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More Moulton Magic!,
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This review is from: Philly Re-Grooved - The Tom Moulton Philly Groove Remixes (Audio CD)
In recent months Ian Dewhirst has been at the helm of the Demon Music Group's 'Back Beats' series, adopting the very same approach seen in his earlier 'Original Mastercuts' series, issuing specifically themed compilations that manage to provide a qualitative overview that represents exceptional value for money, particularly in an age of digital downloading and non-tangible product. All of this work has been informed by Dewhirst's experiences as a DJ, beginning in the early 1970s when he was establishing himself within the 'Northern Soul Scene', accompanied by a broader interest in what was often termed 'black music' and a particularly sensitive ear for identifying great tracks that would later become acknowledged classics of their kind.
This compilation should be seen as a labour of love for Dewhirst, who has steadfastly championed the 'Philly Sound' throughout these years, and who has recently been granted licensing access to the 'Philly Groove' and 'Philadelphia International' back catalogues (as seen through the recent 'Back Beats' issues 'Philly Disco' (BACKB003) and 'Philly Freedom' (BACKB015). His unstinting involvement with the music has ultimately led to this compilation being issued, with the legendary Tom Moulton having "access to the original Philly Groove master tapes...in order to produce a series of remixes on his favourite tracks".
For the uninitiated, Moulton is often credited with creating the 12" mix (although Moulton describes it as a purely accidental invention!), and has also created some of the most enduring 12" remixes from the 1970s and what is often termed the 'Disco' period, reflected in his personal citation of personal favourites in the liner notes, 'Love Is The Message' by the MFSB and 'That's Where The Happy People Go' by The Trammps (The Trammps may well be his favourite all time group). Fans of Moulton will know all of these things and more, and will undoubtedly be listening to and 'through' the remixes to identify Moulton's techniques and musical methodology. This review is aimed at the non-specialist who may be tempted to buy this cd without knowing of the historical context of Moulton and the music
The disc opens with 'We're On The Right Track' by Ultra High Frequency, a record that features all of the essential elements of the 'Philly' sound, beautifully orchestrated musical shading allied to an up-tempo groove featuring real musicians and real instruments. The vocals are soulful, tightly woven to the groove, providing a stunning counterpoint to the musical textures underlying the mix. This track also nicely highlights Moulton's general technique throughout the cd, which does not feature musical cue points and extended breaks of the fashion now so predominant in the extended mix aesthetic. The tracks very often appear to consist of carefully blended vocal and instrumental sections, without exposing the core rhythmic elements in a song. Moulton has always insisted that he was never a DJ, so his approach to remixing appears less utillitarian than many of his DJing contemporaries. 'Armed & Extremely Dangerous' by First Choice offers a further perfect example of his technique, where others might have concentrated on extending the opening declamatory section Moulton extends the song without significantly restructuring it. It reeks of the 1970s and the increasing confidence of the African-American community (expressed particularly through song), and is simply gorgeous.
Fans of Northern Soul will warm to the driving and propulsive 'This Is The House' by First Choice, which begins as an instrumental before opening up to reveal the Motown influenced vocal. Nat Turner's 'This Is The House' is a mellow, string driven groover, with a very subtle melodic drive that refuses to leave the brain once implanted. 'Let Us Entertain You' by The Philly Groove Orchestra (featuring First Choice) is a return to the typical 'Philly' sound tempo, with horn and string accompaniement that teases with a strong instrumental melodic line before the sliding counter vocal. Subjectively, this is one of the album highlights. First Choice feature again with 'Gotta Get Away', with its insistent descending chorus, and 'Gonna Keep On Lovin' Him', a slower paced mellow excursion. The cd compilation concludes with 'Don't Put Me Down' by Finishing Touch and 'Whatcha Gonna Do' by Heaven n Hell.
So. Do you buy?
If you are fan of Tom Moulton then it is highly likely that this cd will already be placed in your basket for purchase. If you are a fan of Tom Moulton and the 'Philly Sound' then you have purchased the cd and are in a state of orgasmic expectational excess. But for music fans less familiar with both this cd offers up enough musical delights to charm and tease the ear. Arguably the musical approach adopted by Moulton is concerned with developing and enhancing the original material, not significantly restructuring, deconstructing or exposing the inner workings of a song in an almost entirely minimalist way. Moulton has listened to the songs and has instead produced highly concentrated versions, where the groove and melody are still important - thereby ensuring that each is still accessible beyond a core audience. The sound quality is excellent throughout, with evident care taken with the mastering and the accompanying liner notes (featuring Ian Dewhirst and Steve Handbury).
As Dewhirst writes in the notes, this collection is about the "early 1970s, namely real musicians, full orchestras, proper arrangements and that final 'sweetening' that defines any Philly Record...the results are nothing less than spectacular".
It would be very difficult to argue. Full marks to Dewhirst and Tom Moulton. Is it too much to hope for a Volume Two in the near future.....?