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Various Artists The Real Sound of Chicago Review

Compilation. Released 2010.  

BBC Review

Tracks with fashion-defying euphoria locked into their very DNA.

John Doran 2010

Chicago is one of the great urban hubs of club culture. Like Manchester and its associations with acid house, baggy and punk-funk, and Detroit with its links to techno and Motown, Chicago has also been a ground zero and amplification point for dance music culture. It too is a large, heavily industrialised city with a big racial mix, which encouraged two different (but not mutually exclusive) strands of dance culture: those of aspirational and of ultra-hedonistic escapism. Chi Town’s massively influential house sound encompassed both strands and spread from The Warehouse club in the latter half of the 80s to the dancefloors of the entire Western world. But this movement itself took influence from the city’s impervious disco scene.

In other, more ‘cosmopolitan’ cities, disco was treated like a fad. But in Chicago it didn’t die in the 80s, evolving instead, the DJs coping with the fall-off in straight-up genre releases by incorporating electro, Italo and synth-pop into the mix, paving the way for house. But of course there were second-wave disco bands producing interesting new hybrids, and these acts were never to taste the fame earned by Chic and Donna Summer.

This compilation is the work of two of the Windy City’s most dedicated vinyl hoarders, Mark Grusane and Mike Cole of Mr Peabody Records. Of course, not every single track here is a local artefact but they all capture the essence of this short period of musical history. The quality of their selections is uniformly high, even if their tastes run from the smooth through to the extremely smooth. Even the odd novelty number can be recommended. You don’t need to check the liner notes to find out when Yohon’s B.T. (Boogie Terrestrial) came out. It’s a roller-disco jam based round the John Williams E.T. score and is more mid-80s than a Boglin with a CND badge trying to solve a Rubik’s Cube. But essentially, it’s got a killer Moog-fattened groove and vocodered vocals that point the way forwards.

The emphasis is on early-doors party starters and sparkling lounge disco, but there are some fearsome bangers sprinkled liberally throughout the selection such as Expo/J. Eliot Robinson’s Road to Sunshine and Carmen Amez’s Never Gonna Fall in Love Again (Like I Fell in Love with You), which has fashion-defying euphoria locked into its very DNA.

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