Various Artists - Disco Discharge: Gay Disco and HiNRG
Obscure rock music has always been fairly well served by the compilation album, whether it be the Nuggets and Pebbles series of 60s garage and psych albums or the quasi-bootleg Killed By Death comps of rare 70s punk and new wave. This new series of compilations (other volumes include Classic Disco, Disco Ladies and Euro Disco) looks to do the same for the much-maligned disco scene, from its origins in the hedonistic, OTT 70s and into the middle of the next decade, when it was typified by camper Europop and Hi-NRG acts.
You'll need stamina to get through the 17 minutes of Macho's version of Stevie Winwood's 'I'm A Man', but it's surprisingly timeless and you can hear the echoes in French artists like Daft Punk and Justice. 'Cruisin' The Streets' is a downright filthy - and hilarious! - 13 minutes of pre-HIV San Francisco, quite literally putting the 'Oh!' in disco. 'Disco Kicks' is less fruity, but it typifies the classic early format: relentless percussion, sweeping strings and stabbing brass, strangely alien female voices, all underpinned by itchy bass. The economy might've been going to hell in a handbag, but you couldn't tell from the music - it just sounded expensive.
The European influence is represented by Belgium's Free Enterprise, a Ben Liebrand re-mix taking it into the realms of Gnarls Barkley-esque soulful funk while Fun Fun is a substantial shaving of Italian parmesan, paving the the way for years of chart-filling, frothy Euro cheese. The newer tracks are perhaps less interesting musically, but can still have a charm. Liza Minnelli's collaboration with Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe brings Broadway to the dancefloor while Eumir Deodato was a Brazilian emigre who dabbled in many genres including pop and jazz before producing acts like k d lang and Bjork. His 'Fire In The Sky' was a Billboard hit in 1985 and is pretty typical of the period, when disco met power ballad, all big hair, synths stabbing away as the end credits of a teen movie roll. Please remember to turn up your jacket collar as you leave the auditorium.
Rose Laurens sounds a lot like Tina Turner and Oh Romeo is all a bit Jan Hammer - evocative no doubt for those who were there, but less fun to today's ears. The set closes with 'Take Off' which, although dating from 1980, highlights disco's roots in the upbeat funk family of Sly Stone and his peers.
With years of obscure platters and independent releases to mine, the Disco Discharge series could run and run. Not everything here is a classic, or will even inspire much booty shaking, but for anyone whose knowledge of the format runs no deeper than 'Car Wash', this is a useful introduction to the sound of the underground.
A love that dare not speak its name.