Dec052017| December 5, 2017
From essential track IDs to crafted EPs.
Having picked out our favourite 7″s and 10″s, we turn our attention to the 12″ in the second of our retrosepctive rundowns of the last twelve months.
And just as 7″s no longer represent the year’s biggest chart hits, so has it been some time since 12″s were exclusively the domain of the dance floor.
From the simple 2-track club banger to EPs that border on mini-albums, we’ve demanded that each 12″ offers something more than just an aggregation of the year’s best tracks.
Some though, like Objekt, Denis Sulta and Bufiman do represent the year’s most urgent dance music, or in the case of Bicep, Four Tet and Nathan Fake distil new albums in more forms.
This year, the 12″ has also been the friend of the UK’s burgeoning grassroots jazz movement, capturing the nascent scene as it grows and evolves, whether on Joe Armon-Jones & Maxwell Owin’s Idiom, Moses Boyd’s Absolute Zero or the improvised voyages of A.R.E. Project.
And finally, the 12″ was also home to several beautifully crafted EPs, cementing concepts and musical ideas – from Fatima al Qadiri’s provocative sexual politics to LAPS’ DIY dancehall – that circumvent generic boundaries for something true to the musical diversity of 2017.
You may have also noticed that we’ve changed the emphasis of our lists this year away from the tired, arbitrary and frankly over-used ‘best’, to the more openly subjective ‘favourite’. We believe this more accurately reflects the fact that these rundowns are essentially recommendations of what we’ve enjoyed most this year, as selected by our weekly contributors Patrick Ryder, James Hammond and Chris Summers, alongside VF’s editorial team, Gabriela Helfet and Anton Spice.
What were your favourites this year? Let us know in the comments below.
See the rest of our 2017 review:
Our 50 favourite albums of 2017
Our 10 favourite 7″s of 2017
Our 12 favourite reissue singles of 2017
Our 30 favourite reissues of 2017
Our 12 favourite soundtracks of 2017
Our 12 favourite record sleeves of 2017
Bicep may have dropped their long-awaited debut album, taking first place as the most track ID-requested producers of the year by a country mile in the process, but the audio pinnacle from this Belfast duo actually came in the form of their final release of 2017. The Glue EP delivered one of the LP’s finest cuts on the A-Side, plus fresh tracks which included the delightfully acid-tinged ‘DLR’ on the reverse. – GH
Don’t Get Me Wrong
This curveball dropped right at the start of 2017 and hasn’t left the record bag since. Lead track ‘Be A Man’ sashays across the dance floor with jasmin-infused disco pizzazz, lush synths and a belly-dance bassline underpinned by sharp-as-brass percussive shuffle. Things take a step down to Room 2 on ‘Rigola’, the groove staying in the pocket, with vibraphones to the fore. A triumph for the Music From Memory off-shoot that was heard far and wide this year. – AS
18. Carla Dal Forno
(Blackest Ever Black)
A VF favourite coming off the strength of last year’s debut full length You Know What Its Like and its accompanying singles, this year gave us four new cuts from Carla Dal Forno which made for more essential listening. An artist who sets out an alluring sound world of mysterious and uneasy pop music, The Garden carried on where her debut left off in its sparingly affective structures and ability to craft distinctive vocal hooks that work their way in with repeated listens. – JH
17. Denis Sulta
Nein Forteate EP
Glasgow homebro Denis Sulta launched his own label with two choice EPs this year, the highlight of which was its inaugural release, Nein Forteate, featuring ‘Dubelle Oh XX (JVIP)’. The kind of synthy club anthem that Sulta is rightly becoming known for, its greatness lies about 3 and a half minutes in, when the track, seemingly at its peak, suddenly cuts out… Is it a mistake, a DJ faux pas, a power problemo? Nah. It’s Sulta bringing in a silky smooth “ohhhh yeah” vocal, before dropping the ole hook in back again to maximum effect. – GH
16. Beatrice Dillon & Call Super
‘Inkjet / Fluo’
One of our favourite collaborations of the year also appears on one of our favourite labels in sweet symbiosis, as Beatrice Dillon unites with Call Super for this Hessle Audio affair. As with many of the 12”s gracing this year’s list, the A-Side ‘Inkjet’ is a legit slice of aqua electronics, but it’s the flip – ‘Fluo’ – that we’ve been rinsing since it dropped. A soundtrack for the robot takeover to come, with Blade Runner-esque dial tones making way for exquisite saxxy breakdowns midway through. Proof, if ever you needed it, that no B-side should be left unturned. – GH
15. Avalon Emerson
Avalon Emerson returns to Whities for the follow-up to her Narcissus in Retrograde EP – one of our favourite 12”s of 2016 – on a different, but no less excellent, tip. With this catchy double-dose, she continues her well deserved ascent as one of the most exciting producers around: ‘One More Fluorescent Rush’ serves glitchy, spaced out feels, before ‘Finally Some Common Ground’ takes off on a Soichi Terada-esque, one-way trip to the intergalactic mothership. – GH
14. Four Tet
‘SW9 9SL / Planet’
Aside from a couple of split 12”s last year, 2017 marked something of a return to the prolific output we’ve come to expect from Kieran Hebden, releasing a handful of 12”s, a load of material via multiple Spotify aliases, some brilliant remixes, the year’s most ID’d edit ‘Question’, and a new full-length infamously made using just a laptop and a view over some unspectacular woodland. Thankfully, the album’s two stand-out tracks were also collected on this limited 12”. Propulsive, melodic dance music for the headphones or the dance floor, ‘Planet’ is Four Tet’s finest since There Is Love In You. – AS
13. Craven Faults
Elusive, evasive, but delivered with unerring authority, Craven Faults is one of this year’s wildcards. Arriving on a mysterious label with a soaring two-track EP of airborne krautrock, Netherfield Works pays its dues to ’70s Düsseldorf and the San Francisco Tape Music Centre and casts them to the English winds, forging two sprawling tracks from within a nest of patch cables in an old Yorkshire textile mill. A modular synth record that, like recent works by Kaityln Aurelia Smith seems to shed its machined origins to become something altogether more organic, Netherfield Works overflows across two sixteen minute tracks that will appeal to fans of Cluster, Steve Reich and the like. – AS
12. Fatima Al Quadiri
Few EPs set out to challenge norms and hegemonies like Fatima Al Qadiri’s Shaneera, which riffs on the English mispronunciation of the Arabic word for “outrageous, nefarious, hideous, major and foul.” Reconstructing snippets of Grindr chats, online drag and femme comedy skits, and Iraqi proverbs into a hybrid vernacular built from Kuwaiti and Egyptian Arabic, Shaneera is an intoxicating listen – all menacing dubbed-out electronic arrangements – and a self-confessed “love letter to evil and benevolent queens around the world.” – AS
Dekmantel celebrated a decade as a champion of left-field, dance floor meditations by delivering its strongest year yet, hosting an annual sell-out festival in Holland, a smaller soiree in Croatia, and releasing some of the label’s finest music along the way, including Dekmantel 10 Years 04 EP and Juju & Jordash’s Sis-Boom-Bah LP. However, it was Bufiman aka Wolf Muhler’s Peace Moves EP that best represented the weird af and wonderfully off-kilter sonics which have come to define the Dutch imprint. A seemingly bizarre combination of growling vocals and cranky, bent out of shape jack-in-the-box effects that sounds so wrong it’s right. – GH
10. Moses Boyd
(The Vinyl Factory / Exodus)
Drummer and producer Moses Boyd exploded into the wider musical consciousness with ‘Rye Lane Shuffle’ in 2016, and this EP, co-released between VF and his own Exodus imprint, was his much-anticipated follow up. Ditching the horn stabs for shimmering krauty synths, Absolute Zero was born out of Boyd’s solo live shows but has since been reintegrated into the Exodus band with which he has sold out the likes of Corsica Studios and Jazz Café this year. Underpinned by his live-wire drum sound, this EP swells with a restless ease, referencing influences as broad as grime, ambient and hip-hop, rooting this new jazz mode in an urban context. One of the year’s breakthrough artists, expect to hear much more of Moses in the coming months. As objective as we can possibly be, the soft-touch laminate artwork by Optigram may also make this one of our favourite sleeves of the year. – AS
9. Agnes Obel
‘Stretch Your Eyes (Quiet Village Remix)’
(Phonica Special Editions)
You don’t need us to tell you how great it is to share a building with a record shop, let alone one as consistently on point as Phonica. So when manager Simon Rigg called us into his office one afternoon last summer with news of an extra special 12” on one of the shop’s in-house imprints we knew it was going to be good. Here Quiet Village pull apart Danish singer Agnes Obel’s ‘Stretch Your Eyes’ into a dark and dubby chorale, backed by an eerie a cappella imbued with the same haunting longevity of Massive Attack’s ‘Teardrops’. – AS
8. SW. / SVN
Who needs things like track names when the music can do the talking? Not SW. that’s who. The producer follows up a close-to-perfect 2016 LP (appropriately called The Album) to team up with SUED co-founder SVN. SUED 18 kicks off with Pepe Bradock-esque house heaviness on the A-Side, plus a knockout, subdued techno ride on the reverse. – GH
7. Floating Points
‘Ratio (Deconstructed Mixes)’
Though Floating Points debuted versions of the slow-rolling, emotional synth-filled ‘Ratio’ via live shows and DJ sets last year, it finally saw a long-awaited official release this October. Well worth the wait, ‘Ratio’ is a shimmering number that harkens back to Floating Points’ supreme ‘Myrtle Avenue’ and ‘ARP3’ fare. And though it may seem like a mere sales gimmick to release the track in ‘deconstructed’ parts, as he did on the B-side, it’s not. If you caught his live set this year, this seemingly fractured 12″ actually makes perfect sense because no live version of ‘Ratio’ was identical. An exciting hint that the best of his new material is yet come. – GH
6. Joe Armon-Jones & Maxwell Owin
A record that captures the jazz routes and roots coursing through London at the moment, tying together the convergent legacies of broken beat, house, 2-step and fusion that having been coalescing south of the river for some time. Aside from being assembled from a quintet of fiercely accomplished musicians (Armon-Jones & Owin are joined here by Nubya Garcia, Oscar Jerome and Jake Long), Idiom is a refreshingly playful record that never takes itself too seriously. With discrete improvisations woven into the fabric of each track, Idiom is greater than the sum of its parts, and a testament to the community that has helped elevate it. – AS
5. Nathan Fake
Providence Reworks – Part I
A primer on how a track, in this case Nathan Fake’s ‘DEGREELESSNESSS’ from his Providence LP, can be turned into (two times the) greatness, thanks to formidable edits. A-Side sees Overmono assuming the rework duties to craft one of the anthems of 2017’s festival season, teasing out the most euphoric moments of ‘DEGREELESSNESS’ across seven and half minutes. Meanwhile, a no less worthy of rotation revamp from Huerco S brings a psychedelic, Middle Eastern-hued séance to send you into a zen-filled trance. – GH
LAPS are Ladies As Pimps, the Glasgow duo and Golden Teacher affiliates forging an industrial dancehall sound that’s unlike anything else we heard this year. If there’s one big hit here it would be title track ‘Who Me?’, which finds a sweet spot between the sensual, the confrontational and the surreal we had no idea existed. It’s a trick ‘Edges’ manages too, before rounding off the EP with the fragmented “pyjama house” of ‘Lady Bug’. A charismatic record that pulls no punches, and a fine first foray into new music for 2017 label newcomer MIC. – AS
If in January someone had told us one of the biggest tracks of the year would be a slowed-down two-step garage beat-meets-techno superjam, we would have been rather confused about what the year held in store. But so it was. TJ Hertz’s first release since 2014, a 12” on the club-focused white label series under his Objekt alias, stormed dance floors far and wide thanks to its unexpected B-Side. ‘Theme From Q’ is the kind of track that works in sets of all shapes, speeds and sizes, because it’s just that great. – GH
2. Hieroglyphic Being, Sarathy Korwar & Shabaka Hutchings
A.R.E. Project EP
Arguably one of the UK’s most prolific and inspiringly creative musicians, Shabaka Hutchings leant his saxophone touch to a number of contenders for our favourite releases of the year, including the Comet Is Coming’s psychedelic jazz 12” Death To The Planet 12”. That said, A.R.E. Project, a unique and forward-thinking, improvised collaboration between Hutchings, Hieroglyphic Being and Sarathy Korwar was the obvious choice. Captured during a completely live, two hour performance aboard a studio moored inside a ship along the Thames, the EP sees cosmic sax merging with Indonesian folk music and space-age electronics for a truly one-of-a-kind result. – GH
1. Sudan Archives
One of this year’s most enchanting debuts came from violinist, producer and vocalist Sudan Archives, whose self-titled EP on Stones Throw takes the award for our favourite 12” of 2017. Channelling the bedroom RnB production that sustained her early forays into music into an outward-looking hybrid sound, Archives draws as much on North African melodies and instrumentation as Stones Throw’s storied left-field hip-hop tradition.
A self-taught violinist, she weaves finger picking rhythms into the fabric of her productions, and uses its sawing melancholy to lend a gorgeous nostalgia to each song. And while ‘Come Meh Way’ might be the track you’ll have heard most, ‘Oatmeal’ and ‘Goldencity’ exude the same singular clarity, marking out a route between the percussive, earthy RnB of opening track ‘Paid’ and the syncopated folk musings of final track ‘Wake up’. A modest record, both utterly new yet uncannily familiar, we revisited this EP time and again this year, and can’t wait to hear what comes next. – AS
Illustration by Patch D Keyes.
Feb262017| February 26, 2017
Because every record collection has a story.
Home Grown is our series profiling you lot and your excellent record collections. Taking our cue from the brilliant submissions to the #VFRecordCollections thread on Instagram, we want to share a little of your hard-earned love for vinyl with the world.
Each week, we’ll be profiling a different collector from around the world and finding out what makes them tick. Want in? Send us a pic of your collection and a few words about your collection to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Name: Fabrizio Benetti
Location: Bologna, Italy
Size of collection (approx.):
I’ve collected about 1,200 records (70% are 12″) and I started when I was 20 when me and some friends started playing reggae records in clubs. I really fell in love with the sound of reggae on vinyl so I started to collect all my favourite songs on wax.
What part of your set-up are you most proud of?
I usually play my records with a Technics SL-1210 MK2 which I’m very proud of, because it’s an old and solid friend.
All collectors have personal “hunted treasures” but it’s always hard to make the choice (I could hardly think of a top 10!) Anyway some years ago, I was able to buy a copy of Mondo Cane by Mike Patton, a great voice performing some classic Italian love songs. At the time I didn’t even know that was a limited edition record…
I also have a special feeling for 10″ records and without a doubt ‘Rude Boy’ by Sammy Dread is one of those records that reminds me why I love vinyl so much every time I put it on the deck.
When you start to collect records, probably every piece of it has got a special meaning for you. I grew up watching my dad fixing old juke boxes, filling them with tons of 7″ so he basically introduced me to this format. I listened to the music (‘Apache’ by The Shadows is the first I can recall) coming out from these “special blazing boxes” and it sounded so magical to me…and it still does!
Sep212016| September 21, 2016
The disco 100.
Disco has changed. What has forever been defined by the glitter-ball aesthetic of Saturday Night Fever, has, slowly opened its arms to embrace a world of different musics, loosely connected by the idea, feel or groove of “disco”. Fuelled by voracious selectors and intrepid reissue labels bringing back 12″s from Beirut to Port Of Spain, our understanding of the genre has become all the richer.
We are not trying to re-write the canon here, simply add to it. And with a term as slippery as “disco” have set a few ground rules to help you navigate the list. First up, as the original 12″ format, its that which we’re limiting ourselves to here, reluctantly excluding a wealth of incredible album-only tracks and 7″s that frankly warrant a round-up in their own right. Bollywood disco, a vast industry but almost exclusively released in LP format, is one such casualty.
As far as dates go, we’re talking exclusively here about the decade between 1975 and 1985 (although the odd track may have been penned before or released after), and are happy to include records that sail close jazz and soul at one end and RnB, funk and boogie at the other. Nu-disco or anything that could possibly fall under this category is therefore also out.
In treading a different path you may also find that a few widely acclaimed superstars have had to make way for some lesser known gems, but every time have sought to make the case for inclusion.
100.The Gap Band
(Total Experience Records, 1982)
If its influence on samplers is anything to go by, ‘Outstanding’ is a certified classic; Ice Cube, Biggie, Mary J Blidge, Madonna, Ashanti have all taken bites out of this soul boogie bomb. The instrumental is great ammunition for your disco blends.
TSOP (The Sound Of Philadelphia) / Love Is The Message
(Philadelphia International Records, 1979)
Possible the biggest underground hit in NYC’s late ’70s disco scene, for many this is the Paradise Garage anthem. MFSB’s album by the same name – which also features Soul Train theme ‘T.S.O.P.’ – was a landmark release for the Philly soul movement. (Side note: MFSB stands for ‘Mother Father Sister Brother’.)
Rock With You
You can’t have a disco list without some MJ and it’s got to be a slice of Off The Wall. Jackson and Quicky Jones at the peak of their powers, the album has a funky undercurrent that’s clubby, yet plenty soulful; best captured ‘Rock With you’ whose wickedly sly groove would be imitated but never bettered for years to come.
(A&M records, 1980)
It’s a testament to the timeless nature of this groove that you might have heard it played out in more than one places. Thank South African afro-rock outfit Harari for ‘Party’, which resonated so loudly it made the American Disco Hot 100 in ’82.
96. Banda Black Rio
The Carioca soul merchants roll out the horns for a 12” that does disco the only way the Brazilians know how. One of any number of contenders for this list, their ’77 debut Maria Fumaca has just been reissued on vinyl.
95. Peter Brown
Dance With Me / For Your Love
‘Dance For Me’ may be a pretty straight forward disco soul jam, but the real fire here is on the B-side. ‘For Your Love’ is a synth-heavy, slo-mo monster with lazy vamps and stabs to die for. Proof you don’t need to drive fast to get noticed.
94. Sister Sledge
He’s The Greatest Dancer / We Are Family
Written by the Edwards/Rogers dream team for the We Are Family! album, this is still one of the biggest jams out there, and one that rightly earns its place. Check out Al Foster’s ‘She’s The Greatest Dancer’ cover (sadly not on 12”) too for the leftfield vote. Name-dropping Gucci and Fiorucci, it was also incidentally one of the first tracks to feature brand names. A more dubious legacy perhaps…
93. Thelma Houston
You Used to Hold Me So Tight
(MCA Records, 1984)
This Terry Lewis and Jimmy Jam-produced track proves that the duo are right up there in R&B history. That post-disco, electric bassline, those chords, the background vocals that sound like they’ve been rewound; it clicks expertly with Houston’s sizzling pipes.
92. Ashford & Simpson
Found A Cure / Stay Free
(Warner Bros. Records, 1979)
Husband-and-wife songwriting-production team Ashford & Simpson dominated the ‘70s with their sophisticated blend of upbeat soul and righteous undercurrents. The A-Side on this 12″ was a number 1 hit but nothing quite compares to the spectacular ‘Stay Free’. RIP Nick Ashford.
91. The Whispers
And The Beat Goes On
They might be called The Whispers but nothing about these gentlemen is quiet. Everyone knows ‘And The Beat Goes On’ – a chart topper and a Grand Theft Auto favourite – but don’t forget to flip it over the churning, bass-weight disco of ‘Can You Do The Boogie’
90. Gary’s Gang
Let’s Lovedance Tonight
Like the best edits, Danny Krivit’s job on ‘Let’s Lovedance Tonight’ cuts all the juiciest dance floor sections – that organ-heavy groove, killer breaks and a lazy sax line – together. Still, the original 1979 full vocal version is pretty rad and if you’ve got a double copy, you know what to do…
89. David Joseph
You Can’t Hide (Your Love From Me)
A founder member of Brit funk pioneers Hi-Tension, David Joseph pursued a solo career in the ‘80s and had immediate success with ‘You Can’t Hide’. Larry Levan remixed the track, stripping it back and slowing it down, but this is one of those rare cases where the original tops Larry’s mix.
88. Guy Cuevas
(Gaumont Musique, 1981)
This monster 12” from the Cuban-born musician straight out of the Arthur Russell school of left-field disco earned Cuevas two more bites at the cherry on Island Records, but nothing hit the fragile heights of ‘Ebony Game’ and its wonky, cosmic chorus.
87. Chaka Khan
I Feel For You
(Warner Bros, 1984)
A track that bridged so many worlds, Chaka Khan’s Prince cover was not only a massive funk & RnB tune, but managed to doff a cap to early hip hop, and ‘70s disco in the same motion. Grandmaster Flash and Stevie Wonder feature heavily on a crossover hit that is one of the latest 12”s featured in this list.
86. Earth, Wind & Fire
At the peak of “Disco Sucks!” backlash, Earth, Wind & Fire battled changing waters with this wicked boogie belter. ‘Let’s Groove’ signalled a new era for the band, mixing the live soul of their 7-inch past with synthesised funk and vocoder robotics.
A diggers grail, this cut from Brazilian soul legend Cassiano’s Cuban Soul 18 Kilates was part of the new wave of laid back boogie making waves a long way from the Copacabana. Simplicity personified, let the hook take you there.
84. Lord Shorty
Sweet Music / E-Pee-Tee
An archetypal island disco get-down from the Trinidadian calypso and soca giant. One dug straight out of T&T by Sofrito years ago, that rightfully earns Shorty the title of both ‘the father of soca’ and ‘The Love Man’.
83. Luther Vandross
You’re The Sweetest One / She’s A Super Lady
By the time Luther arrived on the scene, disco was a full-blooded mainstream monster, but while ‘Never Too Much’ will always hold a place in our hearts, pick your way through Vandross’ saccharine catalogue and you’ll find this gem, tucked away on Forever, Always, For Love. It didn’t try to change the world, but then disco didn’t always have to.
82. Gwen Guthrie
(Garage Records, 1983)
Not immediately released as a 12”, this Larry Levan classic appeared on a Padlock mini-LP in 1983 and featured the best of the Compass Point dream team – Wally Badarou on keys and Sly & Robbie on drums and bass. Dubbed-out, downtempo bliss that took the sound to a new place completely.
81. The Rolling Stones
Miss You (Special Disco Version)
(Rolling Stones Records, 1978)
“The song ‘Miss you’ was never meant as a disco song at all; that harmonica isn’t exactly disco, right?” Whatever Jagger says, clearly what was going on in the discotheques made it on to this record. The ‘Special Disco Version’ brought the band into the club for the first time and set the blueprint for remix 12”s by pop and rock acts.
80. Tony Orlando
Don’t Let Go / Bring It On Home To Me
A Paradise Garage classic back in the day, the man with the third-best moustache in the business dropped ‘Don’t Let Go’ on the brilliant Elektra imprint back in 1978. A guaranteed mid-tempo party starter.
79. Central Line
Walking Into Sunshine
Whether you take the Larry Levan edit or not, Central Line’s start-of-the-summer jam, is another mid-tempo boogie affair with an intro worth the entry fee alone.
78. Marvin Gaye
A Funky Space Reincarnation / Got To Give It Up
The band sets a groove that never lets up and Marvin, with his wicked falsetto vocals, rides like a pro surfer. The very essence of cool distilled into one slab of wax, this was a direct influence on MJ’s ‘Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough.’
77. Marcia Maria
Only ever released as a promo 12” this is one of those increasingly valuable Brazilian boogie holy grails that’s about as gorgeous an example of the MPB-meets-disco sound that has obsessed selectors across Europe and the US in recent years. Arranged by Brazilian disco don Lincoln Olivetti, whose sparring partner Robson Jorge contributes the guitar parts.
76. Giorgio Moroder
Midnight Express was Giorgio Moroder first score. Director Alan Parker wanted a song like ‘I Feel Love’ and Moroder came back with this dark, moody, throbbing instrumental. Like the Donna Summer classic, ‘Chase’ was a textbook moment in the develop of hi-NRG.
75. Rim & Kasa
(Sum Sum Records, 1982)
Recently reissued by BBE, rags to riches afro-disco originator Kim Kwaku Obeng taught all the musicians in his band to follow his unique James Brown-meets-highlife sound, holding a tight groove for their hypnotic riffs and in-the-pocket-solos. ‘Love Me For Real’ is the kicker here, the bonkers vocals sounding like some kind of proto hip-hop meets gospel chorus.
74. George Duke
Brazilian Love Affair
The Duke could have any number of hits on this list (‘Reach Out’ was edged at the last), but if we’re going definitive you can’t look beyond ‘Brazilian Love Affair’, the coolest, funkiest 7 minutes you’re likely to hear. Impossible to categorise, the funky dancefloor gem features the touch of Brazilian legend Airto on percussion.
73. Tullio De Piscopo
The great drummer of Italo disco Tullio De Piscopo’s ‘Stop Bajon’ was a staple at Baldelli’s Cosmic Club and has since become something of a Balearic anthem. One of the most infectious grooves in this list, and a tracks that wears Italo’s light-hearted sensibility with style.
72. Le Pamplemousse
Do You Have Any? (Ya Know Where I Can Get Some)
(AVI Records, 1978)
El Coco hand a hand in arranging Le Pamplemousse and you can hear the similarities. Mid-tempo groover ‘Do You Have Any’ is utterly addictive and kinda silly, whilst things slow down just a lil’ on the B-Side.
Hooked On You
(Black Sun, 1981)
With that mighty, mighty Jocelyn Brown vocal, ‘Hooked On You’ is a highlight from Cerrone’s vast and oft louche back-catalogue. A guaranteed party-starter, there’s a reason the original will set you back three digits…
What Cha’ Doin’
(A&M records, 1980)
Hawaiian disco dons Seawind didn’t just make breezy island music – although if it had been released on 12” ‘Free’ would certainly have made the cut. Here it’s all slap bass and horn stabs on a funky MJ tip.
Do What You Wanna Do / Got To See My Lady
(T.K. Disco, 1977)
Straight out of funky Nassau, Bahamanian outfit T-Connection scored a #1 hit on the US Hot Dance Music/Club Play Chart with ‘Do What You Wanna Do’ back in 1977 for Henry Stone and Steve Alaimo’s TK Disco label. A funky dance floor hit, the percussive break down is one of the finest of the decade.
Chic was an unstoppable disco force. Of the many monster hits – ’Good Times’, ‘I Want Your Love’, ‘Everybody Dance’ – ‘Le Freak’ is the slinkiest. Recorded after Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards were refused entry from Studio 54, the Freak out! refrain was originally written as Fuck off!
Sun… Sun… Sun…
Walter Gibbons may be credited for mixing the world’s first commercially available 12” in the shape of Double Exposure’s ‘Ten Percent’, but his role on Ja-kki’s goofy ‘Sun…Sun…Sun…’ is less obvious. Uncredited, but stamped with all of Gibbons’ trademark unpredictability, it’s a wild 9-minutes of repeated refrains that ratchet up the tension to nowhere, in frenzied looping dance with itself.
66. Love Committee
Law And Order / Just As Long As I Got You
(Gold Mind Records, 1978)
The Warehouse, Paradise Garage, Muzik Box, Zanzibar… this Salsoul staple got heavy plays everywhere; with its creeping bassline, majestic brass, strings, keys and chilling vocals, it’s easy to see why! Mixed by NYC disco legend Walter Gibbons.
65. The Droïds
(Do You Have) The Force
Inspired by Star Wars, in 1978 French synth pop duo Droids released their one and only album Star Peace and this space-suited, playfully kitsch 12”. As Bernard Fevre says, “it’s a bit like Jean-Michel Jarre crossed with an alien from Mars.”
64. Mathematiques Modernes
French synth provocateurs Mathematiques Modernes took disco to the outer reaches on this 12” from 1980; a great example of the Europeans turning to the avant garde. A stand-out track on punk-funk label Celluloid and a demanding dancefloor hit.
63. Loleatta Holloway
(Gold Mind Records, 1980)
As much as we love Shep Pettibone’s 1983 version for Salsoul, there’s no beating Tom Moulton’s original mix. Like Holloway’s other hit ‘Hit and Run’, ‘Love Sensation’ has been sampled endlessly but most obviously on the italo-house staple ‘’Black Box – Ride On Time’ which preserved her timeless acapella for a whole new generation.
Love Me Tonight
Another on the RnB end of the spectrum, Attitude were born out of electro-soul outfit The System and released a sole LP on Atlantic in 1983, that spawned this monster 12”. Full of heart-ache, it’s dripping in disco nostalgia, and plays like an end-of-nighter for the whole era.
61. Will Powers
Adventures In Success
Island’s Compass Point studio bashed out its fair share of dubby disco oddities during the ‘80s but none more unique than Will Powers’ self-esteem pep ‘Adventures In Success’. A leftfield disco oddity that will leave you feeling like a champion.
60. Cloud One
(P&P Records, 1976)
The inaugural P&P 12” and an underground classic, Cloud One’s ‘Atmosphere Strutt’ was a killer Patrick Adams production straight out of the NYC disco downtown. Spaced-out disco that survived the cull into obscurity, it stands out for the wild synth line that was way ahead of its time.
59. Taana Gardner
(West End Records, 1981)
Taana Gardner’s sole LP on West End spawned a number of 12”s, none more important than ‘Heartbeat’. A slo-mo affair that typified some of the post-disco tendency to strip back the glamour in favour of simpler constructions. Kenton Nix’s touch is all over this one, responsible for the equally list-worthy ‘There’s Never Been (No One Like You).’
58. Herbie Hancock
Stars In Your Eyes
Herbie Hancock’s adventures in disco were hit and miss, but when he got it right, boy did it groove. And ‘Stars In Your Eyes’ is the pick of the bunch – a perfectly sprung slice of late night nostalgia.
Time To Move
(Presents Records, 1984)
With its tough, plugged-in beat and hint of heartbreak freestyle, ‘Time To Move’ is super infectious; a guaranteed floor move. It’s also a difficult one to catch, often trading for three figures, but was given a proper reissue a few years ago.
56. Eddie Hooper
Pass It On
(HCH Records, 1979)
An island disco bomb rescued a few years back by Soundway, the calypso groove and cosmic phazer is a killer combination that practically opened the whole world to the joys of Caribbean space disco. Not on the original 12” Soundway’s reissue also contains the unmistakable ‘Tomorrow’s Sun’.
55. Bumblebee Unlimited
(red Greg Records, 1978)
A real stinger from disco production super-group of Patrick Adams, Greg Carmichael and Leroy Burgess, ‘Lady Bug’ was a cult classic, taken from the group’s only LP, and the pick of Groove Line’s recent heavyweight reissues. Mythical stuff.
54. Melba Moore
You Stepped Into My Life
The Bee Gees had to make this list somewhere, so why not being covered by disco diva Melba Moore and her popping 1979 version of ‘You Stepped Into My Life’. There are a full 120 seconds of groove before Melba’s vocals send the whole thing into a state of delirium, but it’s worth the wait.
Ashewo Ara / Voltan Dance
(Red Flame, 1982)
Founded by Ghanaian brothers Michael & Isaac Osapanin, London-based afro-funk outfit Kabbala dropped two killer disco 12”s on Red Flame back in the early ‘80s, and we’ve plumped for ‘Voltan Dance’ for this list. Backed by the much remixed ‘Ashewo Ara’, ‘Voltan Dance’ is a lilting, versatile number that you’ll struggle to even find on YouTube.
52. Man Friday
Love Honey, Love Heartache
When the NYC Peech Boys came to an end, Man Friday became Larry Levan’s new project. Their post-disco/pre-house debut single ‘Love Honey, Love Heartache’ brings synth bass, FX and dub echoes together under the disco ball in one of the finest productions from the Levan arsenal. Released by the legendary Vinylmania.
51. William Onyeabor
Good Name / Let’s Fall in Love
(Wilfilms Records, 1983)
How Nigeria’s most elusive musician got hold of all those synthesizers, no one really knows, but they certainly fell into the right hands. Released in 1983, both tracks, heavy with Afro-conscious lyrics about value and soul, are propelled by electro-funk throbs and squelches, pre-empting the rise of the machines in what remains some of the most invigorating dancefloor music ever made.
50. Cheryl Lynn
Got To Be Real
On her debut single, Lynn not only proved she had a cracking set of windpipes, but she also managed to pull off chart success in what is undoubtedly one of the defining tunes of the era. The track was part-composed by keyboardist David Paich of Toto, for whom Lynn later recorded the vocal on ‘Georgy Porgy’.
(R & B Records, 1982)
British disco dons Imagination released ‘Changes’ in 1982, split between the final track of their second LP and the B-side, the equally smooth ‘So Good, So Right’. The former become a hit with Larry Levan, remixed on Nightdubbing the following year. One of the UK’s most accomplished contributions to the down-tempo boogie canon.
48. Erotic Drum Band
Love Disco Style / Jerky Rhythm
Hammond stabs and tidal percussion carried this instrumental from DJ tool to peak time dance floor weapon. The first 12” release on Prism, the Peter Di Milo-led outfit specialized in 10-minute percussive jams that were known for whipping the Paradise Garage into a frenzy.
47. Claudja Barry
Sweet Dynamite / Love For The Sake Of Love
A cornerstone of DJ Harvey’s apocryphal Sarcastic Disco mix, Claudja Barry’s ‘Love For The Sake Of Love’ was the b-side to the 1976 London single ‘Sweet Dynamite’. A slo-mo disco anthem with the most yearning string arrangement of the decade.
46. Patrice Rushen
Haven’t You Heard
Patrice Rushen got her first record deal with the jazz label Prestige Records in 1974, aged 20, releasing three albums on a fusion tip before moving over to Elektra to fully explore her funky side. Tracks on Pizzazz and Straight from the Heart were staples on New York’s more discerning 1980s dancefloors; none more than the utterly irresistibly ‘Haven’t You Heard’.
45. Instant Funk
Got My Mind Made Up
(Salsoul Records, 1978)
Founded by the the Cayre brothers, Salsoul issued hundreds of disco 12”s over its original decade long reign. This club classic was one of the label’s biggest releases, topping both the disco and R&B charts and climbing to 20 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1979. It’s still kickin’ today.
44. Loose Joints
Is It All Over My Face
(West End, 1980)
Of all Arthur Russell’s twisted disco cuts, this stands proud as his most anthemic. Its insanely funky, minimal proto-house percussion and sleazy, double-entendre lyrics – Is it all over my face?/You caught me love dancin – created an instant classic and it has endured ever since.
43. Orlando Julius
If there’s one record from west Africa that captured the disco wave it’s this bomb from Orlando Julius. It’s been a long time since this was a rarity, but still stands head and shoulders above the rest for its prescience and ultimate good-time feel. Strut recently got the man out of retirement for an LP with the Heliocentrics, where it emerged that Julius may well have had a hand in penning ‘Going Back To My Roots’, which features far higher up this list.
42. George Benson
Give Me The Night
(Warner Bros. Records, 1980)
With disco’s decline in the late ‘70s, ‘Give Me The Night’ was one of the genre’s last singles to hit big. The Quincy Jones-produced track remains one of Benson’s finest moments. ‘Cause there’s music in the air and lots of loving everywhere.
The title doesn’t disappoint: ‘Space Bass’ is a fine specimen of intergalactic disco with ectoplasmic mono-synth lines and paranormal incantations. The perfect soundtrack for Saturday night on the floor, or for an acid trip indoors.
40. Ron Hardy
Muzic Box Classics V3
(Partehardy Records, 2007)
Two tracks that prove Ron Hardy worked magic behind the decks and the reels. If you thought ‘Let No Man Put Asunder’ was already rockin’, just try Ronnie’s edit. And then flip it over for his take on ‘No Way Back’, which burns and burns until the chorus sears at the halfway house. Pure fire.
39. Hamilton Bohannon
Let’s Start The Dance
After drumming for Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Wonder and band leading for Motown, Hamilton Bohannon went solo. His unique brand of disco – characterised by funky wah-wah guitars, long drum breaks and thudding bass – is best realised on the Carolyn Crawford-starring ‘Start The Dance’, though the lesser-heard ‘Coming on Strong’, also released on Mercury in 1978, is a close second.
38. Jean Carn
Was That All It Was
(Philadelphia International, 1979)
Philly Intl. darling Jean Carn began her career recording spiritual jazz with her then husband Doug, but truly found her voice on Gamble & Huff’s legendary imprint. ‘Was That All It Was’ is the pick of the bunch – the crystal clear claps, shining in restrained glory against those gorgeous string arrangements Philadelphia International made their own.
37. Tim Maia
Sossego / A Fim De Voltar
The Brazilian soul master Tim Maia didn’t release much on 12” but with helluva horn section, ‘Sossego’ makes the cut. Taken from his only explicitly disco influenced Disco Club album, it’s a small representation of the big man’s contribution to Brazilian music, and a nod to his sense of humour in titling a thunderous funk track ‘Quiet’.
36. Yellow Magic Orchestra
Computer Game (Theme From The Invaders)
(A&M Records, 1979)
Though ‘Firecracker’ is usually thought of as an early example of synth-pop, a genre that YMO helped pioneer, this track was as big with the emerging electro-hip-hop players in the Bronx as it was in the dancefloor visions of Larry Levan and later the Belville Three.
35. Universal Robot Band
Barely Breaking Even
Another Carmichael-Adams-Burgess master-stroke, this 12-minute gem was mixed by none other than John Morales, and is the fruit of the band’s latter-day reformation, released on little known label Moonglow in 1982. Such was its cult appeal it ended up lending its name to UK label BBE.
A monster track from Afro-disco outfit Tumblack, signed to Island for a rare-as-hens-teeth 12”, where the percussive Afro-instrumental intro giving way to full on disco groove, that gained cult status on the European Balearic scene. Presumably licensing the track from Barclay who released the LP, Island Records are also represented by Wally Badarou who is credited on the sleeve.
33. Inner Life
Ain’t No Mountain High Enough / Make It Last Forever
(Suss’d Records, 2003)
One of Larry’s signatures, rumour has it that ‘Make It Last Forever’ was the last track played at the Garage. The epic 13-minute version was previously unreleased, until Tom Moulton re-mastered it in 2003 from the original master tapes, along with Larry’s equally sensational mix of ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’.
32. Plunky & Oneness Of JuJu
Every Way But Loose / Run Away Baby
(Black Fire, 1980)
Though Oneness Of Juju pushed more boundaries in the avant-garde jazz scene, they blessed clubland with this percussive, discofied slice of afro-jazz on ‘Every Way But Loose’. The lesser-heard B-Side ‘Run Away Baby’ couldn’t be more perfect for a sunrise set. Original 1980 copies are extremely rare…
Right In The Socket
With its funky ass space-line, Jody Watley’s soaring vocal and that totally irresistible breakdown, it’s easy to see how this became a PG ear-worm. Although a NYC outfit, Shalamar was a good fit for the classic SOLAR label, because their sound was always as sunny as the weather in Los Angeles.
30. Manu Dibango
Big Blow / Soul Makossa
(Fiesta Records, 1976 )
David Mancuso played it at The Loft; Larry at the Garage; Michael Jackson pinched the vocal refrain; and so did Rihanna. Originally released on 7″ in 1972, ‘Soul Makossa’ is one of the first disco records and remains one of the best. Ma-mako, ma-ma-sa, mako-mako ssa
29. Patti LaBelle
The Spirit’s In It
(Philadelphia International Records, 1981)
This Philly classic regularly serviced the church of Garage. One of the most soul-raising introductions to a disco track, it’s impossible not to shake a bone loose when the shuffling beat comes in.
28. Ron Hardy
Muzic Box Classics Volume One
(Partehardy Records, 2005)
An original edit pioneer, Hardy would tweak reel-to-reel tapes to extend breaks on disco tracks, maintaining pace on the floor and foreshadowing the birth of house. When Ron Hardy used to bang his ‘Peaches and Cream’ edit, the Muzik Box would explode. Nephew Bill Hardy recorded the edit from an original reel for the first release in a series of Muzic Box Classics 12”s. It’s Magic!
27. Grace Jones
Pull Up To The Bumper (Remix)
(Island Records, 1985)
Whilst we could wax lyrical about B1 (a breezy, bossa cover of Edith Piath’s ‘La Vie En Rose’) or B2 (the fierce, Sly and Robbie co-written hit ‘Nipple to The Bottle’), A1, a sizzling remix of the already sexually-charged AF ‘Pull up the Bumper’, is one of the finest examples of dub disco ever recored. Lyrically it’s genius – Pull up to my bumper baby / In your long black limousine / Pull up to my bumper baby / Drive it in between – and so suggestive that some airwaves banned it altogether. Grease it / Spray it / Let me lubricate it.
26. Donna Summer
I Feel Love
According to David Bowie, in the middle of recording of his Berlin Trilogy, “[Brian] Eno came running in and said, “I have heard the sound of the future.” … he puts on “I Feel Love,” by Donna Summer … He said, “This is it, look no further. This single is going to change the sound of club music for the next fifteen years.” Enough said.
25. Captain Sky
(AVI Records, 1979)
A chronically overlooked figure on the disco continuum, P-Funk prodigy Captain Sky recorded a trio of deeply funky LPs in the late ‘70s that riffed on George Clinton’s comic-book-meets-afro-futurist aesthetic. Entering the phone booth of his mind, the Captain may not have had the same success but as the opening track of Pop Goes The Captain released on AVI Records in 1979, ‘Moon Child’ is as powerful a slab of space disco you’re likely to hear.
24. Mary Clark
Take Me I’m Yours
(La Shawn, 1980)
One of those tracks that has become a hit in reverse, Mary Clark’s foot-stomping disco-soul excursion ‘Take Me I’m Yours’ was initially released to little effect on short-lived NYC label La Shawn, a meagre 200-copy run dissolving into obscurity almost immediately. But up there with Gloria Ann Taylor’s ‘Deep Inside You’ as one of the most sought after on Discogs, its stock rocketed even further when Floating Points dropped it in his Essential Mix last year. A perfect example of the collector-hungry Discogs economy making a classic out of a cast-off.
23. Michael Boothman
Waiting For Your Love / What You Won’t Do For Love
(Touch Production, 1980)
Invisible City Editions’ finest work of reclamation is this washed up tropical island gem by Michael Boothman aka the Trinidadian Quincy Jones. Bubbling away like a Lime Lemon and Bitters cola, is ‘What You Won’t Do For Love’ the ultimate end of the night closer? DJ Harvey says so.
(Mr. Disc Organisation, 1983)
A proper Italo anthem, Maurice Cavalieri and Giorgio Stefani’s extra-terrestrial 1983 hit ‘Spacer Woman’ was initially conceived as something of an experiment to break the classic disco dance sound. Using a Linn Drum, TR-808 and Yamaha DX7, the duo created something truly alien, where the woozy synths and solar arpeggios created the perhaps back drop for Stefani’s wife, whose vocoded vocals turn the whole thing into a dreamy ballad for space lovers.
21. Sylvia Striplin
Give Me Your Love
(Uno Melodic Records, 1980)
A budding singer from Harlem, Sylvia Striplin got her first real break in music as part of Aquarian Dream, Norman Connors’ cult jazz-funk band, whose single ‘You’re A Star’ narrowly missed out on this list. Moonlighting for Roy Ayres’ Ladies Of The Eighties, she was signed to the great vibraphonist’s Uno Melodic disco label to cut her only LP in 1980, which lent its name to this unmistakable, bubbling disco 12”.
Way Way Out / Let’s Get It Together
The mighty calypsonian, Winston Bailey was Shadow, a cosmic reggae disco legend from Trinidad who cut a couple of serious synth-heavy bangers in the early eighties. Originally released on his ridiculously sought-after Sweet Sweet Dreams LP, ‘Let’s Get It Together’ made it as a dub onto the b-side of ‘Way Way Out’ on Kalico Records in 1984 but only recently saw the light of day via a series of Caribbean disco reissues on Cultures Of Soul. An absolute monster of a track.
19. Gwen Mccrae
Keep The Fire Burning
A clutch of killer ‘80s groovers from ‘70s Miami soul star Gwen McCrae who reinvented herself for the new decade with a totally different sound. ‘Funky Sensation’ burned big on all fronts – disco, hip hop, roller skatin – and the A-Side is peak-time power music, just ask MCDE.
Street Life (Special Full Length U.S. Disco Mix)
Who can resist that chorus? Taken from the Crusadar’s hit album by the same name, ‘Street Life’ plays out in all its sumptuous glory on this full length, seven-minute-plus US disco mix. A soundtrack favourite, you can sing-along to Crawford’s hustle on ‘80s noir crime drama Sharky’s Machine, Tarantino’s blaxploitation homage Jackie Brown, and whilst you shoot cops on Grand Theft Auto V.
I Wanna Be Your Lover
(Warner Bros. Records, 1979)
Prince could write, sing, play, produce and look sexy all the while, as his enduring 1979 classic ‘I Wanna Be Your Lover’ so perfectly demonstrates. Apparently concerning Patrice Rushen (who also appears in this list), when you find the Purple one riding Pegasus naked, you know he wants it.
I’m A Man
(Prelude Records, 1978)
The original blues rock version of ‘I”m A Man’ was first given a disco-aimed refix by Chicago who stretched out the percussive section for 7 minute-plus take. Macho took things one step further with this 18 minute odyssey that rocked countless gay bars and clubs. A good one to stick on if you need the loo.
15. Marta Acuna
Dance, Dance, Dance
(P&P Records, 1977)
A gorgeous blend of Latin rhythms, Arp keyboards, Marta Acuna’s dreamy vocals gliding in and out of the galaxy and that spacey P&P sound, ‘Dance, Dance, dance’ is one of Patrick Adams’ best (and rarest) productions. The perfect end to an evening of hot summer dancing.
(Discomagic Records, 1985)
Inspired by the spaced out Afro-rhythmic sound developed by DJ Beppe Loda at the mythical Typhoon club, Italo studio outfit Helen recorded this exotic ode to Africa. By the time Daniela Paratici’s seductive vocals arrive, you’ll have fallen in love with Zanzibar too. The B-Side ‘Afro Mix’ loses the love chant, layering with the polyrhythm with additional live hand drumming by Nigerian percussionist George Aghedo. Whilst the original vinyl is fairly abundant, Dark Entries paired the track with the band’s earlier, more urgent ‘Witch’ for a 12” reissue back in 2014, complete with dreamy artwork.
13. First Choice
Let No Man Put Asunder
A Salsoul classic and one of several anthems in this list to soundtrack New York’s voguing ballroom scene in the early ‘80s, Philly girl group First Choice originally released ‘Let No Man Put Asunder’ on their 1977 album Delusions, but it didn’t make it onto 12” until six years later when a set of remixes from Shep Pettibone and Frankie Knuckles took it to the top of the dance charts.
12. Patrick Cowley
Menergy / I Wanna Take You Home
(Fusion Records, 1981)
Besides Giorgio Moroder, Patrick Cowley is widely considered the godfather of electronic dance music. In the late ‘70s Cowley played synthesizer on Sylvester’s album Step II which included hits like‘You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)’ and ‘Dance (Disco Heat)’. Then in 1981 he released ‘Menergy’, a celebration of the gay club scene, that was later re-released with vocals from Sylvester. A pioneering force for Hi-NRG, Cowley was also one of the first victims of AIDs; dying in late 1981 whilst on world tour with Sylvester.
11. Diana Ross
A literal turning point in Diana Ross’ career, the soul-turned-disco superstar followed the form of the song, that reinvents itself three minutes in from plaintive ballad to assertive disco groove, with one of the most recognizable basslines of the era. Initially just a 7” (although Motown did release a killer promo on 12” backed by Marvin Gaye’s ‘I Want You’) by the time this was circulating as a maxi single, Ross was a fully formed disco superstar and this was her anthem.
10. Shina Williams
One who depends on inheritance offers themselves up to poverty, so goes the Yoruba proverb ‘Agboju Logun’. Shina Williams & his band of funksters reflect on that pearl of wisdom in this 11 minute electro-disco workout. With a rockin’ Afrobeat backbone, it’s one of the best examples of Lagos’ fertile, cross-cultural scene in the 1970s. The original on Earthworks is not easy to track down, but Strut comp’d it back in 2001. A bootleg surfaced in 2006, but hopefully this will get a proper reissue one of these days…
9. Class Action
(Sleeping Bag, 1983)
One of the biggest hitters on the Sleeping Bag discography, Class Action’s ‘Week End’ united the best of the post-disco universe in one place. Originally written by our man Patrick Adams for his Atlantic Records studio group Phreek (which also featured Leroy Burgess and vocalist Christine Wiltshire), it was given a brand new lick by Larry Levan in 1983, mixed by Morales & Munzibai and produced by none other than Bob & Lola Blank. A bona fide dream team, with Wiltshire belting the chorus like Sunday’s never going to come.
Going Back To My Roots
(RCA Victor, 1981)
‘Going Back to My Roots’ is a track with many lives. Written and first recorded by Lamont Dozier, it was then covered in 1980 by Richie Havens who, unusually for a folk musician, funkified it. But it was NYC disco outfit Oyssey who, a year later, gave it full-body floor treatment, all the while maintaining its black power and soul fulfilment message.
7.The Joubert Singers
Stand On The Word
(Next Plateau Records Inc., 1985)
A hedonist hymn for those whose church was the Paradise Garage, ‘Stand On the Word’ is the end-of-nighter to end all nights, and perhaps the most famous choral cut ever to make the dance floor. Chorus is provided by the exuberant Joubert Singers, led by Phyliss McKoy Joubert, who delivers the Saturday night sermon with aplomb. The original is rare as the scarcest relic, going for a good ton every now and then.
(99 Records, 1981)
ESG, a co-release between 99 Records and Factory, was nothing short of a masterpiece: eighteen minutes of infectious and economical funk grooves. ‘Moody’, including the 12-inch remix single that followed, was big in the clubs in New York and London, even though over half of the ESG sisters hadn’t even completed high school at that point. Meanwhile ‘UFO’ is up there with the most sampled tracks of all time, making this EP one of the most influential on the history of dance and hip-hop.
Before Daft Punk there was Space. The original French disco cosmonauts, with the space helmets to match, they found immediate success with their 1977 debut Magic Fly, arguably the most important release of the country’s short-lived space disco craze. An eerie, stratospheric hook, and vast, expansive synthetic sweeps that would make Vangelis go weak at the knees, it was released as a 12” backed by the hyper-nostalgic sci-fi love song ‘Ballad For Space Lovers’. For its use of technicolour collage the video was also way ahead of its time.
Down, Down, Down / Over & Over
The LGBTQ icon for whom “gender was an everyday choice”, Sylvester embodied the freedom and sexual transgression of the disco era more potently than perhaps any other performer. Flamboyant and openly gay, his devil may care attitude translated on record to mega hits like ‘You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)’ – latterly described as the “cornerstone of gay disco”. We’ve gone something a little rawer, sweatier and less polished, picking the soaring cover of Ashford & Simpson’s ‘Over & Over’ from his self-titled debut as Sylvester’s high point, his trademark falsetto in full flow. Sylvester is rightfully crowned the Queen Of Disco.
3. Elias Rahbani and His Orchestra
(Voix De L’Orient, 1978)
It’s no secret that periods of cultural liberation in the Middle East in the late ‘70s produced some of the most vital disco of anywhere in the world. While civil war in Lebanon may have facilitated the creation of the country’s most avant-garde music, it also caused such instability within in the industry that records were released in small quantities which rarely left the country. One ever present though was the Rahbani Family, whose work with iconic vocalist Fairuz was perhaps the best known of a (relatively) vast musical empire.
Taking the best of Western disco and adding a dark, almost noir-ish flair to the sound, Elias Rahbani and his Orchestra released ‘Liza… Liza’ on 12” in 1978 – an almost unprecedented format in Lebanon – with a sleeve so risky it wouldn’t make it onto the shelves today. Gorgeously orchestrated, with a driving, almost cosmic bassline and monster synth stabs, ‘Liza… Liza’ is a force of nature, variously bootlegged but as yet not properly given the dues it deserves.
Jingo / Thousand Finger Man
A Cuban percussionist, most renowned for his role in the ‘50s Afro-Cuban jazz movement, who was 58 years old when this was released, as one of the top two greatest disco 12”s of all time? You better believe it.
‘Thousand Finger Man’ wad first released on an album of the same name in 1970 (1970!?) and can justly claim to being one of the first disco tracks of all time, long before the extended mix was just a glint in Tom Moulton’s eye.
When the 6-minute album original eventually made it onto 12” backed by the equally massive ‘Jingo’ in 1979, it became an instant Salsoul classic.
From the eerie synthetic intro, the slow-building piano stabs and bass line that makes ‘Love Hangover’ sound like a tribute piece, it’s an extraordinary 9-minute journey of power and restraint, which takes a top two spot for being almost a full decade ahead of its time.
1. Dinosaur L
Go Bang! #5 / Clean On Your Bean #1
(Sleeping Bag Records, 1982)
In 1981, Arthur Russell, under one-off alias Dinosaur L, released 24→24 Music; the title referencing how the elusive rhythm switches up every 24 bars. From it, ’#5 (Go Bang!)’ was as much a hit in the downtown gallery scene as it was in Mancuso’s Loft and Levan’s Garage.
The track was a little too crypto for other DJs though; so Francois K was invited to join the already all-star lineup to give the the track a more dancefloor-friendly mix. Francois K’s scalpel job re-organised Russell’s freeform laboratory and future-facing druggy euphoria into a dubbed out dancing experience like never before.
Like the original, the disco mix runs on dramatic dynamism; the wild web of sounds – vagrant trumpets, drunk guitars, dancing keys, casual latin-style percussion, loopy men and women – thickens and expands before eventually detonating in a massive I wanna go BANG! bomb.
Francois K took the mad vision over to side B with his screwball mix of disco-rap jam ‘Clean Your Bean #1’ – also from 24→24 Music and just as much fun on the dancefloor. An unrivalled exercise in disco-not-disco, little compared to this 12” then and, over 30 years on, the same can be said now.
A big thank you to our crack squad of consultants, without whom this would never have been possible: Monica Lynch, Patrick Ryder, In A Lonely Place.
Illustration by Hector Plimmer.
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Registered in England and Wales under no. 04184222.