Various Artists: Disco 75 (Robinsongs)

Disco 75

Is any genre of music more maligned than Disco?  What started in the underground dance clubs in the early 1970s soon spread into the mainstream. By the end of the decade, though, the style was considered to be a joke, a novelty best left forgotten. But is that fair? Many of the criticisms about the genre are legitimate. But can you dismiss the entire genre simply based on its ignoble end? A new box set series by Robinsongs offers up a reevaluation of the decade’s sounds. First up is Disco 75, a three-disc set that focuses on the pivotal year of 1975.

Though Disco came from the underground, in its heady days it didn’t adhere to the rules of one genre. One hears on Disco 75 a melding of all sorts of styles, from R&B, Soul, Funk, Pop, Jazz, Rock, and even Easy Listening. A few ubiquitous tunes appear here, such as KC & The Sunshine Band’s “That’s The Way I Like It,” Average White Band’s “Pick Up The Pieces,” and Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes’ “Bad Luck,” but the fun of Disco 75 lies in hearing songs you’ve not heard in decades. Reconnecting with long-forgotten numbers such as Retta Young’s “Sending Up An SOS,” Crown Heights Affair’s heavenly synth-featuring hit “Dreaming A Dream,” and The O’Jays long-lost hit, “I Love Music” makes Disco 75 worth the cover charge.

Furthermore, when one examines the track list of Disco 75, one can see several trends emerging. For better or worse, these trends would come to define the Disco sound over the next few years. First,  several of the artists responsible for the music found here aren’t actually performers–they’re studio creations or the work of a studio house band. MFSB, The Salsoul Orchestra, The Armada Orchestra, Ultrafunk–all of these groups made great records, but never existed outside of the studio. Additionally, Disco provided a haven for older artists and hitmakers. Frankie Valli, Dionne Warwick, Johnny Otis, Sylvia Robinson, and Major Lance would find a new home in the nightclub groove. Less pleasant to note is the burgeoning tendency towards novelty songs and movie tie-ins.

One of the biggest criticisms about Disco stems from a formulaic sound. (Let’s not get started on lyrics only about “the boogie” and dancing!) While that is certainly a legitimate criticism, Disco 75 proves this was not the case in the genre’s early years. The 55 tracks selected here offer up a smorgasbord of styles and a diversity of talent. Disco 75 offers up three hours of superb music.

Purchase Disco 75:  Amazon / Robinsongs

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