The long-awaited compilation of tracks from left-field disco genius Arthur Russell has finally arrived from Soul Jazz, and despite a few minor reservations that only a confirmed disco nerd like myself could have, it's well worth the wait. Russell was a classically-trained cellist and composer steeped in the American experimental avant-garde tradition of composers like Philip Glass. He made some of the most compelling, challenging, and beautiful dance music ever committed to record after being turned on by visits to NYC clubs like the Loft, Gallery, and Paradise Garage. "Go Bang," recorded as Dinosaur L is present here in the superior Francois mix, is perhaps one of the most simultaneously atonal, dissonant, and funky records to ever become a dancefloor favorite‰ÛÒ a maelstrom of near-free jazz dirty Rhodes chords and a driving four to the floor beat propelling ominous, desperate declarations that "I want to see all my friends at once/I wanna go bang!" It was a big Paradise Garage favorite, and its dark, druggy and sexy vibe was hugely influential to early house tracks like Sleazy D's "I've Lost Control." Russell's most well known track, Loose Joints' "Is It All Over My Face," shouldn't require too much of an introduction here, and if it does, just read my dissertation in the 12" review (I expect your 5-page paper with annotated sources next week, Spasticon). One of the greatest dance records ever, period. What distinguishes Russell as an artist (and further endears him to collectors) is the fact that he was also capable of creating softly beautiful tracks like "Keepin' Up," "In The Light Of The Miracle," and "Let's Go Swimming;" tracks that successfully integrated his interest in dance music with experimental, often minimalist compositions. "In The Light Of The Miracle" is one of the prizes of this collection; originally available on a stupid-rare promo-only pressing, "Miracle" is a serenely gorgeous, airily restrained 13-minute epic that defies categorization or description. Also includes essential, tough‰ÛÒto-find gems like "Pop Your Funk" (see 12" review), and "Wax The Van." The few minor complaints I have (the omission of Russell's first release, "Kiss Me Again" by Dinosaur, lack of material from the rare "World Of Echo" LP, weird track sequencing) are completely mollified by the dearth of brilliant material here, and the sheer value that the collection gives. Highly, highly recommended. 11 tracks spread over 3 LPs.
- music label: Soul Jazz Records 2009