Various ‘DJ Andy Smith presents Reach up: Disco Wonderland Vol. 2’ 3LP/2CD (BBE Music) 4/5

Three years on from Volume 1 and DJ Andy Smith returns with ‘Reach Up: Disco Wonderland Volume 2’, continuing from the first instalment of the compilation series of mainly late 1970s and early ‘80s soul, boogie and disco grooves. ‘Reach Up’ is also the title of Andy’s monthly radio show on Soho Radio, which also delivers a musical diet of curated soul, funk and disco cuts.

As mentioned, this series features a mixture of mid-tempo and uptempo soul music, these include female vocal group The Emotions and ‎’You’re The Best’, taken from ‘Sincerely’ their only album on Red Label, a short-lived Capitol Records offshoot in 1984, and features the LP version rather than the longer 12” mix. A strong Osborne & Giles produced track. New Jersey Connection ‘Love Don’t Come Easy’, was a one-off project which has constantly been played at clubs since its 12” release in 1981 especially in the UK. If Volume 2 contains a classic then it’s Greg Henderson ‎’Dreamin’ from 1982. Henderson wrote and produced many other landmark releases including boogie holy grail Rome Jeffries ‘Good Love’ a year later, but this is his most famous track.

Chain Reaction ‎‘Dance Freak’ is a perfect peak-time dancefloor number from 1980 and taken from producer, songwriter and multiple label owner Peter Brown’s Sound Of New York, USA record label. Disco heaven no doubt. Canadian raised vocalist Claudja Barry preserves the disco sensibility with ‎’Sweet Dynamite’. Here it is presented with the 1976 album version and not the 1977 Salsoul 12” mix by Tom Moulton. Personally, I’ve always preferred the 12” version over the LP mix. A welcome addition to the compilation is Cela ‘I’m In Love’ which is essentially the best record Chic never made with its characteristic Bernard Edwards-esque bassline, infectious rhythm guitar and unison female vocals. Technically speaking this features the 1979 radio version which is probably the most favoured version, as it was reissued the following year in 1980 with more prominent synth parts. And this is an example of Europe and in particular, Italy being influenced by the sound of late 1970s US club culture for this Milan based disco record.

Other worthy mentions include Ronnie Jones and ‘You And I’, a pretty obscure Canadian only 12” b-side from 1982 which is a fantastic slice of early 80s boogie and Ted Taylor’s ‎’Ghetto Disco’ is an infectious 1977 12” release on Miami’s T.K. Disco from the veteran soul/blues singer. Also issued on T.K. Disco is Gregg Diamond ‎’Star Cruiser’, an unashamedly heavy slab of full on 1978 disco. Again, this is the album version as there is also a longer 10-minute version.

In addition to the older material, newer releases and versions are also included such as Will Sessions & Amp Fiddler ‎’Lost Without You’ (2017) which first appeared as a limited 7” in 2017 and later on their album in 2018 in its full-length capacity. Unfortunately, this a slight re-edit which adds unnecessary drum parts, rather than keeping the original funky drums but replacing them with more static club-like drum sounds. Full Intention’s ‘Night Of My Life’, a previous Midnight Riot release from 2018, is basically a house track that possesses some disco qualities, but it’s still a house track and probably not the best vehicle for this compilation. Serious Intention ‘You Don’t Know’, the cult New York proto-house classic is featured with a Crissy Kybosh remix, which must be a new edit of the 1984 original and is remixed quite sympathetically to the era of its original release, but it still feels slightly out of place on a disco and boogie compilation.

Modern compilations tend to either contain extremely rare or undiscovered pieces and are compiled by record collectors and aimed primarily at record collectors and DJs, such as those released by Strut, Jazzman and Mr Bongo and others. Or, you see compilations that are created to contain more classic and well-known songs and their content may have previously already appeared on different comps. I would argue that ‘Disco Wonderland Volume 2’ sits somewhere between these two camps. Soul, boogie and disco vinyl diggers will probably already have most of these tracks, but for the general music listener, these will be unfamiliar. But personally speaking as a collector with an ever-expanding record collection and a decreasing amount of space, compilations like this are a joy, especially considering the high audio quality for both listening and DJing. The more recent inclusions could have possibly been placed on a separate compilation of newer material rather than on a ‘disco’ compilation, but I am fully aware that the term disco does mean different things to different people, especially within the house community, but there is enough very strong material compiled here for it to be another success for Andy and BBE.

Damian Wilkes