Various Artists

'80s Dance Gold

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As Billboard magazine's dance music columnist, Brian Chin had a ringside seat for the dance scene of the '80s, an era when the word "disco" fell into disrepute, but producers and artists just kept on making music with a steady, loping beat that clubgoers could dance to. Chin compiled and annotated this collection, part of Hip-O Records' discount-priced Gold series of two-disc compilations. In his liner notes, Chin provides a history of the decade in dance that properly mentions plenty of artists -- among them stars like Michael Jackson and George Michael, and dance favorites like Tom Tom Club and the Weather Girls -- not included on the album. Hip-O is the reissue arm of the major label Universal, and while licensing agreements have resulted in a track list about a third of which consists of recordings made for other companies, still this is not to be considered a collection of the '80s' greatest hits in dance. In fact, only one track that ranks in Billboard's list of the 20 biggest dance hits of the decade is included: Shannon's "Let the Music Play." That said, there are plenty of tracks that hit number one on the dance/disco chart. But Chin has focused less on creating a hits compilation than on assembling a collection with a good flow and a variety of styles, from R&B to rock, and from early rap to Euro-disco. And he's largely succeeded. Dance music fans will hear many old favorites and may make some new discoveries. Paradoxically, some of those discoveries may be numbered among the old favorites, since every track is a special mix of one kind or another, and sometimes they are mixes that previously only appeared on a promotional disc or the B-side of a British 12" single. At more than two-and-a-half hours, this is a generous, modestly priced album that will enable listeners to dance like it's 1985.

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