Various – The Greatest Soul/Funk & Disco 12’’ Singles of the ‘70s & ‘80s
4 CD boxset
Anyone who started collecting vinyl in the 1970s will have plenty of 12″ singles, but it may come as a surprise to them that they only became commonly available to the public in 1976 when Double Exposure’s Ten Percent was the first extended play platter available to buy in your local vinyl emporium.
Before then 12 inch records had mainly targeted DJs for promotions as producers made the most the most of the extended needle time to offer extended mixes of dance tracks, full of funky instrumental breaks, that helped fuel the disco boom in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s.
Unlike their punk contemporaries everyone on these extended versions could actually sing and play brilliantly, so all the cuts on this box set really make the most of extended versions of songs that were already bangers.
So take a classic track like Chic’s Good Times that most people have danced to in a club – or family do- which in its original form is a masterpiece, but the extended middle section allows the genius of Nile Rogers and the bass of Bernard Edwards to really shine through. You may also be familiar with many of these tunes via samples, like Loretta Holloway’s full throated Love Sensation that Black Box used for their own chart topper, Ride On Time.
Chaka Khan’s sister Taka Boom delivered the sassy vocal on The Undisputed Truth’s You + Me = Love that opens CD One. T-Connection started life in the Bahamas before reaching the UK top 10 with Do What You Wanna Do, and Tom Moulton’s mix of Do It Any Way You Wanna by People’s Choice is an classic example of how to make the most of 12 inch single.
Brooklyn’s Crown Heights Affair made the top 10 over here with the funky You Gave Me Love, but couldn’t make Top of the Pops so Legs & Co had to do one of their gruesome interpretive ‘dances’ instead. Lonnie Liston Smith played with the late Pharoah Sanders and Miles Davis before becoming a jazz-funk pioneer with the spacey Expansions. Chaz Jankel co-wrote some of Ian Dury’s biggest hits but he had a side hustle as a funkster recruiting Brenda Jones to sing on You’re My Occupation, and weirdly his electro funk isn’t a million miles away from his day job with the Blockheads.
Big horns and a chanted chorus were hallmark of disco tacks of this era with Brass Construction utilising both on 1978’s Movin’. The second disc features a lot of that sound including Skyy’s Call Me with sisters Denise, Dolores and Bonny Dunning on vocals. Bonkers funksters Parliament are in fine form on an epic mix of Flashlight which became a favourite sample for emerging hip-hop artists.
Zapp’s More Bounce to the Ounce (Pts. I and II) might have been sampled over 300 times by rappers, but it’s dates vocoder vocals are just irritating, and a rare example in this box set of where less is more. You will recognise Just be Good To Me buy S.O.S. Band as it’s funky groves was reimagined by Beats International into their chart topping Dub be Good To me.
CD three opens with the double hammy of greatness as Chic cut lose on Goof Times sand Sister Sledge run riot on an extended version of He’s The Greatest Dancer. A decent bass line was critical to any funk or disco hit and Keith Crier produces a classic one on G.Q’s Discos Nights (Rock Freak) and Narada Michael Walden switches from jazz for the UK top 10 hit I Should Have Loved You.
Europe embraced disco and Anglo-French band Voyage probably invented Europop with from East To West, and ‘burn, baby, burn’ on the Tramps stomping Disco Inferno is one of the all great choruses.
The final CD offers the best of British jazz funk with the mighty Freeze by Southern Freeze that filled dancefloors right across the UK. The Isle of Wight might seem an unusual home for Jazz funk but level 42’s Love Games is a banger, as is Atmosfear’s evergreen Dancing In Outer Space.
Roy Ayers is one of the godfathers of Acid Jazz and extended version of Running Away allowed him to show off his licks as a vibraphonist. It’s astounding to think Elevyn ‘Champagne’ King was only 17 when she recorded the still utterly brilliant Shame after she was discovered singing while cleaning the studio. Valentine Brother’ angry Money’s Too Tight (To Mention) might have been butchered by Simply Red, but it remains a searing indictment of Reaganomics in a very rare burst of disco politics.
There’s hours of music here and barely a note is wasted by any of the vocalists, or the virtuoso musicians, who were determined to make good use of the extra minutes this new format offered them. Credit to all the producers who resisted the obvious temptation to just be self-indulgent, but used the additional time in service of all these joyous songs that still make you want to strut onto the dancefloor to throw some shapes.
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Words by Paul Clarke, you can see his author profile here.
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