Most people shunt disco into a category either well-stuffed with white suits, mirror balls and Tony Manero wannabes from the movement's American heyday, or packed with the Euro stylings of Giorgio Moroder and synthesized grooves. As a result, the era has been distilled into a standardized set list of mixes, club staples and ho-hum rip offs. However, what disco actually set out to be, and its shape and nature before it was corrupted by the mainstream dreamers, proves a fascinating, stunning and forgotten history. Alright! Black American Dance Music from the Disco Era is the history by which our modern text is written. In the very beginning, disco wasn't about the flashing lights and hip tripping clothes at all, it was solely about capturing the best groove, hitting the vibe and letting it all spool out from that one perfect beat. People crowded onto club floors to dance, to move with songs that were politicized rather than plastic, songs that made and were made famous by the early labels Westbound and Century.
Termed "Black American dance music," what was unfolding in the clubs was actually a hybrid of deep funk and smooth soul -- a combination that would indeed kick-start a genre. But, stripped back and examined across this compilation, the resonance of Westbound's early days are powerfully represented, from Mike Theodore's "Moon Trek" and CJ & Co.'s "Sure Can't Go to the Moon" and on to the Clarke Sisters' anthem, "Everything's' Gonna Be Alright"." Those who favor more contemporary disco style will appreciate Sylvester's "I Need Somebody to Love Tonight" as well as Joe Bataan's often forgotten "Sadie," or the Counts' (previously unissued), and so-effusive, "Latin Disco"." Also making its belated but deserving debut on this album is Melvin Sparks' "Disco Booty." And while neither of the latter two will insinuate themselves into the genre's hottest highlights, they are interesting nuggets nonetheless and add perspective to this terrific compilation. Alright! Black American Dance Music From the Disco Era succeeds on all counts, and is a potent portent of disco's true alter ego.