Cute sleeves and pink vinyls lovers beware: the following might be highly unappealing.
This Various Artists 3-track record is definitely not eye-catching. A plain black record with no sticker, no song label, that you will hardly identify in-store. Yet, this visual simplicity conceals some crisp, musically rich material. As the saying goes, you can’t judge a book by its cover. Let’s do the same with this vinyl.
These three tracks are edit-king Ron Hardy classics. If one can be labelled as such, it is him. The Chicago-born DJ is not as notorious as his contemporaries Frankie Knuckles and Larry Levan, as he never properly marketed his productions.
However, Ron Hardy was extremely prolific, mixing and remixing hundreds of tracks. Some were never played more than once, when he was a weekend resident at the Music Box club in Chicago.
Some of these new tracks are artificially accelerated – one of Hardy’s signature production methods. His long-time promoter Robert Williams (who originally scouted him and implemented his Music Box gig) explained this trait saying that Hardy perceived the music slower than what it really was, mostly due to his medicine addictions. His sets were thus famous for being quite faster than your typical house set. Even though he was aware of this discrepancy, he chose to maintain it throughout his career as he liked the energy it was transmitting to his audience.
This can clearly be heard on the B1 of She’s a Flamethrower by J. Geils Band. This vintage-sounding track, almost within the range of pop-rock, does the job done. It conveys an enormous energy, and fits in Hardy’s musical strategy. One can only imagine how easily it could make a crowd dance…
The last part of the track, equally as powerful, bears an almost futuristic tone. Barely built with synths and modern percussions, it shows the innovative ear of a genre pioneer.
The second track of the B-side is an edit of Streetlife’s Tearing Down the Walls. Its musical atmosphere differs from the previous one. It reminds the boogie and disco roots of house music. In that regard, the song sounds more “mainstream”, using male vocals – a notable feature of original disco productions. A saxophone solo then plays halfway through the track, introducing the chorus in a more dynamic way and restoring the song’s uniqueness.
However, the A-side is the undisputed stroke of genius of this vinyl. First Choice’s Love and Happiness, better known through its 2010 release on Rush Hour, seems to single-handedly justify the whole purpose of the vinyl.
The vocals are simple yet spellbinding. An old man and a young woman’s voice converse.
« love and happiness //something that want to make you do wrong,
something that want to make you do write //
make you stay on at night »
As soon as the track starts, a unique alchemy operates. The typical crackling of the time and the first sentences of the chorus make the sound seem quite slow and vintage. But as soon as the synth chords – the real signature of the song – appear, everything sounds much more dynamic. The female voice adds a bit a freshness as the song progresses.
Quite quickly, the introductory jazzy phase gives way to an unmistakably deep-house part with a baseline and a snare, turning the track in a darker yet rousing melody. A genuine Ron Hardy war machine.
This truly eclectic vinyl (which release date is still to be determined) is not for the standard listener. Its uniqueness makes it interesting but quite difficult to comprehend for someone who is used to modern production processes.
However, this vinyl is particularly good, and the A-side is a genuine gem. The mix of influences is what we truly appreciate in this record. It is the feature who made house music a genre, and it is quite remarkable with these edits. This record is not a mere object; it is an acoustic journey through the various musical heritages which impressed and influenced artists back there, through the scope of one of the masters of this movement: Ron Hardy.
Anyway, if this record just does not do the trick for you, you might as well just listen it in reverse, as Hardy used to do. The outcome is debatable, but it will give you an idea of the artist’s audacity during his Music Box residency.