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Van McCoy: Disco Baby

Album Notes

One thing Van McCoy could never be accused of when he was alive was refusing to keep up with the times. In the '60s, he made a name for himself by writing or producing for such prominent soulsters as Jackie Wilson, the Drifters, Chuck Jackson, and Gladys Knight & the Pips. But when the disco era started in the mid-'70s, McCoy got in on the ground floor. Released in 1975, Disco Baby is among the albums that helped to usher in the disco era. This LP boasts McCoy's number one hit "The Hustle," which became one of disco's anthems and is the song that he is best remembered for. For McCoy, an album like Disco Baby was a major departure from the type of things he had done in the '60s and early '70s: Back then, his focus was writing, producing, or arranging for vocalists. But on Disco Baby, vocal personality isn't the main thing: This album is primarily about the beat, the track, and the production. Except for "The Hustle" -- which pop and black radio couldn't get enough of -- Disco Baby was much more of a club record than a radio record. Club DJs, not radio programmers, were the only ones who looked beyond "The Hustle" and paid attention to the B.T. Express-like title song or McCoy's slick, symphonic versions of the Ohio Players' "Fire," the Temptations' "Shakey Ground," Carol Douglas' "Doctor's Orders," and other hits of 1974 and 1975. To be sure, Disco Baby is so club-oriented and producer-driven that its limitations become obvious outside of a club setting. But despite those limitations, Disco Baby is an enjoyable and groovin', if clichéd, artifact of its time. ~ Alex Henderson


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