David Browne
June 28, 1996 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Singer-Songwrithers are re-released

In 1978, my teenage friends and I endured something that was as traumatic as all our unrequited crushes: Literally overnight, New York’s soft-rock station, WKTU, went disco. As much as the punk invasion, this switch-over was a sign that times were again a-changin’. Where were we supposed to hear the next Warren Zevon single?

Nearly two decades later, my friends, wherever they are, should get properly misty-eyed over the three volumes of Listen to the Music. A collection of the ’70s wave of soul-baring strummers should help redeem the long-slagged genre in this, the unplugged era. Unfortunately, these frustrating discs aren’t the answer. Sensitive-denim-guy opuses like James Taylor’s ”Fire and Rain” and Harry Chapin’s ”Taxi” are here (on Volume 2) — but notables like Jim Croce and Jackson Browne are missing, their space taken by true wimps like Michael Franks and Rupert Holmes. Volume 3, devoted to distaff singer-songwriters like Laura Nyro and Karla Bonoff, is respectable, but Volume 1, The ’70s California Sound, is an all-too-focused snapshot of L.A.’s decline from soulful hippie-tonk (Gram Parsons, Little Feat) to country lounge pop (Andrew Gold, Nicolette Larson).

As for the music that replaced it on WKTU, Dance Floor Divas: The ’70s puts a novel spin on the interchangeable glitter-ball CD collections glutting the market by solely featuring female-sung disco anthems: ”Boogie Oogie Oogie,” ”We Are Family,” ”Best of My Love,” ”Got to Be Real,” and so forth. Even without Donna Summer and Gloria Gaynor, it’s utterly infectious, not to mention educational (Patrice Rushen’s ”Forget Me Nots” is sampled on George Michael’s ”Fastlove”). Many ’70s rock fans dismissed disco as soulless, but these brassy women, from Sister Sledge to robotic Amii Stewart, make me ashamed of past biases. They truly turned the beat around. Listen to the Music Volume 1: C+ Volume 2: B- Volume 3: B+ Dance Floor Divas: A

You May Like