Most helpful critical review
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Disjointed and Uneven
on 7 April 2010
In the introductory liner notes, written by Tony Rounce ('Blues & Soul' Magazine), the success of the PIR label is associated with the rise of the 12" single, and the stated aim of this collection is (according to Rounce) to cover "PIR's golden era of 12 inch remixing", from 1976 to 1983.
Opening with the ever popular McFadden & Whitehead 'Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now' (1979) (featured here in the full 10.45 mins mix) the auspices appear good, although this is a record that has featured on a great many other compilations and, as a result, it might be considered 'over exposed'. Edwin Birdsong's 'Phiss-Phizz' (1979) has a low slung groove that suggests what might happen if 'Fashion' period Bowie met with Eddie Grant's short vocal interjections, whilst Jerry Butler's 'I'm Just Thinking About Cooling Out' (1978) is a pleasant old fashioned track that possibly would yield a greater impact as a shorter single or album version. 'Let's Clean Up The Ghetto' (1977) is interesting - an instrumental mix or re-edit might work wonders - as a window to the social concerns of the period. The Jones Girls are widely known for 'Nights Over Egypt' (1981) (also included) and here they can also be heard in 'You Gonna Make Me Love Somebody Else' (1979), a fine record but looking to Funk and Soul rather than the commercial Disco aesthetic. Dexter Wansel was an accomplished musician, widely recognised for his excursions in Jazz-Funk, but here sounds uncomfortable in an apparent attempt for commercial success. Rare Groove fans may warm to The Future's 'Ain't No Time Fa Nuthin'' (1978), which owes a great deal to Earth, Wind & Fire. Jean Carn's 'Don't Let It Go To Your Head' (1976) is a classic record, but (like the McFadden & Whitehead track) is available on other collections.
Jocko's 'The Rocketship' (1979), according to Rounce, contain "elements of both Electro and New Jack Swing", and it is a curious sounding track that combines rock and jazz with a scatting nonsense vocal that might be part of Hip Hop's heritage. Is the track actually any good? Have a listen and decide for yourself! Billy Paul's 'It's Critical' (1979) opens with a beautiful piano flourish before launching in to a record very much of the period, with some nice horns and sounding (almost) like something the Mizzell Brothers might have liked. Disc One ends with Edwin Birdson's 'Freaky Deaky Sities' (sic) (1979), a record screaming for a re-edit to really bring out the strength of the production, which would work particularly in a 'House' context.
Disc Two begins with Frantique's 'Strut Your Funky Stuff' (1979), another obvious attempt to mimic mainstream Disco. Jean Carn's 'Was That All It Was' (1979) is another classic, and fans of UK DJ Norman Jay (MBE) will have heard this countless times. Other highlights include Edwin Birdsong's 'Goldmine' (1979) (think of a syncopated Herbie Hancock / The Headhunters with vocal accompaniment!) and the O'Jays 'Put Our Heads Together' (1983).
So do you buy?
The previous reviewer described some of the material included as execrable, and I consider that judgement harsh. Undoubtedly the PIR label (with many others of the period) had to contend with the commercial Disco aesthetic, and the demands of an often simplistic syncopated style, but the label still contributed to what was to follow. I would strongly suggest that part of the problem is the fact that many of these 12" mixes pre-date the eventual emergence of an acknowledged (and almost universally accepted) 12" mix format, with an extended instrumental or vocal intro, middle break and outro. Teddy Pendergrass, Jean Carn, Billy Paul, these great artists were working to an unfamiliar commercialised style that may not have been suited to their particular talents. This applies equally to the production also.
The quality of the material is generally good, but some of the records would work better in a different context - with similar material from different labels included against which to contrast and compare. The overall effect here is very much of a incoherent 'mix and match', and one has to ask to what extent the inclusions reflect the personal choice of Rounce. This is also particularly important when one remembers some of the records that have NOT been included here.
Worth buying and exploring, especially for the musically adventurous DJ looking to rescue and reinvent a possibly neglected gem (through a reconstruction or sample), but not a collection likely to work as a domestic listening experience.