After unleashing four double-disc volumes of vintage disco last fall, one might think compilation producer “Mr. Pink” would take a moment to rest on his laurels. However, he immediately threw himself back into continuing the series so he could unleash a fresh quartet of compilations for the spring.
The initial wave of Disco Discharge comps revealed that he’s particularly strong on European fare so it’s not a big surprise that one of the new volumes is a continuation of last year’s Euro Disco set. This sequel is entitled European Connection and it does a fine job of upholding this new series’ standards of quality. Like its predecessor, European Connection divides its time evenly between classic 1970’s-era Eurodisco and synthier sounds from the 1980’s and early 1990’s (with a big accent on Italo-Disco).
The first disc is devoted to the 1970’s material and offers a generous cross section of stylings. As expected, lush, orchestral groovers are an important part of this disc: “From East To West” by Voyage is a classic example of orchestral Eurodisco, applying an airy melody to an insistent and aggressive rhythm track pumped up by dense layers or percussion, while “Midnight Madness” by Don Ray takes the funkier end of disco into jazzy realms with its intricate horn arrangement and cushy strings.
However, electronic sounds were just as important to Eurodisco during the latter half of the 1970’s and they are well-represented on this disc: highlights include Giorgio Moroder’s “If You Weren’t Afraid,” where falsetto vocals dovetail in a dreamy style with burbling programmed synths, and Tantra’s mindblowing “The Hills Of Katmandu,” a 16-minute epic that crossbreeds Eastern melodicism with pulsating synths to create a hypnotic classic.
The second disc covers the 1980’s and even dips briefly into the early 1990’s. Italo-disco is the mainstay on this half of the set, with tracks like Taffy’s “I Love My Radio” and Funny Twins’ “You And Me” delivering the mixture of bubblegum-sweet pop hooks and huge, bouncy synth frills that this effervescent subgenre requires. They’re as light as cotton candy and just as tasty for those who enjoy the poppier side of dance music.
However, there are stylistic variations within disc 2’s electronic soundscapes: Vivien Vee’s “Americano” has an exciting arrangement with a dramatic, Spanish-tinged flair to it and Dilemma’s “In Spirit” represents electronic dance music at its most ethereal, offering a trance-inducing sound that suggests the Giorgio Moroder style updated for the 1990’s.
The two discs add up to an entertaining, smoothly programmed set. As with the previous volumes of Disco Discharge, the set’s producers have gone to great pains to take all the songs from master recordings and make use of album-length or extended remix versions (14 of the 21 songs included here are 12-inch mixes) and the set is topped by trivia-rich liner notes by Alan Jones.
Between the two halves of this compilation, the listener is treated to a comprehensive education in how Eurodisco evolved in a way that allowed to sidestep to media-mandated “death of disco” in the late 1970’s. This aspect of Disco Discharge: European Connection makes it worthwhile for fans classic disco and modern dance music alike. It’s educational and you can dance to it.