THP Orchestra ‘Disco Recharge: ‘Tender is the night’/’Good to me’ 2CD (Harmless) 3/5

The THP Orchestra delivered one of the anthemic disco 12″ in ‘Too hot for love’ and this was the centerpiece of the first double CD of the collective earlier in the year. This latest double header contains the follow up two albums, ‘Tender is the night’ and ‘Good to me’ from 1979 and 1980 respectively alongside a whole host of 7″ and 12″ versions. The first album is significantly stronger than the second, which does sound as though the winning formula had run its natural course. Once again the Canadian-based group were in fact headed by Scotsman Willi Morrison and Ian Guenther and the obvious influence of Philadelphia International in the classy use of strings and brass is augmented by some Euro disco up-tempo beats. At best this works extremely well as on ‘Weekend two stop’ which features lush orchestrations and brass with vocoder vocals. While there is no obvious successor to ‘Too hot for love’ (and replacing the gutsy vocals of Barbara Fry with the smoother sounding sister pairing of Helen and Phyllis Nelson made any attempt at a follow up virtually impossible), it has to be stated that ‘Tender is the night’ is nonetheless in general a fine example of the more refined side of disco and the largely instrumental pieces often come across as an alternative to the MFSB sound. In fact ‘Weekend two step’ could conceivably be viewed as an equivalent to ‘Love is the message’. The album was originally released on milk-white vinyl, which was typical of the era. Its successor, ‘Good to me’, arrived at a time when commercially disco was in free fall from the ‘Disco sucks’ movement and, perhaps, commercial pressures played their part in the drum/handclap unison sound which to these ears now sounds a trifle dated, especially on songs such as ‘Who do you love’ with cheesy keyboards to match and clichéd. In another respect, however, the album was a precursor to the hi-NRG sound that would emerge during the 1980s. Arguably the strongest cut is ‘Two hearts. One love’ which combines a higher tempo with soulful gospel flavours in both the female lead vocals and the collective harmonies. As is the case with virtually all the Disco Recharge series, a plethora of 7″ and 12″ versions accompany the original albums and make the collection a DJs delight. Excellent sleeve notes too. Tim Stenhouse

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