Let me start by saying that, though well aware and indeed wanting full albums of material of the thus above titled for quite some considerable length of time, I’d never got around to doing so. Finally, upon the release of the Hed Kandi ‘Disco Heaven’ compilation 2009 in early October, I did. That album gave me‘Sitting On Top Of The World’, all the prompt I needed.
I went for the newest, the ‘REMIX’ album. First, it gave me twenty-plus tracks; but I also knew if a remix hit well I’d go back to the original, so this would serve as a generous taster. Furthermore, these were previously only available on vinyl, which to me said ‘gift to aficionado’. If you only know disc and mp3, you are missing something – vinyl lives on like pen to paper. Like a photocopy of some great writer’s own hand, if you cannot play vinyl, it is still worth sourcing from those who can. I digress.
I waited longer than I normally have to for a cd in the UK to arrive through the post, even giving me doubt I had actually placed the order, but arrive it eventually did. The wait had, I suppose, only increased my interest, so in through the door and straight on it went.
Positive, indifferent or negative were my thoughts? Well, if you’ve read me before you’ll know I really only like one ballpark in the world of art. I’ll kill any remaining suspense by saying: when was the last time I devoured twenty-six new tracks in full upon the first listen? I’m not sure if I ever have.
So, ‘Joey Negro & The Sunburst Band: The Remixes’. This collection kicks right in with the finest pedigree, giving the perfection of ‘Sitting On Top Of The World’. Lush, rich orchestration leads with lifting strings into a harmonised soaring vocal; rightfully the signature tune to all that is to come, establishing outright where what you now have is fully expecting to take you.
Next up, straight into a rocking spiritual, unabashed with its bold faith, as ‘He Is’ brings us right to today in a gospel cacophony of childhood purity, twirling organ, pulsing drum and original Star Trek travel. So good that to one who follows no religion, here I do: that is music for you. And so the case is put forth, proved, closed and won; and just two tracks in.
I shall continue with my evaluation in a moment, but first, a bit of background. ‘Joey Negro’ is a moniker of one Dave Lee, who has long established his career as dj and producer; the latter under various guises for a decade or more, the former only he could tell. To the best of my knowledge, like many djs, he is not a man who plays instruments. This by no means makes him or others less of a musician: indeed, I believe it often gives a highly tuned ear that surpasses most, allowing instant recognition of the best in each individual strand and how to place it as a whole. It certainly led him to this, amongst others; a place which on listening speaks for itself.
In the last few years Joey Negro & The Sunburst Band have been at the very forefront of creating new the sound of decades gone, whilst combining it with what has come since, and thus proving it is as current and lasting as ever. With three albums under their belt, this release is a remixed selection taken from those. And what a choice of choice it is.
Here I go. I will now throw my gauntlet down, blazing and brazen, in saying that I challenge any great disco, soul, acid-jazz, funk, house lover of the last three decades not to find at least one treasured stallion piece in the rich variety of this noble stable. For me, there are simply too many to choose from to name such a one.
However, we have to start somewhere, so out of those one too many to mention, let me pick up where I left off and on to track three; ‘Everyday’ (COOL MILLION RETR-O-MATIC MIX). Though ageless, at least one generation will find this a total gift. This is the purest slice of a certain genius vibe in the eighties as any great tune of that ilk could be, and in doing so not only stands as is, but alone shows that here is a musical creator who was there when the wave originally hit, knows what coursed through his veins then can course through all now, and so carries on surfing upon that crest, like only the best can.
Onto then ‘Our Lives Are Shaped’ (GRANT NELSON MIX), which carries this signature of the 80’s straight on, though undoubtedly brings it to that which is equally on point to the now. Musically and rhythmically superb, it also serves to give a simple and pure truth in the vocal. Trust me when I say you’ll know, if you’ve learnt anything along your life journey, exactly what I mean on that last point when you listen.
The fifth track, ‘Journey To The Sun’ (DENNIS FERRER MIX) steps up and over into a different gear. Here now we step into a new realm, deeper and more orienteered to a club/dance setting. This is the first I’d skip; not because I don’t like it, far from, simply because that this takes me to a place that though I’d enjoy, I’m not ready for yet. This for me is later. Though one must remember that this is not a mix, it is a selection, so one need not follow what has been set in succession as if delivered by a high priest of the decks. In reflection, I do believe it could be that nonetheless. That in itself smacks of genius in chosen art to me.
I’m not going to go on and list and describe each track, a further twenty one in fact: this would probably both bore you and tire me. Though Pete Simpson, Taka Boom et al – can you sing! Yes, when the sax drifts in as if asked to top what has already come on ‘Everything’s Gonna Be Ok’… when the delicious funk of ‘Free Bass’ kicks boldly straight to the fore, allowing for stomp or lie-back in equal measure… as I hear the comforting confirmation of Maiya James in ‘I Know You Care’… the on the button brilliance of ‘Moving With The Shakers’ (and I’ve not even touched on to CD 2, which I SO could)… Suffice to say, a golden journey of beat, instrument, lyric, vocal and re-touched mix awaits you.
You will have most probably got by now that I think this nothing short of a new classic within my library of musicality. I can not praise it enough, that is given. Upon my very first listen (which is when I wrote this) I began building up a list of those I have to get it to, knowing it will strike with them too.
Trying, though no doubt failing, to remain even a little detached for at least one fleeting moment, I add this. For me, in my mind, what grabs the most (as much as individual tracks do) is the whole; here is a cannon of work that to every seasoned clubber, be they a member of the congregation participator or a true guru dj, holds at least one gem that is gleaming and perfectly polished for a particular point within their own musical odyssey. This is dance now, but equally and boldly holding all that led to it being here. When getting up, the best music to move you hits in the very core, almost offering uncountable ways to follow it; I believe that lives here. As said, this is boogie, disco, soul, funk, house – blended to a level that were it food no Michelen star could justify. Please feel free to come back if you think me wrong, though with assurance I don’t think you will. Of course, I know well that musical taste and the particular within that is wholly personal; though I’d be hard-pressed to think of an unmixed selection that possesses such consistency in feeding head and heart and feet in unison, I know that couldn’t be the same for all. Just buy it. Then play it. Now, maybe you can defy it. Maybe. It’s possible.
Me? I’m saying you’ll get up and dance.
(first published in 2009)