Tantra ‘Disco Recharge: Tantra/The collection’ 2CD (Harmless) 4/5

Euro disco sometimes receives a bad press in the UK and that would be unfair because it groups together disparate elements some of which have produced enduring dance floor grooves and were massively popular in France and much of the rest of continental Europe at the time. A case in point is Italian songwriter, arranger and producer Celso Valli who was closely linked to another New York-based producer Jacques Fred Petrus who in turn would be instrumental in promoting the early careers of Change, BB and Q Band and of course his own Peter Jacques band. It is important to stress from the outset that Valli was not in any sense attempting to create a carbon copy of the New York dance beats. Rather the producer was primarily focused on including his own highly eclectic influences that took in world roots beats from the Mediterranean and Africa interspersed with Latin flavours. These all combined beautifully on the hit dance floor tune ‘Hills of Katmandu’ which is included here not only in its original album format, but equally in a much sought after unreleased full-length Patrick Crowley mix. The piece has a Middle Eastern feel with the keyboards replicating a horn instrument quite convincingly. Elsewhere there is a harder, funkier edge in the bassline and drum beat to ‘Wishbone’. For more of an Afro-Latin sound, the berimbau intro to ‘Su-ku-leu’ leads into some African-style chants whereas ‘Mother Africa’ has a more contemporary soulful groove in the male lead and harmony vocals. The second CD has one of the strongest disco cuts in a near seven minute take on ‘Get happy’ and this is the one occasion on which Valli sounds as though he was directly influenced by music from the Big Apple, most notably here with the pared down rhythm guitar and heavy bass of the Chic organisation. Even the use of collective female harmony vocals and strings is a homage of sorts to the masterful Edwards/Rodgers production line. Not everything comes off as well and the rock guitar on ‘Top shot’ should have been dispensed with first time round while ‘Get ready to go’ has all the feel of Abba. Otherwise this is a sonic delight for fans of Euro disco and that should cement the reputation of Ceso Valli internationally.

Tim Stenhouse