Various ‘Can You Feel The Force? – The John Luongo Disco Mixes’ 2CD (Groove Line) 4/5

Flash back to 1979 and Liverpool’s finest soul/pop band, The Real Thing, released ‘Can you feel the force?’, which was an immediate acquisition in its 12″ version at the time for this writer. This song in fact serves as the title track back drop to a retrospective of Boston born DJ/disco label promoter John Luongo who is rightly paid tribute to here with a sterling selection of extended length versions. Enterprising Glasgow-based label, Groove Line, have brought out this excellent overview of John Luongo’s re-mixes for Epic and other related labels, and this is where listening to disco for the second time around is such a fine experience, with the possibility of obtaining long lost gems alongside well worn bed fellows from the vinyl crates in one single place.

Starting off as an engineering student and one who had a love of turntables, Luongo combined his two loves into one with the advent of the disco phenomenon and had already learnt to produce his very own first remix as early as 1974. It was only a matter of time before the commercial possibilities of the technique would enable him to earn a living. Promoting the very first Chic 12″ ‘Dance, Dance, Dance’ in Boston earned him the opportunity to work as a disco label promoter and this provided him with direct access to new singles which he could then elongate and dissect at his will.

One of the lesser known gems that is a real discovery is the nine and a half minute version of gospel-disco from the Mighty Clouds of Joy with ‘In these changing times’, and the title could not be more apt for the current chaotic world in which we live. Luongo was quick to facilitate the careers of soulful divas who adapted to the disco idiom including Melba Moore, whose 1978 smash, ‘You stepped into my life’, was an early success for the remixer and he followed that up with the superb ‘Pick me up. I’ll dance’, which had a strong Philly flavour. Patti LaBelle came to prominence with the hit, ‘Marmelade’, when part of Labelle, but her own solo career progressed during disco and one of the endearing anthems to the genre comes in, ‘Music is my way of life’, which is a definitive slice of the classier side of disco. The career of former soul singer Jackie Moore was resurrected with a late disco winner in, ‘This time baby’, while arguably the most prolific of the disco divas, Loletta Holloway, who then duetted with Dan Hartman on a song that crossed over to the pop charts and has been covered since by boy bands, ‘Vertigo/Relight my fire’. By far the most significant collaborations Luongo had were with The Jacksons and no less than three remixes are to be found on this anthology, and of the trio, ‘Shake your body (down to the ground)’ impresses the most, although in commercial terms it was the later, ‘Walk right now’, that charted higher.

By the early 1980’s, with disco rapidly on the wane, remix singles were less in demand, and in any case, the remix was more focused on pop musicians. A notable exception was Luongo creatively reworking a Sly Stone classic, ‘Dance to the music’, which enjoyed renewed success with a younger audience as a result of a new remixed version. While not available with this promo review copy, the full CD contains a lengthy twenty-four page booklet covering individual singers and providing useful historical context to the life and career of John Luongo.

Tim Stenhouse