Various Artists

Club Connection [Warner]

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The U.K. has always had a great appreciation for underdog American music scenes. The electrified funk, disco, and R&B of the late '70s and early '80s is no exception, with England-based labels like Strut, Barely Breaking Even, Soul Brother, and Mastercuts digging especially deep -- sometimes too deep -- to keep a spotlight on unjustly forgotten pieces of the puzzle. The people at Warner Strategic Marketing were smart enough to realize that between Warner Bros., Elektra, Atlantic, and all the subsidiaries under each label, their vaults had plenty of material waiting to be revisited -- and without the hassle of licensing issues that the labor-of-love labels mentioned above have had to deal with. Club Connection follows Natural High, Funk Drops, and Disco Connection in Warner's efforts to keep the rare material in circulation. Most of these songs either fared better on the U.K. charts or simply came and went without much notice in the U.S., unless you consider the underground house scene that has always looked at this period with great reverence. Not every inclusion here is a gold nugget known by a few lucky souls -- some of these songs should stay rare. However, tracks like Slave's "Just a Touch of Love," Stacy Lattisaw's "Dynamite," Debra Laws' "On My Own," and Larry Wu's "Let Me Show You" (an especially rare collector's item) exemplify this exciting phase, when producers were utilizing electronic touches that fit into the fabric of traditionally arranged songs. Why wasn't "Just a Touch of Love" number one everywhere for, like, several weeks in 1979? Or why wasn't Dayton, OH, considered the hippest city on the planet when Zapp, Slave, and their myriad offshoots were igniting dancefloors and ripping up "after school groove" radio programs? We'll never fully know.

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