Various Artists

Motown Disco: Soulful Grooves from the '70s and '80s

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By the mid-'70s, Motown was a shadow of its former self. Upstart labels like Philadelphia International, Salsoul, and Casablanca now set the pace for contemporary R&B and soul, songwriting and production gurus like the Holland-Dozier-Holland axis were long gone, and the label called Los Angeles, not Detroit, home. Yet dismissing outright Motown's contributions to the disco era is a huge mistake. Guided by producers/arrangers like Norman Whitfield, the company's signature sound made a surprisingly seamless transition to the sweeping strings and electronic beats that defined the late '70s and early '80s, and was among the first labels to embrace the possibilities of the 12" single format. Motown Disco showcases these extended mixes, many of them unavailable since their original release. Thelma Houston's devastating "Don't Leave Me This Way," Marvin Gaye's percolating "Got to Give It Up," and Diana Ross' sensual "Love Hangover" endure among the most potent disco releases ever, and lesser-known entries like Teena Marie's "Behind the Groove" and Carl Bean's "I Was Born This Way" sound fresher than many of the hackneyed, overplayed blockbusters from Motown's heyday.

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