Arthur Russell’s take on disco, as Andy Battaglia wrote in Slate in 2004, “strayed from the bombastic type still alive on oldies radio. It was homey and organic, skewed to a smaller scale.” Russell died from complications connected with AIDS in 1992, and, at the time of his death, he had largely been forgotten. But his reputation has been restored in the two decades since, and the Red Hot Organization, which promotes AIDS and HIV awareness through pop culture, has just produced a two-disc tribute to his music.
Among the covers included on the album is Robyn’s rendition of “Tell You (Today),” originally recorded by the Russell-led collaboration Loose Joints in 1983. Robyn’s version heats up faster than the original recording, making it essentially impossible not to bounce from the very first second. She picks out a catchy whistle hook used sparingly in Russell’s version and deploys it much more liberally. The bass thumps a bit more heavily, and the whole track feels just a little bit brighter.