AL KENT-THE BEST OF DISCO DEMANDS.
AL KENT-THE BEST OF DISCO DEMANDS.
Now previously, I’ve written about quite a few disco compilations, but never one like this. This is something quite different and very special. The other disco compilations I’ve reviewed were good, very good, but this takes disco compilations to a new level. Whereas the other compilations had either one or two discs, The Best of Disco Demands has five, yes five discs of brilliant disco music. However, this is disco music with a difference. Not for Al Kent a Glasgow born DJ the usual tracks from the usual labels, no way. Instead, Al’s eschewed labels like Salsoul, West End and Prelude Records which are all great labels with so much great music to offer, but in all honestly, have been covered widely so many times before. So instead, Al dug deeply into the disco vaults looking for tracks that are new, fresh and different, deserving to find their way onto his compilation. As if this isn’t enough, of the forty-five tracks, Al decided to reedit forty-eight of the tracks. No wonder that this compilation took so long to compile, with so many tracks to reedit. Of these reedits, many have a house sound and feel, due to the way Al’s reedited them. Many of the reedits have been heavily looped, fitting in with the style of music Al plays in his DJ sets. Eventually, The Best of Disco Demands was released on 9 January 2012, on BBE Records, resulting in the perfect soundtrack for the new year. So having had a couple of weeks to wallow in the genius of Al Kent’s disco Magnus opus, now is the time to tell you about Al Kent, and then his labor of love, The Best of Disco Demands.
Not only is Al Kent one of busiest men in dance music, but he’s also a multitalented man as well. As well as DJing all over the UK and around Europe, he’s also a promoter, record label owner and host of his Million Dollar Disco parties in Glasgow. Add to that, he’s a fanatical record collector, who is the proud owner of one of the largest collection of rare disco records in the world, and you realize that there’s more than one string to his bow. His talents also extend to production and reediting, which he’s been doing plenty of for his latest compilation on BBE Records, The Best of Disco Demands, thirty-nine to be exact.
However, Al’s no stranger to the music industry, having released numerous edits on a variety of labels. Then in January 2008, Al released his debut album. Al Kent presents The Million Dollar Orchestra. Entitled Better Days and released on BBE Records this is Al’s first artist album. A year later in 2009, Al released Secret Sounds before the first of two compilations of Disco Love on BBE Records. The first volume of Disco Love was released in February 2010, with Volume two released in April 2011. This brings us round to his latest album The Best of Disco Demands, which I mentioned earlier. Really, it’s no exaggeration to refer to The Best of Disco Demands as a true labor of love, wIth forty-five tracks stretching over five discs. Although the year is but young, The Best of Disco Demands must be one of the compilations of the year, and to help you decide whether to buy this box of disco delights, I’ll tell you about it.
Looking through the nine tracks on Disc One of The Best of Disco Demands, this definitely isn’t the usual type of music you find on most disco compilations. This is a quite leftfield collection of tracks. However, like each of the five discs of The Best of Disco Demands, each of the nine tracks are of the highest quality. Straight away, the quality of music on The Best of Disco Demands is apparent. With tracks like Cheryl Berdell’s Giving It All To You from 1978 and Disco Warriors’ Cambaya Disco 1977 sitting side by side with TC & Company’s Let’s Do Disco and Curtis’ How Can I Tell Her from 1979, this looks like nine tracks of quality disco music. On Omni’s Disco Socks, Al pokes fun at the Disco Sucks movement which nearly killed off disco music. So not only is Al Kent a DJ and compiler with great taste in music, but one with a sense of humor. Having mentioned just five of the nine tracks, that’s not to say that there’s anything wrong with the other four, far from it. Like most things, music is all about taste and these are the ones I like best. However, three tracks in particular, deserve closer scrutiny.
My first choice is the track that opens Disc One of The Best of Disco Demands is Cheryl Berdell’s 1978 track Giving It All To You. Originally released on Mandingo Music and arranged and produced by Tom Tom 84, this track is reedited by Al and is disco with a twist. It opens with the sultriest of saxophones combining with lush strings, making you wonder where’s this is heading? Then crunchy drumbeats enter, while Cheryl’s sweet vocal sits atop the arrangement. From there on, Al’s reediting skills are put to good use. He extends the best parts of the track, and in doing so, not only builds up the drama, but proves you can’t have enough of a good thing. Having decided to unleash the wave of music, strings swirl and sweep, while blazing horns punctuate the track. By now Cheryl’s vocal grows in strength, while retaining that sweet sound. It’s the perfect track to open The Best of Disco Demands, one chock full of lush strings, horns a plenty and a driving beat, on top of which sits a great vocal from Cheryl Berdell.
Quite different from the previous track is Disco Warriors Cambaya Disco, released in 1977 on Remy and produced by Ben Remenick. It’s a percussive heavy track, with a driving beat and breathless vocals sitting above the arrangement. There’s a Latin feel to this track, one that takes a while to reveal its delights. Hugely catchy and gloriously repetitive thanks to Al’s reediting skills, it takes all of two minutes before the track unfolds. With braying horns combining with the vocals and percussion that plays a major part in the arrangement, this is very different style of track to Cheryl Berdell’s track. However, you can’t help but get caught up and swept away by this percussion heavy track that combines elements of Latin and disco magically.
Very different from the other two tracks is Curtis’ How Can I Tell Her. This is my favorite track from the first disc and one of my favorites from the compilation. Originally released in 1979 on Vinyl Charm Records, the track sees disco and funk combining brilliantly. With crunchy drumbeats combining with percussion, the funkiest of bass lines you could hope to hear winds its way through the arrangement. It’s joined by chiming guitars which help drive this epic eight and a half minute track along. Eventually, after two minutes, Curtis’ vocal accompanied by handclaps and backing vocalists enters. His vocal sits above the joyous arrangement, while he vamps his way through the vocal. Still the arrangement sweeps along catchy and hook laden, giving the track an anthemic quality. It’s just an absolutely stunning irresistible track, one that will immediately win you over. This is the perfect way to end Disco One of The Best of Disco Demands.
Of the nine tracks on The Best of Disco Demands, there’s a variety of styles of disco music here. Whether it’s track with great vocals, percussion heavy, or ones that have a Latin or funk influence, they’re all here. There’s something for all tastes, but most importantly they’re all guaranteed to get any party started and fill any dance-floor. This is a welcome change from the usual suspects that fill all too many disco compilations, and many of these tracks are welcome additions to The Best of Disco Demands. After just the first disc, things are looking good for Al Kent’s labor of love The Best of Disco Demands, will the other four discs keep up the quality?
Peruse the delights of Disc Two of The Best of Disco Demands and you’ll see a few tracks that you’ll be familiar with sitting next to a few new and unfamiliar faces. Of the nine tracks on Disc Two, I was really pleased to see Silver, Platinum and Gold’s 1976 tracks Just Friends, along with Universal Robot Band’s Disco Boogie Woman featuring. Both are welcome additions to any disco compilation. Apart from these two tracks, Living Proof’s The Theme From Living Proof, Chocolate City Connection’s Take the Music To the Party and Cordial’s Wave are a trio of great tracks. Choosing just three tracks to highlight isn’t easy, as there’s so many quality tracks to choose, but somehow, I’ve managed to do so.
Of the nine tracks, my favorite has to Silver, Platinum and Gold’s Just Friends. Originally released in 1976, this is a track with a classic disco sound, that reminds me of a number of Salsoul tracks. This is no bad thing, as anything that compares favorably with Salsoul must be a quality slice of disco. Here, the track hasn’t been reedited, instead we hear the original track. When the track opens, with a full sounding arrangement, where the rhythm section, percussion, swirling strings and rasping horns unite. Meanwhile it sounds as if delay has been used to soften the arrangement’s sound. Joining the arrangement is a female vocalist, accompanied by female backing vocalists. Together, they combine brilliantly, adding energy and drama to this joyous and uplifting track. Adding to the disco sound are stabs of organ, piano a proliferation of horns and percussion. Arranged and produced by Herbert Heard, this track is not just a highlight of Disc Two, but of The Best of Disco Demands. It’s also proof that disco never did suck.
Quite different from the previous track is the Universal Robot Band’s Disco Boogie Woman. It opens with a somewhat understated, yet funky sound, that’s nicely repetitive. With just the rhythm section and keyboards combining, the track seems shy about revealing its delights. However, when it does, blazing horns nicely liven up this funk laden track. A combination of wah-wah guitars, rhythm section and horns drive the track along nicely, mixing funk, with elements of Latin and disco. Although, very different from the previous track, it’s hugely catchy, proving that there’s more than one way to make a track that’s guaranteed to fill a dance-floor.
One track that has a real house sound and feel is Puff’s In the Mood, which was originally released back in 1979, on Willpower Records. Produced by Don Oriolo, the track sees percussion and crisp, crunch beats combine with a funk drenched bass line, before lush, swirling, sweeping strings enter. They’re accompanied by punchy, rasping horns which give way to a female lead singer. With an arrangement that combines funk and disco, the this gorgeous vocal drops out, being replaced by handclaps, percussion and plenty of crisp beats. Here, Al’s reediting skills really improve an already excellent track, highlighting and extending the best parts of the original track and adding just a little of his disco magic. This helps give the track a really contemporary sound, one that’s almost timeless, hugely catchy and full of hooks.
Having wondered aloud whether the quality found on Disc One of The Best of Disco Demands would continue, I needn’t have wondered. If anything, the music just gets even better, with one great track seemingly following another. Starting with Silver, Platinum and Gold’s Just Friends, and continuing through a journey of another eight tracks that ends with Cordial’s 1979 track Wave, you’re not disappointed. You never get the urge to skip a track, or even decide that you’ve heard enough of a track. Instead, you enjoy each of the nine tracks every second. To be able to hold the listener’s attention for so long is pretty impressive, but can Al Kent keep sprinkling his magical disco dust for five discs? I for one would hazard a guess that he could.
Now when I first played Disc Three of The Best Of Disco Demands, you can imagine my joy at finding a track by the Don Renaldo Strings Fiddlin’ Around opening the disc. What’s so exciting about this I hear you ask? Well Don was responsible for so many of the string and horn arrangements on the class Philadelphia International tracks. So to find one of his tracks is a welcome addition. Apart from The Don, Jimmy Sabater’s string laden To Be With You, Crosstown Traffic’s Party People and Ike Noble’s funk drenched Dance, Dance, Dance To the Music all feature. Joining these delights are The Legal Defense’s percussive heavy The Disco Stomp and Allan Harris and Perpetual Motion’s Get Ready. Really, I’m absolutely spoilt for choice on a disc where there’s neither any filler or poor tracks. This is testament to Al Kent’s choice of music and editing skills. Somehow though, I’ve managed to choose three.
I had to pick the Don Renaldo Strings track Fiddlin’ Around, because of Don’s work at Philadelphia International. It’s only a short unedited track lasting about two and a half minutes, but has a lovely lush sound with strings, rhythm section and percussion creating waves of music that rise and fall throughout the track. Although very different from the rest of the songs on Disc Three, this style of track would’ve featured in so many discos during the seventies, and is like a very welcome and beautiful trip back in time to the golden age of disco.
After that trip back in time, there seems to be a theme developing here with the string laden sound of Jimmy Sabater’sTo Be With You. When the track opens, the tempo is quick, the rhythm section and percussion driving the track along, before the shimmering, shivering strings join the mix. They sit high above the funky rhythm section offering a quite musical contrast. Together, they provide a compelling combination, two very different sounds suggesting two different styles of music. Then, rasping horns add another musical texture, while a female vocalist, floats in and out of the track. All of this fits together perfectly, and with Al Kent’s reediting skills helping give the track a contemporary sound, it’s a track from the past that’s perfect for today, oh and tomorrow.
Having been spoilt for choice, such is the quality of Disc Three of The Best Of Disco Demands, I decided to choose the final track on the disc Allan Harris and Perpetual Motion’s Get Ready, which isn’t reedited. The tempo is quick 135 beats per minute, when piano, horns, synths and crispy beats combining with Allan’s emotive vocal. Lush strings swirl, before percussion enters, as the song sweeps quickly along, the drama of the pulsating arrangement building up. Equally joyous backing vocalists, bursts of synths and swirling strings accompany Allan’s passionate vocal. Full of energy, the arrangement and vocal sweep along, until the song reaches its dramatic climax after six stunning minutes. Not only is this one of the highlights of Disc Three, but it finishes the disc on a high note, the listener craving more of the same.
Remarkably, Disc Three of he Best Of Disco Demands doesn’t see a fall in the quality of music. Usually, compilers are struggling to fill two discs of a compilation with quality music, and by now would be resorting padding out the disc with some filler and a few tired and predictable tracks. Similarly, this reviewer would be bringing this to your attention. However, not here, Al Kent’s The Best Of Disco Demands is still going strong with each disc seeming to better the previous one. One wonders how Al manages to find all this great music? Is he constantly crate digging in dusty corners of record shops and warehouses, or is he just blessed with a stunning record collection and impeccable taste in music? If so, he’s probably the envy of everyone whose bought the compilation and is reading this review. Whatever, one can only hope that the two remaining discs keep up the same quality of music.
Straight away, when you look at the track listing for Disc Four of The Best Of Disco Demands, you find yourself thinking, well Al Kent does it again. Strength in depth is what Disc Four is about, with tracks like Hot Ice’s Dancing Free, Volstarr’s Dancing Free and Gordon’s War The Rock Is Gonna Get You providing a trio of tasty treats for the discernible disco connoisseur. Meanwhile, Alice Street Gang’s Bahia and The Live Experience’s Disco Joint are both worthy of a mention. Overall, the quality of music is stunning, as you’d forgive the odd poor track after four discs of top class music. Like before, I’m torn between which track to mention, but have decided on three of the discs highlights.
Crisp and crunchy drumbeats, percussion and then a funky a bass line combine as Hot Ice’s Dancing Free opens. Then chiming guitars, keyboards and blazing horns enter as the track gradually starts to reveal its hidden delights. Bursts of organ that could belong on a seventies Blaxploitation soundtrack augment the arrangement, while Al’s reediting skills allow him to loop some parts of the track, that are crying out to be repeated. By now, the track is a musical stew of sounds and styles, with funk, soul, Latin and even Blaxploitation influences all converging to make this a track that’s just hugely catchy, wonderfully repetitive and forever revealing another of its many subtleties and charms. The result is an absolutely brilliant track, one of the best on Disc Four.
With bursts of horns combining with crunchy beats and percussion, while guitars chime Volstarr’s Dancing bursts into life. It’s a combination of funk, Latin and disco with even a vocoder thrown into the mix. Female backing vocals add breathy vocals, before panning is introduced, which moves the track from side to side. Later, a breakdown sees a lengthy percussive solo, accompanied only by the crisp beats. This gives way to the reintroduction of the vocal, while the constant driving beat provides a crunchy and regular backdrop. Although it’s only four minutes long, it’s a track that I really enjoyed and found catchy with a contemporary sound.
The Live Experience’s Disco Joint must be the only track that sees a Hammond organ playing a major part in the arrangement. Played by what I can only describe as the Jimi Hendrix of the Hammond organ, they combine with a funk drenched combination of the rhythm section, blazing horns and percussion. Together, they combine to demonstrate just how funk music should be played. A vocal drifts in, before another masterclass on the Hammond organ. Now I’ve heard many people play the Hammond, but never like this, to say it’s a virtuoso performance is an understatement. With pounding drums and blazing horns accompanying the Hammond, the track reaches its grand finale. All I can say is, whoever played the Hammond on that track, I’d tip my hat to you, if I had one.
The variety and sheer quality of music on Disc Four of The Best Of Disco Demands, really is quite astounding. This isn’t just nine tracks where the music is all the same, not at all. There’s a variety of styles and influences throughout the track, from funk, Latin and even jazz, with a few rocky guitars thrown in for good measure. During this disc, Al Kent throws a few curveballs just to keep the listener’s and I dare say, reviewers on their toes. You just can’t bear to miss a track, for fear of what you might miss. After all, it might be that one track that changes your life, or one you’ve never heard for half a lifetime. Personally, after nearly six hours of the delights of The Best Of Disco Demands, I’m still going strong and ready to hear the last installment, Disc Five. By now I find myself will Al Kent, just to keep the quality up. Like a football team is ninety minutes from glory, Al Kent is nine tracks away from disco perfection, almost Disco Heaven 127.
Now Disc Five can’t go wrong opening with Bobby Saunders and Magic’s Strung Out, The Good Life Ltd’s I Got It and going on to include Arthur King’s Fear, Mr Q’s Party Party while closing with Brooklyn Express’ Back In Time. It’s as if Al Kent is revealing a selection of the delights that can be found during the peak time of one his legendary DJ sets. The tempo is quick, the music joyous, catchy and just full of hooks. It seems that this is just the finishing touch to a musical marathon of disco delights, where five discs and forty-five tracks make up The Best Of Disco Demands. Al Kent, disco lovers everywhere salute you, for giving them a stunning soundtrack to their next house party. Having managed to pick just a trio of tracks to tell you about, I’ll tell you about my favorite tracks from Disc Five of The Best Of Disco Demands.
What better track to start with is Bobby Saunders and Magic’s Strung Out. From an understated opening, where a lone piano plays, before being joined by subtle strings, wah-wah guitar and percussion, before backing vocalists give way to a tender and beautiful vocal from Bobby. It’s enveloped by lush strings, chiming guitars, percussion and backing vocalists that add to the soulfulness of the sound. Then, when you least expect it, the drums kick in, and the tempo increases. Strings, rasping horns and guitars all accompany Bobby, as the track now reveals its direction. Soulful soaring backing vocalists unite, while Bobby’s vocal is high and emotive. It’s a beautiful track, with hidden charms aplenty, and is the perfect way to open the final disc. Unlike most tracks, this is an unedited version, so Al doesn’t get the chance to work his magic. One wonders what he could’ve done to this track though?
Instead of heading for 127 Disco Heaven, Arthur King’s track Fear, released on New Wave Records, goes further. Instead, it reaches 132 beats per minute, truly peak time stuff indeed. Here, crisp beats drive the track along, before percussion and handclaps combine. Then, comes swirling strings, bursts of synths and a funky bass. Gradually, the track reveals what it has to offer. Synths get their chance to take centre-stage, while the beats and handclaps drive the track along. For seven minutes, Arthur King takes us on a journey where a variety of sounds and instruments can be heard. What sounds like a party in the studio seems to be taking place, and later, Arthur’s vamping vocal is accompanied by crisp beats, strings, percussion and handclaps. It’s a stomping track, catchy and compelling and one that sounds quite brilliant.
My final choice is Mr Q’s Party Party, the title which to me, epitomises just what disco music was and is all about, having fun with friends while hearing some great music. This is a slower track, 117 beats per minute, where s combination of percussion, rhythm section and keyboards open the track. They create a fast, funky and catchy vibe, before later horns enter. Together, they merge a mixture of almost jazz funk and disco, which sounds strange, but is actually really catchy and hook laden. Throughout the track, they exploit a series of grooves to the full. With strings and horns augmenting the sound, the rhythm section, keyboards and percussion drive the track along. Later, the strings kick in, combining with horns as you think the track is heading to a dramatic conclusion. Mr Q and Al Kent postpone the ending, deciding to make you wait, building up the level of anticipation. However, eventually, it’s well worth the wait, with the listener’s patience rewarded on what’s just the latest in a long line of great tracks, guaranteed to either get the party started or fill any dance-floor.
Thankfully, Al Kent manages to achieve disco perfection, managing to pull of the remarkable feat of compiling the fifth disc of disco delights. Here, the tempo is quick, the beats crisp, each track catchy and plenty of hooks throughout the nine tracks. There’s neither a track that disappoints, nor a track that’s just so-so, with each capable of filling a dance-floor or getting a party started. From artists that you might be familiar with, to others that you might not, they provide nine slices of quality disco. This is thanks to the original artist, and of course, Al Kent’s skill as a re-editor.What he does, is extend the best bits of a track, remove other parts and then add either loops or some of his of magical disco dust. With a combination of the old and new, a new track is born, the ones that you hear on The Best of Disco Demands. I’m pleased that Disc Five of The Best of Disco Demands is as good as the other four, and that the quality didn’t decline on Disc Five, given that this was a labor of love for Al Kent. Somehow, Al Kent managed to keep up the quality over a gargantuan five disc set. This is through a combination of great music and clever reediting.
So, if you’re still in any doubt about whether to buy Al Kent’s The Best of Disco Demands or not, then all I can say is of course you should. It’s a trip back to the seventies with a twist. On The Best of Disco Demands, Al Kent reedits most of the tracks giving them the flavor of one of Al’s DJ sets. Many of the tracks have a house flavor, reflecting one of his DJ sets. With this irresistible combination of disco and house music, interspersed with elements of Latin, funk and even jazz music, then you’ve the perfect soundtrack to any house party. If having bought The Best of Disco Demands you want to hear more of Al’s music, then Al has previously released two other compilations, Disco Love and Disco Love Volume 2 both on BBE Records. These two compilations will keep you going until Al Kent’s next album is released. Alternately, you could see Al Kent in action during one of his legendary DJ sets, or if you ever find yourself in Glasgow, see Al in his home city, when he hosts his Million Dollar Disco party. However, if that’s not possible, why not just buy The Best of Disco Demands and transform your house into your very own seventies disco, with an Al Kent twist.
AL KENT-THE BEST OF DISCO DEMANDS.
- Posted in: Disco ♦ Funk ♦ Garage ♦ House ♦ Philadelphia Soul
- Tagged: Al Kent, Curtis How Can I Tell Her, Disco Love, Disco Love Volume 2, Don Renaldo Strings Fiddlin’ Around, Hot Ice’s Dancing Free, Silver Platinum and Gold’s Just Friends, The Best of Disco Demands, The Live Experience’s Disco Joint