Hear The Music was cut at a time when Todd Terry was releasing tracks at a furious rate under various aliases. This one is especially memorable and qualifies as a top ten Todd Terry track for my money. David Morales served up a couple mixes, but Def Dub takes top honors and spotlights the vocal sampling mastery without comprising the earth-shaking bass kicks (which are pushed nearly to distortion). The signature element is a looping scat vocal of something that sounds like "buddy do you hip-hop" - I'm not sure where it comes from, so if you know please share your knowledge in the comments. Known samples include keyboard chords from Machine's There But for the Grace of God Go I (1979) and female vox from Unlimited Touch's I Hear Music in the Street (1981).
90s Miami house gets a lot of love here. If you're new, you can catch up with reviews for other old school Miami tracks like On My Mind, Been A Long Time, Some Lovin', Reach For Me, and Set U Free. Anyway, today's selection is U Got Me - another Oscar G and Ralph Falcon production, this one released on Murk under the Intruder alias. As if there was any doubt, U Got Me features that distinctive super deep hypnotic bass groove (in this case reworking No Smoke's Koro Koro), the defining element of all 90s Miami house bangers. This cut is also balanced with some industrial percussion elements to underscore its dark vibe.
A perfectly executed sax sample is hard to top - Here's some sax tracks I've profiled earlier that pulled it off. Hard to pick a favorite, but Razzmatazz is up there. Shout out to @VinylTeknition for the memory because you have better odds of getting change back with a $2 bill than finding this. The track comes courtesy of Chicago native Drew Sky, an old school house heavy hitter who frequently worked with Steve Pointdexter.
The sax is lifted from Sexy, a 1975 MFSB jam - Cue to 1:34 for the sample:
Drew Sky laid down a sweet sub bassline at the starting gate and let that sax sample carry the track. You can't do it any better.
Track: Te Quiero (Darren Emerson Underworld Remix)
Artist: 108 Grand
Label: Brute Records
Patience is rewarded for Darren Emerson's remix of Te Quiero. Clocking in at nearly 10 minutes, Emerson takes listeners on a progressive house journey with multiple layers of beautiful swirling melodies and a bouncing beat. The highlight is the great little melody dropped around the halfway mark. More than anything, this track confirms Darren Emerson was chiefly responsible for defining that signature Underworld sound (think Dirty/Lemon Interupt) during their peak years.
Artist: Oscar G. of Murk Productions Presents "Tilt"
Label: One Records
Regular readers know I'm down with the old school Miami sound, having profiled various Oscar G & Ralph Falcon tracks like this, this, and this. One of his lesser known gems is On My Mind, released under the Tilt alias. It might be underground, but this track is thoroughly enjoyable with a relentless bass kick intertwined with organ licks and layered with a gated reverb vocal. When the vocal momentarily drops out, the listener is taken to the next dimension. Throw in some chants for a tribal edge and you have a true classic.
The Deep Thought mix is also on YouTube and worthy of a listen:
True to its name, Reality (4:00 A.M. Mix) was one of those after-hours Sound Factory tracks that never got played during normal waking hours. Outdance was an Italian outfit so naturally there's horns and syncopated percussion, but the lack of vocals meant this one was never destined for mainstream consumption. That said, the dreamlike organ chords make this one a classic.
After a long hiatus, I'm returning to profile this overlooked Italian house gem by Olimpia, with remix credits courtesy of Leandro Papa from Last Rhythm. Perfect execution on all the Italo disco elements one looks for: infectious groove, top notch keyboard work, constant energy, and catchy vocals. This track might not be as memorable as Olimpia's You Want My Love from a few years earlier, but still deserving of a proper dust-off!
Few pieces of world music reached the status of Sweet Lullaby, an "ethno-electronic" international hit produced by French duo, Erc Mouquet and Michael Sanchez. The song is based around a Baeggu lullaby from the Solomon Islands called "Rorogwela" and uses a vocal sample originally recorded by ethnomusicologist Hugo Zemp in 1969 and later released by UNESCO as part of their Musical Sources collection. Baeggu is the language of the indigenous people of North Malaita Island and is today spoken by less than 6,000 people so quite prescient of Zemp to capture recordings of this fading culture. The concept of electronic music artists incorporating local folk songs by way of a scholarly preservationist is not exclusive to Deep Forest; I wrote about Moby doing something similar with Honey.
In any case, Sweet Lullaby is the voice and melody of a woman named Afunakwa. Afunakwa's vocals were sampled, edited, combined with other ethnic samples and layered with Sanchez's and Mouqet's own compositions of synthesizer sounds, drum loops, and basslines for ambiance. The intricate editing process took six months, proof that patience is a virtue. Afunakwa's lyrics refer to a young orphan being comforted by his older brother despite the loss of their parents:
Lyrics In Baeggu (transliterated):
Sasi ziza zecob dela dalou'a Boralea'e borale mi komi oula Etawuae'o ela'o coralia wu'aila Ilei pandera zel e' tomu pere no mo mai
Alatuwuan? icas imani'u Barletas e'e barkia'a Pro'e lai e'le a pantou la'u
Ilei pander zel e' tomu pere no mo mai
Sa ziza zecob del dalou'a Boralea'e borale mi komi oula Alatawuan? icas iwua'oula Ilei pandera zel e' tomu pere no mo mai
Lyrics In English (approximate translation):
Young brother, young brother you be quiet Although you are crying to me Your father has left us He has gone to the place of the dead Protect the head of the living, Protect the orphan child
Young brother, young brother hey? although you are crying to me Your father has left us He has gone to the place of the dead Protect the head of the living, protect the orphan child
Here's the original version:
It's timeless, but the deep house Round The World mix is the go-to track if you're looking for something more uptempo. This mix patiently layers the assorted musical elements, keeping the listener on their toes as the song's energy crests and retreats. Round The World was fairly popular on the club circuit and remains a beautiful piece of music. The only knock is that some of the vocal lines aren't carried over from the original.
Assisted by sisters Charlotte and Camilla
Wisøfeldt, Denmark producer/DJ Kenneth Bager created the Dr. Baker alias in the late 80s. Known for establishing the house scene in Denmark and his legendary parties, Bager remains an active participant in the industry. Fellow Dane and eventual international super-producer Joe Belmaati dropped a handful of mixes, including the Pumpin' Stockin' Mix which was released as a white label promo. While this version was never widely distributed or played, I love how the intro draws out the beautiful organ groove.
By the way, here's the radio version in music video form. Regrettably, the rap parts are pure cheese; lots to like about Eurodance, but the rap verses just never aged well.
Track: Love Desire (Maurice's Luv Me Underground Mix)
Label: Smash Records
D'Bora was an early 90s soulstress. While never famous, she had a few songs that received airplay and worked with an assortment of A-list house producers like Tony Humphries and Steve Hurley. One D'Bora mix worthy of classic status is Maurice Joshua's Maurice's Luv Me Underground Mix. Maurice masterfully layers D'Bora's lustful vocals over a catchy groove and nonstop drum patterns. It's definitely got an underground edge, but this track is also accessible for the house masses.
Track: Beat That Bitch (Johnny's Original Problem #13)
Artist: Johnny Dangerous
Label: Hourglass Recordings
Johnny Dangerous raised a lot of eyebrows when Problem #13 started making the rounds. Why? Because nobody ever called it Problem #13, instead it's just known by its endlessly repeated refrain, "Beat That Bitch With A Bat."
Although at first glance the song's crass, misogynistic title (remember, nobody called it Problem #13), suggested the track was invoking violence against women, but here's the story according to this article:
"The song was originally called Problem 13," says JD. "We were in the 1st Gulf War. A lot of people were mad with America. I thought I would tell a tale that was more of a self-reflecting, I think I can or I know I can type of song." Turns out "Problem 13 - Beat That Bitch with A Bat" is actually a positive song. In the case of this song, "bitch" signifies tribulation, obstacles, America herself. Who knew?
There you have it. And if you listen to the song, you'll hear the line "Ode to America" several times, so I have no doubt the story above is accurate. As for the song itself - it's a banger with it's fat four-to-the-floor beats and the deep recognizable spoken voice of Johnny Dangerous.
As One was a collaboration track between noted NY reggae DJ Bobby Konders and Robert Owens (uncredited), the inimitable house vocalist whose work has already been profiled on this site. Despite excellent production, a catchy horn riff, and the sultry vocals of Owens, this track has been forgotten to history. Here's to hoping at least one DJ finds it and gives it new life in 2011!
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!"
If someone hasn't already released a Best of Miami Classic House album by now, I hereby nominate Some Lovin' for inclusion. Producing under the Liberty City alias, the Miami duo of Oscar G and Ralph Falcon (aka Murk and last profiled in this post) delighted clubgoers when they dropped this gorgeous deep house classic in '92. With a stompin' beat, guttural bass line and an all star diva performance from Bebe Dozier, this track manages to please fans of both vocals and bumpin' beats. In 2003, an updated version with Kristine W. became a commercial success, but I thought it was pretty unremarkable. For this tune, stick with the original.
The B-52's? Yes, for reals. To best appreciate this MK gem, let's watch a live performance of the original song from an appearance on The Tonight Show in 1992:
So it's a decent pop/rock song and I like The B-52's, but not their most memorable track. However, I'm grateful the band or their label commissioned remixes, because it gave us a chance for Marc "MK" Kinchen to do his thing. It was on this track that MK first experimented with stuttering the last syllable of lines. This would become a common technique, but it was also the precursor to what would become his trademark M.O. - pulling single syllables from various places in the vocals and reordering them to create catchy melodies. Of course, the track that showcases this best is his über-classic remix of the Nightcrawlers' Push The Feeling On.
But back to this dub mix of Tell It Like It T-I-Is...Aside from the aforementioned vocals dubs, the track has an excellent deep house bassline and showcases the unique vocals of Kate Pierson. Check it out!
The Funky Green Dogs was one of the earlier commercial aliases of the still very much active production team of Oscar G and Ralph Falcon. They've got an ever-growing list of floor fillers under their belts, but Reach For Me might be their best work and one that defined the Miami house sound. The track is notable for its depth-charge bassline - funky, hypnotic, and relentless all at the same time. Combined with Shauna Solomon's incredibly soulful vocals, this track has house classic written all over it. Play it loud with the bass turned up to fully appreciate:)
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.