euro Disco), they've put together quite a broad-based series, well tuned to the current disco zeitgeist, balancing the classic disco of the late 70's with the increasing movement towards Italo, Boogie and Hi NRG.

As far as rarities are concerned, there are a good number of tracks on here which either don't seem to have ever been, or at the very least haven't been widely available on CD until now. While the track times are all listed, and the promo stickers advertise all tracks as "12" or long LP versions," not all of these special versions are specifically labeled on the tracklists, like, for example the rare Canadian 12" mix/extended edit of Amanda Lear's "Blood and Honey," mastered from the original tapes and exclusive to this series. With all of its sweet extended percussion breaks, finally being able to hear this track here in pristine digital quality is one of the major treats on here, especially given the prices that the original Direction label 12" release has commanded on eBay in the not too distant past. Also included among the other unlabeled versions on here are the John Luongo's 12" mix of Melba Moore's "Pick Me Up, I'll Dance", the extended mix of Sparks' Moroder-produced "Number One Song In Heaven," the seven minute version of Time Bandits' "Live It Up," the 12" version of Silver Convention's "Get Up And Boogie," and the "Roy Thode 12" version of Poussez' Come On And Do It, to give a few. It also has to be said, that any compilation that takes the care to track down the masters for both of Sylvia Love's classics - "Instant Love" and "Extraterrestrial Lover" (also exclusive to this series) is definitely in my good books.

In addition to the musical selection, the sound quality across the volumes is also refreshingly consistent and of high quality. While it may not always be possible, the care taken in tracking down original master tapes for the overwhelming majority of selections is commendable, given the number of compilations (excellent ones too) out in the disco world that don't. Luring the listener with a classic while keeping things interesting with a series delicately timed surprises; as a listening experience, this series this is pretty much everything good compilations should be.

One of the best functions of the compilation album - which doesn't seem to be going away, in spite of the changes in music consumption (in fact, I'd probably argue the opposite), is as one of the primary gateways into new avenues of music. As far as I'm concerned, while there's a lot here those for those well acquainted with disco and looking something new; for those who aren't, it's a perfect place to start.

The first volume, Classic Disco was already released September 7th, with Disco Ladies scheduled for release on September 28th, followed by Euro Disco on October 5th and Gay Disco & Hi NRG on October 19th via Harmless/Demon. All include liner notes by Alan Jones, co-author (with Jussi Kantonen) of "Saturday Night Forever: The Story of Disco" (read the essay from the Classic Disco volume here).

In the meantime, for those who would like a preview, Horse Meat Disco's Luke Howard has put together an excellent 30 minute Disco Discharge mix, featuring tracks from the series. Enjoy.

Listen: Luke Howard - Disco Discharge Mix | LINK TWO

Luke Howard - Disco Discharge/Soulful Disco Mix (tracklist):
1. Idris Muhammad - Could Heaven Ever Be Like This
2. Glitter Band - Makes You Blind
3. Grey And Hanks - Dancin'
4. Lucy Hawkins - Gotta Get Out Of Here
5. Esther Phillps - What A Difference A Day Makes

VA - Disco Discharge. Classic Disco (2009, Harmless)
buy/pre-order @ | juno | phonica | | |

VA - Disco Discharge. Disco Ladies (2009, Harmless)
buy/pre-order @ | | |

VA - Disco Discharge. Euro Disco (2009, Harmless)
buy/pre-order @ | |

VA - Disco Discharge. Gay Disco & Hi NRG (2009, Harmless)
buy/pre-order @ | |

Recent & Future Reissues:

Aquarian Dream - Fantasy
(1978, Elektra / 2009, Warner Music Japan)
buy/pre-order @ | CDBANQ |
This is one I'm personally very excited for. An Aquarian Dream album on CD - almost thought it wouldn't happen. While their first LP was reissued on CD in the 90s (now out of print, of course), this is probably their finest. For those who haven't heard, "You're A Star" is pure epic pleasure and as far as the rest of it's concerned, when it is produced by the great Norman Connors and reissued by the Japanese, you just can't go wrong. Note: both of their Elektra albums (this and 1979's "Chance To Dance") are available digitally (in the legit sense), so consider this one for those who still value the physical. (To be released October 14, 2009)

Gregg Diamond Bionic Boogie - Hot Butterfly
(1978, Polydor / 2009, Funky Town Grooves)
buy/pre-order @ funky town grooves |
An exciting release from Funky Town Grooves label. While this album had been reissued on CD in 2005 by the P-Vine label in Japan, the people at FTG (with the help of some forum members) tracked down five extra bonus tracks - 12" mixes of the title track, "Fess Up To The Boogie," "Cream (Always Rises To The Top), and two different 12" mixes of "Chains." A top shelf Gregg Diamond production, with Luther Vandross on vocals (along with Cissy Houston in the background), this is one of my favourites and one I'm personally looking forward to. FTG haven't listed a specific release date, but have posted an info page on their website. (Scheduled for release in October/November 2009)

Pattie Brooks - Love Shook/Our Ms. Brooks
(1977, 1978, Casablanca / 2009, Funky Town Grooves)
buy/pre-order @ funky town grooves
While the combination of Pattie's voice and Simon Soussan's production can be a little oversweetened for my liking at times, it's nice to see more Casablanca disco releases make it to CD (especially in times like this). One of the main people behind the Funky Town Grooves label confirmed on the forums that this reissue will be taken from the master tapes, so it certainly looks promising. (To be released September 28, 2009)

Jackie Moore - I'm On My Way/With Your Love
(1979, 1980, Columbia / 2009, Expansion)
buy @ soul music store | | |
These two classic disco albums, produced by Bobby Eli (and backed by the whole Philly studio gang) are finally making it to digital. The former, "I'm On My Way" is especially overdue, including her two big disco killers "This Time Baby" and "How's Your Love Life Baby," which are essentials on anyone disco selections, as far as I'm concerned. Note: Haven't heard it for myself yet, but an early review on says this was mastered from vinyl. Be warned. (Released September 8, 2009)

Gray & Hanks - You Fooled Me/Prime Time
(1978, 1981, RCA / 2009, Expansion)
buy @ soul music store | | |
The two albums Zane Gray and Len Ron Hanks did for RCA are also here, both in their entirety. Brought to you by the same folks who did the Jackie Moore reissue (above), the former "You Fooled Me," which includes their disco hit "Dancin'" (as included on the Disco Discharge Classic Disco set) was reissued on CD in Japan last year, but with this much more accessible release and with both albums included, this might be better way to go if you want it on CD (unless, of course, this is mastered from vinyl as well). (Released September 8, 2009)

George & Gwen McCrae - Together
(1975, Cat/TK / 2009, Shout!/Cherry Red)
buy @ | | |
Perhaps more on the soul/R&B side of things, produced by Clarence Reid (AKA Blowfly) and Steve Alaimo, this is a great mellow grooving classic, I had to include this here. As far as soulful female voices go, I can never get enough of Gwen McCrae and this one fits in well with her material at the time (which was also produced mostly by Reid & Alaimo). This reissue includes six bonus tracks, all George McCrae solos, who, compared to his former wife, has been generally less represented in the world of reissues. (Released August 25, 2009)

Sylvester and The Hot Band - The Blue Thumb Collection
(2009, Hip-O Select/Universal)
buy @ hip-o select | | |
So perhaps not disco at all, but still a major release from a disco-historical perspective. Hip-O/Universal have at last gone out and filled one of the outstanding gaps in Sylvester's catalogue by making his first two albums, "Sylvester & The Hot Band" (AKA "Scratch My Flower") and "Bazaar" (along with a couple of rare bonuses) available on CD. An intriguing pair of records - heavy on covers, both albums are a departure from the disco he would later record on the Fantasy and Megatone labels during the height of his career. Crossing between folk, funk, rock and soul, it however fit right in with the eclecticism that the Blue Thumb label was known for. A must-have for Sylvester fans. (Note: for those wondering about the scratch-and-sniff flower on the original debut LP, Hip-O select have included one in air freshner form, in lieu of its omission on the cover. I believe this is exclusive to orders from their website though.) (Released June 12, 2009)

Candi Staton - Chance
(1979, Warner Bros. / 2009, Wounded Bird)
buy @ | | |
This was released a while back, but I had to put this here as this is a favourite of mine. Prior to the release of this I'd bought a sealed copy of the vinyl album to keep 'on ice,' so to speak. Had I known about this, I probably wouldn't have done that, but anyway, produced by Candi and noted disco mixer Jimmy Simpson, this album includes the hit "When You Wake Up Tomorrow" and the underrated title track. Soulful disco fans, take heed. (Released June 9, 2009)

Belle Epoque - Miss Broadway
(1977, Big Tree / 2009, Wounded Bird)
buy @ | | |
Another one released in June, and one that I never expected either. Wounded Bird continue to mine the depths of the WEA archives for these things, and I couldn't be happier. Timely too, as I've been listening to Glass Candy version of the title track recently, but nothing tops the original. (Released June 9, 2009)

List updated September 21, 2009




MrPinks said...

Hi there. MrPinks here, the compiler of the Disco Discharge series. Just wanted to say a huge thank you for your kind words about the albums, it means a lot. Thought you might like to know that in the case of tracks that have never been released on CD before including Amanda Lear and Sylvia Love, we used the original 1/4 inch master tapes. These had to be baked in an oven to return them to their former glory. Also worth pointing out that I managed to get hold of a better master for Free Enterprise - Make It On My Own and the commercial copies of the Gay Disco & Hi NRG album will include the new version.

with very best wishes from the UK

Tommy said...

Hi MrPinks,

Thanks for the comment. I've been enjoying these to bits lately, so it's my pleasure. Thanks for the confirmation on the master tapes. I neglected to mention this on the first go-round (I'll put it in later), but I'm also really impressed with the sound quality on these compilations. I'm glad you all took the time to source master tapes for the overwhelming majority of the selections. I know it's not always possible, but the result is that much better. I've listened to some other compilations (especially lately) which were wildly inconsistent in that department, so it's refreshing to really hear these in top quality.

Anyway, happy to know that you tracked a better source for the Free Enterprise track. It's one of my favourites!

Jason Fist said...

Must say I was intrigued by these comps - half digger half commercial - but I'll take a closer look: seems like they are worth investigating.

Aztec1957 said...

I jumped for joy when I read your post. I've repeated at nauseum to anyone who'd listed that these kind of reissues and complilations are a long time coming.

All I can say is....Where's my wallet!

MrPinks said...

Hey Guys! Yes please buy the first four albums and then I'll be able to follow them up. I'm already putting the track listings together for the next four so fingers crossed they will come to fruitition. I'm very thankful that we're getting such a positive response to the first four. Amazon UK keep selling out which is cool! You know one of the most gratifying things about putttig these albums together is that I've made contact with you, the 'True Disco lovers.' I am truley honored. Big Love to you all x

professor Eddy said...

I'm looking forward to listen to the albums!

soulbrotha said...

@Mr. Pinks,

I appreciate the time and effort that you have put into this compilation as far as finding a few rare tracks and the masters. However, my pet peeve is when compilers pull the same old tracks over and over again. I mean do we really need the umpteenth reissue of Got To Be Real? Also Ben Liebrand released a spectacular series that covered most of the commercial territory:

I'd like to know if you are doing comparisons with those and other compilations, in order to keep duplications to a bare minimum and allow the rarer and/or lesser known classics to get their proper due.

MrPinks said...

Hi and thanks for your comments. I completely understand that collectors like yourself are looking for the hard to find tracks and don't want to see readily available cuts included. Commercial reasons dictated that I use some mainstream classics on the albums but I do hope there are enough rarities accross the 4 albums to interest you. I am at present compiling the next four albums for release early / mid 2010 and as the series will be established by then I will probably not need to include any commercial tracks next time round.
I love the Grand 12" series, they are a joy to listen to. Unfortunately some duplication accross the albums is inevitable. I did check out usage of tracks prior to including them on Disco Discharge but with certain tracks being denied / not available to license, I just went with what I thought were the strongest possible track listings. I do hope you enjoy them.

soulbrotha said...

@Mr Pinks,

Thanks for responding. I totally understand your reasons and I thank you for putting care and thought into these compilations. I look forward to the future comps with more rare tracks. Another irritating thing that compilers have done in the past is to use really lousy tracks that no one ever heard of and call them "rare," as if that word alone somehow makes them instantly desirable. But from your description, I have no doubt that your comps will avoid those pitfalls. Keep on truckin'! :)

ish said...

Even with tons of digital downloading, I still buy good cd reissues. Yay for many of these. Thanks for the news.

Enrique said...

Tommy: Thanks for this post! I've just pre-ordered all 4 Disco Discharge compilations. (BIG THANK YOU to Mr. Pinks. Keep 'em coming.) I'll probably pick up the Bionic Boogie album too. Hope you're doing well... Enrique

P.S. Did you see that the Casablanca Records books is available for pre-order?

Enrique said...

Whoa! Just checked the Funky Town Grooves website... The first Bionic Boogie will also be available! WOW. And it includes the 12" mix of Risky Changes... Must. Have. Now.

Eric Henwood-Greer said...

I'm intrigued by the Pattie Brooks--nto a big fan of Soussan eithe rbut I DO love After Dark and I've always wanted to hear the track on Miss Brooks she did with one of my faves, Bob Esty, Backup Singer (dunno fi it's uptempo though?)

The Disco Discharge compilations look AMAZING--love the covers--and I have them already ordered/pre-ordered. Onlya few tracks I'm unsure about--I love Branigan but did we really need those two again? Otherwise I actually like the mix of known and rare tracks.

Tommy said...

Thanks for the comments, everyone!

MrPinks, if you're still checking, who did that great re-edit of The Glitter Band's "Makes You Blind"?

Hey Enrique, thanks for the tip on the 1st Bionic Boogie album. They mentioned it in passing i think in the forums and I think Dusty Grooves had it listed, but I wasn't 100 % sure at the time. I'll add it to the list when I get a chance! Thanks again!

Hey Eric, I'm not a huge fan of Soussan's productions either, although I've heard a few things of his that I've liked, like French Kiss's "Mischief" and of course "After Dark" as well, which are both awesome, IMO. It's funny you mentioned the Branigan tracks, Alexis Petridis made a mention of that in the Guardian last month, saying: "Of all many amazing things about the appallingly named 8CD Disco Discharge series, perhaps the most amazing is the way it recontextualises Laura Branigan's cheesy 80s hit. Placed among all the sparkle and sleaze and glittery melancholy, it sounds – and you'll have to trust me here – inexplicably astonishing: a racked, potent, weirdly ambiguous paean to yearning obsession." Anyway, I have to agree, some seem perhaps a bit too obvious at first glance, like the Cheryl Lynn which Soulbrotha mentioned, but in the context of the other tracks, I find even those work more often than not.

MrPinks said...

Hey Tommy, yes still on board! Been busy so haven't had time to post any comments. I'll have to get back to you on who did the re edit of the Glitter band. It's a track that Demon Music Group own the rights to but as to who did the edit...? I'll find out for you.
I've been finalsing the track listings for the next Disco Discharge releases this week and as long as we get good sales on the first four I'll be looking at releasing the next batch in April 2010.
Thanks to everyone for their comments and I have taken them all on board.
Be in touch soon. MrPinks

Eric Henwood-Greer said...

Dunno if it's too late to suggest anything but...

I now have all four volumes, and I have to say that in overall sound quality, and quality of track selection, everything, these are hands down my fave disco compilations yet on CD. ]

My one request for a second series (aside from some actual tracks) would be to have a page or two in the booklet for track info. Just the basics--composer, producer, release date and maybe some chart info I know a lot of this was contained in the linear notes in the previous releases, anyway. But.

Anonymous said...

I now have all four of the Disco Discharge comps and I'd just like to extend thanks to Mr Pinks & Harmless for releasing such a fabulous collection of disco music. Even the selections which seem like headscratchers at first (Laura Branigan, for instance) work surprisingly well. Sound quality, as mentioned above, is excellent & it really gives space, life and impact to these grooves. Congratulations and thanks. Here's hoping there are further disco treasures like these to come.

Dj Para Fiestas said...

Great collection! Definitely disco music never can be missed in a party!

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