Review Summary: Burn that mama down, yoh!
Remember disco" The dance genre of the magical 70’s" Well, I for one, do not. I wasn’t around for the disco groove, which, hearing from certain older people (read: parents) was all the craze when it was around. But what exactly made disco so great" Was it the catchy beat" Was it the whole funk attitude" Or was it all one big overratedness"
Fact is, disco was a relatively underground musical phenomenon, until 1977. That year saw the release of Saturday Night Fever
, the film that established the career of one John Travolta. The image Travolta created with his character Tony Manero spoke to many people. He was stuck in a dead-end job, having an unstable relationship with his parents, and doubting how good a friend his friends really were to him. At night, he went to temporarily forget about all these troubles. It so happens the place he did that was the, uh, disco. As such, Saturday Night Fever
suddenly sparked an interest for disco in many more a person. Undoubtedly, this was not only due to the appealing storyline. First and foremost, credit must be given to the marvellous soundtrack.
Because yes, the Saturday Night Fever
soundtrack might very well epitomize the whole feeling of disco. Although written and performed primarily by the Bee Gees
, the album features a much broader arrangement, by many different artists, and that is one of its strengths. Its popularity was as great as that of the movie, and for many years, it remained the best-selling soundtrack of all time. It is not difficult to see why. Some of the greatest disco songs ever written are featured on this disc. The two prime Bee Gees songs are the wonderful Stayin’ Alive
and You Should Be Dancing
. You’ve heard the former, and probably the latter as well. The band’s cuts are led by, aside from all the traditional and wonderful disco funk, Barry Gibb’s dominant falsetto. After all, who can resist damn catchy choruses such as ‘Whether you’re a brother or whether you’re a mother/you’re stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive’
But as said, at 6 out of 17 songs, the Bee Gees prominence remains at a good level. If this soundtrack had consisted of solely those kind of tunes, it wouldn’t have been so great. The second 'group' of songs is the instrumental, more orchestra-feel pieces, also a common disco feature. David Shire
’s Manhattan Skyline
and especially Walter Murphy
’s A Fifth of Beethoven
(which most will have undoubtedly heard also) add a lot of extra flavour to the soundtrack, and count among the best tracks. The percussion-driven Calypso Breakdown
, by Ralph McDonald
, is also an interesting addition, further establishing the necessary variety.
Then you’ve also got the more sensitive tracks (which I always tend to categorize as the sweet luv’ songs), which are perhaps quite cheesy and overdone, but mostly rewarding. More Than A Woman
is twice performed, once by the Bee Gees and once in a superior and also more famous version by Tavares
. That makes the former song perhaps the only redundant cut on Saturday Night Fever
, especially because the two follow each other up pretty quickly. More cuts in the sense include How Deep is Your Love
and If I Can’t Have You
For the remainder though, the album is filled with groovy, funky disco songs. Night Fever
(Bee Gees), and Open Sesame
(Kool & The Gang
), for example, cannot be denied their excellence at what they do, but to top it all, Saturday Night Fever
is home to what is arguably the greatest disco song ever written. I am, of course, talking about no other than closer Disco Inferno
, by The Trammps
. That impossible-to-sit-still-to groove of pure, deep funk could only have been created by a group of black men, and the best thing about it is that they keep it up for more than 10 minutes, ending this record is superb fashion. The vocals are the best damn thing about it. Who does not remember that unforgettable ‘Burn, Baby, Burn!’
Simply put, Saturday Night Fever
was, and is, everything the funkiness that is disco stands for. With its well-chosen an varied arrangement of songs, it represents the epitome of the era. I will leave not many more words to this record. It has groove, it has attitude, it has everything. It is more than just a soundtrack. It is the sound of a long lost era, which, when heard again, will instantly evoke memories for both those who were there to enjoy it and those who heard the music long after. Music is timeless, and that is its beauty.