As I mentioned in the intro to this blog, the purpose of this site is to not solely act as a medium for shining a light on new productions, but also on fantastic dance music of the past. I feel that this is important in today’s environment where listeners are constantly flooded with digitally-distributed tracks. While the low barriers to entry provided by technology have permitted a wealth of new artists to easily access audiences, they have also made it remarkably easy to ‘put out’ incredibly boring and uninspiring music. In the past, club music had different standards. With vinyl as the main medium for DJ-play, a record usually had to be promising enough to warrant the expense of pressing it to wax and physically distributing it. The result is that a great deal of dance music from the 70s and 80s naturally went through a harsh filtering process before being released and often had very high production values. Dance music had to be fit to press to wax! This is not to say that no bad pieces made it out but it does mean that there is a TON of fantastic music to dig for and celebrate. What’s more, a lot of this music actually still makes ‘sense’ on today’s dance-floors…
Anyways, without further nerdy philosophical posturing, here are some of the retro records I’ve been feeling this Fall…
Luv You Madly Orchestra – Moon Maiden
This is an incredibly bizarre record. Apparently Love you Madly Orchestra were a Salsoul production responsible for recording disco music composed by Duke Ellington. While this idea might lead you to think the music would have close associations with jazz this is not really the case... The A-side here is far more similar to the alternative disco music of labels like Ze or Sleeping Bag than any of Duke Ellington’s more traditional jazz productions. The composition combines slightly out of tune female vocals with cut up voices that keep exclaiming “I gotta…”. Every once in a while this is interrupted by some weirdly-pitched string flurries. Not surprisingly, on first listen it actually all sounds rather unpleasant. However, after a few spins you sort of begin to recognize the bizarre genius at work behind this composition. In my own personal case, I eventually fell in love with this weird slab of disco and now treasure it as one of my favorite recent acquisitions. Not surprisingly, it seems to have a decent fan-base, evidenced by its rather lofty price on Discogs. It also bizarrely made a recent appearance on Errol Alkan’s RA podcast. I honestly never thought anyone would ever think of playing this out in 2009 but I’m glad I’ve been proven wrong. Anyways, listen to it 2 – 5 times on youtube below for the full experience. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
Dexter Wansel – Life on Mars (off of Loft Classics II)
The Loft Classics series is a truly wonderful run of 12’’ records that attempts to gather some of the most famous tracks played by the infamous David Mancuso at his notorious NYC loft parties. Spanning jazz, disco, soul and house, everything I’ve found on these 12’’s has really only had one common factor: it’s all incredibly funky. While this edition of the series includes Street Life and Los Conquistadores Chocolates, the true stand out for me is Dexter Wansel’s “Life on Mars”. This record has got to have one of the coolest intros ever. In fact, it’s so damn impressive I don’t even want to describe it here. I’d much rather point you to the opening section of the Delicious Records mix which will be online shortly... (that, or just skip to utube if you can’t wait!) Hopefully you’ll be shocked by its brilliance yourself. As a minor side-note for hip hop fans, I recently discovered that this record served as the sample basis for Lupe Fiasco’s “The Cool” which was one of the best tracks on the Chicago MC’s debut album.
Chic – I Want Your Love / Funny Bone
Chic records tend to have the high production values that I mentioned in the intro to this post and this is certainly no exception. The sound quality, live studio band arrangements and even the hot pink vinyl on which this was pressed are a testament to some nice record label quality control. While many might dismiss Chic out-of-hand for being associated with over-played disco hits like ‘Le Freak’, this would be a terrible mistake. The band actually has a fantastically deep back-catalogue of beautifully composed dance-floor jams. On this 12’’ “I Want Your Love” is the most recognizable hit, having been sampled by Moodymann for his classic “I Can’t Kick this Feeling When it Hits”. That said, “Funny Bone” is an often-overlooked classic disco jam. Low slung with funky bass guitar and gorgeously arranged strings; it’s definitely worth a close look and a potential collection purchase.
Cymande (Self Titled)
I first learnt of 70s London-based Caribbean funk / reggae group Cymande through Innervision’s “Grandfather Paradox” mix CD. That release focused on giving an aural history of ‘minimalism’ and did a fantastic job of providing an intro to some seriously funky (yet experimental!) music of the past. While the cut on that mix (“For Baby Oh”) had some nice stripped down percussion, I was more taken aback by the warmth of the vocals and funky chorus: “We shall go down… we shall be found!” Anyways, being a bit of a long-term dub fan I was happy to accidentally come across this group’s debut at a local record store. It’s truly a fantastic LP that is 100% guaranteed to brighten your mood during the harsh winter days up ahead. Beyond the warmth factor though, this record distinguishes itself by managing to blend funk and reggae in equal doses to create a truly unique sound. It’s really a bit of a shame that this group remained out of the limelight as they certainly deserved a bit more recognition. Check for yourself by tuning into the below youtube links.
Alright everyone that is my Retro wrap up for now! I have recently recorded a mix that uses many of the records mentioned on this blog. That will be available very soon… At the moment I am in Brazil for work but as soon as I am back in NYC that thing is getting uploaded. For now I’m going to use my free time down here to try and accumulate as much great Brazilian music as I can. Especially going to look for some 80’s MPB = Musica Popular Brasileira. That stuff is the bomb. Maybe also some Tropicalia although I’ve always felt that stuff was somewhat overhyped. Wish they had record stores down here but like most Latin American countries, it seems music on wax is pretty much extinct… Still, I’d love to be proven wrong so if anyone’s got a recommendation out there throw it on the comments!