Track: Don't You Want Me (Red Jerry's Holiday Mix)
Don't You Want Me was the monster debut single from British DJ and producer Francis Wright, known under the pseudonym of Felix. Musically, this track samples Jomanda's Don't You Want My Love (1989) and co-production credits are attributed to Rollo and Red Jerry. Known for it's memorable synth riff and high energy breakbeat, the song became a crowd-favorite and charted numerous times in Europe and the US. The best known remix is the Hooj Mix, but I prefer Red Jerry's Holiday Mix for its amazing breakbeat intro.
Another less-known but better-than-the-original-IMO version is the Mars Plastic Remix, released in 1993 on Media Records out of Italy. No holds barred uptempo Euro dance that delivers the original's synth chords with double the energy. Check it out!
Let Me Show You is a classic dance anthem and a worthy candidate for the 90's most infectious piano riff. The track starts with a decent siren-laden build-up before dropping that absolutely devastating piano track that could bring even the most tired afterhours clubgoers back to life. The song also includes the timeless vocal "You've got to live right now" which basically sums up the ethos of the house scene in six words. According to Paul Roberts, all of the elements apart from the vocal top line were influenced by a Tony Humphries set at Cream nightclub in the UK.
Taking it back to the old school with this one...Can You Feel It was originally released as an instrumental on Mr. Fingers' the Washing Machine EP in 1986. The downtempo track is notable for it's sublime silky smooth chords; the bassline produced with the Roland JUNO-6 synth. True to its title, I always appreciated how you can truly feel this song. A very powerful and emotive tune accomplished without a single human voice. Two other versions which are quite popular:
Can You Feel It (Martin Luther King Mix): The original instrumental, but overlaid with Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech and was later officially released by Trax.
Can You Feel It (Chuck Roberts Mix): A popular bootleg featuring the spoken word vocals of Chuck Roberts discussing the feeling and meaning of house music. The vocals were originally from the acapella version of My House by Rhythm Controll, recorded in 1987.
I prefer the plain old original, some things are best left undisturbed.
Track: What Would We Do (Eight Minutes Of Madness Mix)
Label: Boy's Own Recordings
Terry Farley and Pete Heller's remix of DSK's east-coast garage hit What Would We Do is a certified house classic. While the song spawned dozens of mixes (including an excellent Steve Hurley cut on the original release), Heller & Farley's version stands out for it's heavy dubbing and hypnotic horns. This track was a favorite of Junior Vasquez at the original Sound Factory in NYC.
I Got It is a forgotten track by the one and done collective known as YO! BOTS. It starts with a catchy organ groove before a rolling bassline + piano kicks in. No crazy effects, just a wind-down track that still sounds fresh nearly two decades on.
Want Love was a major floor-filler, especially in the UK where the track rose to #28 on the charts. From the instant energy drum breakbeat to the unmistakably 90s organ licks, Want Love is just a solid tune that never got the attention it deserved in the US. Play it loud!
Give Me Life is a favorite of one of this site's Twitter followers and no doubt an underappreciated house classic. Mr. V is the artist alias of one Rob Villiers, of whom I know nothing about. What I do know is that Give Me Life was released on Rollo's short-lived Cheeky Records and the remixes are credited to Rollo along with Goetz Botzenhardt. The track itself is very cool and features a layered symphony of musical elements including some haunting vocals, sweeping synth effects and plenty of bells.
Update: I've been informed that Dido (the sister of Rollo) contributed to this track. Who knew! She would have been 23 at the time. Here's her name on the vinyl where she's credited with vocals along with Penny Shaw and Natalie & The Preacher. Until corrected otherwise, I'm pretty sure Dido is the one saying "Give me life!"
Track: Pennies From Heaven (Reese Dream A-Lot Mix)
Artist: Inner City
Pennies From Heaven is an all-time feel-good house song with inspiring lyrics and an equally uplifting piano riff. Listen to it enough and it might restore your faith in humanity. Ironically, I'm showcasing the Reese Dream A-Lot Mix which retains none of the positive energy of the original - However, it's just such a great deep house classic that I couldn't resist. Bring your flashlight 'cuz these beats are deep and dark.
Another great mix and certainly the best known is Kevin's Tunnel Mix.
20+ years since its original release, French Kiss is remembered as a seminal track in house music history. The song is distinctive for two reasons:
1) It's based on a single note (F-natural) and gradually slows down to a complete stop, marked by the vocal climax, before gradually speeding up again. At the time, this was an innovative feature for dance music and has subsequently been incorporated into countless tracks.
2) The essence of the track is an erotic female vocal that climaxes (pun is unavoidable) with the tempo. While Donna Summer's Love to Love You Baby might be the first mainstream release to feature such sensual vocals, it's safe to say French Kiss set the modern precedent for screaming orgasms dropped over beats. It doesn't matter if you're 15 or 55, you will be embarrassed to listen to this song in the company of your parents:)
According to Lil Louis (real name Louis Sims), the song was inspired by a late night sexual conversation over the phone between Sims and his girlfriend at the time. As the story goes, Sims happened to be messing around with the tempo during an impromptu production session (while on this phone call), had a Eureka moment, and ended the conversation with his lady friend to work on the track.
Although a DJ since the 70s and one of the pioneers of house, French Kiss was the biggest hit of Sims' career - spending two weeks at #1 on the American dance chart and becoming a crossover pop hit in the US and Europe. Needless to say, a ton of remixes followed, but the The Original Underground Mix stays truest to the original 12":
For an updated (but now old enough to be a classic) twist on this song, Josh Wink released How's Your Evening So Far? in 2000, which heavily sampled French Kiss. Since Josh Wink does cool stuff and this track is a real floor-filler, I'll show it some love in this blog post:
Track: Packet Of Peace (Prankster Sound System Mix)
Label: Deconstruction Records
With a pulsating beat that hits hard from the gate and a deep message delivered in spoken form, Packet of Peace qualifies as one of the cooler progressive/tracks from its era. Definitely ahead of its time, the Chemical Brothers scored one of their earlier successes with a remix of this club banger.
If you're a fan of vocals house, it doesn't get much better than Turn Me Out, a monster track from Praxis, the musical project consisting of lead singer Kathy Brown and producers Cevin Fisher and David Shaw. Brown's powerful vocals shine over a perfectly balanced musical composition. The Delorme's remix is the best of the bunch.
Some old house heads think Moby jumped shark when Play blew up in 1999. I think he still made a lot of cool music; my only gripe is that he got an outlet to preach his useless politics. I have no appetite for celebrity punditry - Bono, Moby, Lady Gaga, I wish they'd all shut up. Anyway, I was instantly addicted to Honey. Repetitive as hell, but the combination of the bluesy sample and the way the tempo transitions was like crack for my ears.
In the course of researching this song I realized that none of the countless lyrics sites has the lyrics 100% correct. The sample is actually the voice of Bessie Jones, a gospel singer from the Georgia Sea Islands who sang slave songs passed on from her grandfather. The lyrics in Honey are lifted from Way Down Yonder, Sometimes, a call and response song that Alan Lomax recorded in the middle of the century. Lomax was a folklorist and historian who literally recorded hundreds of American folk singers including many poor and rural singers whose voices would otherwise never meet wax. Moby incorporated several samples from Lomax recordings on Play and should be given major props for pulling them off so well. Here is the correct sample heard in Honey:
Until my honey comes back, [sometimes]
I want to rear back, Jack, [sometimes]
And get a hump in my back, [sometimes]
I'm going over here [sometimes]
My favorite mix was the Rollo & Sister Bliss Remix. It's got a downtempo vibe that works well with the sample.
Take It! is a slick production from Alessandro Neri, recording as Alex Lee. The track was first released in 1991 with remixes issued on the React label a year later. Take It! features a rolling breakbeat, jazzy overtones, and piano licks that result in an enjoyable house classic.
Track: The Mighty Ming! (Brothers In Rhythm Club Mix)
Artist: Brothers Love Dubs
Label: Stress Records
Brothers Love Dubs consisted of talented British DJs/producers Dave Seaman and Steve Anderson who have independently become quite successful in the music industry since the duo disbanded. The Mighty Ming! was their most successful release. The song builds into a tribal groove, climaxing with wailing chants and some very cool organ riffs.
In 2009, Dave Seaman teamed up with Funkagenda for an updated release that features notably heavier bass and a grittier sound. D. Ramirez provided a better remix with a euphoric breakdown reminiscent of the original.
Track: Heaven Knows (I Can't Understand) (Angel's Factory Dub)
Artist: Angel Moraes (ft. Basil Rodericks)
Label: TRIBAL America
Angel Moraes is a longtime NY producer and remixer, regarded for his deep beats and industrial sounds. If you like the kind of music that bumps so hard you swear there's a subwoofer in your chest, than Moraes is your man. Heaven Knows (I Can't Understand) is a real monster of a track and this dub version is my mix of choice.
After Chicago, Northern New Jersey can arguably claim host to the earliest house music scene in the US. The music was called garage (or garage house) and was centered around major urban areas like Newark and Paterson. Garage was soulful and often gospel-inspired - You can think of it as a more natural progression from disco music since it lacked the heavy electronic squelch sounds found in acid house. As the resident DJ at Newark's Club Zanzibar, Hippie Torrales was a fixture in the garage circuit since the beginning of the 80s. When approached to produce his own record by a local record store owner, Hippie turned out You're Gonna Me Miss under the Turntable Orchestra moniker - the track was a hit and became especially popular in Europe.
This track has some killer piano licks and a devastating bassline that drops in with impeccable timing. The vocals sound dated 20+ years later, but the song is definitely a classic. Enjoy!
This site profiles my favorite classic house tracks. Most selections are from the 80s and 90s with a strong - but not exclusive - deep house, progressive and old school Chicago influence. I could never fully warm up to acid house, overly ambient tracks, or anything that bumps >135bpm. Since many have asked, there's no single definition of classic house music, but Ishkur has an excellent guide to electronica music that can serve as a primer for anyone interested. I know some of the videos get pulled due to copyright issues - just search on YouTube since most stuff gets re-upped anyway.