In the United States, dis­co was swift­ly shoved under the rug as the coun­try made its tran­si­tion from the 1970’s to the 1980’s.  It was trans­formed into a dirty word, qui­et­ly removed from the air­waves and ban­ished back into the clubs from whence it came.  In Europe, it was a dif­fer­ent sto­ry:  no such dis­crim­i­na­tion towards dance music exist­ed there and it was allowed to remain in the pop music spec­trum, grow­ing and mutat­ing into new vari­a­tions under the ban­ner “Eurodisco.”  It remained as pop­u­lar as ever, with sev­er­al artists and pro­duc­ers build­ing entire careers around their work in this style.

Anyone inter­est­ed in get­ting a sam­ple of what Eurodisco was like would do well down to track down a copy of Euro Beats, the lat­est entry in the Disco Discharge com­pi­la­tion series.  This two disc set cov­ers a broad selec­tion of cuts from Eurodisco’s 1980’s hey­day, focus­ing heav­i­ly on cuts from Italian pro­duc­ers — which is fit­ting because that coun­try was eas­i­ly the most pro­lific cre­ator of the­se sounds.  Most of the cuts are pre­sent­ed in 12-inch mix­es, includ­ing a few rar­i­ties of the dub and instru­men­tal vari­eties.  There are also infor­ma­tive song-by-song lin­er notes from Alan Jones, which are real­ly help­ful for any­one new to the gen­re (even a dis­cophile like Your Humble Reviewer knows lit­tle about this lot).

The first disc begins with Ryan Paris’ “Dolce Vita,” a clas­sic Italo-dis­co entry that was a big hit all over Europe in 1983 and a good intro­duc­tion to the basics of the Eurodisco style.  The focus on elec­tron­ic sounds gives it an air of min­i­mal­ism but the arrange­ment piles on hooks in a lush-yet-bub­blegum­my style, most notably a tick­lish, ethe­re­al syn­the­siz­er hook that sounds like a son­ic inter­pre­ta­tion of flow­ing water.  The lyrics are in English but have a kind of “English as sec­ond lan­guage” vibe that car­ries over to the vocals, which are pleas­ant and tune­ful but lack the kind of styl­is­tic stamp one expects from the diva-style singers on American records.  The over­all effect seems sim­plis­tic at first but has a hyp­notic qual­i­ty that grows with repeat lis­tens.

The above descrip­tion applies to the rest of the tracks on disc one but sev­er­al add their own lit­tle wrin­kles to dis­tin­guish them­selves for the rest.  Highlights here include “Atlantis Is Calling” by Modern Talking, which starts off with a moody sound­scape of the Vangelis/Tangerine Dream vari­ety before kick­ing into an uptem­po dance style high­light­ed by a falset­to sing-along cho­rus, and Taffy’s “Walk Into The Daylight,” an effer­ves­cent slice of kitschy syn­th-dis­co built around a cho­rus with a stut­tered vocal hook that sounds like the dis­co ver­sion of yodel­ing!  Also wor­thy of note is Cruisin’ Gang’s “Chinatown,” whose dou­bled synth/vocal hook at cho­rus time will send you into a trance.

The sec­ond disc of Euro Beats con­tin­ues along the same lines, dish­ing up cut after cut of 1980’s elec­tron­ic dance fare at its froth­iest.  For instance, Kano’s “Can’t Hold Back” does a good imi­ta­tion of Chic’s late-peri­od work — right down to the thumb-pop­ping bass line and har­mo­nized female back­ing vocals — while Digital Emotion’s “Get Up Action” pumps out hooks of a sim­ple but unde­ni­able vari­ety with relent­less effi­cien­cy and throws in a vocoder-drenched lead vocal, to boot.  There is even a Canadian addi­tion to the mix that fits the Euro feel — The V Project Featuring Vanelle’s faith­ful cov­er of Giorgio Moroder’s “First Hand Experience In Second Hand Love,” which retains the Germanic vocal stylings  of the orig­i­nal but stream­li­nes the son­ic approach and inten­si­fies the beat for an 1980’s audi­ence.

However, the most enter­tain­ing cut on disc two may be L-Vira’s “Talkin’ About Rambo.”  This schlock-dis­co mas­ter­piece cash­es in on the pop­u­lar­i­ty of Rambo: First Blood, Part II via air­head­ed lyrics that pay trib­ute to that cin­e­mat­ic hero while its back­ing track shame­less­ly plun­ders most of its hooks from “Relax” by Frankie Goes To Hollywood!  Faked “dia­logue sam­ples” only add to the daft charm on dis­play in this track.  It’s breath­less­ly sil­ly and insid­i­ous­ly catchy all at once, cap­tur­ing the chintzy, fly-by-night charm that one hears in many Eurodisco songs.

In short, Euro Beats is the kind of release that will sep­a­rate the hard­core dance music peo­ple from the dilet­tan­tes.  Music snobs will like­ly run scream­ing from a set like this but then again, it wasn’t made for them in the first place.  This vol­ume of Disco Discharge is for the lis­ten­er who gets gid­dy about the trashy, unashamed­ly escapist side of dance music.  If you fit that descrip­tion then Euro Beats is like­ly to be your ide­al fla­vor of elec­tro-bub­blegum.