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Got what I expected.
on 12 May 2013
I bought this expecting to get pretty much what I got: An OK track selection, that neither excites you with any rare and undiscovered tracks, nor immediately makes you cringe because it is to much of a middle-of-the-road wedding DJ selection. Having said that, any half way decent collector will have most of these tracks already. But of course you won't have them in the format of the Previously Unreleased Exclusive Disco Mixes done by John Morales. And with regards to those mixes I got exactly what I expected:
I have been collecting this kind of music for more than three decades and while there is surely some good work to be found amongst the hundreds of remix projects by John and the M+M duo, there has been a fairly sour taste left in my ears ;-) a looong time ago. If I needed to explain to anyone why I do not rate him as highly as some other remixers of similar renown I would reach for this compilation to explain it.
My three main complaints: Drum sounds, drum programming and song structure.
I don't know when each of these remixes were made, but regardless of their age my criticism is that the drum sounds used, especially many hi-hats, are weak and annoying. I don't know how to best describe it but they are neither "clean" but equally they are not dirty (as in funky). To me they often just sound "cheap" - which might be due to their vintage.
The rhythms though, ie the drum programming, is so monotonously boring that it really takes the funk out of many of the tracks. Titles like "Now That We Found Love" or the West End classics "Ride On The Rhythm" and "Do It To The Music", to name just three, loose all their "swing" and get steam-rolled by Mr. Morales' unimaginative drum programming. There is simply no enhancement achieved by these remixes: The day I received this 3CD set I happened to also have the original Blackbyrds album in my CD changer and hearing the original "Rock Creek Park" in comparison to this "M+M Retouch" really made me wonder where the remix could have its use. I think it would feel equally out of place in a modern club amongst other tracks with fat 4-to-the-floor bass drums as it would do in a set of 80s club tracks with their original funky / jazzy vibe.
My third issue with many of the mixes is the incredible length. Don't get me wrong: I don't mind an eight, ten or even fifteen minute long groove, but either you lock it in the pocket or you create a really interesting structure; listen to Dmitri's Philly Int'l remixes for good examples of the latter. To stretch everything into the 8-10 minute range without doing either is just tedious. Take John's version of Curtis Hairston's "I Want Your Lovin'" for example: Timothy Regisford and Boyd Jarvis had originally delivered a mix which gently extended the simple 3 minute pop song structure to five and a half minutes while keeping you entertained. It was enough to create a classic (with a absolutely listenable seven minute plus Dub mix on the flip!). John stretches the basic verse and chorus structure by adding a couple of boring instrumental minutes to it (of course in addition to messing up the original drum and bass sound...). The image that came up in my head was that this would be a great for any DJ to talk over and read out some number plates of people who need to move their cars because they are blocking the fire exits. Funnily enough this is the shortest track at 7:41 on the whole set. Hey, you might still hear the same tune on the sound system by the time you've moved that car. On the other hand you might decide that this dancefloor is not worth coming back to.
I expect to get some flak from Morales aficionados for my opinion.
Fell free to disagree.