various artists Paris is Sleeping, Respect is Burning Vol. 2 Astralwerks
A house compilation's effectiveness can be judged by how well it evokes a euphoric night of dancing in a dark, sweaty club. On a good sampler, this bassline or that sound clip should inspire memories (or fantasies, if you don't get out much) of a kinetically charged atmosphere so overwhelming you don't mind paying $4 for a 10-oz. glass of 7Up. The 1997 release Respect Is Burning, Paris Is Sleeping attempted to do just that by showcasing one of the smoothest, sexiest house trends of the decade, the lush sounds heard at the Paris club Respect. It seemed like a sure bet, especially with bubblegum Frog-hop stars Daft Punk making waves in the American pop world. But the collection hardly felt immediate, largely as a result of a track order that failed to lead with highlights, like Fantom's "Faithful" and Dimitri From Paris's "Get Ready for the Power of Disco."
Conversely, the new Vol. 2 not only clusters its great cuts up front, but has more of them than most of 1998's Top 40 samplers. In fact, the first five tracks have more energy than I've heard on any house compilation. Catalan FC & Sven Love's "Private Number" is a disco bacchanal. And Deejay Punk-Roc's vocoder-powered "My Beatbox," We in Music's madly percussive "Penthouse," and the wild bass-riffing of Avalanche's "Amazone Hunt" all bring funk flavor into the mix.
The classic here is Stardust's "Music Sounds Better With You," a disco record so ebullient it practically turns you into Tony Manero upon contact. Crafted by a trio that includes Thomas Bangalter of Daft Punk, "Music Sounds Better" is the best tribute to the spirit of '77 (the year disco broke) since Bangalter's Daft Punk almost went pop with 1997's "Around the World." The strained male vocal, rippling guitar, and knife's-edge string samples are reminiscent of Derrick May or Chic at their tensile best, and this makes for a DJ record that transcends the dance scene without giving up an ounce of the genre's integrity.
If Vol. 2's six other cuts are less powerful, they're certainly strong enough to keep the party going--even if they can't start a disco inferno. Best among them are Clement's impossibly pretty "Casa Campo" and the slow-building bare-knuckled groove of Romanthony's "Do You Think You Can Love Me." Even the weak moments here have a place on an album that honestly depicts the ups and downs of what live, nightlife house-heads experience every time they pay a cover charge.
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