Smokey Robinson's Miracles proved they could turn in powerful work on their own as the smooth spin of "Love Machine" thrilled disco audiences. Philly soul quite hit its peak as the O'Jays released the instant favorite "I Love Music" that dominated clubs through the end of the year. Novelty records also proved popular with dance audiences when the Wing and a Prayer Fife and Drum Corps recorded a smash hit version of the standard "Babyface."
Eddie Drennon and B.B.S. Unlimited - "Let's Do the Latin Hustle" (Friends and Co.)
New Jersey born Eddie Drennon served as Bo Diddley's music director for a brief time in the 1960s. He fused Latin music and disco for this hit. Eddie Drennon recorded more disco albums in the next few years to come.
Gary Toms Empire - "Drive My Car" (PIP)
Gary Toms turned to the Beatles for inspiration on this disco track. The sexual innuendo in the song's lyrics works well on the dance floor. This cover version has a deeply funky party feel.
Jimmy James and the Vagabonds - "I Am Somebody" (Pye)
Jimmy James was born in the US but raised in Jamaica. After some success on the Jamaican charts, he was asked by the band the Vagabonds to take over lead vocals. In 1965 they relocated to London seeking international success. The band gained a strong reputation as a live act and then broke into the pop charts with a 1968 cover of Neil Diamond's "Red Red Wine." The group splintered and struggled in the early 1970s until Jimmy James connected with producer Biddu to create disco records. "I Am Somebody" effectively fuses Biddu's lush orchestral style with Jimmy James' gritty soul vocals.
KC and the Sunshine Band - "That's the Way (I Like It)"
"That's the Way (I Like It)," the second big disco hit of the year for KC and the Sunshine Band, features many of early disco's defining elements such as risque lryrics, a female chorus and funky rhythm tracks. However, with massive horn fanfares and Latin style percussion, KC and the Sunshine Band created a sound distinctly their own.
Miracles - "Love Machine" (Tamla)
The Miracles, led by Smokey Robinson, played a key role in the development of the 1960s Motown soul sound. However, in 1973 Smokey Robinson retired from the group leaving the leader's position to Billy Griffin. The group was mildly successful on the R&B chart until they released the massive era defining disco hit "Love Machine." It kicks off with growling vocals from Bobby Rogers and creates a hypnotic upbeat disco groove. The Miracles never reached this level of commercial success again.
O'Jays - "I Love Music" (Philadelphia International)
"I Love Music" is arguably the epitome of Philly soul's melding with disco. The Gamble and Huff production underlines a stunning atmosphere of positive, uplifting emotion in the song. The record became one of the biggest hits of early disco reigning over Billboard's disco chart for eight weeks.
Salsoul Orchestra - Salsoul Orchestra LP (Salsoul)
In 1974 MFSB member Vincent Montana, Jr. experimented with an orchestral soul concept that moved away from MFSB's Philly soul sound to incorporate more of a Latin feel into the mix. The result of the experiment was the Salsoul Orchestra which became the house band for New York City disco label Salsoul Records and one of the most beloved of classic disco orchestras. The name Salsoul is intended as a combination of salsa and soul. Their debut album was one of the first to appear on Billboard's disco chart as an entire album instead of a specific individual track.
Wing and a Prayer Fife and Drum Corps - "Babyface"
Novelty records earned a place in early disco history. Broadway composer and orchestrator put together a studio group he titled Wing and a Prayer Fife and Drum Corps then pulled out the 1920s era Al Jolson hit "Baby Face." The sound is unabashedly theatrical. On their full-length album the studio group covered pop standards from "Swanee" to "The Charleston" and "Hooray For Hollywood."
Yambu - "Sunny" (Montuno)
By late 1975 disco cover versions of classic songs began to proliferate in clubs. Yambu's version of the Bobby Hebb classic "Sunny" from the mid 1960s is a perfect example. Latin and jazz touches animate the song as it is updated for the disco dance floor.