50 Disco Albums You Better Have…Or Else

Posted April 2, 2015 by J Matthew Cobb in Features
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Love In C Minor
Cerrone
(1977; Malligator/Cotillion)
Charted: #153 / Billboard 200

 

In its brief thirty minutes, Cerrone’s Love In C Minor still shines as one of the greatest collections in disco’s discography. The first side is completely filled with the smart love dance of “Love In C Minor,” which opens with girl chatter and the eventual praises of the French drummer/producer. But the sixteen-minute odyssey, co-penned by Alec R. Costandinos, is purely mesmerized by Cerrone’s sweeping Eurodisco exaltation and dreamy come-hithers phrases (“Love me”). The flipside contains a dancefloor update of the Los Bravos’ 1966 rock gem “Black is Black” Those who sought the album back in its heyday vividly remember the controversial album cover, which sported a near naked female model resting behind a robed Cerrone. The US version came packaged with a tamed cover featuring four-hand of different hues, one featuring a tattoo of Cerrone’s name and the album cover.

 

Taana Gardner
Taana Gardner
(1979; West End)
Charted: — / Billboard 200

 

With her innocent girl pipes and an over-the-rafter soprano resembling the art of Deniece Williams, Taana Gardner became a glowing fixture in New York clubs, especially in the world of Larry Levan’s Paradise Garage. Thrusting her into fame in the New York’s underground was the 1979 self-titled debut and sole album released produced by industry novice Kenton Nix. The album proved to be a DJs fantasy, splitting its five tracks across a slab of two LPs. The half-Quiet Storm ballad, half disco inferno workout of “When You Touch Me” became the album frontrunner, while the funky dancefloor “Work That Body” and the sexy steamer “We Got to Work It Out” proved to be just as rewarding. Sadly, Gardner’s biggest hit, the highly-sampled “Heartbeat,” didn’t land on the official song list and was only released as a 12-inch single the following year.

 

What Cha’ Gonna Do With My Lovin’
Stephanie Mills
(1979; 20th Century)
Charted: #22 / Billboard 200

 

Producers Reggie Lucas and James Mtume, the successful songwriting duo behind big hits for Roberta Flack (“The Closer I Get to You”) and Phyllis Hyman (“You Know How to Love Me”), oversaw all the activity of Stephanie Mills’ breakthrough record. On 1979’s What Cha’ Gonna Do With My Lovin’, Mills found refuge in big disco grooves like the electro-powered “You Can Get Over,” “Put Your Body  In It” and the unforgettable title cut. The album also featured some of her best midtempo gems and slow jams of the era, including “Starlight,” “Deeper Inside Your Love” and a rapturous remake of “Feel the Fire.”

 

Save Me
Silver Convention
(1975; Midland International)
Charted: #10 / Billboard 200

 

Self-titled in some instances and re-titled Save Me in others, Silver Convention exploded on the music scene with their Eurodisco disco ditty “Fly Robin Fly.” Black radio ate it up. The trick to Silver Convention’s likability is the simplicity of their lyricism. Sparse phrases made up much of their tracks, due to language barriers from the girl singers and the German production duo Michael Kunze and Sylvester Levay. But that didn’t stop them from creating nifty tunes embodied with sweeping string arrangements and melodic riffs. “Save Me” and “I Like It” – the latter using remnants of “Fly Robin Fly” – are worthy of multiple repeats. They try to change things up on the album’s flip side using a few ballads (“Chains of Love”) and kaleidoscopes of funky Eurodisco (“Son of a Gun”). Although this 1975 nine-track effort predates the popularity of disco mixes and only shows off songs meeting radio’s three-minute regimen, it’s safe to say that this Eurodisco collection is just as important to disco collections as the self-fulfilling achievements of Cerrone and Alec R. Costandinos.

 

You’re the One for Me
D-Train
(1982; Prelude)
Charted: — / Billboard 200

 

Despite being detached from classic disco, the Eighties produced a great number of dance product in the post-disco era. D-Train’s You’re the One for Me, released on the 12” inch friendly Prelude label, made noise regionally with their groundbreaking sounds in electro R&B. Led by chief vocalist James Williams, the group explodes on the scene using a cool contemporary cover of “Walk on By” and the stunning title cut. That groove formula embodies much of the disc, including “Tryin’ to Get Over” and the just-as-infectious “Keep On.” If you’re looking for some of the best from the Prelude catalog, this is a perfect place to start.


Queen of the Night

Loleatta Holloway
(1978; Gold Mind/Salsoul)
Charted: — / Billboard 200

 

Two years after the big self-titled debut on Salsoul, Loleatta Holloway strapped up for a hearty adventure of passionate soul and monstrous disco with Queen of the Night. “Catch Me on the Rebound” another Norman Harris creation, falls in the same groovy tradition of previous Harris-Baker-Young knockouts like “Dr. Love” and “Hit and Run.” And there’s more disco to enjoy. The Bunny Sigler-penned “I May Not Be There When You Want Me” – a sneaky knockoff of the Dorothy Love Coates gospel standard – dances its way to the forefront of the album standouts. “Good, Good Feeling” proves to be just as charming, while “Two Sides to Every Story” tells one heck of a story about an adulterous lover. Romantic ballads like the Sigler duet “Only You” and the Bobby Womack cover of “I’m in Love” are also carefully inserted to help show off some of Holloway’s diversity.

 

The Glow of Love
Change
(1980; Warner Bros./RFC)
Charted: #29 / Billboard 200

 

The album that launched session singer Luther Vandross into the spotlight, The Glow of Love features two disco singles from the smooth crooner: the infectious title cut and the rapturous eight-minute gem “Searching.” Both singles and their powerful R&B templates would prove to be vital for Vandross’s sound on his 1981 solo entry. Change, a studio creation coming from Italian masterminds Jacques Fred Petrus and Mauro Malavasi, emulated much of what Chic was famous for. You can hear it in the Jim Burgess mix of “A Lover’s Holiday,” a Paradise Garage classic and a divine disco gem that quickly became a colossal hit on the R&B charts (number 5 R&B, number 40 pop). The rest of the album felt like filler at the time, but spoke volumes of Change’s versatility. The synth-driven “It’s a Girl Affair” contained and electrofunk of “Angel in My Pocket” both showed off imminent Eighties swagger and the powerhouse lead vocals of Jocelyn Brown.

 

Supernature (Cerrone 3)
Cerrone
(1977; Malligator/Cotillion)
Charted: #129 / Billboard 200

 

On Cerrone’s third album, he takes the Eurodisco sounds he is known for cultivating and expands it into darker territory. With the title track of “Supernature,” he pulls off some of the creepiest set of lyrics aimed at the dancefloor as he explores a Frankenstein project gone horribly wrong: “They were angry with the man ’cause he changed their way of life/And they take their sweet revenge, as they trample through the night/For a hundred miles or more you can hear the people cry/But there’s nothin’ you can do even God is on their side.” The mammoth ten-minute song then slides into a Cerrone drum solo for an epic climax. On the flip side, one can be entertained by the dreamy dance jam of “Give Me Love,” one of Cerrone’s finest pop-disco creations.


Cheryl Lynn
Cheryl Lynn
(1979; Columbia)
Charted: #23 / Billboard 200

 

After leaving her mark on The Gong Show, Cheryl Lynn was quickly rushed in a trove of studios to embark on her first solo project. That venture would include a collaboration of L.A’s finest musicians and songwriters, including David Foster, Richard Tee, guitarist Ray Parker, renowned drummer James Gadson and members of Toto. Lynn’s voice, which is perfect for the disco diva motif, fearlessly explores the universe on “Star Love” and delivers her signature anthem, “Got to Be Real.” Just as delicious to the set are the Rufus-sounding “All My Lovin’,” the smooth sassy funk of “Nothing You Say” and the revered Warehouse classic “You Saved My Day.” There’s hardly a dry track aboard this disc, which garners this self-titled LP as being Lynn’s finest piece of work.

 

I Am
Earth, Wind & Fire
(1979; Columbia)
Charted: #3 / Billboard 200

 

Disco was not something Earth, Wind & Fire wanted to go down in history for. For leader and founder Maurice White, it was all about the elements, the funk and trying to find a way to push all that goodness into the mainstream. By 1979, they could not ignore the dancey craze that dominated airwaves, which explains why I Am is considered their disco breakthrough. Not only does it include “Boogie Wonderland,” a song that actually captures a sobering tale about disco’s hijinks (“Midnight creeps so slowly into hearts of men who need more than they get”) and the never-ending chase for romance, but it fires up exciting uptempo workouts like “In the Stone,” “Let Your Feelings Show” and the buoyant jam “Can’t Let Go.” Juicy R&B also documents the often-overlooked album closer “You and I.” Hit man David Foster had his hand in a host of the songs gathered here including the soft ballad “After the Love Is Gone,” which might explain why the album was certified double platinum.

NEXT: #20-11


About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine

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