Various ‘DJ Andy Smith presents Reach Up – Disco Wonderland’ 2CD (BBE Music) 4/5

The history of dance music has been chronicled and dissected in recent years, but DJ Andy Smith belongs to a generation that was at the forefront of the original disco explosion that then morphed into myriad other underground dance forms with the commercial demise of disco (at least in the mainstream pop charts, if not in reality on the dancefloors). He first listened to the disco import charts that in the late 1970’s were on the poor quality Long Wave of Radio Luxemburg and the then in-demand and in the know DJ, Tony Prince, who hosted the import show. It was here in fact that this writer first heard the young emerging Prince with the full length version of, ‘I wanna be your lover’, that went on to become a major underground hit before the singer hit it big in the United States. It would be four years later before he hit the big time in the UK. The import charts played a vital role in showcasing new talent from tiny independent labels as well as majors.

On this compilation, the story of dance music is neatly sub-divided into two separate CD’s. On the first, the music that disco spawned, the later and more soulful side of house is celebrated, while on the second, some of the more underground disco and boogie tracks are showcased. The latter is by far the stronger, with some forgotten gems now available to a wider public. They include a Tom Moulton mix of singer Tamiko Jones’, ‘Let it flow’ from 1976, and is a classy disco number that is far less known than the rare groove classic, ‘I can’t live without your love’, from 1979. Another rare groove item of interest is by Cloud One whose ‘Atmosphere strut’, is a much sought after 12″. Here a different cut by the band, ‘Party duke’, is included from a 1979 album that was released on the cult label Sound of New York. It has become a well sampled track too in the world of hip-hop with Spoonie G using the instrumental for a rap song. Progressing into the 1980’s, and with boogie and electro in the ascendancy, ‘Share the night’, by World Premiere from 1983 was a favourite club track and indeed featured on a dance mix compilation for Epic records in the UK. An old favourite of this writer is by the group Advance and, ‘Take it to the top’, again from 1983, and with a strong Italian production which was another new development during the 1980’s. Even a group regarded as totally American as Change in reality had instrumentation that was initially created in Italy and was then sent over to New York to have an authentic vocal backing added. Another underground hit from the early 1980’s, ‘First true love affair’, by Jimmy Ross has been revived in recent years and still has the capacity to fill a dancefloor at random. This is a re-edit by Andy Smith and Nick Halkes of a special remix by DJ legend Larry Levan and the song was a big hit at the Paradise Garage where Levan was the remixer par excellence, and a major historical figure in the development of dance music. Back in a funkier vein, T-Connection are best known for their wonderful, ‘Do what you wanna do’, from 1977, but recorded elsewhere, including for Henry Stone, and the offering here, ‘Groove to get down’, was actually an original b-side. It has become a favourite of break beat devotees and was included on a 1986 compilation of ‘Ultimate breaks and beats’. Far more obscure and enjoying a new lease of life thanks to being re-issued by the Cultures of Soul label in 2014, ‘Got to have you’, by Joanne Wilson originally surfaced in 1980 and was recorded on the hard to find Kalinda label out of Trinidad and Tobago. Overall, definitely worth investing in because of the variety and rarity of the older disco-oriented numbers.

Tim Stenhouse