on 7 March 2010
This is Volume 2 in an (initially) projected 10 Volume series "conceived and compiled with love by Ian Dewhirst". The stated aim of the collection being to "offer some of the best music in the world from some of the greatest independent labels over the past 50 years..(using)...only the full 12" or album versions". This is a sentiment previously expressed by Dewhirst in his previous role as conceiver and compiler of the 'Original Mastercuts' collection - a series that provided a musical education in quality black music. Since the demise of the 'Original Series' Dewhirst has continued his engaging in the issuing of quality driven music compilations, always displaying the light touch expertise and willingness to guide, in a manner that is never patronising.
For this particular volume Dewhirst looks to explore the "basic brutal sound of Chicago House Music", awareness of which for the mainstream probably arose as a result of hearing Steve 'Silk' Hurley's 'Jack Your Body' - which reached the Number One spot on the UK National Music Chart. This music was a further stage in the continuing evolution of black dance music, rooted through the technological advances in equipment and recording techniques of the early 1980s to Electro Funk back to Disco and beyond. It certainly wasn't mainstream, and it's counter-cultural origins fully embraced the free expression of sexuality and experimental drug use.
It opens with Marshal Jefferson's 'Move Your Body' (1986), an essential record and rightly considered an early anthemn of the genre, before lauching in to Farley 'Jackmaster' Funk's 'Love Can't Turn Around' (1986). The third choice,'Do It Properly', is quite correctly identified but it would have been far preferable to have had the 'original' version which featured on the B side of the UK London Records 12 release - which featured a number of elements and samples overlaid across the basic track - with the bassline taken from Adonis's 'No Way Back'. Created during a period of time when musical referencing (or 'pillaging' depending on your point of view) wasn't as financially problematic as now, one suspects that clearance issues explain the choice made by Dewhirst. This is also true of the version included of Frankie Knuckle's 'Your Love' (1990), which clearly isn't the original instrumental version. The mix included here was clearly created much later and intended to take advantage of a contemporary bootleg 'blend' created by taking the Candi Staton accapella and the Kuckle's instrumental track. Does this matter? Well if a series is going to be sold on the premise of authenticity then yes, undoubtedly it does.
'Can You Feel It' by Mr Fingers (1987) returns to the original mix, whilst Jamie Principle's 'Waiting On My Angel' (1986) looks back at the European heritage to be found in House music, with a remarkably Bowie-esque vocal. The Nightwriter's 'Let The Music (Use You)' (1986) will be familiar to later fans of SL2's 'DJs Take Control', for which it provided the key melodic sample. Other highlights include the Housemaster Boyz 'House Nation', an anthem that could be heard everywhere upon it's release, and the seminal 'You Used To Hold Me' by Ralph Rosario. This record has been remixed countless times, and the vocal has provided the foundation of many other cross-referencing blends (the remix of Richie Rich's 'Salsa House' for example). Finally the collection concludes with the ever uplifting 'Promised Land' by Joe Smooth, with an affirmative peaceful message that resonated strongly with audiences at the time, a message that remains as relevant today as in 1987.
So. Do you buy?
Dewhirst has an enviable and well earned reputation for compiling music collections that are designed to entertain and inform, and, as he writes in the liner notes, "you've got a flavour for some of this music...go see what else is available and then start digging!". He presents a well mastered compilation (although at least one track appears to have been mastered from vinyl), and whilst two of the inclusions are problematic ('Do It Properly' and 'Your Love') for an incredibly reasonable sum you have the opportunity to own a small tangible slice of dance history.
These considerations aside this is certainly a worthy purchase, for those looking to revist their musical past and those looking to explore the roots of contemporary dance music.