Classic House Series Episode #22 – Makes Me Love You – Eclipse

1998 and 1999 were such strong years for disco house that it’s easy to see why some of the best records of that era are often overshadowed by the ones that crossed over into commercial success.  Such is the case with the gorgeous piano house anthem “Makes Me Love You” from Eclipse, one of many pseudonyms used by veteran house producers Bini & Martini.

The Italian duo began producing tracks together in 1996 under the name House of Glass and soon developed a strong reputation as remixers lending their touch to releases from Wamdue Project, Soul Providers and their classic remix of “My Washing Machine” – Sikk.

Makes Me Love You” is a shimmering piece of summertime house based around a loop lifted from Sister Sledge‘s classic “Thinking of You“.  Serving as the 100th release on Britain’s renowned Azuli label, Bini & Martini add some fittingly tropical percussion and a soaring piano line together with some re-sung vocal stabs from the original.  The result is a 10-minute anthem, perfect for the end of the night and a great way to bring your crowd back down to earth before sending them home.  Hitting #25 on the UK charts, this one may not have hit the same commercial heights that Stardust, Armand and Phats & Small did at the time, but it remains a top disco house tune and is worthy of being added to any late-night house set.

 

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Classic House Series Episode #21 – T.I.T.T.S(Take It To The Street)/ Music Box – The Buffalo Bunch

Any Daft Punk fan worth their salt knows that beyond the scope of their studio albums and live shows Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo have forged their own successful solo projects through their labels Roule and Crydamoure respectively.

Thomas’ Roule label was arguably the more commercially successful of the two, particularly with the massive worldwide popularity of Music Sounds Better With You” – Stardust, and later releases featured Thomas’ collaborations with DJ Falcon under their Together alias.  Roule also released the debut single “Vertigo” by Alan Braxe and singles from house legends Roy Davis Jr. and Romanthony, who would provide vocals on “One More Time” and “Too Long” from DP’s Discovery album.

The Crydamoure sound was also built on the above formula but took an even more bare, stripped-back approach to production and focused on sampling (and microsampling) obscure R&B and disco loops, then drowning them in effects and filters.  The bulk of the Crydamoure catalogue comes directly from Guy-Man and label partner Eric Chedeville under their guise of Le Knight Club, together with collaborations and releases from DJ Sneak, Sedat the Turkish Avenger, and the Buffalo Bunch.

Consisting of Guy-Man’s brother Paul de Homem-Christo and Romain Seo, the Buffalo Bunch have the distinction of being the only artists to have a release of Roule’s sister label Scratche.  The single, “Buffalo Club” was well received but it wasn’t until the release of their double-single on Crydamoure that people really took notice.

The A-side, Take It To The Street, loops a portion of Leo Sayer’s “You Make Me Feel Like Dancing” over the hi-hat and cymbal heavy percussion the Bunch are known for.  Definitely a decent tune, but IMHO the real gem lies on the flip.

Music Box is an absolute cracker of a tune and was created by combining three different samples; “New York City” – Boney M. and “No, No, Joe” and “Thank You, Mr. DJ” both by Silver Connection.  The samples are delightfully obscure, but come together over some tough-as-nails beats to create a delightful disco house stomper.  Check out the video above to see how the sampling was done as this remains my favourite Crydamoure release and whips a crowd into a frenzy.

Classic House Series Episode #20 – 2Future4U EP – Armand van Helden

2futurecover

When discussing the term “longevity” as it relates to house music, one must certainly give big credit to Boston native Armand van Helden.  Since 1993, AVH has been at the forefront of house music and created a signature sound that can veer from uplifting and melodic to dark, tribal and downright evil.  His early productions had a darker, tribal edge to them as was the case with his breakout hit “Witch Doktor“, which remains a great track to this day and showed me that even the more underground side of house could work with commercial audiences when done properly.  His remixography could fill an encyclopedia and these days it’s more of a question of “who hasn’t he remixed???”  He created such enduring club classics as “The Funk Phenomena“, “My My My” and “Hear My Name” and a plethora of full-length albums to accompany them.  In 1998, however, he gave us what may well be his most enjoyable release.

1998 was the year of disco-house.  Daft Punk, Stardust, Phats & Small and a host of others scored serious hits using filtered loops, house beats and occasionally a guest vocalist singing over top.  When Mr. van Helden release his 2Future4U EP as a teaser to the full-length album that would drop a few months later, the crossover hit “U Don’t Know Me” featuring Duane Harden definitely fell into this category and once DJs found out that this 2xLP with the somewhat bizarre-looking cover was the place to find it, the EP was quickly snapped up in favour of waiting for a 12″ single release.

Upon arriving home and listening to the 5 tracks, it soon became evident that this was a very unique release.  Instead of copying the U Don’t Know Me formula over again, people discovered that not only was every track on the EP amazing, but quite varied as well.  Let’s take a quick track-by-track look at what goodies lay hidden on this gem:

1.  Mother Earth feat. Tekitha from Wu-Tang Clan

Moody, brooding and featuring frequent Wu-Tang collaborator Tekitha, this is a great opener and clocking in a nearly 10 minutes, it’s downright hypnotizing if heard in its entirety.

2.  Psychic Bounty Killerz  Pt. 2 feat. DJ Sneak

Opening with a cheesy pizzicato riff, a direct slag at Sash!, Faithless and others who were profiting off tracks like this at the time, it’s soon cut off with a hail of gunshots before descending into madness.  Any track featuring the talents of both Sneak and AVH is sure to please, this one delightfully sampling “You Stepped Into My Life” – Melba Moore and “Freelance” – Grandmaster Flash (the lyric is “disco dream on the mean machine”), and featuring scratches and stutter samples galore, I have seen this one shred many a dancefloor.

3.  U Don’t Know Me feat. Duane Harden

This was the track that sucked everyone in.  When van Helden left Harden alone in the studio to write a song over the loop he had created using the now instantly recognizable string from “Dance With You” – Carrie Lucas and the drums from the legendary “Plastic Dreams” – Jaydee while he took a nap, I don’t think he could have predicted what the end result would be:  vocal disco house at its finest and endearing enough to be pulled out to this day.

4.  Entra Mi Casa feat. Mita

Dirty, sexy, latin-tribal house with vocalist Mita moaning some allegedly very explicit lyrics in Spanish over top.  Drop this in a club and expect to see steam rising from the dancefloor.

5.  Necessary Evil

There are a few WTF moments on this EP, but none so more than when the needle hit the last track:  a saw???  Yup, a saw sampled from “Keep Your Eye On Me” drives this stomper complete with preacher vocals coming in about halfway through.  You might not initially think so, but this is a club-rocker.

The EP served as a fine introduction to the full-length album which would include further hits “Flowerz” and “The Boogie Monster“.  This one still stands out well on its own and is a must-have for any house DJ.

 

The Greatest Club Record Ever Made

For some it’s “Blue Monday” – New Order.  For others it’s “I Feel Love” – Donna Summer.  Everyone has their favourite, the one, the ultimate club track for life that will never lose its magic no matter what.

For me that track happens to be “Music Sounds Better With You” – Stardust.

Here’s a record that landed upon this planet like a nuclear bomb.  Its impact has been seen through countless imitators, but no one, NO ONE, has even come close to replicating the sound created by members Thomas Bangalter, Alan Braxe, and vocalist Benjamin Diamond.

I clearly remember the weekend it descended on Toronto.  I was watching the Electric Circus (this should bring back some good/bad memories for fans of dance music in Toronto) broadcast live from Canada’s Wonderland and the guest DJ for the show was none other than Chicago/Toronto house legend DJ Sneak, whose strong ties to Bangalter and the whole Daft Punk crew came through loud and clear during his set.  He simply played one record for his entire time on air:  Music Sounds Better With You.

I knew the record was something truly unique and special as soon as I heard it.  The formula was simple enough:  a pounding 4-4 kick drum, a disco loop and a very catchy vocal hook.  I won’t lie, I LOVE DISCO HOUSE and the fact that this was the only record Sneak played for his live set told me this was something I’d better add to my collection in a hurry.  Never mind the fact that I heard it AGAIN that night on the radio while moving my mom’s car.

The next day, I promptly made my way down to Toronto DJ institution Play De Record not even knowing the proper title of the track nor the artist.  Clearly, Eugene Tam and crew had been tipped off about this one(no surprises there) as a batch of 12″ vinyls bearing the iconic Roulé label and the simple title “Music Sounds Better With You” – Stardust were displayed very prominently upon my arrival.  As I was examining this somewhat vague single-sided pressing, the remaining copies were scooped up and paid for by about 6 other DJs who clearly had had a similar experience to mine.  I have never seen anything like that at any record store since, so I promptly paid for mine (the $14.99 import price being well worth it) and headed home to give this tune a proper spin on my home system.

My 12″ copy is now so worn from beating the hell out of it over a period of many years that you can hear the wear from cuing when you first put it on.  But back then, the first thing that hit me was the absolute THROB of a bassline that Bangalter and Braxe laid overtop of the sample (I’ll get to that in a minute) and how the arrangement was so simple, yet so very, very effective.  You could sing it, it was easy to groove to and Ben Diamond’s vocal hook stayed in my head for the rest of the weekend.  I spent that time mixing it into essentially every other house tune I had at the time, and MSBWY stuck out like a sore thumb for just how incredibly GOOD it was.

How the record came into being is a unique story unto itself.   The song was conceived in Rex Club, Paris, where the trio were playing a live set. If anyone out there has audio or video footage of this landmark event, please let me know!  Bangalter and Braxe created the instrumental, which Diamond instinctively sang the title words over. The next day they laid down the track in the studio, adding the sample of Chaka Khan’s “Fate”(explained in the video above). The group then wisely handed mastering duties over to Nilesh “Nilz” Patel at the Exchange in London.  RIP, our friend in house music.

The demand for the single, only available on 12″ initially, was so great that there were literally people lined up at the ferry docks in England waiting with cash in hand to buy copies as soon as they arrived from France.  The tune would eventually sell over 1 MILLION COPIES ON VINYL (let’s see that happen today) and let’s not forget the success it had with the CD single version (first disc in my CD wallet, every time).   I even went out and tracked down the Chaka Khan album the sample came from, What’cha Gonna Do For Me.  Great album, BTW.

The single spawned a host of imitators who essentially copied Stardust’s formula of house groove+disco sample+vocals(live or sampled).  Phats & Small had a hit with “Turn Around” as did Armand Van Helden feat. Duane Harden with “U Don’t Know Me”.  NOTHING, however, has ever come close to the magic of the original.  Countless bootlegs have surfaced, my favourite being the mash-up with Madonna’s “Holiday” by the Stuntmasters (played out many times by Bangalter himself), but the original, I’ve discovered, can work on so many levels with just about any kind of crowd that there really isn’t a reason not to play it to this day.

So whatever happened to Stardust?  Thomas Bangalter carried on his ingenious production methods with Daft Punk after turning down a reported $3 million deal to deliver a full Stardust album, stating he couldn’t possibly top MSBWY.  Alan Braxe came into his own as a producer and formed a successful collaboration with fellow Frenchman Fred Falke to deliver some of the best original productions and remixes that truly helped define the “French Touch” sound.  Benjamin Diamond release a solo album, Strange Attitude and was briefly a member of the short-live group We In Music.

What are your thoughts on this epic tune?  Please post your thoughts and comments below and let’s hear what you have to say about this timeless piece of house music.