Tuxedo Junction

Best of Tuxedo Junction: Chattanooga Choo Choo

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When disco became a dominant pop music trend in the late '70s, record producers all over the world began remaking classic music from other genres in a disco style to cash in on this craze. Most of these records were simply crass commercial exercises, but some of the projects in this vein managed to create inspired hybrids of classic melodies and disco rhythms. One of the best projects in this vein was Tuxedo Junction, a session ensemble whose work is captured The Best of Tuxedo Junction: Chattanooga Choo Choo. This group was the brainchild of prolific disco producers Laurin Rinder and W. Michael Lewis (the men behind club favorites like El Coco and Saint Tropez), and they updated the big band music of bygone years for the disco era. Although this disc poses itself as a best-of disc, it actually provides the full contents of the two Tuxedo Junction albums put out at the end of the '70s. The material from the first album sets up the Tuxedo Junction concept nicely: a trio of female vocalists coo in an Andrew Sisters style over horn-laden big band arrangements that are bolstered by strong but unobtrusive disco rhythms. The end result worked surprisingly well, producing a club favorite with their swinging rendition of "Chattanooga Choo Choo." Other highlights include a Latin disco version of "Rainy Night in Rio" and an odd but effective synth-laden version of "The Volga Boatmen." The material from the second album includes the club hit "Toot Toot Tootsie Goodbye," which is pretty similar in approach to "Chattanooga Choo Choo," and a clever, jazzy version of "Take the A Train" that works a strong funk bassline into its big band sound. There's also a torchy, beautifully harmonized non-disco rendition of "Stardust." In the end, the group's gimmicky concept works out quite well thanks to tasteful, energetic musicianship and a well-chosen set of songs. As a result, The Best of Tuxedo Junction: Chattanooga Choo Choo is a great pick for disco fans who want to hear an exotic but elegant variant on the typical disco sound.

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