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Various Artists
A Fine Selection Of Independent Disco, Modern Soul and Boogie 1978-82 Neil Kulkarni , December 17th, 2014 11:03

It's fatal when a DJ tries to 'educate' their punters. It's not what you're there for. They've paid money for a good time, not to bask in the glory of your knowledge. It's fatal when a compilation tries desperately to hoodwink its listeners, clings to obscurantism and forgets to get people moving. Is this the compilation of the year? Quite possibly - certainly the collection that will put the most joy in your life, the most added urgency to your tarting up of a Saturday afternoon, the best gliding grace to your wee-smalls fumbling & stumbling later on. Those lovely Soul Jazz folks have put this comp together to accompany the equally well-appointed and lavishly covetable book DISCO: An Encyclopaedic Guide To The Cover Art Of Disco Records.

I don't like coffee-table books ordinarily, unless you count the Beano annual, but my god this page-stroker is just gorgeous. It feels and looks and smells beautiful, and is packed full of some of the most wonderful images in pop, backing up the stunning visuals with a wealth of info about disco and its protagonists that even this dazed diva found an eye-opener. It's perfect for rolling joints or chopping lines on, but you won't want to do either so peach-perfect is the production behind this tome. Even on a casual leaf through you really feel like you're absorbing the sense and spirit behind the sublime imagery of perhaps the most eye-catching form of music ever. No you can't borrow mine. Not letting it out the house.

The album isn't going anywhere either. Keep it under lock and key because it's superb as you'd expect from SJ, avoiding the mainstream hits you already have and digging out those corkers you might have overlooked up till now from those labels (like TK, Queen Constance and All-Platinum) that you really need to start getting acquainted with if you want to push your understanding of disco beyond the usual canonical sources. No fillers, all killers and the highlights stack up thusly:  John Morales' sublime rerub of Fantastic Aleem's wondrous 'Hooked Up On Your Lovin', Superfunk's stupendously bass-heavy self-titled monster, Jupiter Drive's stunning EWF-like 'The River Drive', Chain Reaction's 'Sweet Lady' proving that the fissure 'tween funk and disco was a narrow one at best, Wayne Ford's 'Dance To The Music (Freak Out)' showing  that it wasn't just Chic who did awesome 12" breakdowns and builds.  

Stwange Poweple's 'Get Up' is 9-minutes of disco so hollowed out and spacey it's almost dub, Cirt Gill's awesome ' Turn This Disco Out' should be in the bag of any DJ playing out anytime and Retta Young's 'My Man Is On His Way' pulsates with sensuality and a weird forlorn stasis – there's no 'anthems' here which is to be applauded, rather these are songs and productions that are ferociously independent, directed at the dancefloor rather than the marketplace, and capture perfectly that tightrope-walk between drive/determination and despair/anxiety that makes the best disco such a still-uniquely-modern response to the everyday grind and the nightlife grind that makes every day tolerable.

I would love Soul Jazz to follow this up with something that takes the story on into the electro-boogie and synth-heavy computer-funk of mid 80s R&B (apologies if they already have), but for now, Disco is that ideal comp, not overburdened with an 'educational' impulse but absolutely revelatory at every turn, never losing sight of the main job of disco – to make people lose their shit on any dancefloor it's dropped on. It's way better than any Mastercuts comp you'd care to mention. Bask in the glory of this.

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