on 19 December 2015
I have deleted my previous review knocking the content of this series. However, after another listen or two, I have discovered another reason to avoid it: The Sound Quality.
Harmless has used a noise shaping or noise reduction on this that makes it sound flat. This type of processing comes in various degrees. It can completely distort the sound and destroy the stereo effect, or make it sound just slightly flat with a little distortion, in the higher midrange like brass.
This whole series is one big disaster. Thank God the Backbeats series was not ‘processed’ like this, although I wonder if such fortune was just not an accident by people who are not listening to what they are putting out.
The big bummer on this is the long version of More More More, which rarely pops up, hopefully someone will come along and give it the proper treatment.
on 6 April 2012
'American Hot' is a further addition to the gradually expanding 'Disco Discharge' series, helmed by Mr Pinks, with liner notes written by Alan Jones, co-author of 'Saturday Night Forever: The Story Of Disco'. The release features the same distinctive artwork and packaging, featuring two cds of un-mixed full length 12" or original album version tracks. The series has been particularly successful for the Harmless Record label and Demon Music imprint, but with this release (part of the fourth series) is this likely to continue?
CD 1 opens with Claudja Barry's 'Love For The Sake Of Love' (1976), a track known widely to modern soul and R&B audiences for the sample lifted for Montell Jordan's 'Get It On Tonite' (taken from the 1999 album of the same name). This is a glorious track, featuring a deep slow groove and swaying strings, apparently featured here in a 'Tom Moulton Mix' - for some musical purveyors a guarantee of quality. 'Are You Ready For This' (1974) by The Brothers (taken from the album 'Are You Ready For This') is an instrumental track that will already be familiar to fans of 'Northern Soul', and has previously featured on the lauded Sony cd series 'The Northern Soul Story'. Randy Crawford takes the pace down with 'Last Night To Danceland' (from 1980's 'Now We May Begin'), a song featuring Jazz inflected keyboards riding over a smoothly delivered groove. The pace moves up gears for Herbie Mann's 'Superman'(1978), a cover that bounces along, replete with female vocal lines that some may call 'classic', others will say 'cheese'. Tony Orlando's 'Don't Let It Go' (1978) features some very interesting production work, mixing strings with a bubbling hypnotic bass, and this demands to be reworked or re-edited by imaginative DJs. The Ritchie Family's 'American Generation' (1978) takes the tempo up again with a distinctively Europop feel that may divide opinion. 'Sexy Cream' (1979) by Slick continues in a similarly inspired vein, described by Jones as being "one of the classic Disco tracks of all time", with an entirely unsophisticated lyric delivered over a generic backing that looks to Philadelphia International for inspiration. 'Love Is The Ultimate - Medley' (1979) by Ultimate originated as a concept by Casablanca Records and Juliano Salerni, and blends a driving beat to a melody driven largely through and by a string section, working as a musical triptych. Lush and sprawling, this demands to be reconstructed to work better on a modern dancefloor. 'Think It Over' (1979) by Cissy Houston (mother of the late Whitney Houston) reorientates towards a slightly harder edged funk sensibility, whilst Delores Hall's 'Snaphost' (1979) returns to a glitzier, but sadly blander aesthetic, but this can not detract from the powerful (if criminally underused) vocal performance. The disc concludes with Marilyn Mcleod's '(I Don't Wanna Dance Tonight) I Got Love On My Mind' (1979), a woman responsible for co-writing 'Love Hangover' with Diana Ross. This is bright, light and bouncy, ending the disc on a melodically driven high.
CD 2 features the mighty voice and presence of Sylvester, delivering a quirky electro tinged track originally found as a B side to 'I (Who Have Nothing)'. Cited as being from 1979 this is one of the most distinctive and intriguing songs to feature, with a soundscape that looks ahead to Electro Funk, Disco, House and beyond. The Andrea True Connection's 'Fill Me Up (Heart To Heart)' (1976) bears the mixing imprint of Tom Moulton, and it shows in the melodically driven construction and pared down delivery. Aretha Franklin takes on the Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins 1978 penned 'What A Fool Believes' (1980), in a version that Jones describes as 'Discofied', but to these ears the production speaks of funk melding with the big and brash 1980s production sound that would envelop commercially driven black music, for good and ill. An example, despite the presence of the magnificent Franklin, of less providing more. Another great name arrives with the inclusion of the sadly departed Luther Vandross, here singing on a track taken from his debut solo album 'Never Too Much' (1981). Unsurprisingly 'Sugar & Spice (I Found A Girl)' shares the same musical DNA, meaning if you like 'Never Too Much' this should appeal too - but you already own a copy of the album 'Never Too Much' already...surely? Another undoubted classic is Donald Byrd's 'Love Has Come Around' (1981), well known and well loved, having been sampled and played endlessly. Finally we have Elbow Bones & The Rackateers' 'A Night In New York'(1983), a track that sounds curiously similar to the work of Dr Buzzard's Original Savannah Band, the distinctive production provided by August Darnell. Disco it certainly isn't, but fans of his work will love the familiar big band flourishes.
So. Do you buy?
As a series 'Disco Discharge' has managed to create a distinctive brand identity, with artwork fusing the bold and bright with black and white photography in a wonderfully coherent way. Buying and owning each edition certainly feels as if one is adding to something of artistic value, in an age where liner notes and photography often appear to be entirely secondary concerns. But what of the music? Here the story is complicated by the use of the title 'Disco', which appears to be intended to be understood in the same way as the generic term 'Dance Music'. This is either decidedly democratic, inclusive and non-pursit, or disjointed, confused and incoherent, according to your own preference. Fans of the series will undoubtedly continue to support this approach, but some listeners would be strongly advised to seek out sound clips of the featured tracks. There are a few gems here (Luther Vandross, Aretha Franklin, Donald Byrd, Claudja Barry, Slyvester), but there are others that (quite subjectivley of course) work less well. This is certainly one to sample prior to purchasing.
The Disco Discharge imprint is becoming something of an regular point of reference for me. It's kind of a cross between the old Mastercuts series and Ben Liebrand's Grand 12 Inches collections (which it seems, at times to borrow heavily for inspiration). Yet it's all presented at a budget price. Here is the opening salvo in the fourth series. Despite being labelled Disco this is more about the fact that you could go out to Discos through the 70's and 80's and hear a variety of music, this is the ethos and not about being Disco in the eyes of the casual listener.
"American Hot" is a collection described as "Hot American tracks" on its little sticker. It is undoubtedly an interesting selection of tracks some clearly more disco and club orientated than others. This is probably the first time there are tracks which were clearly not aimed at the dancefloor included on the compilation. Here there is probably one of the biggest ever variety of tempos and styles. Where as the others in the series clearly go for Euro sounds (charting developments from euro disco to Italdisco) and the gay HINRG sound the American series have always been somewhat more broad in sounds and styles. Usually it works, but this is probably the most consistently mis-firing selection of the entire series for two key reasons.
Firstly is the actual tracks themselves. Here there are some great tracks and some which just don't work. Sylvester's "I Need Somebody To Love Tonight is probably one of the most underrated tracks in his canon and is a welcome addition as is Donald Bryd's wonderfully anthemic "Love Has Come Around" and August Darnell is crawling throughout the DNA of "A Night In New York" by Elbow Bones with echoes of his early incarnation in Dr Buzzard clearly evident. Lesser known gems include Dennis Parker's cruisy "New York By Night" and The Brother's Northern Soul/proto Disco gem "Are You Ready For This?". There's also Randy Crawford's lovely "Last Night In Danceland" and The Ritchie Family's "American Generation" which is rather wonderfully over the top. Other than that the material is just a bit, well, mediocre. Aretha Franklin and Luther Vandross are represented by material which is pleasant but hardly classic and the likes of the Erotic Drum Band and The Saturday Night Band are both nice but utterly forgettable as is much of the rest of this - although I may be doing Cissy Houston a great disservice if I include her in this.
Secondly it's the sequencing of the album. Listening to it in sequence is not recommended. Here tempos jump wildly. It's clear after listening to all the tracks there is a mid tempo disc and an uptempo dance one so whoever decided to mix all of this up really shouldn't be allowed to choose the running order ever again. We may live in an era of shuffle and file storing but this is just below par. Were they played in this order in a club, you'd leave.
That said, the sleevenotes on this are very informative and full of the kind of silly little facts some people love to be able to recount to bemused friends.
This is by no means a bad collection. There is enough to entice the more serious minded buyer (who these are more squarely aimed at) than the casual listener although this does have more familiar fare than some. Yet despite all of that this is a good, not a great collection with very few absoultely essential must own songs than some of the others in this series. There's plenty out there to ensure this series doesn't run out of steam but this lacks the sparkle many of the others in the series have offered.
on 4 April 2012
So... needless to say I'm disappointed to report this is a rather dull compilation from a series that, although it's certainly had its ups and downs, has mostly been entertaining and a handy resource for a few rarities.
But this collection really does scrape the proverbial barrel. It is not really what I'd describe as seriously about disco, having quite a lot of tracks that fit more with the Mastercuts 'classic grooves' style.
Tracks from Luther Vandross, Aretha Franklin and Elbow Bones really can't be considered disco - they do have a vaguely funky 80s dance vibe, but they are not rare, obscure or hard to find in any way, and reek of filler on a compilation that is pretty much nothing but filler.
Why, for example, are we once again subjected to 'American Generation' by The Ritchie Family, when there are literally heaps of tracks that are near impossible to source on CD without spending over a hundred quid. What about having the complete 'Arabian Nights suite' instead?
We get a decent Sylvester track, and the hilarious 'Superman' by Herbie Mann, but really, if you haven't heard these tracks until now, you are so new to disco as to be in the wrong place!
Placed next to European Connection, this comp sucks... and not in a good way.
on 6 May 2012
I have several of the Disc Charge albums and love the tracks in general there will always be one or two on each album that would be the last i would play but all in all , some great tracks long lost , rare, or just hard to find, Sleeping lions "sound of my heart" from an earlier album an absolute GEM for me, so the question is , who decides what goes in to each album, ?, have they ever asked DC fans what they would like to have discovered , revived or just heard again, for me there are several i would like to see in the next series, Disco Evita for instance, side one medley is great, Sam Harris a very rare Motown track , Hearts on fire , the 12 " remix fantastic, Disco Symphony featuring Mysti, Bodyshop,s "Never", Donna Summers "Carry on" Melissa Manchester, "thief of Hearts" Carol Jiani "Hit n run Lover" , Rams Horn records produced some great stuff and the ULTIMATE!!! Abba "disconet remix of "lay all your love on me", AWESOME!! , so come on fans of the series , don't feel let down or that the collections are fading a little lets start a list of what you want to find and hope the the guys at DC take a look and find us some much loved and very much wanted gems in time for the next series, cheers Fragr-ant in Bolton ,