Magic Journey album cover
Magic Journey

The Salsoul Orchestra

Salsoul Records

Yes, it’s uneven. Yes, it’s kitschy. Yes, there is an absolutely irritating cover of cornball ’50s novelty song “Short Shorts.” But at its most dizzying, bigger-than-big-band heights, the third Salsoul Orchestra album is difficult to top for disco bombast. Opener “It’s a New Day” might be upbeat enough to cause hazardous blood sugar levels, but its hey everybody let’s have a good time energy rivals that of the most beloved Broadway musical showstoppers. The marching band-gone-supernova run-through of Earth, Wind & Fire’s “Getaway” is a killer, too — proof positive that you can positively drown a classic funk jam in sea-of-brass orchestration as long as you make sure the beat remains unstoppable. And the full-throttle symphonic thrust of its loose-concept three-fer end run — the Stravinsky-meets-honky-tonk “Magic Bird of Fire,” the massive luxury-starship grandiosity of “Journey to Phoebus,” and the rhinestone-constellation glimmer of “Alpha Centuri” — conjures up an alternate universe where Vincent Montana Jr. got the Close Encounters and Star Wars gigs that went to John Williams in ours. But nothing beats “Runaway”: they hit the jackpot with Loleatta Holloway’s voice at full flight delivering a crystalline vision of romantic ambivalence and the orchestra dialed back just enough to sound more like Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band than the Studio 54 Philharmonic — albeit blessed with a great string section and an extended vibraphone solo that’d do Lionel Hampton proud.

Nate Patrin

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