Disco would have a better reputation with pop music fans if they heard more of the good stuff. Those who dismiss it as mindless pap usually have a knowledge of the genre that begins with “YMCA” and ends with “Disco Duck.” All the really good stuff was played in the clubs, where d.j.’s could exercise the kind of quality control that the radio stations seldom used in exploring the genre. Even today, going to a vintage disco night at a club where a good d.j. works is the best way to experience the highs of the genre.
And if you can’t go to a good vintage disco night, the next best thing is checking out a compliation of mixed-set disco curated by a skilled d.j. England’s Horse Meat Disco collective provides both of these services: they’ve been touring regularly from their home base and also releasing mixed compilations. Horse Meat Disco III is the latest example of their approach to disco and, as usual, it offers a distinct and personalized tour through the genre.
Disc 1 is what the group calls their “peak time” selection and is devoted to uptempo material that covers a wide range of material from the 1970’s to today. Good vintage material on this disc includes a mainly instrumental edit of the classic Eurodisco groove “Sweet Dynamite” by Claudja Barry and Raphael Cameron’s “Together,” a nice slab of electro-groove from the early 1980’s that blends funk-band instrumentation with the kind of boppy synths you might associate with early breakdancing tunes.
The modern material on disc 1 includes a very angular take on Talking Head’s “Born Under Punches” – remade by Fuzz Against Junk – and Leftfield Wobble’s “Grapevine Boogie,” which plucks Gladys Knight’s vocal from “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” and recasts it against a minimalist electronic backdrop. Everything blends well on this disc and it also boasts a really amazing discovery in “You Never Loved Me,” a throbbing vintage disco track from Ava Cherry, session singer and ex-lover of David Bowie. She sings her heart out, adding melodrama to a track that suggests Philly Soul musicians collaborating with the Munich Machine.
Disc 2 offers a “sleaze” mix designed for the wee hours of the morning. There’s some great ethereal material in play here: Idris Muhammed’s “For Your Love” is an elegant orchestrated track (amazing use of strings here) with light electro underpinnings and Rose Lauren’s “American Love,” a silky, synthed-up Eurodisco opus with a grandly melodramatic lead vocal.
Elsewhere, Marcel King’s “Reach For Love” has a graceful, soaring melody that is cleverly offset by stuttering rhythm guitar hooks and Fever’s “Told You Not To Mess With Him” is a taut midtempo groover that makes effective use of dub-style echo on the harmony vocals. Another killer find on the second disc is “Lovemaker” by Wham (not the George Michael group), a lushly orchestrated ballad-with-a-beat that throws in a surprise, Burundi-drummed breakdown.
Both discs play well from end to end, benefitting from stylish, skillfully thought-out beat mixing and a number of well-crafted edits on the various tracks by Horse Meat Disco’s different d.j.’s. The one downer here is the lack of a non-mixed disc of tracks but getting two discs’ worth of mixes for the price of one is nice trade-off. Simply put, this collection is a good way for disco fans to further their education on the genre and is also modern enough to appeal to adventurous music lovers who want to discover what disco is really about. Either way, the listener is in good hands with Horse Meat Disco III.