Various Artists

Smokin' Disco

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The focus of this 1998 release is Fantasy's contributions to disco in the late '70s and early '80s. Fantasy didn't have a lot of major disco stars -- it didn't have Chic, KC & the Sunshine Band, Donna Summer, the Village People, or the Bee Gees. But it did have one of disco's true heavyweights: Sylvester, whose Fantasy singles "Dance (Disco Heat)" and "You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)" went down in history as textbook examples of exuberant disco-soul. Those gems are included on Smokin' Disco, which is occasionally excellent but is merely decent most of the time. Next to the Sylvester song, the compilation's most impressive tracks include the Originals' remake of the standard "Blue Moon" and Philly Cream's "Motown Review" (a sentimental, melancholy number reflecting on how many of the cultural and political things that defined the 1960s were long gone during the disco era). In contrast to the serious message of "Motown Review," the CD's other Philly Cream track, "Join the Army," is an exercise in campy fun. It's a perfect example of the sort of disco silliness that punk was railing against, but then, there is no reason why music cannot accommodate both serious sociopolitical messages and mindless escapism. Smokin' Disco isn't a CD to acquire if you're only interested in hearing disco's most essential and definitive hits -- tracks like Fever's "Beat of the Night," Slick's "Space Bass," and Paradise Express' "Dance" are catchy and enjoyable, but they aren't essential. All things considered, Smokin' Disco isn't recommended to casual disco fans, who would be much better off with Rhino's The Disco Years compilations. But it's worth picking up if you're a hardcore disco collector.

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