Various ‘Westbound Disco’ 2LP/CD (ACE) 4/5

The Westbound label is a little known label that nonetheless became required listening for those in the know about underground disco during the mid-late 1970s. Tom Moulton is a remixer extraordinaire and indeed a major innovator in taking the vocal and instrumental side of 45s and deliberately and creatively elongating them into extended dancefloor delights. That directly led to the creation of the 12″ single and Moulton was the arguably the originator, or at the very least in the vanguard of that trend. Whatever the case, his remix of, ‘Feel the need’, by the Detroit Emeralds, deserves pride of place on any self-respecting disco devotees vinyl shelve. It remains a deeply soulful interpretation of the 1972 original.

Moulton and arranger and producer Mike Theodore in tandem offer up a classy instrumental cut in, ‘Song of the wind’, by Caesar Frazier and the build up of tension and layers of strings is not without recalling the epic sound of Philadelphia International. That parallel resurfaces on the soulful, ‘Manhattan love song’, by Bahamian master percussionist, King Errison, with collective vocal harmonies and dynamite percussion as one might expect. In fact, an over-arching retrospective of Errison would be an ideal project for any enterprising re-issue label. Another instrumentalist of note is key member of the Motown sound aka The Funk Brothers, guitarist Dennis Coffey. His outstanding ad-libs on guitar, on the lovely, ‘Wings of fire’, where wah-wah effects and the brass orchestrations are in the ascendancy, collectively combine to create a sound which bears a passing resemblance to Lonnie Liston Smith and, ‘Expansions’.

More traditional disco grooves are in evidence with the symphonic sounding, ‘Devil’s gun’, by C.J. and Co. which receives an extended Moulton mix, while the funkier side of town comes courtesy of, ‘Freaky people’, by the aptly titled, Crowd Pleasers. A real grower is Erasmus Hall and, ‘Beat your feet’, with a rapid intro that takes on board percussion and synthesizer effects. Only the tinny and slightly dated Hippie Torales mix of the Clarke Sisters otherwise wonderful funky gospel rendition of, ‘You brought the sunshine (into my life)’ fails to impress, and frankly the music is already fine and without any need to be further tampered with. An excellent overview of the Westbound label, then, and mighty handy to have the various 12″ singles in one place. As is the case with previous ACE compilations, impeccable attention to detail on the inner sleeve notes and beautifully illustrated graphics with individual notes on the respective tracks.

Tim Stenhouse