One of the reasons disco is such a fun genre for us 1970’s musical archaeologists to explore is because it offers a vast expanse of uncharted territory for us to explore. The familiar hits that casual listeners know are just the thinnest top-layer of what is really out there. There are countless forgotten or overlooked gems waiting to get their fair share of the mirrorball limelight and a whole genre of disco compilations has grown up around unearthing such treasures, with dedicated deejays like Dimitri From Paris, Joey Negro and Al Kent doing their damnedest to unearth every worthwhile 12-inch obscurity under the sun.
Another intrepid disco-explorer who has been doing noteworthy work in the field is “Mr. Pink,” a U.K. based fan and collector who won over many disco fans last year with a quartet of action-packed, double-CD disco comps known as the Disco Discharge series. He has returned this year with another quartet of compilations that continue his dancefloor archaeology in high style. The first of the new batch is Diggin’ Deeper, a set that continues the musical excavation that Mr. Pink began with the earlier Classic Disco volume and does a fine job upholding the standards of his series.
The first disc offers a nice cross-section of material that extends from the mid-1970’s into the early 1980’s. The Trammps score with “Soul Searchin’ Time,” a slick groover that retools the Gamble/Huff message song style for maximum dancefloor impact and the Ritchie Family update Martin Denny’s exotica classic “Quiet Village” for the disco-kitsch 1970’s, complete with wonky synth soloing and breathy, chanted come-ons from the singers. Elsewhere on the disc, the Constellation Orchestra mixes Chic-style elegance with sci-fi lyrics on “Dancing Angel” and Sticky Fingers crafts a killer funk-disco epic in “Party Song,” a skillfully-arranged tune with amazing, jazzy horns a la 1970’s-era Kool & The Gang. There’s a great blend of vintage disco hooks and dub-style 1980’s synth textures in “Do Your Best” by Carol Hahn.
The second disc maintains the sleek pleasures of the first with another generous assemblage of dance obscurities. The funk-disco theme is continued in a strong way by Avenue B Boogie Band’s “Bumper To Bumper,” a compulsive dance track driven by a relentless bassline and intricately-layered vocal chants, while the Philly-influence disco style gets its due from John Davis And The Monster Orchestra via “Ain’t That Enough For You,” a double-time, percussive disco opus with grand, soaring strings on its chorus. Other favorites on disc 2 include Dan Hartman’s “Countdown/This Is It,” an exuberant 14-minute opus that overflows with percolating pop hooks, and Charlie Calello Orchestra’s “Sing Sing Sing,” which updates a jazzy swing-music fave for the 1970’s with some of the best-recorded drums you’ll ever hear on a disco record. Fans of camp-disco also get a treat with disc closer “Savage Lover” by The Ring, a delirious kitchen-sink production that boasts surging strings dueling with echo-drenched drums, quirky analog synth solos, oddly regal horns and vocal interjections that range from cutesy vocalese to jungle-style shrieks.
There are plenty more highlights that could be covered here – like the moment where the singers scat in unison with the string section on Poussez’s “Never Gonna Say Goodbye” or the bubblegum-style giddiness that pervades Freddie James’ “Get Up And Boogie” – but that would make this review twice as long. Besides, you should get to discover some of the fun surprises on your own. Your Humble Reviewer will close out the review by noting that the set is scrupulously well-produced (everything comes from masters, always album-length versions or twelve-inch mixes) and Alan Jones’ informative liners provide a nice crowning touch. Simply put, anyone looking to revel in a choice batch of disco obscurities would do well to pick up a copy of Disco Discharge: Diggin’ Deeper.