1) Get It // FRANCISCO (Slow Motion 2016)
2) So Let It Be House (Featuring A.M.O.R, Alinka, Coco Solid, Debonair, Nightwave) // VIOLET X ELLES (no label 2016)
3) Dub The Tension // J-A GROOVE (Studio 1986)
4) Somehow, Someway // VISUAL (Prelude 1983)
5) Dubbing In Sunshine // ROCKERS REVENGE Featuring DONNIE CALVIN (Streetwise / London 1982)
6) I Need A Freak (Black Freak Mix) // S.L.Y (Elite 1988)
7) Don’t Turn Your Love (12″ Dangerous Mix) // PARK AVENUE Featuring TONY JENKINS (Movin’ 1987)
8) Circles // MIKE HUCKABY (Sounds of the Universe 2015)
9) Real Love (Paradise Garage Mix) // MAN FRIDAY Featuring LARRY LEVAN (Nite Grooves 2007)
10) Take Ya Pik, Nik!!! // OMAR S (FXHE 2016)
11) I’m In Love // SHA-LOR (Gertie 1988)
12) Don’t Let It Be Crack // CLAUSELL (Easy Street 1986)
FRANCISCO – Get It
On first listen you might be forgiven for assuming this super-tight minimal house jam to be a Larry Heard production from his mid-90s period. It is, in fact, the work of Italian DJ and producer Francesco De Bellis aka Francisco / Mr Cisco, founder of the Edizioni Mondo label, and forms part of Slow Motion Records’ third outing in their “strictly retro” Lineabeat 12” series. Francesco’s career spans over a decade and during that time he’s been prolific in his field running labels, organising radio shows and parties, and penning little-known gems like this one.
I’m not an advocate of the mindset that new dance music has to always push the envelope to be interesting, or that the four-to-the-flour house jam has become something to avoid. Put simply, a good song is a good song, whatever compositional form it takes and how it’s made. Exhibit A, right here.
VIOLET X ELLES – So Let It be House
Made solely by female producers and artists in celebration of International Women’s Day 2016, this cover of Mike Dunn’s Chicago house classic on Westbrook includes vocal performances by A.M.O.R., Alinka, Coco Solid, Debonair, Elles, and Nightwave and helped raise money for Equality Now, an NGO (a non-governmental organisation) fighting for gender equality around the globe.
It’s a tasteful version (and I’m not a fan of covers, usually) with some fresh vocal performances and a subtle revision of the song’s core framework and sounds.
I struggled to find anything online for A.M.O.R (little help here?), but I can tell you that Chicago DJ (and now Berlin resident) Alinka has a prolific and impressive CV including live sets at Berghain, a multitude of successful remixes, and a long-lasting musical partnership with Hercules & Love Affair singer Shaun Wright. Coco Solid aka Jessica Hansell is more familiar, an emcee and writer and one half of disco-not-disco duo Parallel Dance Ensemble (I’m a fan of their first EP Pizza Turtle Cadillac on ISM 2009).
Looking forward to some further digging on Debonair, Elles (Legendary Children?) and Nightwave….
J-A GROOVE – Dub The Tension
Yes, the a-side (Release The Tension) is superior but it’s always nice to mix things up…
An interesting tale behind this one. It was originally demoed by Colonel Abrams – the version of which was recently released on Rush Hour – and also appeared in 1984 as a 12” by Circuit on 4th & B’way. This is by far my favourite version though. It’s a real fist pumper and the a-side always makes it into my DJ sets. A prime time 2am cut which always makes people dance without fail.
More interesting though is that this is a Boyd Jarvis tune, through and through. No biggie, but Boyd is only one of the originators of house music and something of an industry legend. An innovator in music production techniques, he also trained himself in applied Synthesis architecture and has worked with industry icons Prince, Madonna and Herbie Hancock. Not bad.
VISUAL – Somehow, Someway
…..and on to the next Boyd Jarvis track. Less well-known than The Music Got Me for sure, but great nevertheless. What I love about this song and other BJ compositions of this era is that they transcend sub-genre tags and show the transition from disco, to boogie, to garage, and then finally to house. There’s an experimental approach at play in many post-disco tracks from the early 80s and here it all sounds pretty effortless and organic. We all know the mega-hits of their 70s output but Prelude Records definitely had it going on in the post-disco, pre-house years, too.
ROCKERS REVENGE – Dubbing In Sunshine
In Walking On Sunshine – arranged and produced by Arthur Baker, engineered by Bob Blank, and mixed by John “Jellybean” Benitez – New York City gave us one of the finest post-disco club tracks EVER, in my humble opinion. It’s hard to over-emphasise my love for this song and it continues to be a song-writing benchmark to aspire to. Interestingly, it’s a cover of an Eddy Grant song (sorry, Eddy, this version is better) and for me is one of the finest examples of what became known as proto-house. Simply put, it has everything I love from this period – elements of disco, boogie, and house, and combines live instrumentation with those classic early drum machine sounds.
Love the London Recs sleeve design on this one. And yes, this is the b-side because why not?
S.L.Y – I Need A Freak
Having recently discovered this one (like, literally a couple of days ago) and having trawled the internet for info about it I’ve drawn a bit of a blank, other than to say it was S.L.Y’s only record and features Jackmaster Black on Piano, aka Chicago house artist Peter Black. I’m not super-keen on some of the synth sounds used on this, but that’s beside the point. It’s a super-tight jam with a sweet groove and has all of the early ingredients of a classic early house banger.
PARK AVENUE – Don’t Turn Your Love
It’s fair to say – and has been said several times – that I have something of an obsession with New York, and I do admit to having a fondness for studio projects from the disco and post-disco eras named after places; Crown Heights Affair being a personal favourite. It just sounds so glamorous!
Aaanyway, Park Avenue was the writing duo of Rico Tyler and Todd Jackson who are arguably more well known for writing and playing on Adeva’s In And Out Of My Life (Easystreet 1988) and for their work with high-profile mainstream acts such as Kool & The Gang and Hugh Masekela. Again, this one is just a fine example of early house, with all of the musical motifs, sounds and compositional trademarks of the style. Above all else it’s super-soulful, and that’s what tweaks the emotions isn’t it?
MIKE HUCKABY – Circles
This one is from the recent Soul Jazz Records double vinyl comp Sounds of the Universe (Art + Sound) (2015) and along with the Golden Teacher track it’s a standout on the album for me. It’s nothing groundbreaking but it has a smooth, economic simplicity and a tasteful vibe, which as we all know, are common features of the Detroit style. Mike is a busy chap too – DJ, producer, sound recording teacher, lecturer…..who in the 1990s also used to work in the renowned Record Time music shop in Roseville, Detroit, alongside Rick Wade and others.
MAN FRIDAY Featuring LARRY LEVAN – Real Love
Not officially released until 2007 unless I’m mistaken and who wouldn’t be glad to see it see the light of day on vinyl? It’s impossible to say anything about LL that hasn’t been said already so I’ll just say that this has a deep, druggy, sexy vibe, which pretty much describes many of Larry’s mixes (and by all acounts his character, too). I recommend also checking out the more recent Man Friday 12 also released by King Street Records, which features two demos of the songs ‘Winners’ and ‘Groove (Larry’s Yaw)’ – both interesting if you’re a big fan of the MF stuff. And who isn’t?
OMAR S – Take Your Pik, Nik!!!
Gotta love Alexander Omar Smith. A former street racer and employee at the Ford factory in Detroit, Omar has released five albums and over thirty EPs on his FXHE Records Detroit label, as well as a number of mix albums. My favourite of his album titles has to be It Can be Done But Only I Can Do It. Genius.
This one is from his most recent album The Best and is possibly my favourite on the record, alongside On Your Way. It’s pretty typical of his style really – stripped back, minimal, raw-sounding, solid. The kind of jam you’ll always want to include in a late night set. The bass line is where it’s at.
SHA-LOR – I’m In Love
Otherwise known as Sharmelle Jon and Lori Maynard, with Ben Cenac (also of Dream 2 Science and Newcleus). I picked up the Rush Hour reissue of this a couple of years ago, but the original came out in 1988. Although I don’t tend to play it out it definitely has its charms and whenever I do put it on it never fails to reel my attention in pretty quickly. Ben’s Dream 2 Science mini-LP (also reissued on Rush Hour) is something of a New York deep house gem and is also well worth checking out.
CLAUSELL – Don’t Let It Be Crack
One of the less well-known Easy Street Records releases, this one. Or at least I never see it on playlists or hear it in mixes, but that’s probably more to do with the fact that most of my favourite Easy Street records are the least famous ones (Orlando Johnson’s 1983 Italo-disco gem Turn The Music On being another favourite of mine). I think that’s part of the appeal involved with digging for records and having a passion for labels in that one develops an interest in trying to track down some of the more obscure or less-talked about releases.
Clausell is in fact Clausell Hickenbottom, which sounds a somewhat unlikely name for a suave disco producer. This one is a Paul Simpson mix, I believe. The lead vocal is undeniably soulful and the drum and percussion is chunky and pounding. It’s typical of a mid-80s NYC house jam really, and that pretty much means a) it doesn’t fuck around and b) you might hear the odd sample key hit repeatedly which might be a human voice or dog bark.