Various Artists

The New York Sound

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According to the liner notes, the ten tracks on this compilation of 1976-1984 material contain "elements of the disco and uptempo R&B of the '70s, and hints at the evolution of house, techno and hip hop that would succeed it." That's a reasonable approximation of the territory this CD covers, though the strength with which the cuts point to the future vary pretty widely. Some of the songs are in fact pretty close to standard late-'70s funk-disco-pop, and are not especially impressive within that genre. Yet others are quite adventurous early-'80s moves into early rap and electronic-tinged dance music, and aren't all that easy to come by. Example: the 1980 track "Charley Says! (Roller Boogie Baby)" by King Tim III, who had been featured on the Fatback Band's 1979 recording "King Tim III (Personality Jock)," which was cut even before the Sugarhill Gang's "Rapper's Delight." This follow-up, on which he was backed by the Fatback Band, was King Tim III's only other appearance on vinyl, though the subject matter (roller discos) is certainly less impressive than the ahead-of-its-time rap delivery. Fatback is also heard on the 1983 effort "Is This the Future?," a strangely drawling rap with thick mechanized beats and synth scrapes. Jimmy Spicer's "Money (Dollar Bill Y'All")" is perhaps the edgiest slice of sound here, with its ominously echoed chanting, awkwardly guttural rap, and stuttering electronic riff. Leaning yet more heavily on the electronics is Twilight 22's tough rap-electro hybrid "Electric Kingdom," C-Brand's "Wired for Games" (decorated by weird distorted voices, though its lyric comparing giving love to playing a video game is far from profound), and MC Flex and the FBI Crew's "Rockin' It," where wicka-wicka-type scratching also comes into play. Not everyone who's into this stuff will like all of the music on this disc, but it does offer off-the-beaten tracks from a transitional era that's under-documented by various-artists anthologies.

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