Dreamland

Black Box

RCA, 1990

http://www.blackboxhouse.co.uk

REVIEW BY: Michael R. Smith

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 06/21/2009

For much of the early ‘90s, songs from Black Box’s Dreamland were played in high rotation in dance clubs all over the world. It’s got four, count ‘em, FOUR #1 hits for disc jockeys and disco lovers to hold fiercely to their hearts and hold in high regard. For a group of four nameless and faceless Italians to create piano-house music this good is a miracle in itself. Yes, it’s a tad repetitive in places, and the guttural vocals won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s still one foolproof record that is guaranteed to get the booties on the dance floor.

Memories of when I used to frequent Studio One, Rage and Micky’s out in West Hollywood flood back every time I put this CD on. I didn’t much like “Ride On Time” or “I Don’t Know Anybody Else” when they first became hits, though now I recognize how effective and timeless these tunes really are. Maybe it was the fact that they were overplayed to death back then. Now that a lot of time has passed, they sound fresher and fuller of life than ever.nbtc__dv_250

The two other big hits to be found on Dreamland, “Everybody Everybody” and “Strike It Up,” are definitely the best of the lot, These are gay disco anthems that still resonate today, even though the words aren’t always easy to comprehend (lyric sheet please!). I did mention that these folks are Italian, right? They clearly intended from the outset to make this album sound as American as possible, but something was bound to get lost in translation.

After the hedonistic rush of all these thumping house cuts, Black Box wisely included some chill-out, cool-down tracks as filler. There are two instrumentals, the elegant Kenny G-esque “Ghost Box” and the peaceful, meditative “Dreamland,” as well as an obvious nod to Chic entitled “Open Your Eyes,” which comes replete with strings and a sexy slow groove. The one track that doesn’t really seem to fit in is “Fantasy,” mainly because it sounds like a television theme song that you can’t get out of your head.

In the dance music world, Black Box managed to carve out their own niche and were able to compete with the likes of Technotronic, C&C Music Factory and Deee-Lite. Certainly, these acts all owe a debt of gratitude to bigger names like Madonna, Paula Abdul and Janet Jackson for paving the way, but once they arrived on the scene there was no stopping them. That is, until the polar opposite arrival of grunge in 1992. Then, unfortunately, disco was killed yet again. Later, of course, techno took over in 1997 and hip-hop brought back the beats for the 2000’s. All things retro have now become the new trend, and there aren’t as many dance acts who deserve to be remembered as fondly as Black Box.

Rating: A-

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© 2009 Michael R. Smith and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of RCA, and is used for informational purposes only.