Review: A Fine Selection of Independent Disco, Modern Soul and Boogie 1978-82

A Fine Selection of Independent Disco, Modern Soul and Boogie 1978-82
Soul Jazz Records

Soul Jazz Records has built a solid reputation as one of the most definitive record labels archiving choice songs and artists that may have fallen through the cracks over time. Founded in 1992, the London-based British record label has gathered a watershed volume of compilations that cross innumerable genres. Reggae, house, punk/no wave, New Orleans funk, country, calypso, psych/library/soundtracks, grime/dubstep…the list is distinct and ad infinitum.

With their new release, A Fine Selection of Independent Disco, Modern Soul and Boogie 1978-82, Soul Jazz continues to build on that reputation. The album, released on Nov. 17, comes as a double CD, two separate volumes of heavyweight double-album vinyl (with free download codes), and worldwide digital release. It is a companion compilation to the new 360-page deluxe hardback book, Disco: An Encyclopedic Guide To The Cover Art of Disco (compiled by Disco Patrick, Patrick Vogt, and with text by Claes Widlund).

The 19-track release is a testament to the  different shades and textures that encompassed disco and its offshoot sub-genres at its peak.

The term “boogie” is used to describe rhythm & blues after the initial popularity of disco faded and just before the genre of “house” was created. It combined elements of funk, jazz, and soul while bridging acoustic and electronic musical instruments.

“The Easton Assasin” by The Sunburst Band is the first example of boogie on the compilation. It swings effortlessly with its funk roots and jazz keyboard colorings. It’s a tribute to former heavyweight champion Larry Holmes, who had the 12-inch record distributed for free at his boxing matches.

“Movin to the Beat” by The Fantastic Alleems, featuring Corky Hodges, could be played on a boombox outside on a sunny day with little girls playing double-dutch jump rope and dudes out on the basketball court. It’s just that slice of warm breezy song construction that producer Leroy Burgess has done over and again during his legendary career. Burgess, a prolific and most often uncredited composer during this era, shows his flair for great production with this one.

Standout disco track “My Man Is On His Way,” by Retta Young, points a finger in the direction of Kenneth Gamble and Leon A. Huff of Philadelphia International Records, with ornate horn and string charts amidst a constant four-on-the-floor beat. It’s a perfect mix of hustle and elegance. Much like this compilation.