The Ritchie Family

Brazil

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A little under a year before the Ritchie Family's "Best Disco in Town" stormed the nightlife, they debuted their lush disco style on 1975's Brazil. Replete with all those wonderful sonic Sigma Studio keynotes, which include lush strings and chukka chukka guitar and are underpinned at times by minute moments of scything rock & roll, the band delivered, if not some of the best, then certainly some of the earliest disco in town. While the title track, its disco rhythm twined with strings and flute, soared to number 11 on the pop charts, it was followed to number 84 by the remarkably shrill and often mistitled "Dance With Me" -- a number with vocals that don't sound like they're part of the same song, let alone in the right key. But that mainstream introduction to the band is misleading, because they actually strike brighter sparks elsewhere on the album, both on the Motown sound of "Pinball" and on the eight-minute epic "Fenesi," which features unyielding grooves and a flute solo. At the end of the day, the Ritchie Family are best remembered as little more than a B-movie disco band with a nice line in space-age get ups -- and, as Brazil pre-dates spacesuits, it can't even fall back on that. Overlook this costuming catastrophe, however, and the album has a subtle flamboyance that is often just as pleasing.