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Strong Collection, Heavy On The HI-NRG Side,
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This review is from: DISCO DISCHARGE: MIDNIGHT SHIFT (Audio CD)
There are two constants in the Disco Discharge selections: European tracks and Gay Disco (or HI-NRG as it morphed into during the early 80's). Whilst other selections struggle to find thematic consistency these two have provided a set from each batch of releases. "Midnight Shift" is the latest in the gay themed anthologies. There's no point in avoiding it, this is the music of the gay club. It's the sound that Stock, Aitken, & Waterman plundered to make their hit factory so successful in the late 80's - yes, it has a pop anticedent - and it is a dance sound quite its own.
If this were a boxed set this would be discs 7 and 8. Usually by this stage the formula could be running out of steam a little, and whilst the previous collection felt more filler than killer, this one manages to find works of surprisingly high quality. It also manages to sound a lot more HI-NRG than some of the previous outings. Here the sound really is deep into the sound of an 80's gay clublife and it has a curiously British club feel.
Musically this moves from the late 70's through to the mid/late 80's beginning with some disco influenced and rather camp tracks. Bette Midler's "My Knight In Black Leather" (which is a camp as the title implies) and Patrick Juvet's "Lady Night" which is another fine example of his work with the Can't Stop Productions (who also did The Village People and Ritchie Family stuff). These are followed by the epic and German disco production Lipstique whose "At The Discoteque" is long and quite episodic. Ian Levine's production of "Miami Heatwave" is one of his earlier production efforts and a lot more disco than its 1982 vintage might suggest. There is a very early HI-NRG cowbell break to hint that after this the music heads straight into HI-NRG territory and stays there through almost all of the rest of this disc and the second.
Most of the rest is tympani drums and shuffling handclaps and although its quite generic the songs are mostly of exceedingly high quality. Two offerings Mr & Mrs Lapage (aka Lime a track of whom is included in this number) are worth a mention, as is Suzy Q's "Can't Live Without Your Love" which gives a high count of quality from Canada. There's also another very good German cut from Lian Ross whose "Fantasy" is a spacey highlight which sounds just a little Eurovision and very anthemic. For a compilation of this type there's actually very few covers here although the Lonnie Gordon voiced cover of The Walker Brothers' "No Regrets" is a wonderful example of the kind of slightly overdone camp dance music missing from today. It manages to transform the song and neatly stays just the right side of excess and cliche. It's a great example of Ian Levine's production talents and a one-take wonder from vocalist Gordon.
The other cover is one of three tracks that steps outside the HI-NRG mould. The Boystown Gang were adept at putting medleys together and here their "Dance Trance Medley" takes a collection of anthems and makes something of a narrative to place them in. It's a little long but does mixh light and shade well. The other tracks which don't fit into the mould are Swedish duo Lili & Suzie's "Candy Love" (which sounds like what Kim Wilde would have sounded like if produced by Propaganda) and Kim Carne's excellent follow up to "Bette Davis' Eyes", "Voyeur" which really should have been another hit for Ms. Carnes.
There are two which miss the mark, both trying too hard to hit the right note and failing. The Tapps track is forgettable whilst the People Like Us One might work with another vocalist. The one here being best described as terrible...
This makes it 90% good and a big improvement on some of the more recent offerings from the Disco Discharge sets in that it does hang together when played out in its entirity. This is a genre where it is easy to cram it full of the forgettable and the merely novel. This set manages to sidestep this and give the listener a very good idea of what this genre was all about.