The Disco Box [Disc One]

Disco Box

Disco is a genre of dance music whose popularity peaked during the middle to late 1970s. It had its roots in clubs that catered to African American, gay, psychedelic and other communities in New York City and Philadelphia during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Disco was a reaction by New York City’s gays as well as black and Latino heterosexuals against both the domination of rock music and the demonization of dance music by the counterculture during this period. Women embraced disco as well, and the music eventually expanded to several other popular groups of the time.[10][11][12][13][14][15][16][17] In what is considered a forerunner to disco style clubs, in February 1970, the New York City DJ David Mancuso opened The Loft, a members-only private dance club set in his own home.[18][19] Most agree that the first disco songs were released in 1973, though some claim Manu Dibango‘s 1972 “Soul Makossa” was the first disco record.[6] The first article about disco was written in September 1973 by Vince Aletti for Rolling Stone Magazine.[20][21] In 1974 New York City’s WPIX-FM premiered the first disco radio show.[22]

Musical influences include funk, Latin and soul music. The disco sound has soaring, often reverberated vocals over a steady “four-on-the-floor” beat, an eighth note (quaver) or sixteenth note (semi-quaver) hi-hat pattern with an open hi-hat on the off-beat, and a prominent, syncopated electric bass line sometimes consisting of octaves. The Fender Jazz Bass is often associated with disco bass lines, because the instrument itself has a very prominent ‘voice’ in the musical mix. In most disco tracks, strings, horns, electric pianos, and electric guitars create a lush background sound. Orchestral instruments such as the flute are often used for solo melodies, and unlike in rock, lead guitar is rarely used.

Well-known late 1970s disco performers included Donna Summer, Amanda Lear, The Bee Gees, KC and the Sunshine Band, Chic, and The Jacksons. Summer would become the first well-known and most popular disco artist, giving her the title ‘The Queen of Disco’, and also played a part in pioneering the electronic sound that later became a part of disco (see below). While performers and singers garnered the lion’s share of public attention, the behind-the-scenes producers played an equal, if not more important role in disco, since they often usually wrote the songs and created the innovative sounds and production techniques that were part of the “disco sound”.[23] Many non-disco artists recorded disco songs at the height of disco’s popularity, and films such as Saturday Night Fever and Thank God It’s Friday contributed to disco’s rise in mainstream popularity.

According to music writer Piero Scaruffi the disco phenomenon spread quickly because the “collective ecstasy” of disco was cathartic and regenerative and led to freedom of expression.[11] Disco was the last mass popular music movement that was driven by the baby boom generation.[24]

An angry backlash against disco music and culture emerged in the United States, hitting its peak with the July 1979 Disco Demolition Night riot. While the popularity of disco in the United States declined markedly as a result of the backlash, the genre continued to be popular elsewhere during the 1980s.

Because the term “disco” became unfashionable at the start of the 1980s it was replaced by “dance music” and “dance pop” which described music powered by the basic disco beat.[25] In the decades since, dance clubs have remained highly popular, and the disco beat has informed the sound of many of music’s biggest stars. Disco has been influential on several dance music genres that have emerged since, such as House, Nu-Disco, Hi-NRG, Italo Disco, Eurodisco, Disco-Funk and Latin Freestyle.

The Analysis:

Love’s Theme [Love Unlimited Orchestra]—-Although the title to this gem may not ring bells with many people, this is perhaps one of the most familiar disco oriented singles to ever be released. with lush arrangements and the type of beat that screamed Disco, this makes you feel immediately warm and nostalgic. Make no bones about it…disco is alive and well, they just call it by different names now. this is incredible. After all, this WAS written by Barry White!

Dancing Machine [The Jackson 5]—–One of the defining singles from The Jackson brothers, this was clearly a nice cross over hit that opened up this family to a whole new pack of listeners. Taking them from their urban, Motown setting and landing them on the dance floors of NYC, the Brothers delivered a track that fit the mood and the energy of the newly minted dance scene known as Disco…which knew no color or boundry…people just wanted to dance…this song allowed them to do so.

Rock The Boat [Hues Corporation]—-Although I never really considered this song to really be what you would call a bona fide Disco hit, this reminds me of certain parts of my childhood that revolved around the burgeoning world of FM radio and the feel good sounds of Summer. The horns on this track are incredible and the whole Disco vibe is alive and well I must admit…listening back to it now. This was an incredible song and still really plays well today.

Honeybee [Gloria Gaynor]—-One of the Queens of the disco era, Gaynor found a home in the Disco community and had a very difficult time finding her way back out. This track, full of annoying synth sounds, finds Gaynor delivering seductive vocals over a huge pulsating beat that reminds me of the very early days of my Gay life…this is classic stuff…full of backdrop singers that beef up the vocal and gives you the feeling of complete abandon as you hit the dance floor. Full of subtle sexual overtones, this is classic Disco!!!

Doctor’s Orders [Carol Douglas]—-One of the 100’s of generic vocalist that cashed in on the disco era money machine, this is just classic. The melody that runs through this song is so damn addictive…the sentiment is the same…he left me, come back and dance with me. This is wonderful…full of that danceable orchestration with a nice manufactured vocal that is addictive and sticks in your brain for hours. Wonderful!!!

Get Dancin’ [Disco Tex & The Sex-O-Lettes featuring Sir Monti Rock III]—-Heavy on horns and bass [SURPRISE], this really has never made much of an impression on me. This is a studio manufactured band that cashed in on the need for extended 12″ singles to fill the dance floor. I suppose that it worked at the time, but to me this is a dismal waste of recording.

Shame, Shame, Shame [Shirley & Company]—-This has that wonderful sound that makes you think right away of Diana Ross…the vocal is clearly aimed at that crowd. The energy is lackluster and the chorus really never develops the way I wanted it to. None the less, the recipe was well executed…combining a nice male.female trade off…the funk is a little too heavy for me though.

Never Can Say Goodbye [Gloria Gaynor]—-One of the first Divas to deliver this song, it is not one of my favorites, but you can not deny the power of this womans voice. the song is a classic…even today. Some things live on and on, regardless of the stigma…this is one of those songs. Delivered in the age before HIV/AIDS, the NY scene was full of abandon and fun…drug use and casual sex…this makes me yearn for the old days…but only a bit. This is a classic….never gets old for me.

Get Down Tonite [KC & The Sunshine Band]—-I must admit, I have never been a big fan of this band. All of the horns and extended jam sessions somewhat alienated me from embracing them fully. The amazing thing, is the longevity of this band. KC still tours with his band, in one incarnation or another, to this day and still draws impressive crowds. This is a memory, but one that I could live without.

The Hustle [Van McCoy & The Soul City Orchestra]—-This is one of those magical tracks that really helped to define this entire genre…the sound is steeped in a natural soul feel that is set up against a slow shuffling beat that inspired groups to dance together….heralding in more forms of the Electric Slide. This is great fun and still….when listening to this now you will not be able to prevent yourself from moving you feet, head or entire body.

It Only Takes A Minute [Tavares]—-Steeped in classic Disco synths, this also pays a nice homage to the burgeoning R n B scene that was happening at the time. This is so smooth and classy, the horns are present but understated and the track has a nice variety of vocalists. The chorus is this huge affair that makes you feel happy and care free…I love this stuff…this is classic!

Fly, Robin, Fly [The Silver Convention]—-Another really quality release that could be heard on FM radio everywhere at the time of its release. Although many of these groups were what in the 80’s became known as one hit wonders, this group left an indelible mark on the history of Disco. This can be heard at Disco Parties all over the world at any given time. The bass os fantastic and the female vocals are peppered with synth strings and an easy beat that you could lose yourself in with only a moments listen.

I’m On Fire [5000 Watts]—-I really can’t ever recall hearing this song before I came upon this compilation. The vocal is acceptable but really does not stand out. for me, the remarkable part of this song is the speed of the whole damn thing. This travels well at 150 BPM’s…maybe even more. The pace is incredible and I find it hard to believe that many people were actually dancing to this.

Love Machine Pt. II [The Miracles]—-Another of those classic songs that helped to define this entire genre’. The vocal is so damn smooth while the backdrop of the music seems to defy the relaxed delivery of the vocal. The whole group joins in on the chorus and the synth swells envelope you and you are swept up in the remarkable energy. This is exquisite!

You Sexy Thing [Hot Chocolate]—-This is pure funk…plain and simple. Although the backdrop of the song has a nice danceable beat, the vocal is delivered in that classic deep funk full of sexiness and innuendo. This is pure magic…it is amazing to me how great the song sounds all of these years later. This is superb.

Boogie Fever [The Sylvers]—-This song is loaded with cliché’ disco songs from every corner. Combining a nice form of sex, funk and story telling, this is amped up further by bass and a beat that is easy to get lost in. This is the quintessential Disco classic…it is hard to forget this one…or the Sylvers who managed to score a number of hits during the Disco era.

That’s The Way [I Like It] [KC & The Sunshine Band]—-Continuing his reign as one of the only cross over White artist to really score big during the disco era, KC delivers another track that still is alive and well in 2010…who could have imagined? There must be some quality to this slop that I am missing, but this band just gets on my nerves….next!

More, More, More Pt. I [Andrea True Connection]—-Porn vixen Andrea True scored a huge hit with this sex laden track that leaves little to the imagination, but gives you lots to dance to. The track is so full of overt sexual innuendos you can’t help but get lost in the seductiveness of the whole thing. The voice is breathy and seductive and the beat reeks of sex…magnificent!

Young Hearts Run Free [Candi Stanton]—-With the pre-requisite horns all over the song from the very onset, Stanton made a huge splash with this track…she was much bigger overseas than here, but this played well on the floors of America. The vocal is not incredibly spectacular, but contains a soulfullness that gets into your head and stays there…long before Divas felt the need to scream and holler. This is smooth as silk and plays as well.

Turn The Beat Around [Vicki Sue Robinson]—-A bona fide smash from this time period, Robinson still tours on the power of this song alone…as well as having it covered by Mega-Star Gloria Estafan. This plays really well today…combining a nice Cuban beat with that classic horn section that was everywhere in the disco age. This is truly a defining moment in the era.

**** out of 5


One Response to “The Disco Box [Disc One]”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by FM 2030, mark j maras. mark j maras said: The Disco Box [Disc One]: […]

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