When the self-described "disco queen" known as Sylvester stepped on a New York stage opening for Chaka Khan, the local press was entranced. One newspaper approvingly noted that he made "David Bowie look like Lawrence Welk." Nothing was too outrageous for Sylvester. But at his core, he was serious about music and about breaking down the walls of identity. In appearance and demeanor, the unapologetically gay San Francisco star challenged the gender binary long before such discussions were in the mainstream, going far beyond androgyny to create a striking persona all his own. On June 2, Real Gone Music and Second Disc Records will celebrate the late trailblazer with the release of the first comprehensive anthology of his seminal recordings for Fantasy Records.
Disco Heat: The Fantasy Years 1977-1981 features 26 tracks on two CDs drawn from all six of his albums for the label, as well as the rare 12-inch Disco Versions that kept the dancefloors burning. In addition to crossover smashes including "You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)" and "Dance (Disco Heat)," the collection offers an array of remarkable covers including his moving live version of Patti LaBelle's "You Are My Friend," a smoldering, intimate medley of Barry Manilow's "Could It Be Magic" and Leon Russell's "A Song for You," Leiber and Stoller's dramatic "I (Who Have Nothing)," Ashford and Simpson's "Over and Over," the Peggy Lee standard "Fever," and Burt Bacharach and Hal David's "I Took My Strength from You." Every one of Sylvester's charting songs for Fantasy is represented here.
Featuring the production of Motown veteran Harvey Fuqua and the vocals of Martha Wash and Izora Rhodes Armstead (a,k.a. Two Tons o'Fun and later known as The Weather Girls) as well as groundbreaking synth work from Patrick Cowley, Disco Heat traces Sylvester's Fantasy career with an emphasis on the bold dance music he made, underscoring the significance of black and gay artists to the creation of disco itself. The anthology has been compiled by Wayne A. Dickson (Big Break Records, Groove Line Records). TSD's Joe Marchese provides detailed new liner notes placing Sylvester's music into the context of the era, and soul music historian Sharon Davis (author of Mighty Real: Sharon Davis Remembers Sylvester) writes the poignant introduction reflecting on her special friendship with Sylvester. The deluxe 24-page booklet designed by John Sellards also features numerous rare photographs of the artist. Audio has been newly remastered by Mike Milchner at SonicVision.
Disco Heat: The Fantasy Years 1977-1981, released to mark the occasion of Pride Month 2023, is a striking tribute to the enduring and ahead-of-his-time diva. "Sometimes folks make us feel strange," Sylvester told a New York audience in 1978, "but we're not strange. And those folks - they'll just have to catch up." Have you caught up with The Fabulous Sylvester? Look for Disco Heat on June 2 from Second Disc Records and Real Gone Music!
Sylvester, Disco Heat: The Fantasy Years 1977-1981 (Real Gone Music/Second Disc Records RGM-1534, 2023) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. / Amazon Canada / Real Gone Music)
- Over and Over (12" Disco Version)
- Down, Down, Down (12" Disco Version)
- I Been Down
- Loving Grows Up Slow
- Never Too Late
- Dance (Disco Heat) (12" Disco Version)
- You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real) (12" Disco Version)
- Was It Something That I Said
- I Took My Strength from You
- I Who Have Nothing (12" Short Disco Version)
- Body Strong (12" Disco Version)
- I Need Somebody to Love Tonight
- Stars (12" Disco Version)
- Can't Stop Dancing (12" Disco Version)
- In My Fantasy (I Want You, I Need You) (12" Disco Version)
- You Are My Friend (Single Version)
- Medley: Could It Be Magic/A Song for You
- I Need You
- Sell My Soul (12" Disco Version)
- Change Up
- Here Is My Love
- Give It Up (Don't Make Me Wait) (12" Disco Version)
- Thinking Right
- I Can't Believe I'm In Love
Disc 1, Tracks 1-2 from Fantasy 12-inch single F-797-D, 1977
Disc 1, Tracks 3-6 from and original versions of Tracks 1-2 from Sylvester, Fantasy LP F-9531, 1977
Disc 1, Tracks 7-8 from Fantasy 12-inch single D-102, 1978
Disc 1, Tracks 9-10 and original versions of Tracks 7-8 from Step II, Fantasy F-9556, 1978
Disc 1, Track 11 from Fantasy 12-inch single D-129, 1979
Disc 1, Track 12 and Disc 2, Track 1 from Fantasy 12-inch single D-135, 1979
Disc 1, Track 13 and original versions of Disc 1, Tracks 11-12 and Disc 2, Track 1 from Stars, Fantasy F-9579, 1979
Disc 2, Tracks 2-3 from Fantasy 12-inch single D-149, 1979
Disc 2, Track 4 from Fantasy single 883, 1979
Disc 2, Track 5 and original versions of Disc 2, Tracks 2-4 from Living Proof, Fantasy F-79010, 1979
Disc 2, Track 7 from Fantasy/Honey 12-inch single D-162, 1980
Disc 2, Tracks 6, 8, 9 and original version of Disc 2, Track 7 from Sell My Soul, Fantasy/Honey F 9601, 1980
Disc 2, Track 11 from Fantasy/Honey 12-inch single D-165, 1981
Disc 2, Tracks 10, 12, 13 and original version of Disc 2, Track 11 from Too Hot to Sleep, Fantasy/Honey F-9607, 1981
Bravo Second Disc and Real Gone Music! This is great! Looking forward to this one. Just wish we did not have to wait until June 2!
I wish there was a vinyl companion to this but happy to have the cd collection (already pre-order).
Robert Lett says
This is great! (And Cherry Red are doing the Weather Girls box too!) What's the source, are the original tapes of this stuff still around? Wish someone would do a box set on Megatone records next.
Joe Marchese says
Concord indeed has kept the tapes in great condition, and I think/hope this set is a big sonic upgrade over previous presentations of this material.
Michael Acey says
You Are My Friend (Single Version);;;;;;;; This track should NEVER be edited in any way.
I Need You;;;;;;;;;;;;;; The remix should have been instead.