Disco On Demand: Al Kent Digs In The Crates

Disco don Al Kent talks us through some dynamite rarities from his epic set, The Best of Disco Demands

“There’s always been disco comps around but there was rarely anything that strayed from the standards,” suggests Al Kent in the liner notes to this heavy five-CD collection. Conceived in the early 2000s, the Disco Demands series set out to provide an alternative to what Al Kent (Glasgow’s Ewan Kelly by day) calls “those Salsoul, West End and bloody Prelude records”.

Along with his recent and rather essential Disco Love compilations, it was responsible for exposing the rare and raw end of disco. Held in awe by other rare disco collectors like Chicago’s DJ Rahaan, Al/Ewan spent the last two decades searching out those head-turning nuggets that make even the most ardent disco spotter wonder where the fuck he found them.

So we tracked him down and got the story behind some of the big tracks from his series.

Cheryl Berdell – ‘Giving It All To You’ (EMT)

“A record that’s close to my heart, being one of the first ‘disco’ records I ever owned, though I did go off it for quite a while because Cheryl isn’t exactly the world’s greatest singer.

"Then I discovered P&P Records (legendary Harlem label run by Patrick Adams and Peter Brown) and realised that not being very good at singing is quite a good thing sometimes.”

Allan Harris & Perpetual Motion – ‘Get Ready’ (Exact Change)

"This is probably my favourite record on the album. Possibly even in the world. It’s too fast to dance to and doesn’t have a breakdown, but those two minor follies aside, it’s perfect. I bought it years and years ago from a market stall in Manchester. £3. The thing is though; there were another five or six copies in that crate and I didn’t have the sense to buy them all. If I’d known they’d be selling for £100+ now I probably would have."

Executive Suite – ‘Why In The World Do They Keep On (Funk’in With Me)’ (DT)

"This record’s actually a bit rubbish. I bought it in Beatin’ Rhythm (Manchester again) a few years ago specifically to edit it and make it less rubbish."

Sandpebbles of Barbados – ‘Suntan’ (Pebblegroove)

"It appears that the Sandpebbles of Barbados are some sort of calypso group. This disco track just happens to appear on one of their albums for no apparent reason. This was pretty cheap or I wouldn’t have bought it. I’m glad I did because it’s turned out to be pretty bloody rare. And it’s got an advert for Barbados Airlines on the back, which is a nice touch."

Al Tanner – ‘Doing Our Own Thang’ (Tymo)

"This record is so bad I should hate it. If ever a record sounded like it was recorded by a pimp in a crack den with stolen equipment, this is it. I think this was an impulse buy on eBay, from the days when you could pick up an unknown record for £2."

TC & Company – ‘Let’s Go Disco’ (Carrie)

"As above, this record is so bad it’s good. The addition of a label set out in Brush Script Letraset makes it even better. No idea where I got this from."

Sizzle – ‘Love Is All Around’ (The Record Company)

"This was a bit of a bargain, bought it from a Northern Soul guy who had little interest in 12" singles and had to stifle a laugh when he told me the price. The good old days before Popsike and Discogs."

Silver Platinum & Gold – ‘Just Friends’ (Farr)

"We were just talking about this record the other night. It’s way too relentless for its own good. Needs to chill out in places. But there’s really no way to edit it, as it just doesn’t stop. Great song though. I think this one was from Camden Market when you could still buy records there instead of skunk."

Arts & Crafts – ‘I’ve Been Searching’ (Jus Born)

"I couldn’t write a list of records without Walter Gibbons making an appearance. This, for me, is his best work. Proper stomping disco with strings and breakdowns and stuff. Sadly he went a bit crap after this one. Surprisingly, I found this in a record shop in Spain; the only disco record out of thousands of pop albums."

Althea Forrest & Togetherness – ‘Hey Mister’ (Crystal)

"This is her out of Althea & Donna. ‘Uptown Top Ranking’ and all that. The original version’s actually a bit slower and doesn’t say "Let the music take you higher" quite as much as my version does. I bought a boxload of these from a reggae dealer once upon a time."

Sylvano Santorio – ‘We’ve Got It’ (Edition Montparnasse 2000)

"Tucked away on some library album, I didn’t even know what this was called or who it was by until I did this comp. I just had this edit marked on my CD as "Secret Squirrel" as I’m sure that’s what the dealer I got it from had named it. I just wish it was a few BPMs slower."

Hot Ice – ‘Dancing Free’ (Rage)

"A dance floor winner; sounds great up loud. Even though the guitar hurts your ears a bit. From a single sided 12" that really should be worth a lot more than it is. This was the only decent record I got from some annoying guy I met at a record fair in Glasgow who claimed he had a warehouse full of 12" singles in London. The warehouse turned out to be a lockup garage with about 10,000 crappy house records floating in 6" of muddy rainwater."

Harold Butler & The Connection – ‘Gold Connection’ (LTD)

"Same as the Althea Forrest record mentioned above, this was slower and more reggae-ish before I took it to bits. And like that record I also got a few copies from the reggae dealer. Wish I’d sat on them a bit longer as it’s bloody hard to find now."

Curtis – ‘How Can I Tell Her’ (Charm City)

"Finishing up where I started with one of my favourite records in the world. I searched high and low for years for a 12" of this and was constantly told it didn’t exist, until I eventually traced the producer and got a couple of copies from him. I was too polite to buy them all, thinking he’d rumble me if I was too keen at first. Then he stopped answering my emails. He must’ve seen how much it was actually going for!"

The Best of Disco Demands is out now on BBE

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