Classic House Series Episode #33 – Bottom Heavy – Danny Tenaglia

Danny Tenaglia is called “the DJ’s DJ” for good reason.  After seeing firsthand the genre-less approach the legendary Larry Levan brought to the equally legendary Paradise Garage, Tenaglia vowed to one day create a club concept based on Levan’s bold foundation match with his own musical and experiential vision.  Tenaglia would achieve his dream years later after lengthy residencies at New York institutions Twilo and the Tunnel with his Be Yourself parties at Vinyl where he enjoyed complete creative freedom over every aspect of the music he was playing.  Danny would regularly sit the newest anthems right next to classic favourites from his childhood and extended marathon sets were the norm for this club veteran.  In addition, for an entire generations of clubbers, Danny Tenaglia also rules as the undisputed king of tribal house.

After releasing successful remixes for the likes of Jamiroquai and Madonna, Danny Tenaglia’s debut LP Hard & Soul arrived in 1995.  The title sums it up well:  the album is an infectious mix of the hard-hitting tribal rhythms and percussion that have become Tenaglia’s trademarks with deep, soulful basslines of the nastiest quality.  “Bottom Heavy” remains a standout cut and actually began life as a remix for 80s legends New Order’s track “World (The Price of Love).  When the mix was rejected by the band, Tenaglia asked for permission to release the track as his own minus the vocals and the track became an instant club anthem when released in 1994 on Tribal America Records.

With the original mix clocking in at over 13 minutes in length, this is a real treat for the dancefloor that doesn’t let up for a single moment.  Tenaglia’s debut single firmly establishes the blueprint for his signature dark, dirty, sexy tribal sound and would be best served in the early hours of the morning on a good, powerful sound system.

 

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Classic House Series Episode #32 – Two Fatt Guitars – Direckt

The late 90s could be considered the golden age of disco house, especially with the strong influence of the French Touch sound that was dominant at the time.  Strong releases from Daft Punk, Bob Sinclar, Armand van Helden and others would serve to define the sound, but there remains a plethora of great disco house tracks that pre-date the explosion seen in 1997 and Direckt’s anthem “Two Fatt Guitars” stands out as one of the best.

Here’s a tip for any house producers reading this:  if you’re looking for some great disco tunes to sample, grab a Chic record.  You’ll likely have a much easier time getting a nice, clean loop from their material than some others you may have tried.   Formed by the late Bernard Edwards and producer turned Daft Punk collaborator Nile Rodgers, Chic remains one of the tightest bands you will ever hear and their impact and influence on musical styles ranging from hip-hop to hard rock is arguably unparalleled.

For Direckt (Michael Kirwin and Daniel Bennett), nicking a few samples of Chic’s 1978 megahit “Le Freak” was a wise move indeed.  With sales of over seven million, “Le Freak” was Atlantic Records‘ biggest-selling single until it was topped by Madonna‘s “Vogue“.  With it’s fantastic interplay between Rodgers’ “chucking” guitar licks and Edwards’ booming bass, after over 21 years of DJing “Le Freak” remains not only my favorite Chic song, but my favorite disco record of all time.

Taking a few snippets of the main guitar riff, Direckt drops them over a similarly funky house beat and tops the whole thing off with some serious sub-rattling bass and a bit of old-school ragga toasting.  The funky factor is out of bounds on this one and with the added bonus of the instantly recognizable guitar loop, this one is a floor filler whenever I pull it out.

thekeytothehousemix Sessions Feb 2017 – Mixed by Shawn Austin

It’s been a while since I’ve mixed up a bunch of classics for the masses so here’s a tasty selection that includes many track featured right here on thekeytothehouse.  Enjoy!

Classic House Series Episode #31 – It’s All Good(Full Intention Mixes) – Da Mob feat. Jocelyn Brown

In preparation for the launch of his incredibly successful and influential Subliminal Records label, internationally renowned DJ and producer Erick Morillo made sure he had all of his bases covered.  Having achieved his first success through a plethora of releases on the legendary Strictly Rhythm label, Morillo knew firsthand what was needed to establish Subliminal as a leader in  top quality house music.

It’s All Good” remains high on the list of the very best tracks to come out of the Subliminal camp and that should come as no surprise given the producers behind it.  The second release from Da Mob (after 1997’s “Fun which also served as the label’s debut release) is a soulful, funky vocal house number with a nice jazzy feel and the incredible vocals of legendary R&B and dance music singer Jocelyn Brown.  The 2×12″ release features a dub courtesy of The Dronez, but the real gems in this package come courtesy of the gorgeous remixes from acclaimed house producers Full Intention.

Michael Gray & Jon Pearn take the original and turn it into an uplifting piano-house anthem with more than pinch of gospel influence and their signature pumping drums and percussion.  The result is a track every house-head dreams about; one minute you’re dancing in a group hug with all your friends and moments later you’re lost in your own world but still completely locked into the same groove as everyone else around you.  Well worth tracking down if you don’t already have it, this one can still deliver in any prime-time house set just as well as it does as a late-night classic.

Classic House Series Episode #30 – Gym Tonic(Thomas Bangalter Mix) – Bob Sinclar

As house tunes go, there are few tracks that have been surrounded by as much controversy with respect to authorship and release as Bob Sinclar‘s (more accurately, Thomas Bangalter‘s) 1998 French-house anthem “Gym Tonic“.  A classic example of the French Touch sound, this particular track has become almost mythical in terms of its origins, release and legacy.  With all the conflicting stories going around the net about this one, this post will be based largely on what seems to be the most reasonable and accepted versions of the story and, hopefully, will provide the most accurate version of the facts without getting Mr. Bangalter and Mr. Sinclar in the same room to sort it out (because that will likely never happen).

Let’s go back a few years to the 1998 Winter Music Conference in Miami.  Thomas and Bob meet and hit it off.  They start talking music and in the discussion it is revealed that Bob wants to make a track using the funk classic “Bad Mouthin’” by Motown Sounds.  Allegedly, Thomas quickly produces the track and adds a cheeky vocal sample from a Jane Fonda‘s  Workout record (2-3-4-5-6-7-8 and back along with some intro snippets).  With the track done, Bangalter hands it over to Sinclar for use on his debut album “Paradise“.  Bangalter’s only request is that the song not be released as a single and that his name is not anywhere on it (likely for not having cleared the rights for either sample).  Sinclar agrees and the track is added to the album.

Fast forward a few weeks to when the initial feedback for Sinclar’s album starts coming in.  The album is great (and it is), but DJs are going bananas over one particular track:  Gym Tonic.  This is where things get interesting (and complicated).

Despite promising Bangalter that he wouldn’t release the track as a single, the pressure is starting to come down from Warner Music, the label responsible for distribution of the album on Sinclar’s Yellow Productions imprint.  There is allegedly some attempt from Sinclar to reach both Bangalter and his manager Pedro Winter.  No success on either attempt.  With increased pressure to get a proper single out to support the album, “Gym Tonic” is released as a single albeit with the words “promo only” tacked on to it.  This reaches Bangalter’s ears and the lawyers start going at it.  But there’s one more heavyweight about to get involved.

The single attracts the attention of Jane Fonda herself and her legal team who are none too pleased about her vocals being sampled without permission.  This further ramps up the litigation with rumours that Fonda wanted as much as $30,000.00 to clear the sample.  Meanwhile, Sinclar’s album is in stores and selling well, all thanks to Bangalter’s production work.

The fallout from this whole episode had some stiff ramifications for Sinclar and our ears as well.  In response to Sinclar disregarding his wishes, Thomas Bangalter removes Sinclar’s remix of Music Sounds Better With You” – Stardust from all future pressings of the CD single (the initial run of discs did include and are now highly sought after).  In addition, Warner goes ahead and commissions a “re-make” of the single by Spacedust under the name “Gym & Tonic“.  While the Motown Sounds sample remains, the vocals are re-recorded (poorly) by a session vocalist and the Spacedust single ended up hitting #1 on the UK singles chart (with a dreadful video to boot, see above).  Lines are drawn and it is assumed that Bangalter and Sinclar will never work together again, or even speak to each other, over the mess.

Controversy aside, one can safely say that the original Thomas Bangalter mix of “Gym Tonic” is a bona fide French-house classic and one of Bangalter’s best productions.  He even goes so far as to include snippets of the scratch samples that he used on his solo production “Spinal Scratch“.  The result is a pumping, swirling dancefloor bomb and if the vocal hook doesn’t get stuck in your head, the insanely catchy Motown Sounds sample will definitely do the trick.  It’s still a treat to drop this one on an unsuspecting crowd today and despite the controversy and fallout from its creation, this one has held up extremely well and your crowd had better be ready for a good workout here (pun fully intended).

 

Classic House Series Episode #29 – Funk-A-Tron – R. Rivera’s Grooves

Legendary house producer Robbie Rivera‘s legacy stems largely from his status as one of the biggest contributors to the tribal-house genre.  The Puerto Rican-born DJ’s signature dark, dirty, underground tribal rhythms with heavy doses of Latin and progressive influences have rocked dancefloors around the world since the mid-90s with hits including “Bang“, “Feel This 2001” and “The Hum Melody“.

Rivera’s 2000 release “Funk-A-Tron” on the equally legendary Subliminal label is a brilliant departure from his usual sound as he serves up a slab of slithering, nasty electro house chock full of needle-sharp synth lines and a bubbling bass groove underneath.  Any Subliminal release at the time was worth listening to, and after about 30 seconds my decision to grab this one was complete.  The track became huge in the clubs and raves and I dropped this one so often that one of the hip-hop DJs I worked with back then went out and bought himself a copy simply because I smashed it week after week.

The original mix has held up well, but for me the Crazee Remix on the flip has always been my go-to.  The track would be resurrected and re-released in 2003 as “Funk-A-Faction” thanks to some new mixes courtesy of electro DJ/Producer Benny Benassi.  With lots of mixes to choose from, this remains a crowd-pleaser to this day and can kick the energy of your audience up to 11 in no time.

Classic House Series Episode #28 – House 4 All – Blunted Dummies

When looking back on people and artists who influenced me as a DJ, one of the first names that comes to mind is Chris Sheppard.  Back in the late 80’s and early 90s, Shep dominated the weekend radio airwaves in Toronto as far as dance music was concerned.  Through his extremely popular and highly informative Pirate Radio Sessions syndicated show on Saturday afternoons and his live-to-air broadcasts from Toronto’s legendary Guvernment(and formerly RPM) nightclub on Saturday nights, Chris Sheppard was the undisputed champion of quality dance music I Canada.  As a dedicated listener, believe me, I learned a lot from those shows.

One common thread throughout Shep’s programming was to use his shows as a format to provide exposure to the more underground house sounds and genres that reflected what was happening in Toronto’s early race scene at the time.  Key to that was to find and play tracks that brought people together on the dancefloor, ones that can create a very communal feeling and a sense of kinship with those around you.  1993’s “House 4 All” is one such record and despite being relatively simple in its creation, producers Shawn Caesar and Ty James (under the name Blunted Dummies) provided a standout track in terms of demonstrating the emotion that could be generated by a jackin’ house tune.

As was the template for many a great classic house track, “House 4 All” is composed mainly of samples; from 5 different sources to be exact.  The underlying organ chords and hi-hats are lifted from “The Poem” by Bobby Konders and this is one of the most important parts of this record.  The organ sounds invoke an unmistakable feeling of being in church and any dedicated house-head will tell you exactly how close being in a packed club with hundreds of strangers locked into the same groove compares to being part of a congregation.  Vocal samples come courtesy of “Happy Music” by the Blackbyrds and that glorious kick that hits you squarely in this chest was lifted from “Dance” – Earth People.  The remaining beats heard throughout the record come from hip-hop samples; specifically, Brand Nubian’s “All For One” and the old-school anthem “Check the Rhyme” by A Tribe Called Quest.  

The end result is actually quite ingenious in terms of getting all the samples to work together and if you’ve got an older crowd looking to hear some truly classic sounds, this one comes highly recommended.