One of challenges (and joys) of playing a great classic house set is picking just the right track to kick things off. With a genre based on the concept of classic records that have stood the test of time, the possibilities are endless. Name one good choice and the DJ next to you will name something completely different, but arguably just as valid. A strong start will inevitably set the tone for things to come, and Nu Civilization‘s gorgeous anthem “Wake Up(Shay-Ama)” has done the trick rather nicely for me many, many times.
I first became aware of this record by way of its inclusion on the 4th installment of the revered Techno Trip compilation series that was the brainchild of iconic Toronto DJ and radio host Chris Sheppard. Sheppard’s approach to this series leaned heavily on the underground hardcore, break-beat and techno tracks making the rounds on Toronto’s early rave scene but each release in the series offered a couple of proper house tunes and this was one that immediately stood out for me.
Composed and produced by the Toby Brothers, “Wake Up” has all the elements that make up a great classic house record: early drum machine programming and percussion, synth, piano, a killer bass hook and, of course, an uplifting, soulful vocal with an instant sing-along quality that sticks in your head well into the next day. The arrangement is rather simple and that’s what works so well for this record. That, and the fact that there’s an actual song contained within it (and a great one, at that) and you have a deep house classic with a positive message that aches with soul and a groove you can just lose yourself to. Still a killer cut to drop to this day despite its somewhat underrated status; bonus points if you get your hands on the radio cut from none other than Mr. Frankie Knuckles himself with the call to the dancefloor “Hey, Frankie, tell ’em to wake up”.