Various Artists

Disco Spectrum 1

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The same injustices classic hits and oldies radio have inflicted on rock, pop, and R&B history have undermined disco as well -- as myopic play lists determine what is and is not a part of the accepted canon, more and more great music falls prey to the whims of selective memory. Disco was so much more than the Bee Gees and the Village People, although you'd be hard pressed to realize it by picking up any major-label retrospective or listening to any all-'70s format radio broadcast, which in its way makes the BBE label's two-disc Disco Spectrum collection as essential as Rhino's Disco Box or any other similar collection. Compiled by Joey Negro, the set assembles 19 long-forgotten classics which may have electrified clubfloors but failed to translate to commercial radio; while unmistakably the product of their times, each track holds up brilliantly -- because highlights like Ramona Brooks' "I Don't Want You Back" or Omni's stellar "Out of My Hands" aren't as immediately familiar as bigger hits of the era, they also haven't fossilized like their more campy counterparts. It's unlikely even the most superb material here will strike a chord of recognition, but given the amount of sex, drugs, and debauchery that energized the moment in question, then what they say about Woodstock probably holds true of disco as well -- if you remember it, you weren't really there.

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