Disco never died.
I can’t be sure of that, frankly I wasn’t alive until quite a while after discos stopped grooving on the airwaves. What I am sure of is that disco elements are making a comeback. The 2014 Grammy award winning album of the year was Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories which is arguably a 21st century disco album. Techno, electro-Pop, and EDM are all (grand) nieces or (grand) nephews to Disco on the music genre family tree, so let’s listen a little more to their ancestors.
Todays’ throwback Thursday (#tbt) review is on my favourite album in the genre that is alive and well at least in my heart, if not anywhere else. Released in 1978, Instant Replay was Dan Hartman’s third studio album, but one of his highest charting. While it can be found on Spotify or other digital locations, today I’m listening to a vinyl record version that was passed on to me by my mother from her days in the disco era.
Side A leads with an exuberant and peppy 10 second countdown the first track “Instant Replay” will start you moving sometime between the 2nd and 3rd bar. It was number 1 on the US dance charts in 1978, 28th on the billboard top 100, and some 30 years later I would still consider it ‘far out to the max’. After the caffeinated sculpted disco of the opening, Instant Replay hits a groovier rhythm in “Countdown”/”This is It.”“This is it” is reminiscent of Donna Summer’s work, with top 40’s pep with the sole purpose of getting people to boogie, with a set of violins doing runs up and down the scales and trumpets calmly proclaiming their excitement. “Countdown” slowly morphs into “This is it” while tying in melodic sequences from “Instant Reply” making the entirety of Side A cohesive unit meant to be listened to in one stretch all the way through.
Excuse me while I flip the record.
Side B is notably more funk then the disco-pop that drives the first side of the vinyl. Hartman has experience with many genres including having recorded Chicago blues musician Muddy Water’s 13th studio album I’m Ready in his studio in Westport, Connecticut. The second song on this side, “Chocolate Box” is a nonsense song about wanting a box of chocolate. They say the lyric “chocolate box” almost as frequently as Big Sean says “ass” in his song “Dance” (Finally Famous, 2011). A string section joins in on “Love is A Natural”, showcasing Hartman’s complex melodic structure and ability to combine instrumentation “Time & Space” is a piano ballad that wraps up the album in a romantic sensuality that draws the listener in. The backing vocals performed by Vinnie Cusano, who later as Vinnie Vincent was the replacement for Ace Frehley in Kiss, creates a full sound that rounds the album out.
The track list is below.
- Instant Replay 5:19
- Countdown/This Is It 14:07
- Double-O-Love 5:56
- Chocolate Box 2:52
- Love Is A Natural 6:17
- Time & Space 4:55