Sun Palace – Rude Movements

I guess back in the nineties when music was underground, the quest for most DJ’s was to find great records that no-one else was aware were any good, many club nights were based on this principle, invariably, successful underground clubs had their own sound and culture. I have always been fascinated with the music both musicians and DJ’s have an affinity with – not that the public doesn’t have a great choice mind – there is usually an unexpected perspective, a feeling, a devotion when one hears favourite music being discussed.

Rude Movements by Sun Palace is one of those magical tracks that works across the board. If you appreciate quality music, then you are in for a treat with this Mike Collins a produced, David Mancuso Loft Classic.

There is an excellent write-up on Mike Collins available here. Interesting to find out that he is connected to Bjork’s “Play Dead” another stone cold classic.

Only 10 000 copies were originally released, with second-hand copies seldom being available through the years, so the only affordable version of this track was on a bootleg, so great to see Mike Collins has made available an official release on BBE.

Also worth having a read is the original blog post by Mike before this release.

Basement #1 Demo

The Basement mix series has been a chance to expose some of the parental (and family) influence one had musically, records I still play today.

I vividly remember one day my father playing a record by Herbert von Karajan, and me thinking what on earth is that, what on earth is it? It was very powerful moment, the first time you really hear classical music and start to understand what is going on (listen to the third hour in Basement Mix #4), you suddenly realise you are not on earth in that one feels that they are in a place of absolute and indescribable beauty, so my sister and I approached him at once in a state of absolute confusion, and he lovingly took some time to explain fully what classical music is, what composition is and so on, in the coming days and weeks he had budding flautists and clarinet players to contend with.

Presently, the basement mix series is available in parts 1 to 8 (not including this original demo), the series has taken over three years to compile thus far, finding all the original and relevant Vinyl in some cases. 15 years ago it was such a big deal as a budding DJ to be able to record a decent set, and distribute it via cassette trying to get booked for gigs, pubs and clubs.

This is the original demo, the one that kicked things off, and gave me the idea to start to make a determined effort to try encapsulate this music, because one seldom if ever, hears it anymore.

As ever this is a Special “Vinyl Only” mix, recorded on two turntables, and a mixer.

Masters At Work

What is there to say about the Masters At Work that has not been said already? For me they encapsulate what House Music is all about. I happened to play a mix of “I Get Lifted” by Barbara Tucker for the first time in a while, and the memories came flooding back, tears in the eyes and everything, one truly misses those times!

Kenny “Dope” Gonzalez and “Little Louie Vega are probably the most important dance music producers that emerged in the 1990’s. Their name taken after a Todd Terry produced project “Does exactly what it says on the tin”. Development of Dance Music Culture in the 1970’s and 1980’s is attributed to DJ’s Like David Mancuso, Nicky Siano, Frankie Knuckles, Ron Hardy and Larry Levan (A childhood friend of Frankie Knuckles).

I first heard the Masters At Work when they Played at the Ministry of Sound around the time they released the classic Sessions Five mix on Limited Vinyl and CD on Sound Of Ministry. What Beethoven, Bach or Mozart are to Classical Music, Kenny “Dope” Gonzalez” and “Little” Louis Vega are to House Music. It’s as simple as that really!

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I guess the element that is easily lost, looking at this music retrospectively, is that it was first and foremost an “Underground Music” culture and was very important to people in the Underground Clubbing Scene, as music back then it was predominantly about the Charts or nothing else (no internet, just radio). The records in this mix are all originals, no anthologies or anything have been used, licentiously demonstrated by the display of two or more copies of a record. It must be known that whenever you saw a Masters At Work record in the shop you always bought it because they never disappointed, the wide array of people that liked Masters At Work and their significant output created a buzz on the Underground that is seldom, if ever repeated.

When Masters At Work emerged on the House Scene, they were predominantly known for their dubs like “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” by St. Etienne a record that was on so many cassettes one used to listen to at the time, and “Carry On” by Martha Wash. The first track in this mix “Coming On Strong” by Desiya is as historic as they come, Todd Terry, Louie Vega, Tony Humphries, and Kenny Dope, kick-starting the Magic Sessions in Miami. It really isn’t possible to compare a track like “I Can’t Get No Sleep” with a Track like “Deep Inside” by Hardrive, but “Deep Inside” is the record that every DJ I have ever met swears by. Every Pirate radio station played that track to death.

What really took the world by surprise is that they embraced creating records with Singers and they produced both some of the most underground sounding house records, and also some of the best vocal records like “Too Be In Love”, a record very special to one, as one managed to bag an original import on Vinyl.

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“To Be In Love”, took over two years until it was licensed here in the UK on Defected records, which meant there were only a few DJ’s playing that record out (there is also a rare Special White Vinyl Version), to think nowadays you can just download a track or stream it on the internet, back then, you paid twice, thrice or more for a rare Vinyl record on Import, word got out, and I would pack parties on the premise that people got to hear that record. Magical!

Remember that you can buy their music at http://www.vegarecords.net/ ,  http://kaydeerecords.bigcartel.com/kenny-dope , http://www.traxsource.com/,and also http://strictly.com or https://pro.beatport.com

The Mole People ‎– Break Night

It is an onerous task, to try and choose a Top 50, let alone a Top 10 for the label Strictly Rhythm, a label as important as the Apple label by the Beatles, every home should have a least one Strictly Rhythm record.

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For me “Break Night” by The Mole People (‎a pseudonym of Armand Van Helden) is the perfect 03:00AM to 04:00AM record, before you start playing records by Ron Trent and Chez Damier or Moodymann. It’s a long track that builds and builds, one you can get lost in, it’s the frequency of the bass that gets you on a world class sound system.

I first became aware of Armand Van Helden the summer “Professional Widow” by Tori Amos and “Sugar is Sweeter” by CJ Bolland came out, records that the people of Harrow in particular took a liking to. It was Flowerz however that I liked the most around the time the press were talking about a Sunday all dayer in New York by François Kevorkian and Joe Clausell called Body and Soul, Flowerz was an anthem there, and here in the UK as well, a timeless record.

Unlike a lot of the Vinyl I sometimes play, you can buy this and other classic Strictly Rhythm tracks at their website.

20/20 Vision Recordings Mix

The 20/20 Vision Recordings record label has remained one of the best record labels in the UK for the last 20 years releasing hundreds of 12″ Singles and Albums from Artists all over the world. The general rule of thumb is to avoid anything cheesy, at all costs. Ralph Lawson maintains an excellent blog where he has been putting a lot of people out of their misery by recording mixes showcasing some of the records that were being played at the culturally defining nightclub that is Back to Basics in Leeds.

My take on Ralph through reading news articles and listening to interviews, is that he is always focused on the future, and seldom has time to discuss the past, especially if it relates to music, but for a great many of us, the world wasn’t what it is today where records could be consumed immediately by the entire world. For a great many people, you went to Basics and might find out about a record like ‎”We Are One” by D.J.Q., or “The Day We Lost The Soul / Tribute! (To The Soul We Lost)” by Moodymann, but for the most part, you just remember having the time of your life, even when Ralph was playing on KissFM in Yorkshire, he would start off with a track like Nothing-Stays-The-Same by MD-VS-LR-Feat-Mike-Dunn, fat chance you had of ever finding a copy in local record shops.

The first Ralph Lawson record I fell in love with was “I Remember Dance” by Chuggles, that you would hear on the pirate radio stations in London, as well as at the Ministry Of Sound. House music became quite confusing then, with all the Genres that the press kept coming out with e.g. Happy House, Hard House, Deep House, Handbag House, Piano House and so on but 20/20 Vision Recordings remained one of the most consistent labels just putting out quality releases. I worked with a bunch of DJ’s at the time when 20/20 Vision Recordings  was gaining traction, it was very competitive, so if someone bought of copy of this 20/20 record you had to buy one that they didn’t have, so at one stage we had pretty much every release up till the mid noughties on Vinyl

This is just me trying to pick some 20/20 vision records that you probably have not heard that I still enjoy. Don’t forget that you can get both new and classic 20/20 Vision releases from their website or beatport or juno.

Sharon Redd – Can You Handle It

Every once in a while, one is captivated by the reverence shown in a review for a record, take a look at this one for “Can You Handle It” by Sharon Redd, written by someone going under the pseudonym MaximusMCX;

Once upon a time I was in Scotland and decided to visit the famous little church in Rosslyn. Famous because of its appearance in Dan Brown’s book The Da Vinci Code. Many stories are told about this beautiful little church. It is said that the Holy Grail is buried beneath it. Another story tells the tale of one of the fourteen pillars where Rosslyn Chapel stands on. A pillar standing out in beauty from all the others. The three pillars at the east end of the chapel are named, the Master Pillar, the Journeyman Pillar, and most famously, the Apprentice Pillar. Its name comes from a legend dating from the 18th century involving the master mason in charge of the stonework in the chapel and his young apprentice. According to the legend, the master mason did not believe that the apprentice could perform the complicated task of carving the column without seeing the original which formed the inspiration for the design. The master mason travelled to Rome to see the original himself, but upon his return was enraged to find that the upstart apprentice had completed the column anyway. In a fit of jealous anger the mason took up his mallet and struck the apprentice on the head, killing him. The legend concludes that as punishment for his crime, the master mason’s face was carved into the opposite corner to forever gaze upon his apprentice’s pillar. So, what’s the point of making a Special Remix? To make it better than it was before. Right? Why do so few succeed in that? There is only one man I know who made every mix better than it was before and that’s Larry Levan. A true wizard and master. And then there was the apprentice Francois Kevorkian, who made this mix. A jewel. Four minutes of only intro. Sharon who starts singing, chanting along with the guitar, after those lovely four minutes. All the instruments coming together in one perfect blend of bliss including the awesome lyrics. Do you really think you can …. uhhhh …. Handle IT? I’ve bought this record in 1981 and 30 years later I like it as much as in the beginning. I never get tired of it. I do not know one song where the remix is so much better than the original. Not a bit better, way better! Seek no more, you’ve found the Holy Grail.

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Having lived in the sleepy village of Roslin, and witnessed the daily commute by both pilgrims and tourists, this review resonates with one. I guess the aspect that might be missed by a lot of people is just how hard it was to get a copy of this record 30 years ago. Another review I read recently went thus;

if you see this , snatch it fast, put on a bullet proof vest and get your ass home, cause if some other mother f***** sees ya with it, he’s liable to shoot ya down for it!!!

It really is lamentable that this level of passion is lost by newer generations, one loves the fact that whether you are rich or poor you can always get a copy of the music you like using the internet.

I hated going to record shops sometimes twenty or so years ago, because the people that consistently got the best records were people that had money (stands to reason though), so the guy in the record shop would reserve the best records for said person, if one was close personal friend, you knew every couple of months or so you would get a hot record. It is important to note that a lot of dance records were released several times depending on sales, a record could be played in underground clubs for a couple of years before getting a major release, most times the next release would have a newer mix so getting a good record collection was very hard back then. If you happened to have a hot record, and were playing out live, then all to often other DJ’s or the public would time their moment and misappropriate (steal) said record. Music used to drive people to theft, an uncomfortable but necessary observation, this is why a lot of second hand records are worth a lot less, as usually they have someone’s name etched on the record or cover or both.

The thing I love about this record is the sheer sophistication of the voice and the unbeatable production, it almost is the perfect dance record, if someone asks you to name a classic tune “Can You Handle It” by Sharon Redd is head and shoulders above the rest, and one of my all-time favourite dance records, be it the original album mix, or this “Not a bit better, way better! Seek no more, you’ve found the Holy Grail” version.

Philadelphia International Records

Tom Moulton sits right at the top of dance music culture as we know it today. Apart from being one of the finest producers in the world, he is responsible for creating the first 12” remix single and consequently what is now known as remixing. This meant that he could remix a track and make it fifteen minutes long if he wanted to (think Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love”) signifying the start of record labels like Salsoul and the start of Disco taking off big time, as longer tracks suited a nightclub environment, unlike the radio where 7” singles were and are still favoured as typically they can only capture 3 minutes worth of music, without sound quality deteriorating. Interestingly enough, even digital producers today still use the same time limits, even though there really are no limitations, you could make a record that lasted a year now if you wanted to (not sure any radio stations would play it though).

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Tom mentions that even today when he feels jaded about the music industry, the music he turns to is Philadelphia Soul. Tom is pretty vocal about these being amongst the finest records recorded in existence, and one is inclined to wholeheartedly agree. What is abundantly clear about the prodigious production talent of Kenneth Gamble & Leon A. Huff is that no expense was spared in recording for the Philadelphia International Records label, from the piercing and rich orchestration that they make use of in most of their catalogue, to the finest musicians, metronomically producing classic after classic. These are the some of the most expensive sounding records one has ever heard.

The home computer and the internet have incontrovertibly changed the interface for modern music, principally, by making it affordable for anyone with a computer to make their own music, and most importantly, promote and distribute their music with no middleman. Back in the day, if you were a good musician and had ideas for a record and the record company executives did not agree, you never got to record so no-one ever heard about you. The good aspect of this approach was quality control, people generally released the best tracks whereas the wearisome aspect of navigating the modern musical landscape (e.g. House Music) is that there is just too much of it, most of it forgettable. The more one looks into the music industry however, the more one encounters countless horror stories of artists either never getting paid or signing rip-off contracts, sometimes you wonder if any musicians ever made any money? One must note that this advent is not a fault [computer and internet] and ought to be commended. It really has allowed people from all backgrounds to release music rich or poor.

Music production in the eighties boils down to two Japanese inventions (even my Technics SL 1210 turntables are Japanese and they last at least 25 years)

1. The Roland TR-808 that has been used to record pretty much every hit record in the eighties, “Sexual Healing “ by Marvin Gaye being one of the first, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis would use it with artists like Janet Jackson, commercially in terms of sales, they sit at the top of the pile for that decade, and this was their weapon, here in the UK, Loose Ends were one of the first proponents

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2. The Roland TB-303 (only 10 000 were ever made) that was used by a lot of the Chicago House producers and Techno producers in Detroit.
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The Japanese were responsible for reducing the costs of producing music significantly with these two instruments, but to be honest, they were still considerably expensive, and as noted before, only 10 000 Roland 303’s were ever made, so only a finite number of producers could ever access the technology.

Before these two technologies, producing music was prohibitively expensive, because you needed live musicians to play everything, on top of all the recording equipment, instruments, studio engineers, producers and mixers, where nothing at all was digital, so very labour intensive and time consuming to operate.

Philadelphia International Records became very popular very quickly in the early seventies with seminal producers Gamble & Huff producing hit after hit, and is singular in having some of the best recorded and produced records in the history of music.

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Gamble & Huff had a family of thirty session musicians called MFSB (Mother, Father, Sister, Brother) that played on all the records. Gamble & Huff had a penchant for sublime orchestral arrangements, almost over the top and ridiculously expensive, there is no doubt that no expense has been spared creating these records, it’s no wonder The Jacksons got them to produce their first two albums. If you look at credits in the sleeve notes of a lot of their albums, you see one big family of musicians and artists.

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The components that make up most modern digitally produced music are similar across a lot of different styles of music, listening to a pop record in 2015 does make one realise just how far back we have gone. If you think you have put a lot of effort into making music, listen to pretty much anything on Philadelphia International Records, that really is how its done.

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