various artists: Super Rare Disco Volumes 1 & 2

various artists
Super Rare Disco Volumes 1 & 2
Robbins

DAMNING DISCO'S SILLINESS is like criticizing punk bands for distorting their guitars. Sure, at its gaudiest, disco insisted that immediate gratification was the only kind of gratification that mattered. But focus on that factor and you miss a key point: Most pop music is about feeling good. Disco was about feeling fabulous. Although its bravado often got annoying, disco turned out some of the best genuine trash in pop-music history.

Cory Robbins understands this implicitly. He's been there. The late-'70s disco DJ dug through his crates and came up with these two separately packaged Super Rare Disco sets. And while Super Rare isn't always super good (Volume 2 is especially dubious), its best stuff is, well, fabulous.

Start with the unjustly ignored First Choice, possibly the best girl group of the disco era. Or Jimmy Ruffin channeling (all right, imitating) Al Green. Or the Crown Heights Affair manhandling a Moog on "Dreaming a Dream." Then go deeper to hear the genesis of a Prince rap, the source of a Moby sample, and wonderful stuff from the Trammps, the Main Ingredient, and the Jimmy Castor Bunch. Then there's the totally bizarre "Somebody's Gotta Go (Sho' Ain't Me)" by Mike & Bill, whose low baritone and wigged-out falsetto, respectively, recall dub-reggae greats the Congos--assuming the Jamaicans lost their religion and their production values.

Speaking of values, Robbins makes equal space for an anti-drinking sermon and a thinly veiled pro-marijuana chant-along. But this kind of glaring inconsistency makes perfect sense: This is, after all, a disco compilation, a plastic medium pressed onto vinyl. So, you can be sure that Super Rare comes complete with plenty of dreck. (See disc two's flat ballads and stand in awe before Kathie Lee Gifford's Carnival Cruise jingle, "If My Friends Could See Me Now.") But Robbins has put so much care into his package that even the duds purposefully sustain the set's kitschy mood. This collection proves that there was more to the mirror-ball era than the Bee Gees. Needless to say, Super Rare Disco isn't for beginners.

 
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