It’s not difficult to find vintage disco material on CD but it rarely gets the respectful archival editions that rock or soul albums get. Fans usually have to settle for album-only reissues or track down multiple compilations to get the single edits and twelve-inch mixes for a desired song. Thankfully, Mr. Pink — the man behind the ace Disco Discharge compilation series — has applied the rock/soul “deluxe edition” style to classic disco material via his new Disco Recharge series. His 2-CD edition of Voyage’s classic Eurodisco album Fly Away is the latest example of this series and it gives this album the respect it is due (and then some).
For those not familiar with this group, Voyage was a French studio project masterminded by library music producer Roger Tokarz and it featured a band of the country’s top session musos, all of whom were familiar with the musical demands of the disco market. Fly Away was their sophomore album and it found the group refining the international travel-themed disco exotica that they pioneered on their self-titled first album.
The album starts on an impressive note with “Souvenirs,” a sunny, joyous tribute to jetset wanderlust that captures the exuberance and glamour of disco perfectly. Though the structure of the arrangement is clearly modeled on past Voyage album-opener “From East To West,” this song quickly pushes the melodic envelope into fresh territory. The dense arrangement begins with a spacey intro where fluttering synth lines weave in and out of a wah-wah-dominated groove. However, it soon blossoms into a lavish main melody where a sentimental piano melody provides the backbone for an array of shiny vocal harmonies and soaring string and horn arrangements. The end result is one of the all-time Eurodisco classics.
The remainder of the first side devotes itself to an exotica-styled medley that covers the Far East (“Kechak Fantasy” and “Eastern Trip”) plus a trip to the tropics (“Tahiti, Tahiti”). Like the first Voyage album, this first side nicely fits the late 1970’s mold of Eurodisco: a taut rhythm section layered with lots of keyboards, vocal harmonies, orchestration and some light electronic touches. Depending on the location, exotic touches are mixed in for extra sonic flavor: expect to hear tablas, vibes and steel guitars as well as the occasional locale-specific vocal chant.
“Let’s Fly Away” starts the second side in style, dishing up another travel tribute with a midtempo pace and some quirky yet charming synth touches en route to an ethereal chorus. “Golden Eldorado” is this side’s best moment, a pop track with a dance beat that achieves a Santa Esmeralda-esque Latin style with some Spanish-style acoustic guitar riffs and trumpet lines. It also has a soaring chorus to die for. The album finale adds a interesting twist to the Voyage formula: “Gone With The Music” adds some arena-rock guitar riffing to create an effect reminiscent of Abba’s gestures towards the rock and roll market.
In its original album form, Fly Away clocked in at under 35 minutes… but the new Disco Recharge special edition adds plenty more value for money by expanding the running time to a whopping two discs. For starters, it has single edits and twelve-inch mixes for everything compiler Mr. Pink could get his hands on: “Souvenirs,” “Let’s Fly Away” and “Tahiti, Tahiti” are the tracks highlighted in these multiple formats. They play well at any length but the real revelation comes from Steve Algozino’s “Hot Tracks” remix of “Souvenirs”: it alters the pitch of the song, restricts itself to instrumental sections and even adds some extra drum fills and synth lines into the mix. The result has the kind of trippy, blissed-out feel you occasionally get with dub tracks. Purists will be happy to notice there’s also a second version of the mix presented at the speed used on the album version.
However, the best bonus here is the inclusion of Special Instrumental Vol. 2, an all-instrumental collection that offers a side’s worth of material from the first two Voyage albums and a side of vocals-free songs from an album by Voyage vocalist Sylvia Mason that features the same musicians used on the Voyage material. The Mason material is mostly uptempo stuff — think Chic-style grooves delivered in an even more lavish style — plus a lovely ballad called “Shadow In The Sun” that has a lite-jazz style, complete with saxophone solo. If you need any additional bonus material, the producers even throw in a music library dance track the musicians did under the name Disco & Co!
In short, the Disco Recharge edition of Fly Away is a keeper for disco fans and a great example of the quality special editions rolling out under this series moniker. Word has it that several Boris Midney productions are in the works for Disco Recharge editions so it will be interesting to see what kind of expansive disco delights Mr. Pink and company put together the next time.