EPs / Cassettes / Mini-Albums / Singles
Under The Influence Vol. 4 compiled by Nick The Record
This fourth volume in the Under The Influence series is midwifed by Nick The Record, a disco expert, DJ, and record obsessive who stamps the series with a highly personalized selection heavy on rare disco, boogie, and funk. In some ways, the compilation plays like a portrait of its time, especially in those tracks where analog synthesizers and clavinets surface. Fans of Parliament-Funkadelic, Bootsy Collins, and Sly and The Family Stone likely will hear echoes of such artists emerging within Nick The Record's set-list.
The collection begins on a high note with the irrepressibly infectious “Touching the Times,” a bright, synths-heavy instrumental by State Of Grace whose analog disco-funk manages to sound both old-school and fresh at the same time. The good times carry on with Boogsie's “Can't You See Me,” which can't help but exude a strong calypso vibe when steel drums form a prominent part of the arrangement, and Charlie Mike Sierra's “On the Moon,” whose Moog players sound as if they've been cribbing notes from Jan Hammer, given the wild pitch-shifting of their synth lines. Also memorable are the instrumental “Pay Up” by Proton Plus, the soulful, strings-laden “Tut Tut Twins” by Betty & Beverly Prudhomme, and “Love is a Hurtin' Thing,” which features an ecstatic vocal performance by Gloria Ann Taylor.
Admittedly, the presence of some lesser material makes for a less-than-perfect compilation. Ronnie Jones' “Video Games,” for instance, registers as a tolerable exercise in disco-funk until it's spoiled by dated video game sound effects and some questionable vocalizing. And, depending on your religious persuasion, you'll either be charmed by the inclusion of The Family Tree's “150th Psalm” or wish it had been saved for a gospel compilation. On the other hand, the level of musicianship is impressive, and anyone who appreciates the sound of top-flight musicians playing live will find much to admire. The musicians, in fact, often sound as if they would be as at home playing jazz-fusion as the disco and soul featured, given the chops on display. Like the seasoned session musos they presumably are, the keyboard players, bassists, and drummers consistently dig into the material with conviction and infuse it with energy (see El Nuevo Swing's horn-powered, Latin-funk workout “Open Up Your Mind,” for example). (Note that the sixty-seven minutes of material reviewed constitute the eleven-song promo track-listing for the release and is thus a representative sampling of the twenty-one cuts featured on the double-CD release.)