Various Artists

Soul Steppin': '80s Soulful Steppers

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Backbeats Records is strictly a compilation company based in the U.K. whose releases are distributed throughout the European Union at a budget prices. What they do is simply compile collections of dance music by well-known and obscure artists from the disco era to the latter '90s. And for what it’s worth, when it comes to licensing, they do a terrific job, and this set is a case in point. Compiled by Ian Dewhirst, Soul Steppin' collects 14 jams from the disco era -- many of them extended 12" versions such as the Dells’ “All About the Paper,” the original 12” mix of the Impressions' “Fan the Fire,” Walter Jackson's lone entry into the period with the killer “Touching in the Dark,” a midtempo romantic stepper done in that killer baritone of his. Dee Dee Sharp turns in “Easy Money,” and Teddy Pendergrass’ slick, funky “You and Me Right Now” is also here. But along with the bigger names are one-offs, tracks by artists that were a hit on the dancefloor but never really went anywhere else, such as Sound Troupe's trippy meld of smooth future funk, Latin rhythms, jazz, and disco strings for “Can You Really See Me.” Also included is Greg Henderson's lone club classic, “Dreamin,” with its Latin congas, Chic-esque handclaps, and Larry Graham-styled bass solo. This set is pure nostalgia to be sure, but it’s a gas from start to finish.

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