Classic House Episode #26 – It’s Gonna Be Alright – Pussy 2000

In dance music, the concept of combining elements of two of more complete songs to create what is now known as a “mash-up“, “edit” or whatever term is being talked about today, is nothing new.  Ever since audio editing software became commercially available, and with even more primitive methods than that having been used before, people having been mashing up their favourite tunes and from about 1999-2002 it seemed like a new bootleg mix (often of hit-or-miss quality) was hitting websites every day.  Thankfully, some of these were good enough to impress the record labels owning the original tracks used in the mix to allow the remixers, mostly bedroom DJs and aspiring producers, to have the new “mash-up” version commercially released.

This is exactly the case with what began as a bootleg release from the production team known as Pussy 2000 (Andy Jones and Steven James Travell) and what would be commercially released as “It’s Gonna Be Alright” on V2 Music in the US and internationally.  The mash-up combines musical elements from the original six-minute version of the Clash anthem “Rock the Casbah” with the soaring vocals of Sterling Void on his 1987 hit “It’s Alright“.  The two tunes fit together perfectly and with a little bit of pitch shifting to create the groove, you get one serious heavy, funky and fantastic disco house anthem.

The track did extremely well in Canada and received the remix treatment from Chicago house legend DJ Sneak.  The original mix does the most damage on the dancefloor with the sing-along nature of the vocals and the genius idea of turning a a record by The Clash into a house track.  It’s a great one to pull out any time, and older crowd will definitely appreciate the ingredients in this little treat.  Bonus if you can get your hands on the Hard Pussy mix for a deeper darker take on the original.

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The Greatest Electronic Album Ever Made: Homework – Daft Punk Part 4 of 4

This is the final installment in our 4-part review of Daft Punk’s “Homework”.  Be sure to check out Parts 1, 2, and 3 as well!

SIDE D:

13.  Burnin’ – The final side of the album opens with one of Daft Punk’s most frequently overlooked masterpieces.  “Burnin'” is one of those tracks that truly defines DP’s ability to make you listen to try and figure out what exactly these guys were thinking when they literally whipped this one up, all while grooving your butt off.  Whooshing fire truck sirens, alarm bells, and a filtered subtractive synth line all build to a climax before one of the most defining basslines ever heard in house music drops and sends the track into sheer pandemonium.  The drum programming is simply brilliant here, with the lads tapping out what sounds like “Dueling Banjos” for percussion on their drum machines (including some cheeky, slightly out-of-place tom sounds just for fun).  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen this tune absolutely destroy in the clubs and based on the response DP received when they added it to the slightly revamped Alive 2007 set list, this one will continue to endure as a fan favourite.

14.  Indo Silver Club– One word:  MADNESS.  This is Daft Punk at their absolute nuttiest; here they grab a snippet of “Hot Shot” by Karen Young (the only credited sample on the album) and set a bendy bassline to auto-insanity and let ‘er rip.  This is an extremely cool track, one that takes a sample so far out of its original context it’s ridiculous and the result is a great late night tune that served as the duos second Soma single, released simply as “Indo Silver Club“.  The single contained “Part 1”, a heavier, rolling, clanky techno cut, and “Part 2″ which appears on the album.  The 12” (of which I have a copy, tee-hee) is one of the tougher DP releases to track down, but well worth it if you’re a diehard fan.

15.  Alive – Many people are surprised to learn that “Da Funk” was not the first single released from Daft Punk.  In 1994, the duo released their debut E.P. on Soma and UMM Records entitled “The New Wave“, containing two versions of the title track, an early techno number, “Assault”, and what appeared on the single as “Alive(New Wave Final Mix)”.  It is this version that is presented on “Homework” and if you listen to the original arrangement of “The New Wave”, the similarities are present, but not quite as polished as the “Final” product.

Let’s not mince words; “Alive” is a monster of a track.  The final mix is slower in tempo and it starts off heavy with some kicks put through a nice doubling reverb and a single-note bassline.  The effects and synth hooks follow with everything building towards a huge climax before kicking in even harder.  It’s perfect 1996 rave music and shows a marked improvement in terms of arrangement over “The New Wave”, which seems to rely a bit too heavily on its faster tempo and somewhat scattered sounding sequencing and engineering.  “Alive” has endured as a consistent fan favourite, included in both their Alive ’97 and Alive 2006/2007 live shows and lending its name to the tours themselves.  The main thing is it sounds fantastic in a club, even better when the boys tear it apart and put it back together, and is the perfect tune to close an amazing debut album from two unassuming kids from France who banged out a masterpiece in one of their bedrooms and changed the course of house music forever.  Right?

16.  Funk Ad –…..Well, kinda.  Let’s face it, from day one Daft Punk has always approached everything they do with slightly cheeky humour.  The masks, the dog in the video for “Da Funk”, not appearing in their videos themselves (at least not until the release of “Human After All“), you get the idea.  Many will argue for and against the merits of closing such a fantastic debut with a 50-second snippet of “Da Funk” played backwards, but who cares what the real reason behind it is.  Maybe it’s a joke, a DJ tool, a subliminal hook that helps ingrain the album into the fabric of your brain (surely I can’t be the only person this has happened to), or just something more to add to an album that was longer than just about any album released during this time period(73:53).  At this point, after listening to the sheer brilliance of the 15 tracks that preceded it, you would almost come to expect something like this from the guys who knocked out “Rollin’ & Scratchin'”, “Oh Yeah”, etc.

CONCLUSION

“Stands the test of time” is an accolade that’s been misused to the point of being mostly meaningless these days.  “Homework”  is a record that accomplished much more than that, but if we choose to focus on the music alone for a minute, there is a definite timelessness to the album that can be observed simply by looking at how well the tracks hold up to this day in 2012.  Seriously, put on “Around the World” and then show me a current “hot” single or song that is anywhere near as funky as this.  Skrillex‘s “Bangarang” is a decent tune, but if “Da Funk” didn’t exist who’s to say it would either?  If you’re a house DJ and you’re gigging this weekend, pull out “Burnin'” and just watch what happens.  Maybe you’ll thank me on Monday.  The quality of every track on here is light years ahead of where the curve was in 1996 and, quite frankly, where it is today.

One of the reasons why the album has endured and received further acclaim in the years after its release may well be because it was, in fact, too far ahead of its time for most people.  Thomas & Guy-Man introduced a novel approach to making electronic music without deviating too far away from the pop sensibilities that made their tracks instant classics.  Remember too, this was an LP designed with the DJ in mind.  This may have worked a little too well, since Virgin even had difficulties in deciding how best to market the album since DJs of various genres were playing every single track out!  The arrangement of the tracks themselves are very DJ-friendly, consisting of full versions instead of radio edits.  Hmmm…the easier it is to mix and play out the tracks, the more people will play them!  No wonder everybody was on Daft Punk in some form when this album dropped.

At the end of the day, the main reason I selected this recording as the Greatest Electronic Album Ever Made is simply because it is one of the few albums of any genre that I can actually listen to all the way through and it is still a pleasure to do so.  It grabbed me by the ears and soul and hasn’t let go since.  Daft Punk simply made people sit up and say “woah….what is this???”  It broke away from the Eurodance sound that was dominating the genre at the time and made people realize that with a little imagination, some half-decent gear and respect for house music’s founding fathers, you can actually do this yourselves.  This record has influenced everything from my DJ sets to how I approach making my own tunes and has most definitely become one of my “deserted island” records.  I haven’t stopped playing this since I got it and have no plans to stop any time soon.

No album is perfect, but for me, this one definitely comes close.  If you want to hear how half a dozen different house sounds and styles got started, do a little Homework and give this one your attention.

Da funk back to da punk, come on!

We’re still here!

Hey everybody,

I know thekeytothehouse has been quiet lately due to some recent time constraints that haven’t allowed me to devote the proper time to my articles here.  The final two installments in our review of Daft Punk’s Homework will be up soon and much more!  Keep checking back and thanks to everyone for helping me to crack 740 views!

Shouts and respect around the world,

Shawn Austin

 

It Shall Be(Original Mix) – Shawn Austin

Well folks, things are going beautifully here at thekeytothehouse with well over 300 page views and nearly 60 page views of our Eric Prydz presents:  Pryda review alone!  I appreciate all the support and remain grateful and humbled by it.  In that regard, I hope you all will enjoy the new track I finished up this past weekend called “It Shall Be”.  It’s a funky, techy, at times minimal tune, and I hope fans and DJs alike will give it a spin and, please, let me know how you feel about it!!!

It is available for free download and so far, has been getting a great response.  Big thanks to my Twitter superfan Frank Sinop for his compliments and for consistently supporting the blog.  Please leave your comments below on on Soundcloud and you can check out all my tunes at www.soundcloud.com/shawnaustinmusic.

Again, many thanks to all of you for the love and support.  You are always welcome in this house!

Classic House Series, Episode #6 – Let Me Show You – K-Klass

One word to describe this one back in the day:  CHOON!!!

This was one of the gems that used to keep me glued to Chris Sheppard’s Pirate Radio shows during the mid-90’s.  The main reason:  THAT PIANO LINE!!!  “Piano-house”, as it is sometimes called, had its share of moments, but this was the big one for me.  “Let Me Show You” was one of those tracks that started with a burst of energy and it simply doesn’t let up over the course of the tune.

The group known as K-Klass consists of Andy Williams, Carl Thomas, Russ Morgan, and Paul Roberts.  Williams and Thomas met Morgan and Roberts at La Hacienda in Manchester during the 80’s and decided to team up to make some house tracks.  Their gear was very basic, an SH-101 and a Tandy mixer, but this didn’t stop them from making some of the best house music of the early 90s.  The group’s first hit, “Rhythm is a Mystery”, reached number three on the UK singles chart and “Let Me Show You” hit number 13 in 1993.  Since then, they have gone on to release a slew of well received singles and albums, worked with the Pet Shop Boys on their album “Bilingual” and have produced top-notch remixes for the likes of Candi Staton, Rosie Gaines and a classic remix of “I Hate That I Love You” from Rihanna and Ne-Yo.  That one is a personal fave and you should definitely check it out if you haven’t already.

“Let Me Show You” became a rave anthem and a subsequent crossover success.  It is a beautiful combination of a high-energy rhythm section, some powerful synth stabs, vocals from frequent K-Klass collaborator Bobbi Depasois, and the piano hook that sucked people in and never let go.  Many times have I seen a dancefloor scream and raise their hands to the air when the hook comes in and an explosion of madness when the drop comes.  K-Klass remixed and re-released the single in 1999 with a new club mix that has a speed-garage vibe and certainly can hold its own against the original.  However, it is still the original that I find myself reaching for when it’s time to give a party a good kick in the pants.

This is no doubt a seminal tune from the early-90s house era and one that deserves to be pulled out time and again for some pure dancefloor madness.

Classic Canadian House, Episode #2: Happy Days – PJ

It was 1996 and most of the popular “dance” songs to play at the time were predominantly Euro and dance-pop records of the day, but every now and again a house record would come along that slowed things down just a little bit and gave a dancefloor the chance to appreciate the groove once again.  I was working with a mobile company at the time and shortly after meeting the owner, I asked what were the big records he was playing at the time.  He rattled of a list of names, but one that stuck out was “Happy Days” – PJ.

The record started of as a project of Paul Jacobs, who was a university student in Toronto at the time and also DJed and produced on the side.  The bulk of his better known work including “Spanish Fly” and the “Soul Grabber” series, was released on the now-defunct Aquarius Recordings label, also based out of Toronto.  The label had taken an unique approach to their marketing:  vinyl only with very vague black-and-white labels containing only the Aquarius logo (a variation of the zodiac symbol), the producer’s name and the name of the E.P. and a release date from 1970-1979.  The flip side of the vinyl label would contain a photo of the artist whose music had been sampled for the tracks, and on other occasions a random picture of the producer from some point in their childhood years. Aquarius was seeking to bring back the essence and spirit of the disco 12-inch single with their designs and their releases which prominently featured disco samples, and their minimalistic approach probably helped with any sample clearance issues the label might have.  A number of Toronto producers released their early material on the label including The Stickmen, Nick Holder, Mitch Winthrop, and Miguel Migs and Aquarius continued releasing productions until 2003.

“Happy Days” began life way back in 1981 with the release of a track also called “Happy Days” by North End feat. Michelle Wallace.  North End was a project of disco producer Arthur Baker and “Happy Days” was their biggest success.  The success, though, came only after a the track was remixed and re-named “Tee’s Happy” on the b-side of 12″ releases.  This version saw most of the vocals stripped away and the groove was brought to the forefront.  The b-side was played regularly at the legendary Paradise Garage by the equally legendary DJ Larry Levan and quickly became an anthemic track at the club.  Listen above and you’ll hear all of the chunks sampled in the original and remixes over the years.

PJ’s release is not a complicated arrangement; the original (and IMHO best) version simply lifts a section of the guitar solo from “Tee’s Happy” and loops it for about four minutes with a little bit of filtering over a house groove that progresses along with the sample.  The track basic elements filter out, only to have a loop of the chorus (“Happy days, and thing are still okay, we’re going…”) come slamming back in to carry the track to the end.  A lovely little horn loop is added in two sections and is actually one of my favourite elements of the tune.

From my first listen, I knew this was a hot track and the simplicity of the arrangement and the vocal hook would make it appealing to a much broader audience than just the underground disco scene.  It took a minute to catch on, but eventually I would see dozens of people making their way to the dancefloor every time that funky guitar loop started inching its way out of the speakers.  The 12″ release actually contains three cuts, the original and two remixes also from Jacobs that expand on the original concept by extending and adding new samples from the North End track offering several good quality mixes on one release.  The track would go one to be remixed and re-released dozens of times over the years, as recently as 2011, in fact, but I’ve never found a remix that truly matches the pure brilliance of the original.

The tune also received massive support on Canadian dance music radio and was eventually the first Aquarius track to be released on CD single.  Acclaimed house label Defected even snapped it up for overseas release and it quickly became an anthem the world over.  “Happy Days” truly was one of the first tunes to put Canada on the map as far as house music was concerned, and it really hasn’t lost its luster over the years.  A lot of tracks are given the label “timeless”, but this one almost defines it.

Classic House Series, Episode #5 – Magic Feet – The MD Connection

In the early 1990s, there was a strong underground rave culture thriving in Toronto and with it came certain records, both locally and via imp0rts, that became seminal classics in the scene and helped define the vibe of the Toronto house sound.  With a new wave of new DJs embracing the developing sounds of Toronto’s house scene, one of those records was “Magic Feet” – The MD Connection.

Back then, there was only one club in the city where you could go and hear good quality electronic music and actually want to stay until the very end of the night.  Now known as the world-renowned Guvernment Entertainment Complex, in the early nineties it was simply called R.P.M. and served for many years as Toronto’s answer to legendary clubs like Chicago’s Warehouse and New York’s The Loft in terms of breaking new music and creating hits Toronto house-heads could call their own.

“Magic Feet” had a certain attitude that made it stand out against the other jackin’ house tunes of the time.  A prime example of what could be done with basic gear and a good idea, the track is not much more than some Roland 808 and 909 drums, a single note acid line repeated throughout the track and a crushing, balls-to-the wall kick that came in twice on the last bar.  Originally released as part of the “Tracks That Move Ya” album released by veteran house producer Mike Dunn under his MD Connection pseudonym, “Magic Feet” got regular rotation from nightclub and radio legend Chris Sheppard at his weekly shows at RPM and on his groundbreaking Pirate Radio show which dominated the weekend airwaves in Toronto during this period.  Here’s an excellent interview with the man himself from the New Music:

Given Shep’s knack for knowing a good tune when he heard one, Toronto DJs would flock to Play De Record on the weekends to grab the tracks they heard him spin the night before and copies of “Magic Feet” were in constant demand, whether legally or on white label.  The repetitive one-note acid line would play an important part in another classic Toronto house anthem with Sheppard himself having a hand in the production(more on that to come).  The tune, interestingly enough, gained something of a reputation outside of the clubs in Toronto and could regularly be heard at high school dances and formals around the city (especially if you were at one of the ones I played at back then).  It was included on the second installment of Chris Sheppard’s acclaimed “Techno Trip” series which at the time was one of the few releases to feature a proper CD version of the track.

It’s difficult to explain exactly why this tune did so well; it’s a hard, heavy, nasty piece of early techno, to be exact, but whenever I’ve played it, people usually get the idea that it’s time to just lose it for a few minutes and kick up their feet to this battle-tested party weapon.  It’s simple, and it works.  What more could you ask for?