There were plenty of good male singers during the disco era but the genre is truly synonymous with the concept of the diva. From Gloria Gaynor on down, the music achieved its ultimate level of expression with female singers handling the lead vocals. Whether they were sweetly cooing the lyrics or belting it out a fiery gospel style, the divas of disco were the genre’s true voice.
Thus, it’s nice to see the divas get their due on the skillfully curated Disco Discharge: Disco Ladies compilation. As the music’s devotees know, disco wasn’t just a series of songs with a thud-thud-thud beat. It was a vehicle for the exploration of fantasies and emotions, a music that could cover an array of moods and styles while still creating a sound ideal for dancing. It’s also important to note that the genre’s female singers had a variety of approaches as diverse as the songs supporting them. As a result, this compilation covers a wide swath of stylings under the “disco diva” banner.
There are plenty of elegant divas on this set: Sister Sledge’s “You Fooled Around” is a plush dancefloor epic that sells its hypnotic chorus hook via a seamless blend of cinematic strings and elegant vocal harmonies and “Fly Too High” layers a gossamer vocal from erstwhile folk songstress Janis Ian and jazzy horns over a relentlessly pulsating, synth-layered rhythm track cooked up by Giorgio Moroder. Another winner in the ultra-chic disco category is Gloria Jones’ graceful “Bring On The Love,” a song that layers its percolating central groove with gently strummed acoustics, a sumptuous blend of horns and strings and, most importantly, Jones’ soothingly soulful alto vocals.
However, it’s not all diamonds and caviar. Disco Discharge: Disco Ladies devotes equal time to delights of the bubblegum-dance variety and they’re all as gloriously gaudy as disco fans might hope. Stacy Lattisaw’s perky “Jump To The Beat” has a teen-idol charm thanks to her flirty vocals that dovetails nicely with its roller-disco sound and an extended mix of Taste Of Honey’s “Boogie Oogie Oogie” represents the disco sound at its most single-minded (it boasts one of the genre’s most unstoppable basslines). The most delightfully daft selection in this area might be Sylvia Love’s “Instant Love,” a sci-fi Eurodisco ditty that anticipates Hi-NRG with its hyper drum machines and twittering synths. Her light-as-air vocals are the ideal crowning touch.
And that’s not all for diversity: Lucy Hawkin’s “Gotta Get Out Of Here” blends an intensely funky, stripped-down instrumental approach with gospel-style vocal testifying to create a streetwise sound, The Ritchie Family’s “Give Me A Break” updates the girl-group message tune to a Eurodisco level of elegance and Andrea True Connection’s “More, More, More” outdoes Donna Summer at the porno-meets-disco game (complete with a real adult film starlet handling the lead vocals).
In short, Disco Discharge: Disco Ladies is a potent reminder that there isn’t just one flavor of disco diva. There’s a veritable rainbow coalition of approaches going on this set and that it makes it a journey worth taking for disco collectors.