50 Disco Albums You Better Have…Or Else

Posted April 2, 2015 by J Matthew Cobb in Features
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KC and the Sunshine Band
KC and the Sunshine Band
(1975; TK)
Charted: #4 / Billboard 200

 

The sophomore album by Harry Wayne Casey’s musical army of twelve cranked out two number one hits (“Get Down Tonight,” “That’s the Way (I Like It)”) and a Top 40 hit, later in 1978, with “Boogie Shoes.” It had been a feat that no other disco artist or band had done prior to its arrival. Besides making history, this 3x platinum-certified disc also features some of the funkiest pop selections coming out of Miami’s TK stable. The melodic R&B rouser “Ain’t Nothin’ Wrong” and their updated cover of George McCrae’s “I Get Lifted” can also be found here.

 

On the Radio: Greatest Hits Vol. I & II
Donna Summer
(1979; Casablanca)
Charted: #1 / Billboard 200

 

Most of Donna Summer’s albums proved to be palatable to disco floors, but weren’t exactly extraordinary in the world of essential albums for record collectors. In 1979, Casablanca remedied the situation with a tour de force celebrating all of her groundbreaking hits from “Love to Love You Baby” up to “Bad Girls.” This double-disc multi-platinum collection features a few newer tracks: “On the Radio” from the Foxes soundtrack, which would become one of her last charted single for the label before exiting to sign with Geffen Records; “No More Tears (Enough Is Enough),” her startling eleven-minute duet with Barbra Streisand, covered the majority of the fourth side along with an extended version of “On the Radio.” Each side played like a continuous mix, as if deejays were priming her anthems for disco crowds. Many were edited down from their original versions, but they are all are here for your enjoyment.

 

From Here to Eternity
Giorgio Moroder
(1977; Casablanca)
Charted: #130 / Billboard 200

 

After dropping the dance anthem of the future with Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love,” producer and prominent disco songwriter Giorgio Moroder went into cruise control by producing a collection of all-electronic material under his own name. That disc, From Here to Eternity, managed to hit record shelves only two months after “I Feel Love” did. Moroder’s engaging trek into electro should not be overlooked. With only a handful of girly backing vocalists, From Here to Eternity is mostly constructed by Moroder and his sidekick Pete Belotte. Robotic pre-Daft Punk vocodor effects rub throughout these tunes as if angelic aliens from another galaxy are trying to make contact with us earthlings. The album’s first side is one continuous 4/4 rhythmic mix that branches out from the opening Euro-house title cut. The back side isn’t as alluring, but still contains big draws. “First Hand Experience in Second Hand Love” cleverly shows off a duet with Bellotte and the mysterious robot voice. “I’m Left, You’re Right, She’s Gone” sounds like leftovers from Summer’s Bad Girls, but hey – even leftovers from that majestic album is good news.

 

Love and Kisses
Love and Kisses
(1977; Casablanca)
Charted: #135 / Billboard 200

 

Love & Kisses, one of Alec R. Costandinos’s studio creations, dropped their self-titled debut album in July  1977 and was powered by its moving B-side workout. Showcasing the strongest elements of gospel and Costandinos’ elaborate Eurodisco formula, the fifteen-minute album version became a prominent fixture in discos. The other side, the lesser-known “Accidental Lover,” sashayed with remnants of “I Found Love,” but crowds favored one over the other.  “I Found Love” made its way to number one on the Billboard dance charts, proving Eurodisco was ready to take over the US and that Donna Summer wasn’t the only player in the game.


Risqué

Chic
(1979; Atlantic)
Charted: #5 / Billboard 200

 

The outside front cover of Risqué, Chic’s third album, displayed such sophisticated ambiance of Paris jet-set fashion as the members of Chic nailed a mock 30’s-era whodunit crime scene. The ban clearly gets away with murder on the content inside the album: “Good Times” becomes the heartbeat of hip-hop, thanks to Bernard Edwards’ iconic bass lines and the stunning melodic funk surrounding it; “My Forbidden Lover” is just as great. “My Feet Keep Dancing,” also released as a single, features more of Rodgers/Edwards’ infatuation with classic culture, as it features the tap dancing of Fayard Nicholas of the famous Nicholas Brothers. Who would’ve ever imagined hearing tap dancing in pop music?


The Salsoul Orchestra

The Salsoul Orchestra
(1975; Salsoul)
Charted: #14 / Billboard 200

 

When it comes to disco orchestras, Salsoul proved to be one of the mightiest. For starters, all of its members originally featured the MFSB crew. After departing PIR over contractual disputes, much of all the Philly soul conglomerate aligned with the Cayre brothers and used the Salsoul moniker to find new life. On their self-titled debut disc, the same type of disco soul they imagined under Gamble & Huff is resuscitated here, but with a slice of Latin and fluid funk. Under the careful direction of master vibist Vincent Montana, the supersized band turn up a number of dancefloor instrumentals, most of them being originals. The Big Band classic “Tangerine” is given a “Love Boat” strut and carries a catchy chorus carried by an uncredited Sweethearts of Salsoul. “Salsoul Rainbow” and “Salsoul Hustle” continued the buoyancy of the band’s majestic showmanship, while “Chicago Bus Stop It (Ohh, I Love It)” gave fans of the popular bus stop dance another outlet to display their dance.

 

Ten Percent
Double Exposure
(1976; Salsoul)
Charted: #129 / Billboard 200

 

This group didn’t land the big success of rival Philly groups like Harold Melvin’s Blue Notes and the Spinners, but they remain a powerful footnote in the history of disco and in the Salsoul empire. Coming out of the gate on their first round, Double Exposure’s Ten Percent was purely dominated by the popular Philly soul disco sound and was led by its charming title cut, the popular “My Love Is Free” and a groove-possessed “Everyman.” For those that searched for 12” versions of the singles, they were met with marvelous mixes by Walter Gibbons and Tom Moulton. It’s unfortunate that this disc didn’t get much love in the States, but it proved quite effective in the UK and also in the New York clubs where all three of the aforementioned tracks enjoyed Top 20 success on the Billboard Dance charts. Other tracks to cherish include their upbeat cover of the Four Tops “Baby I Need Your Lovin’” and the Philly soul love ballad “Just Can’t Say Hello.”

 

Part 3
KC & the Sunshine Band
(1977; TK)
Charted: #13 / Billboard 200

 

With disco reaching epic heights in the middle of 1976, Part 3 presented more of the fun, funky, sunny stuff that KC and the Sunshine Band cooked on their self-titled 1975 album. Audiences ate it up, including the ass-shaking “(Shake, Shake, Shake) Shake Your Booty” and ubiquitous “I’m Your Boogie Man.” Both tracks were number one hits. Those tunes and many of the others surrounding it (“Baby I Love You (Yes, I Do),” “I Like to Do It,” “Let’s Go Party”) sound like James Brown had settled into the most accessible pop funk ever. Learning a lesson from familiar albums featuring innovative segue moments, “I’m Your Boogie Man” glides right into the album’s closing track “Keep It Comin’ Love,” a song that never grows old and tired, especially in the music licensing world.


Love Tracks

Gloria Gaynor
(1978; Polydor)
Charted: #7 / Billboard 200

 

“I Will Survive” stands out as one of the greatest disco anthems ever created, if not the greatest. Its powerful message of inner strength resonated well with women and later became a healing salve for the gay community during the AIDS crisis of the 1980s. The song is the benchmark on Gaynor’s magnum opus Love Tracks, but is completely surrounded by some of the strongest material to ever be served from her hands. Produced by successful duo Dino Ferkaris and Freddie Perren, this disc celebrates the hustle of the disco beat (“Spotlight,” “I Said Yes”), the life of the black house party (“Anybody Wanna Party”) and the essence of the late night boudoir (“Please, Be There”).


Wild and Peaceful

Kool & the Gang
(1973; Dee-Lite)
Charted: #33 / Billboard 200

 

Before jumping into Eumir Deodato territory and turning out big successful disco classics like “Celebration” and “Ladies Night,” Kool & the Gang was a funk band. Even before that, they were a jazz unit. But after one too many epiphanies over the shift in popular black music, Robert “Kool” Bell took his eclectic bunch of musicians on a groovy ride full of infectious riffs, bad-ass horn parts and party sounds. This album kicks off with the playful “Funky Stuff” and extends into a reprise with “More Funky Stuff.” That groove ends up dominating the album’s entire first side, expanding into “Jungle Boogie” and closing with “Hollywood Swinging.” They mellow down with the euphoric title track and the mild instrumental “Heaven at Once,” but this is clearly a dance record, even before disco became a household word. It also stands as the group’s Great Awakening, giving birth to their identity as a first-rate funk band.

NEXT: #10-1


About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine

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