Monday, October 25, 2021

Duff Review: Various Artists "Disco Reggae, Volume 4"

A young, Black woman looks out from the cover of the album.
This is not a Trojan comp.
(Review by Steve Shafer)

Disco Reggae, Volume 4 (LP/digital, Stix Records/Favorite Recordings, 2021) is the latest in this series of similarly-themed compilations from this French label and its orbit of French producers (and is a great companion record to the recently released, Don Letts-selected Version Excursion for Late Night Tales, which I reviewed here). Disco Reggae, Volume 4 is a sweet mix of dance floor rump shakers, Quiet Storm slow-dancers/make-out tracks, and afterparty cool down cuts. 

Side A doesn't quite get the balance right. While excellent cuts in their own right, Taggy Matcher's cover of Chemise's "She Can't Love You" and Blundetto Meets Booker Gee's read of Tyrone & Carr's 1973 song "Take Me With You" lean heavily disco, with very little reggae to speak of. Having said that, Soul Sugar's take on Roy Ayers' 1972 Afrocentric/Black empowerment soul-jazz track "We Live in Brooklyn, Baby" sounds a bit like Mad Professor meets Massive Attack (I've been listening a lot to their stellar Part II/Mezzanine Remix Tapes '98 lately); and Wolfgang's fantastic "Summertime" marries a Casio-like percussive track (shades of The Specials More Specials) to a roots reggae/trombone-focused interpretation of this Ira and George Gershwin jazz standard from Porgy & Bess.

The flip side of Disco Reggae really nails it with Mato's infectious, groovy cover of A Taste of Honey's 1978 world-wide hit "Boogie Oogie Oogie"; and Hawa's version of Keni Burke's 1982 cut "Risin' To The Top" (which here seems like a cousin to Lovers Rock) even incorporates a bit of the Mary Jane Girls' super-steamy "All Night Long" (which originally borrowed the bass line from "Risin' To The Top"!) While more disco reggae-adjacent, Taggy Matcher's awesome take on Kraftwerk's "Radioactivity" marries the Germans' electronic/synthpop melody to a much-needed propulsive reggae skank (the original's pretty stiff). If you're rigid in your musical tastes, this may not be for you--but if you're into a bit of genre-bending/blending, Disco Reggae, Volume 4 delivers the goods!

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