Various Artists

Disco Discharge: American Hot

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Part of the fourth four-volume batch of Harmless' Disco Discharge series, this installment focuses on U.S.-based producers and artists. Anyone with a basic grasp of disco history knows that there wasn't a single "American disco" sound, and this two-disc set should make it plain to anyone who might expect to hear common threads à la Italo disco. Even the tracks from the jazz artists compiled here have little in common, apart from a groove. Herbie Mann's "Superman" is a rippling, full-bodied production from prolific disco maestro Patrick Adams; Mann's flute, ironically, is the least essential element. Randy Crawford's "Last Night in Danceland," breezy and elegant, succeeded the singer's featured role on the Crusaders' "Street Life" (also written by Joe Sample and Will Jennings). Blue Note vet Donald Byrd linked with Isaac Hayes for the soaring "Love Has Come Around," filled with beaming positive spirit and layered, uplifting vocals more akin to Earth, Wind & Fire. While squeaky-clean material also comes from Tony Orlando, Cissy Houston, Luther Vandross, and Aretha Franklin (the last via a cover of the Doobie Brothers' "What a Fool Believes"), the opposite has its place here. Sylvester's Patrick Cowley-produced "I Need Somebody to Love Tonight" features some of the sleaziest electronics recorded, while Saturday Night Band ("Touch Me on My Hot Spot") and Slick ("Sexy Cream") are lyrically shameless in a humorous way. Notable tracks that sit somewhere between the clean/dirty extremes include Claudja Barry's "Love for the Sake of Love" (a slow, sighing gem mixed by Tom Moulton) and Delores Hall's "Snapshot" (its unceasing buoyant energy redolent of Dan Hartman's "Instant Replay," released the previous year). With rare exception (namely the oft-compiled "Love Has Come Around"), these tracks either hadn't appeared on CD or had appeared on one or two cheaply made titles. Those who are knocked out by the Sylvester tune can find the instrumental mix on Last Night a DJ Saved My Life and Computer Incarnations for World Peace -- excellent comps in their own right.

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