Disco devotees know that one of the key appeals of this genre is its wild unpredictability. Those who shrug it off as a repetitive, formulaic music have obviously not looked beyond the top-40 hits to explore its extremes, which are many and mind-bending. The reason for this is simple: D.J.‘s and discothèque patrons alike expected a steady and diverse stream of product to suit their endless-grooving needs and this led producers to try an endlessly array of styles and genre-blending experiments to keep up with the demand.
As a result, there’s a breathtaking amount of stylistic diversity hovering above that thud-thud-thud beat everyone associates with disco. If you want to get an idea of how far its genre-blurring borders extend, the recent Disco Discharge: Mondo Disco provides a nice thumbnail sketch of all the mad scientist-style experimentation that was going on at the time. This two disc set amasses a series of 12-inch mixes and full-length album versions that cover a head-spinning array of styles under the disco banner. In the process, it gives you a sense of the boundless possibilities that were being thrown around like party favors during the genre’s heyday.
Disc one favors Eurodisco sounds, with a couple of U.S.-style tracks thrown in for variety. Patrick Juvet’s percolating, helium-voiced “Got A Feeling” starts things on a high-camp note and from there the disc jumps from country to country and style to style with total abandon: Gepy & Gepy mix lounge lizard balladry with perky electro-rhythms on “Body To Body,” Who’s Who take us on a sitar-tinged Eastern disco odyssey with “Hypnodance” and Supermax deliver what could be termed ‘tribal-prog-disco” with the deliriously bizarre “African Blood.” Other killers on this disc include a lavish Philly disco treatment of “Bourgie Bourgie” by John Davis & The Monster Orchestra and the pop-mysticism of Boney M’s “He Was A Steppenwolf,” a good example of the surprisingly experimental non-single fare tucked away on their albums.
Disc two maintains the eclectic bill of fare established on the first disc. Technique’s “(Looking For Someone To Love) Tonight” starts things off beautifully, a lush slab of midtempo “sleaze disco” with pillow-talk vocals and a sleepy-eyed romantic mood. From there, the disc covers a lot of different territory. For instance, Passengers’ “The Last Romantic” and Liquid Gold’s “My Baby’s Baby” represent Eurodisco at its bounciest, most bubblegum extreme. Elsewhere, a rare instrumental version of Voyage’s “Souvenirs” and Azoto’s “San Salvador” show off the soaring, exotica-crazed end of the sound and Disco Circus’ “Over And Over” brings electronica and prog-rock touches into he mix.
And the aforementioned highlights aren’t the only ones on Mondo Disco. In fact, the most revelatory track on the entire set might come from old-time crooner Andy Williams: his 1979 redux of his old favorite, the vocal version of the theme from Love Story, is no mere disco cash-in. In fact, it takes the genre to its most over-the-top limits, with producer Bob Esty piling on orchestration and booming bursts of tympani as Williams gives his operatic all to sell the tragic storyline. It’s exactly the kind of underground cult fave this series was designed to unearth and the major discovery on this set.
In short, Disco Discharge: Mondo Disco is another strong entry in this reliable series and a great illustration of disco’s inherent diversity. If you’re in the market for a good new disco comp, this one will do you right and take you many different places in the bargain.