In Defence of Disco Edits
That the internet is (super)saturated with saccharine and uninspiring ‘disco edits’ is becoming a truism. Occasionally, however – and regardless of whatever the editor/producer has done – the source material is good enough for a fresh reworking to be worthwhile. Alkalino’s take on Kongas’ ‘Why Can’t We Live Together’ may only be a ‘remaster, fix the tempo, extend intro/outro’ job, but DJs should be grateful for this retooling of an electronic soul classic – not just because it’s easier to play out, but also because, if they’re any good, it’ll prompt them to learn a bit more about the music they play and where it all comes from.
Alkalino’s source material, the Kongas’ 1982 track, is itself a cover of Timmy Thomas’ original, which was recorded back in 1972. The story goes that Thomas’ producer, Steve Alaimo, listened to a demo of the track that consisted of a rudimentary drum machine knocking out a bossa nova(-ish!) beat, a Lowry organ, and Thomas’ raw vocals; Alaimo was going to re-record the song with a full band, but decided not to, saying, ‘it’s already done’. Aside from the searing, raw vocal, the song is notable for its prominent use of an early drum machine, technology that was frowned upon in soul music circles until (arguably) Marvin Gaye’s ‘Sexual Healing’ demonstrated that these machines could create a different kind of soul, all by themselves, some ten years later. The 1972 original is something of a landmark, then, before which drum machines were simply used to replace people (as with on the Sly & the Family Stone album ‘There’s a Riot Goin’ On’, 1971), buried in the mix (as with Robin Gibb’s ‘Saved by the Bell’, 1969), or in ‘experimental’ or ‘avant-garde’ music that didn’t reach as large an audience (as with Can’s ‘Tago Mago’ album, 1971).
Now, we probably wouldn’t have bothered to find all this information out had Alkalino not done the edit above. The disco-beardoratti can snipe and snark about how ‘easy’ it is to make edits like these, or how ‘obvious’ the source material is, but sometimes these edits can prompt inquisitive minds to learn more about the history of the music they listen to and thus gain a deeper appreciation of what’s good, what’s not, and why. And even if they don’t, even if listeners just download the edit without once considering the track it came from, there will always be kind-hearted souls on the internet who will do all the hard work for them, assemble it in slickly-written and subtly-humorous fashion, and deliver it to them on prettily-decorated blogs on all four corners of the webosphere, in defence of disco edits.