John Luongo’s name isn’t thrown around as much as the usual disco-remix suspects – Tom Moulton, Walter Gibbons, Larry Levan, etc. – but he’s every bit as successful and important to disco history as those names. He started one of the first disco record pools in Boston, was employed by Columbia Records to do custom remixes for their artists and continued on to do everything from management to consulting to running record labels in the music business. He remains active today.
Can You Feel The Force? is a new compilation from Groove Line Records that focuses on the remix work Luongo did between 1978 and 1982. As a close listen will reveal, he downplayed surface flash and wild experimentation in his mixes in favor of a Moulton-esque style that respects the substance of each song and its arrangement while heightening the groove and any interesting production flourishes.
Disc One of Can You Feel The Force? illustrates this style nicely through a variety of mixes that remain classics with disco fans. For example, “Vertigo/Relight My Fire” by Dan Hartman pumps up the intro/song approach of its two linked compositions to operatic levels, transforming its piano-pounding melody and gospel-style vocal hooks into a rollercoaster of a mix, while The Jacksons’ “Shake Your Body Down To The Ground” respects the song’s tight, minimalist style by sticking close to the groove and teasing out every percussive element in the song to enhance its drive.
Other highlights on this disc include the take on Melba Moore’s “Pick Me Up I’ll Dance,” which sports a break that makes the most of its Philly Soul arrangement and call-and-response vocal hooks, and Johnny Mathis’s “Gone Gone Gone,” which explores every dramatic swoop of the song’s ornate arrangement. Equally worthy of note is the set’s title track by Real Force, a British disco gem whose Quincy Jones-esque arrangement comes through with plenty of punch in the mix utilized here.
Disc Two contains plenty of traditional disco gems, like the juicy extended mixes of the Jacksons’ disco-pop fave “Blame It On The Boogie” and Melba Moore’s bass-popping redux of the Bee Gees tune “You Stepped Into My Life.” However, the real attention-grabbers here experiment with some genre-crossover tricks. For example, a 1979 disco remix of Sly & The Family Stone’s funk classic “Dance To The Music” subtly adds a bit of new production to push it into line with disco standards while preserving its vintage funkiness. Other noteworthy tracks here include the electro/tribal funk of The Quick’s “Zulu” and the rock-goes-disco take on Santana’s “One Chain (Don’t Make No Prison).”
In short, Can You Feel The Force? is one of the rare disco comps that is a consistently engaging listen from the first track on disc one to the closer on disc two. It’s got just the right mix of traditional disco and genre-hopping and Luongo’s mixes are pure class every time.