Various Artists

The Disco Years, Vol. 1: Turn the Beat Around

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Dozens upon dozens of disco compilations -- some good, some bad -- have been released since Rhino dribbled out their seven-volume Disco Years series in the '90s. While several of the discs that have followed offer consistent track listings and more eye-pleasing packaging, this particular series remains one of the best available. Across seven discs, the disco phenomenon is summarized with a near-perfect balance between the universally known and the not quite as popular. Some might want to stick strictly to the pop-chart toppers, which is understandable for nostalgia's sake; however, one of the most important characteristics of this era is that the singles that failed to cross over into mainstream territory consistently rivaled -- and frequently trumped -- their gold and platinum counterparts. So, it doesn't matter whether you were a Paradise Garage regular or an infrequent viewer of Dance Fever -- there's something for everyone on each of these volumes. The first volume of The Disco Years, subtitled "Turn the Beat Around," is heavy on mainstream hits, including Thelma Houston's "Don't Leave Me This Way," the Trammps' "Disco Inferno," Diana Ross' "Love Hangover," Andrea True Connection's "More More More," Rose Royce's "Car Wash," and A Taste of Honey's "Boogie Oogie Oogie." The most problematic aspect of these discs is that they favor radio edits that often trim several minutes from the original versions. Hardcore disco freaks will argue that a compromise of the extended groove defeats the purpose, but Rhino would have had to stretch this series out to an unwieldy size in order to accommodate each inclusion's most club-friendly mix.

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