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American Hot - Hot According To Taste,
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This review is from: Disco Discharge: American Hot (Audio CD)
'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.
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Showing 1-5 of 5 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 14 Apr 2012 18:21:24 BDT
While I agree on the quality of this set, I think the tracks you mentioned as standing out for being good (Vandross, Franklin) are actually the worst of the bunch and hardly disco.
By the way, this is the fourth series, not third.
In reply to an earlier post on 14 Apr 2012 19:25:39 BDT
Music Lover says:
You are indeed correct, this is part of the fourth series, and not the third as I originally wrote (which I will now change). In regard to your second point, in the review I note that there is a tension created by the use of the word 'Disco', but this has been the case throughout the series, with the compilers and record label attempting to establish and maintain a clear and recognisable product identity, whilst balancing the need (and availability) of back catalogue. There are very few collections that will be universally acceptable to all purchasers, thus my stress on the listener seeking out sound files to hear prior to purchase.
In reply to an earlier post on 15 Apr 2012 13:51:51 BDT
S. D. Nunn says:
That's a great review - thanks!
So, obviously I'm with the 'disjointed, confused and incoherent' mob on this one - I really don't rate this comp, and mostly that's because of what it could have been - it could have featured Midney, Constandinos etc and been full-on amazing disco, but like you say it's all about generic dance music this time around. And if the series is heading down this road I guess I'm going to lose interest.
In reply to an earlier post on 15 Apr 2012 15:51:54 BDT
Music Lover says:
Dear S.D Dunn.
Thank you for your comments, I'm glad that you found the review helpful. Regarding the general direction of the series, I believe that the folks at Harmless / Demon Music are very responsive to feedback from customers, so it could be worthwhile getting in touch with them to provide valuable feedback. There is also a dedicated Facebook page linked to the series, and this could also be a portal through which to contact them?
In reply to an earlier post on 3 Aug 2012 08:15:09 BDT
Mr. Benjamin Ward says:
Completely agree SD Nunn, I am rapidly losing interest in this series. I wonder if they are too at the record company as I see they are branching out, what with the new Disco Recharge series...
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