I went through major Masters at Work and Strictly Rhythm phases in the first part of the nineties. I still have these large portions of my vinyl wall devoted to each. I was indiscriminate as to which MAW records I bought, I bought em all, and I think I still have a fairly complete 1990–97 Ken and Louie collection.
Even the mixes by numbers for the bucks, that became more and more common as the decade wore on, I bought and filed (we obsessives are like that), but it became an addiction of diminishing returns. The good records became few and fewer, Louie moved off to an endless succession of increasingly light noodle house that I couldn’t deal with, and Kenny, well, it just became a recycling loop: old disco and funk records re-edited, or god knows how many disco mix discs. I stopped listening and haven’t felt the urge to try since.
Strictly I wasn’t quite so obsessive about. The first 100 or so I think I bought without question, and I at least checked out everything they released, but about 93 the shite ratio began to move in the wrong direction. Simply, they released far too much crap. Even the odd killer that filtered through couldn’t save a much-sullied reputation, and, inevitably they crashed a few years back.
2007 has, of course, seen Strictly revived by the UK’s Defected label. Now, I’m not going to go anywhere near the Defected is satanic theme rotated ad-nauseum in the various house forums, but it is fantastic to see perhaps the greatest catalogue in dance music history revived again, even if I don’t need any on vinyl. But, as Chess is to Blues, so Strictly Rhythm is to house (and both labels are equally as influential, it’s just that Americans and the more trad journalists missed that slab of aural history) and more power to the re-issue campaign (and even some new releases, although I would question whether the world really needs a Todd Terry AllStars single).
You could also question some of the releases coming back in the reissue program, the crap-o-meter doesn’t seem to have been repaired at Strictly.
What I really wanted from the new program though was a bunch of intelligently compiled collections, on CD and vinyl, annotated and thoughtfully presented.
Much like the one I got in the mail the other day which brings back together MAW and Strictly.
In a massive burst of club nostalgia, I’ve been annoying one and all with the Strictly MAW collection, a rather good, Louis and Kenny chosen collection of Strictly classics, both obscure and so obvious I though I’d not ever want to hear them again. I’ve not listened to most of these for many, many years. There is a dog here and there, but over three CDs (unmixed, I want the full versions not a party mix – it’s about the songs) it’s both a silly rush of nostalgia for house’s golden age and a journey back to MAW for me.
I can’t ever see myself enjoying or even tolerating most of the slight mush that comes out of their labels these past few years, but this is a hell of a collection, from the Mole People’s epic Break Night (Van Helden for that brief moment he mattered) from 95, to the cheesy pop dance of Ultra Nate’s Free (in it’s Mood 2 Swing 12 minute mix that kept it deep enough), to the, tell me it’s not the best house record ever made, glory of Underground Solution’s Luv Dancing. I’d kill for a couple of Untouchables tracks or Northern Lights instead of a track or too that is actually on the album, but hey, that’s a whim. However, THAT riff on Generate Power is enough to make me forget that, and, the full twelve and three quarter minute garage vocal heaven of Lil Louis’ (as Black Magic) Freedom is a forgotten gem (in that I’d forgotten what a great record it is), losing itself gloriously about two-thirds of the way through – they don’t make em like that anymore (and we miss you, Louis).
Seriously they don’t….