- One of the joys of '70s disco—and there are many—is its inherent dichotomy. There's a built-in push-pull tension in many, if not most, disco tracks, with the top end (vocals, keys, guitars, horns, strings and what-have-you) designed to send you to glitter ball heaven. The bass and percussion—well, they're meant to transport you to somewhere a bit more carnal—namely, the dance floor (and, if you're lucky, to knockin'-boots territory).
Strip away the filigree, and most of the genre's tracks, even the most flowery, can be pretty damn lowdown and licentious; despite the slick production values, their rhythm sections tend to put those of the genre's newer variations to shame. Disco's polarism is something that '70s obsessive Dave "Joey Negro" Lee knows inside and out, and explores the sound's split personality on the latest double-disc edition of his ongoing compilation series, The Soul of Disco.
As you would expect on a Joey Negro comp, the set is stacked with rarities—great if you don't own these tunes, but perhaps less than fabulous if you just went out and spent the going rate for a 12-inch of Jackie Stoudemire's "Invisible Wind" (which last time we checked, was trading for well over $1,000). That's the song that kicks off The Soul of Disco Volume 3, and it's a prime example of disco's duality. Its soaring melody, framed by Stoudemire's plaintive vocals, gorgeous piano and effusive strings and horns, lays the emotion on with a trowel—a less charitable listener might term it "schmaltzy." But underneath the gloss is a wicked rhythm section, the rock-solid, no-frills kick drum and snare (augmented by spare conga) provide the latticework for an absolutely killer bassline.
Gloster Williams & Master Control's "No Cross, No Crown" is a slow-burn, blues-tinged mover, its exuberant, gospel-tinged vocals dirtied up by its decidedly more secular chicken-scratch guitar; Full Body's "You Got Me Dancing" throbs with late-night anticipation while a busy orchestra (complete with what sounds like a xylophone) swirls around the beat. Not every track is quite so hyper-produced—Evans Pyramid's "The Dip Drop," for instance, is a tough boogie monster with a groove that won't quit. But that track's an anomaly on The Soul of Disco Volume 3, a collection that happily splits the difference between uplifting emotion and lowdown disco funkiness.
01. Jackie Stoudemire - Invisible Wind
02. Full Body - You Got Me Dancing (Joey Negro Edit)
03. The J's - When Did You Stop
04. Loi - Body Contact
05. Sanctuary - Disco Discouraged (Joey Negro Edit)
06. Board Of Directors - Hanging Tough
07. Project - Love Rescue
08. Truth - International Dancing
09. Park Avenue - Looking Ahead
10. Kocky - Just Keep On Dancing
11. Gloster Williams & Master Control - No Cross, No Crown
01. Sir James Randolph - Sho' Is Good (Joey Negro Edit)
02. Hippolytes, The - Blow You Out Tonight
03. Larry Hart - Goin' Up In Smoke
04. Hot Ice - Dancing Free (Joey Negro Edit)
05. Ronnie Barron - I Can Give It To You
06. Phenomenal - One Two Three (Come See About Me)
07. Steven Abdul Kahn - Gotta Have Your Loving
08. Evans Pyramid - The Dip Drop
09. Chailo - Let's Skate
10. Loveman Ronnie Stokes - Touch You Again
11. First Class - Candy