Essex Entertainment's first foray into disco [1992]

On December 1, 1992, HERC entered The Wherehouse (a West Coast-based chain of record stores) closest to his house with the sole intent of buying a few blank cassette tapes so he could make some Christmas mixtapes for friends and family.  The cassettes came in mini-bricks of two or three tapes each and HERC grabbed five of those mini-bricks in various lengths, including 74, 94! and 110!! minutes. 

When he got to the counter, he set the tapes down and the clerk began typing the UPC barcodes into the computer - HERC didn't see it but there was a CD on the counter and the guy typed it in as well before slipping it into the bag of tapes.  It wasn't until he got home that HERC realized he had unknowingly purchased a CD.  Thing was, he liked all the tracks on the CD so he ended up keeping it. That CD was Non-Stop Dance Hits and there are at least four curious things about it: 
  • on the disc itself, the SPARS code is DDD
  • the inside of the CD booklet seems to be misprinted as it discusses reggae music
  • tracks 5 and 10 are transposed
  • "Never Can Say Goodbye" is listed at 6:28 but is actually 2:59

Despite those quality control issues, Essex Entertainment returned to the disco music compilation business five years later when they teamed up with Warner Special Products to release the first five volumes of the ambitiously-named The Best Disco Album in the Universe series.  Volume 6 in the series was produced in partnership with BMG Special Products and all of the first six volumes were released on August 12, 1997.  

The track selection throughout the series is above average although there are an unusual combination of single edits, full length album versions and disco remixes which are not identified as such in Glenn Mendlinger's brief liner notes or anywhere else on the albums.  The second wave of discs in the series - Vols. 7-11 - came out on October 21, 1997 in partnership with Polymedia, the special products division of Polygram.  In all, there are 132 songs in the eleven disc collection.

This series wasn't even on HERC's ICE subscribing radar in 1997.  Then in 1999, while back-to-school shopping in a big-box office supply store, HERC came across a cardboard dump bin of bargain-priced CDs ($3.99) in the middle of an aisle.  His curiosity aroused, HERC dug through all the discs and when he was done he had three volumes from The Best Disco Album In The Universe series.  Over the course of two weeks, HERC visited the other four locations of that chain of stores in town and ended up with all but two discs in the eleven volume series.  It wasn't until 2002, while browsing online, that HERC finally came across both of the missing discs on an overstock site while looking for a Disney instrumentals disc his niece needed for a dance routine. Two weeks later, at a price just slightly less than the total he paid for the other nine discs a few years earlier, the collection was finally complete.  Research for this post indicates that the second wave of discs, Vols. 7-11, are rarer and therefore fetch higher prices than Vols. 1-6 with Vol. 5 being the highest priced disc in that first flight.

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