Track: Gettin' Out (Justin Robertson's Most Excellent Mix)
Label: Creed Records
British DJ Justin Robertson masterfully remixed this piano-driven anthem from Italian Luigi Stanga. The vocals are lifted from Gwen Guthrie's 1982 song, Getting Hot. Solid track. Hat tip to Twitter user neone4jon for the reco.
Label: Hot Mix 5 (orig.) / Underground Construction
Ralphi Rosario is one of the pioneers of house music, first bringing his mixing to the airwaves as part of the Hot Mix 5, a DJ crew on Chicago's WBMX "Saturday Night Live Ain't No Jive" mix show in the early 80s. The radio show's popularity helped establish Rosario's presence in the burgeoning Chicago house music scene. In 1987, Rosario recorded his most well known track and instant house classic, You Used To Hold Me, featuring the vocals of Xaviera Gold. As the story goes, Rosario was introduced to Xaviera (who dropped the "a" and recorded as Xavier) by a DJ friend. The two cowrote the lyrics (inspired by a fireman she was dating at the time), and Rosario mixed it down over an instrumental track he had been working on. The song became an overnight anthem and quickly spread to the NY and Europe house scenes.
My mix of choice is Razor 'N Guido's vocal remix, released in 1998. One of the all time best buildups you'll ever hear. This version was not on YouTube (except for a 1 minute snippet) so I uploaded it myself. I can finally say I've contributed some of the musical content on my blog!
Clubhouse was a well known Italian dance music outfit that produced several charting hits in the 80s and 90s. One such hit was 1991's Deep In My Heart which reached #1 on the US Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart. Of the many remixes, David Morales' Red Zone mix stands above the crowd with its catchy deep house groove and Lady Miss Kier (of Deee-Lite fame) vocal sample. The "Red Zone" alias dates to Morales' early residency at a NYC club named Red Zone where Morales' underground legend took hold.
Join Hands is an uplifting garage track and early NY house classic. It was the first release on Big Beat Records and helped launch the career of current Atlantic Records CEO Craig Kallman. The track sounds somewhat dated, but the bass-heavy intro is solid and the sporadic piano licks compliment the spiritual vocals well.
Give James Bratton credit for the original production, but the best mix of Deeper was an unreleased version from a Benji Candelario and Wayne Rollins promo. The Deeper Than Deep Mix is a hard hitting number with strong synth stabs and a rolling bassline reminiscent of Straight Up House (Rave Mix). Clark's soulful vocals are stripped down and heavily filtered, creating a haunting effect that underscores this track's dark and dirty ambiance.
Another excellent mix is the 111 East House Mix, courtesy of legendary deep house producer Kerri Chandler:
Love Changes is a very solid MK production and worthy of inclusion on any collection of classic house tracks. The Deep Mix has a standout bassline, but still allows Alana's beautiful vocals to shine front and center. As always, MK's signature vocal dub mastery is still in effect.
Say It Loud won't be the only infectious classic house track I profile from Ron Allen's 1991 E.P, but it's the first and probably my favorite of the two (the other is Get On Up). This crowd pleasure features a superb piano groove, a touch of vox, plenty of breakbeats, and a constant tribal chant to keep things interesting. The slowly soaring synths really seal it for me and give the track added emotion. It's a shame this was so slept on as it was worthy of much more.
Vicky Martin was another artist hailing from the 80s NJ garage house scene. The Marshall Jefferson produced Not Gonna Do It features the soulful vocals of Vicky Martin over a deep, smooth bassline. The song was extraordinarily popular in a handful of clubs in the NY/NJ area and will please both vocal fans and those who can't get enough of deep house b-lines.
While best known as one of the original members of the freestyle girl group Exposé, South Florida native Sandra Casañas, also found success as a solo artist, recording as Sandée. Notice Me is an absolute killer of a track, but one that's been largely forgotten. The track was produced by Clivilles & Cole (of C+C Music Factory fame) and features production that's just as good their multi-platnium crossover singles. Their incredible success in the early 90s was a mixed blessing. Good since they made tons of money and the whole world knew their name. Bad because anything they did prior to Gonna Make You Sweat might as well not have existed.
In any case, Notice Me features a beast of a bassline, fantastic dub echoes of Sandée's vocals, an impressive array of drum sounds and floating claps, and a synth-flute tune that fits the track like a glove. This was a NYC club classic 20+ years ago and I think you'll agree that it has aged better than most. Sadly, Sandée passed away in 2008 from a seizure at age 46.
Produced by Italian DJ Eddy Milani under the Electric Choc alias, Shock The Beat remains one of the greatest piano-driven anthems in house music history. The track starts with an acid buildup before a signature piano breakdown drops, setting the tone for the remainder of the song. With the exception of a few soulful vocal teases, this is just a feel-good instrumental that still sounds fresh 20 years on.
The Air Tattoo Reconstruction mix of San Trancisco was a popular floor filler anthem overseas and a superb piece of progressive house. This well-balanced track features a stomping beat, soaring snyths, and a masterful piano breakdown at the midway point. Nathan Joseph, who produced this remix under the Air Tattoo alias, commented on YouTube:
"...back at the start of my music career I made this remix at
Crib Studios for Global Grooves in 1992.... I think they paid me the
princely sum of £150 to do it, then calmly flogged about 30,000 copies
over the next year countrywide and coined it in. I never got another
penny. That's life."
It's too bad he wasn't compensated fairly, but having a classic house track under your belt has to be some consolation, right?
One of house music's first big hits, nothing before or after has ever sounded like Ma Foom Bey, brought to us by the Winston Jones project, Cultural Vibe. The song was mixed and popularized by Tony Humphries at Club Zanzibar in Newark and soon after became a club hit in NYC. A lot of its appeal is due to its super raw sound and minimal production. The best description of the song I've heard is "one grumbling drum machine mounted by a burping synth." Ma Foom Bey also features a hypnotic African-style chant which some say qualifies this as the earliest example of tribal house.
Released at the dawn of the house music era, Take Some Time Out is still recognized as one of the best garage house tracks ever and certainly among the most notable to emerge from the early NY scene. While slow by modern house standards, its tempo was fairly typical for its time period and was definitely danceable as the song became an underground hit around the world. Jarvis delivers uplifting and soulful vocals over a deep house groove and soaring synths. 24 years on and the track shows no signs of aging. Note: There's also a dub version with horns that's worth tracking down if you're looking for more.
TC 1992 was actually an alias for the F.P.I. Project, an Italian collective consisting of Marco Fratty, Corrado Presti, Roberto Intrallazzi, and Luciano Berry. "TC" was the name of an early-mid 90s project where F.P.I. released an annual single, nearly all of which charted in Europe. So the "TC 1992" artist name was assigned to their 1992 release, a track called Funky Guitar. It's not hard to see why the FPI Funky Mix became an instant classic. Its funky guitar riff is so intense you feel like you're practically drifting through a cloud of fog and strobe lights. Underscored by a pumping bassline, alternating male/female vox and some delicious drum patterns, there's nothing else that sounds quite like this track. And if you're wondering, the "ain't no words to this song, you just dance and hum along" vocals date to this 1970 Temptations song. James Brown at 3:11: "1,2,3,4!"
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.