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!
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”.
As yesterday marked the 2nd anniversary of the passing of perhaps the truest legend in house music, it would rather ignorant to have a blog about classic house and not have a post about Frankie Knuckles and one of his most revered productions, Tears. Laying the groundwork for the genre through his sets at Chicago’s legendary Warehouse club, the broad genre known as house music took its name from the club in tribute to the records Knuckles played there. Knuckles would often bring in a Roland 909 drum machine to play over other tracks, giving a distinct, heavy-sounding edge to his signature style.
Produced in conjunction with Japanese producer and protegé of Knuckles’ Satoshi Tomiie, the track features a seminal vocal from another house music legend Robert Owens. The track was an instant club success and the mournful narrative of the lyrics firmly established it as a timeless classic.
Numerous remixes have followed over the years, including a pumping remix courtesy of Full Intention in 1999 to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the original. After finally finding a vinyl copy about 2 years ago, I was inspired to put together a remix of my own not long after Knuckles’ passing. While I can’t say if it is as timeless as the original, I wanted to give it a bit of an update while putting the emphasis on the song and the groove.
Easy to pull out and incorporate in any form, “Tears” will live on forever as one of the greatest house records ever made and one of the greatest songs ever recorded.