This two-and-a-half hour compilation of disco and disco-adjacent music from 2006 is surely one of the greatest albums ever of its kind. Culled from the wide-ranging hits and obscurities DJ Larry Levan would spin in NYC’s Paradise Garage, this record is all peaks, no troughs--an onslaught of fizzy R&B cocktails all pulled from the top shelf, each sample more intoxicating than the last. Just try the first four tracks: from the group coo of opener “Paradise” to the twinkle-eyed yearning of Patrice Rushen’s “Haven’t You Heard,” Levan keeps raising the melodic and affective stakes until most DJs would collapse under the pressure. (Levan fares okay with Positive Force’s lackadaisical reworking of “We Got the Funk.”) Those first tracks exemplify Levan’s extraordinary ear and eye, too: you may have heard of Rushen and Chaka Khan, but who knew Change and Phreek had such indelible classics in them?
There may be one unmatchable classic among all of Levan’s selections in Taana Gardner’s “Heartbeat,” for which Levan produced a ten-minute “club version,” here in its entirety. The echo of “it made me feel!” in four notes of glittering keyboard is the kind of pronounced flash of femininity to which Levan and his queer clubgoing audience turned to again and again: as personal expression, as art, as messing around and being very serious. (I think, when I hear Gardner, of Elis Regina’s hysterical laugh on “Vou Deitar E Rolar”; of “Egyptian Shumba”; of Grimes “laughing and not being normal”.)
The album, admittedly, may be too frontloaded with hits for the Levan’s legendary drop of Talking Heads’ “Once in a Lifetime” to register as a proper revolution. The songs’ collective irresistibility may even dip over the course of the record, indeed. But then he touches fingers, E.T.-like, with Donald Byrd and births The Avalanches and Saint Pepsi.