Contrary to the opin­ion of naysay­ers, dis­co didn’t die at the end of the ‘70s.  It just returned to its birth­place in the clubs, mutat­ing and diver­si­fy­ing into new strains like boo­gie, tech­no and house music.  Disco of the orig­i­nal vari­ety did a slow fade­out through­out the begin­ning of the ‘80s — some point to the Boys Town Gang cov­er of “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” as the last “tra­di­tion­al” dis­co song — and the last hold­outs cranked out a few final old-school grooves before chang­ing styles to fit in with the new dance music order.

One Step Higher was one such album.  It was the final long-play­ing ven­ture for Voyage, a col­lec­tive of French stu­dio musi­cians who scored big inter­na­tion­al­ly at the end of the ‘70s with albums like their self-titled debut and Let’s Fly AwayOne Step Higher found them adjust­ing some sur­face ele­ments of their style to fit what was going on in the ear­ly ‘80s club scene: “Come And Get It” is light­ly laced with Devo-esque bursts of jagged syn­th, the title track is a stripped down num­ber whose rhythm track is dom­i­nat­ed by drum machi­nes and “I Surrender” is boo­gie through and through, down to its syn­th bassline.  It’s also worth not­ing that the orches­tra­tion of old has been jet­ti­soned in favor of key­board tex­tures and the bass lines and gui­tar riffs have a tougher edge to fit in with this elec­tron­ics-dom­i­nat­ed style.

However, beneath all the­se au-courant affec­ta­tions lies the tra­di­tion­al Voyage style in terms of song­writ­ing and approach to arrange­ments. For instance, “Let’s Get Started” is a swoon­ing bit of roman­ti­cism where a group of vocal­ists sing a soar­ing bridge that cap­tures the song’s spir­it of romance while synths fill the places that a string sec­tion once occu­pied.  Elsewhere, “Magic In The Groove” engages in the dis­co-goes-exot­i­ca style of old­er Voyage ven­tures by inject­ing an ele­ment of island music.

However, the album’s best and most tra­di­tion­al moment arrives at the finale: “Follow The Brightest Star” is big-heart­ed Eurodisco in its best, most clas­sic tra­di­tion.  An extend­ed instru­men­tal intro with del­i­cate key­board work cre­ates an adven­tur­ous yet sen­ti­men­tal mood that sets the tone for the pos­i­tiv­i­ty of the lyrics, which encour­age the peo­ple on the dance floor to keep search­ing for the good times.  For dis­co fans who felt dis­placed by the genre’s shift­ing for­tunes, it was a mes­sage they could take to heart — and a strong final note for this group to grace­ful­ly exit the Eurodisco scene on.

CD Special Edition Notes: Voyage tends to bring out the best in the Disco Recharge reis­sue series and this 2-CD set is no excep­tion.  The orig­i­nal album is pre­sent­ed in a new­ly-mas­tered style on the first disc and the sec­ond disc unleash­es a whop­ping array of sin­gle edits, 12-inch mix­es and alter­nate ver­sions that add up to 78 min­utes of bonus mate­ri­al.

This might look like overkill to the casu­al lis­ten­er but it’s more fun than a bar­rel of mir­ror­balls for the dis­co archae­ol­o­gists.  Combing through this mate­ri­al can reveal a lot of inter­est­ing things to gen­re fanat­ics.  For starters, it’s inter­est­ing to note that Voyage’s songs work real­ly well as 7-inch sin­gles, func­tion­ing as lush but con­cise dance-pop thanks to the musi­cal skill of all involved.  “Nowhere To Hide” and “Magic In The Groove” ben­e­fit the most from the 12-inch mix treat­ment, giv­ing their grooves more room to breathe and devel­op than the album-length coun­ter­parts, and an alter­nate ver­sion of “I Surrender” that strips out the falset­to lead vocal but leaves the back­ing vocals gives it a new, unex­pect­ed­ly dreamy feel to off­set its dri­ving rhythms.

Or par­tic­u­lar inter­est to fans is the fact that a pre­vi­ous­ly unre­leased out­take is also includ­ed amongst the bonus mate­ri­al, a song enti­tled “Almost Made It.”  It’s a fun bit of boo­gie fare, with a nice­ly syn­co­pat­ed vocal melody, ener­get­ic horn charts and a funky syn­the­siz­er solo.