Backbeats is a compilation series coming out of the UK on the Harmless label. This disc is subtitled "70s Dance Floor Anthems from the City of Brotherly Love" and was "conceived and compiled with love" by legendary Northern Soul DJ Ian Dewhirst. All tracks were originally released on Philadelphia International Records. Many of these tracks are the extended 12" mixes or the longer album cuts, so we've only got 12 tracks but the CD is almost 80 minutes long. Chart positions are from Billboard's Disco Charts, not the Hot 100. Like most disco tracks, you're not listening for lyrical insights, you're listening because you wanna boogie.
- Let's Groove (Album Version) - Archie Bell & the Drells (#3, 1976): a great way to start off this dance party. This has a Kool & the Gang/Earth, Wind & Fire groove to it. Great bass work by Raymond Earl.
- Breaking And Entering (Album Version) - Dee Dee Sharp-Gamble (#1, 1980): a fantastic dance groove with staccato horn punches and a funky, ascending bass line that wouldn't be out of place on MJ's Off The Wall album. The bass drum is "four on the floor" but everything else about this arrangement is syncopated. Also included is a breakdown section with synthesized siren noises.
- Only You (12" Mix) - Teddy Pendergrass (#29, 1978): "You got you got you got what I need" are words familiar to anybody that grew up listening to Eddie Murphy's Delirious album and here's the song he got 'em from. There will never be another voice to rival Pendergrass, but what catches my ear on this one are the slick horn lines/sax solos.
- If You Wanna Go Back (Album Version) - Jean Carn (#18, 1977): a familiar Gamble/Huff groove that's immediately recognizable, but there's not much to this one other than a catchy chorus.
- Don't Leave Me This Way (12" Mix) - Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes (did not chart, 1975): Bonus Pendergrass! While the Thelma Houston cover was the big pop hit in 1977, this is the original and it's got just as much energy and more soulfulness. But when the material is this good, it doesn't matter who's doing it. On this version, I'm digging the electric piano work and that bass line - man-oh-man that bass line. All of this good stuff supports the pleading from Pendergrass (you can tell he really doesn't want to be left). At eleven minutes, this is the longest cut on the disc.
- I Love Music (12" Mix) - The O'Jays (#1, 1975): it's almost too much to take it all at once: all three O'Jays singing energetically, the string section soaring, and MFSB going to town on that Gamble/Huff vamp driven by smooth-as-silk hi-hat work. By the time the guitar solos come in, I'm already at overload. At that point, there's nothing to do but keep dancing.
- Summertime And I'm Feeling Mellow (Album Version) - MFSB (#14, 1976): A driving tune with some great string and horn parts over a Latin beat. "It's summer! Come on out and dance!" Indeed.
- You Can't Hide From Yourself (Album Version) - Teddy Pendergrass (#7, 1977): More soulfulness from Teddy. Nice bass line, but the Clavinet and horns steal the show for me.
- Jam Jam Jam (All Night Long) (Album Version) - People's Choice (did not chart, 1979): I imagine this one infectious song would work better in the clubs than on the radio. Reminds me a lot of the breakdown section of Disco Inferno. Ironic that a song titled All Night Long would be the shortest track on the disc, no?
- Was That All It Was (12" Mix) - Jean Carn (#22, 1979): While I'd pick Don't Leave Me This Way as my favorite track on this disc, it faces stiff competition from this gem. I love the restrained verse's bass line and just as I'm grooving on that, the strings kick in and they kick it up a notch for the chorus. The horn and string arrangements are so perfect you hardly notice them (if that makes any sense). Carn has a spectacular voice and it's a crime that I never heard of her until recently.
- Bring The Family Back (12" Mix) - Billy Paul (did not chart, 1979): this one cops the chord changes and feel of Lou Rawl's You'll Never Find Another Love Like Mine, adds some hand claps and strings, and preaches to us about the breakdown of the traditional family unit. The chorus is catchy as all get-out and saves an otherwise mediocre song. However, Billy Paul brings it strong like always.
- Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now (12" Mix) - McFadden & Whitehead (#10, 1979): I remember dancing to this one in the jr high gym. I can't find any fault with any of it: the great string part floating above a funky bass line played by Jimmy Williams backed up with vocals from The Sweethearts of Sigma. Immediately recognizable, immediately danceable, immediately classic. "Don't wanna stop, please don't make me stop!" (I'm sure this song reminds our friend Dirk Digglinator of the movie Boogie Nights, but doesn't everything?)
Personal Memory Associated with this CD: None
Previously revisited for the blog:
Dance Floor Revolution (2013)
h/t to Herc for the playlist