When it is said that dis­co died at the end of the ‘70s, what that means is it died as a dom­i­nant mass-mar­ket trend of the music busi­ness. A demand for new dance music con­tin­ued in the clubs and devot­ed prac­ti­tion­ers of the form didn’t bat an eye­lash as they con­tin­ued to ply their trade.

A great exam­ple of a band that escaped the wan­ing days of the dis­co phe­nom­e­non and con­tin­ued to score on the dance charts into the ‘80s was Change. This European/American stu­dio project cut six albums, one a year from 1980 through 1985, and the cream of their out­put can be sam­pled on Reach For The Sky: The Change Anthology, an out­stand­ing new 2-CD set from Groove Line Records.

Change was the brain­child of dance music entre­pre­neur Jacques Fred Petrus and pro­duc­er Mauro Malavasi, a pair of Eurodisco vet­er­ans who scored on the dis­co charts dur­ing the lat­ter half of the ‘70s with projects like Macho and the Peter Jacques Band. For Change, they drew direct inspi­ra­tion from the cos­mopoli­tan yet min­i­mal­ist approach of Chic, even hir­ing musi­cians and singers who worked with Chic to add lyrics and vocal arrange­ments to their com­po­si­tions and instru­men­tal arrange­ments. What this team cre­at­ed was a unique Change-RFTS-covfusion of Eurodisco melod­i­cism and American soul that is sleek and dis­ci­plined enough to still sound fresh to mod­ern ears despite its obvi­ous peri­od charms.

Disc 1 cov­ers Change’s first three albums, a set of record­ings that rep­re­sent the more clas­si­cal­ly dis­co side of their out­put. It starts strong with a quar­tet of tracks from their debut The Glow Of Love, an album that Schlockmania reveres as the best Chic sound-alike ever record­ed. The title track is amongst the most swoon-induc­ing­ly roman­tic dis­co bal­lads of all time, topped off with a killer lead vocal from Luther Vandross, while “A Lover’s Holiday” and “Searching” wed hyp­notic Eurodisco hooks to crisp, American-style rhythms that give them a mes­mer­iz­ing qual­i­ty.

And that’s not all the first disc has to offer: “Paradise” off­sets its per­cus­sive, stac­ca­to vers­es with a bridge where the group vocals soar alongside the song’s spir­it-lift­ing sen­ti­ments, “Sharing Your Love” is a lux­u­ri­ous trip into Quiet Storm bal­ladry with a silky group-vocal cho­rus and “The Very Best In You” off­sets a propul­sive boo­gie groove with ele­gant vocal melodies.

Disc two cap­tures the high­lights from the final three Change albums and it rep­re­sents their shift towards a more elec­tron­ics-dom­i­nat­ed approach. Thankfully, it retains the tune­ful qual­i­ty of the mate­ri­al on the first disc while pulling things into a sleek­er, more tech­no-tinged realm. The Italian side of the group real­ly starts to show on tracks like “Got To Get Up,” where chant-like group vocals rhyth­mi­cal­ly flow over a back­drop dom­i­nat­ed by a trance-induc­ing pro­grammed syn­th hook, and “Let’s Go Together,” where the vocals and the synths rest­less­ly com­pete to see who can pro­duce the most melo­di­ous frills.

Fans of American funk will also be pleased by the mate­ri­al that disc 2 includes from Change Of Heart, the Change album that found the Italian dis­co auteurs col­lab­o­rat­ing with Minneapolis soul titans Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. The title track of said album is includ­ed in its 12-inch form and it’s a syn­th-funk mon­ster where stac­ca­to vocals act as a slick coun­ter­part to the chop­py rhythm gui­tars, new wave-y syn­th stabs and the glossy, syn­the­sized bassline that dri­ves it all along. “You Are My Melody” is anoth­er killer from this album that pumps up its ele­gant vers­es with a per­co­lat­ing cho­rus.

Reach For The Sky: The Change Anthology could suc­ceed on the bar­rage of excel­lent songs alone but it’s also worth not­ing that Groove Line has gone the extra mile in pack­ag­ing it. The nice­ly designed digi­pak does a fine job of emu­lat­ing the min­i­mal­ist, shape-dri­ven art that usu­al­ly appeared on Change album cov­ers and the set’s pro­duc­ers have includ­ed a hand­ful of sin­gle edits and extend­ed mix­es that fans will appre­ci­ate. Best of all, there’s a thick book­let of lin­er notes that include a con­cise, infor­ma­tive essay by dis­co expert Christian John Wikane plus track-by-track com­ments from the singers and musi­cians who worked on each album.

In short, Reach For The Sky: The Change Anthology speaks strong­ly for the aes­thet­ic valid­i­ty of the dance music that fol­lowed in the imme­di­ate wake of disco’s demise. The smart­ly-cho­sen track lis­ten­ing not only makes a great case for Change’s lega­cy but also charts how dance music shift­ed from the lush­ness of clas­sic dis­co to the rhyth­mic, elec­tron­ic sleek­ness that ‘80s dance music would be known for. Thus, this is not only a great lis­ten but an edu­ca­tion in the shift­ing tides of dance music styles dur­ing this time — and that makes Reach For The Sky: The Change Anthology a trea­sure twice over for dis­co fans.