Nowadays, for anyone wanting to try to become a DJ, the equipment is very different to the equipment Johnny “D” DeMairo learnt his trade on. For the wannabe DJ, they can choose from CD decks, USB controllers with software like Traktor or if they’re traditional or old school DJs, they’ll choose a pair of Technics 1210s. However, back in 1980, when Johnny D, whose Johnny D Presents Disco Jamms Volume 1 is released on BBE Music on March 5 2012, started to learn how to mix, he wasn’t quite as lucky. With a set of Lafayette T-2000s the young Johnny DeMairo started a journey that would end up with him becoming a hugely successful DJ, record label owner and owning a record collection numbering an impressive eighty-thousand records.

When aged twelve, Johnny DeMairo started learning to mix on a pair of Lafayette T-2000s his father bought him, this was just the first step on the road to DJ stardom. Quickly, Johnny managed to master his set of Lafayette T-2000s, which as anyone whose ever tried to learn to DJ on a cheap set of decks, is quite a feat, and testament to Johnny’s ability and patience. A year later, Johnny got  new set of Technics 1200 Mk IIs, one of the first sets in New York. That was just the next step on a journey that started with parties at the local high school and in his local neighborhood, before moving onto block parties, where he’d meet much older and more experienced DJs. Undeterred, and with an impressive array of records, Johnny soon won over the older DJs, with his skill and choice of music. His selection of music was eclectic to say the least, with Italo disco and Led Zeppelin sitting next to classics on the West End and Prelude labels. Having impressed his peers with his skills, he’d soon meet a DJ whose skills would impress Johnny no end.

Aged fourteen and having managed to acquire a fake id, Johnny managed to gain entry to New York’s hottest nightclub, Studio 54, where he’d meet resident DJ Leroy Washington. His mixing skills on a set of Thorens’ turntables blew Johnny away, where he’d mix every type of music, all with impeccable timing and stunning mixing skills. Leroy was just one of a series of people who’d inspire Johnny, and a year later, Johnny would have his own residency.

When Johnny was fifteen, he met Danny Cole, a Brooklyn DJ who DJ-ed each Friday and Saturday at Brooklyn’s Plaza Suite. Danny invited Johnny to join him, and together, the duo DJ-ed while live acts like Jimmy Castor also featured at the Plaza Suite. Not only was Johnny was Dj-ing at the Plaza, but also parties at night, and holding down a job in his family business. This allowed him to continue building his record collection, which now numbers eighty-thousand records. These records would find their way into his DJ sets. Around this time, he’d encounter someone else who’d become a huge influence in Johnny’s career, Shep Pettibone.

Back then, Shep Pettibone was one of the hottest DJs on New York radio. Along with Frankie Crocker, the pair ruled New York’s airwaves on Kiss FM. Johnny was hugely impressed by Shep’s reediting and mixing skills, and like Leroy Washington, became influential in shaping Johnny’s nascent career. They weren’t the only DJs who’d influence Johnny though. This also included freestyle DJs Albert Carera and Tony Moran who together, made up the The Latin Rascals. As well as the Latin Rascals, The Dynamic Duo, aka the late Tommy Sozzi and Tommy Musto both influenced Johhny. All of these DJs played their part influencing Johnny’s DJ career. 

Through meeting DJ at record pools and in clubs, Johnny soon had numerous contacts among New York’s music community. However, soon, he’d have contacts much further afield. Although Johnny had plenty contacts within New York, he needed contacts further afield. He was able to increase his contacts worldwide by joining a promotion company the Street Informations Network. This allowed him to network with DJs from worldwide and also played a part in Johnny forming his own record company Henry Street, which became one of the most important and influential label. 

However, Johnny’s new compilation Johnny D Presents Disco Jamms Volume 1 isn’t a compilation of tracks from his Henry Street label. Instead, it’s music that personal to him and music that helped shape his Henry Street label. They’re tracks from a variety of sources, ranging from his diligent crate digging expeditions across New York’s record shops, to tracks that he heard on Shep Pettibone and Frankie Crocker’s radio shows. Add to that, tracks he’d heard in clubs or alternative mixes of classic tracks he’s discovered then you’ll realize that this is music from a wide range of sources. These says Johnny D are his “secret weapon tracks” and “real disco.” Here, Johnny shares these “secret weapon tracks” with everyone on Johnny D Presents Disco Jamms Volume 1, which I’ll now tell you about.

On Johnny D Presents Disco Jamms Volume 1 on BBE Music, you’ll find a total of twenty tracks on two discs. Unlike other inferior compilations where you find many of the same tracks recurring time and time again, this isn’t the case here. Instead, this is a refreshingly eclectic collecting music ranging from Philly Soul, house and Euro Disco, to soul, R&B and disco. This allows you a sneak preview into the world of Johnny D’s musical influences and DJ sets. With music ranging from the Philly soul of The O’Jays, the classic house of Klein and MBO’s Dirty Talk, the Euro Disco of Cerrone’s Look For Love and the Brooklyn, Bronx and Queen’s Band mixture of R&B and post-disco on Time For Love, you get the idea of the quality of music on the compilation. If that’s not enough, how about the soul of Ashford and Simpson’s One More Try, Skky’s classic disco track Call Me or the electro disco of the B Beat Girls’ For the Same Man. Quite simply, Johnny D is a man with an impeccable and eclectic taste in music, and on Johnny D Presents Disco Jamms Volume 1, he throws just a few musical curve balls. This is what makes this compilation just so irresistible, as you never know what to expect next. Never try to second guess Johnny D, as it’s almost impossible to guess what direction Johnny D Presents Disco Jamms Volume 1 will take next. However, I’ve been given a preview of Johnny D Presents Disco Jamms Volume 1 and can tell you about a few of the twists and turns of this excellent compilation.

Johnny D Presents Disco Jamms Volume 1 opens with The System’s It’s Passion, a track released in 1982 on the Mirage label. Produced by David Frank and Mic Murphy, it’s a combination of electro and disco with synths and drums driving the track along while a powerful and emotive vocal sits atop the arrangement. The track has an old school electro sound because of the use of synths and drum machines, but is a welcome reminder of the early eighties electro disco sound.

Very different is The O’Jays track This Time Baby from their 1978 album So Full of Love, which reached number six in the US Billboard 200 and number one in the US R&B Charts. This was the third O’Jays album to be certified platinum and is a track that typifies everything that’s good about the Philly Sound. Not only that, but it’s an interesting choice of track. Whereas many compilers would’ve chosen one of The O’Jays hit singles, Johnny has chose a less obvious, but stunning track from The O’Jays. A combination of swirling, sweeping strings, driving rhythm section, piano and guitars open the track, before a flourish of drums and strings signals the entrance of the vocal. Against a fast moving arrangement, Eddie promises that this time their love will work. Meanwhile, Walt and Sammy contribute backing vocals, while blazing horns, swirling strings, funky guitars and a punchy rhythm section combine to create a fast, driving arrangement. Combined with powerful vocal, it’s a winning combination that sees Thom Bell successfully mix elements of soul and funk to create one of the highlights of Johnny D Presents Disco Jamms Volume 1.

From one dance-floor classic to another from Klein and MBO, which inspired New Order to change their musical direction to one that was dance-floor influenced. Klein and MBO are from Italy’s post Italo Disco scene,  releasing a trio of hits during the mid-eighties. These were Dirty Talk, Wonderful and The MBO Theme, which became favorites in both the New York garage and Chicago house scenes. Of these three tracks, Dirty Talk, released in 1982 on Zanza Records is a stonewall classic. A compilation or crispy drumbeats and squelchy synths combine to give the sound a real electro and techy disco sound. Throw in hissing cymbals and handclaps and you’ve the recipe for a timeless dance-floor classic, one of the best of early eighties nascent garage and Chicago house scenes.

One track I was delighted to find on Johnny D Presents Disco Jamms Volume 1 was the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens Band track Time For Love, from their 1981 debut album The Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens Band. My reason for welcoming the addition of this track on the compilation, is a few years ago, this was one of several hundred albums I lost in somewhat tragic circumstances. So to hear a track from the album on this compilation made my day. The track is a combination of soul, funk and disco with the funkiest of loping bass lines featuring throughout the track. Meanwhile a soaring, emotive vocal is accompanied by sweet backing vocals. This is set to a dance-floor friendly beat, where the rhythm section, flourishes of keyboards and guitars provide a backdrop that combines elements, of funk, soul and disco. Having not heard the track for a few years now, it’s a welcome reminder of just how talented and versatile a band the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens Band were.

Two classic disco tracks that I was also pleased to see feature in this compilation are Cerrone’s Look For Love and Skyy’s Call Me. Look For Love was released by Cerrrone in 1979 as a single, and was from Jean Marc Cerrone’s 1978 album Cerrone IV-The Golden Touch. This was just one of seven albums released between 1976 and 1979. Of the many tracks recorded by Cerrone, Johnny couldn’t have chosen better than this beautiful, lush sounding epic, with a grand sweeping arrangement. Rather than choose the four minute original, Johnny has chosen a ten minute extended version. It’s a catchy track, full of hooks, a stomping disco beat and lovely female vocal and one of my favorite tracks from the compilation.

The other classic disco track is Skyy’s Call Me released on 1981, on one of the classic disco labels Salsoul Records. Written by Randy Muller and produced by Randy Muller and Solomon Roberts, this is from Skyy’s 1981 Skyy Line album. It’s a track that marries elements of funk with a disco beat. Atop the loping bass line, crisp driving beats and chiming guitars sits a dramatic vocal accompanied by backing vocals. Later, bursts of keyboards and rocky sounding guitars give the track a quite different sound to earlier Salsoul tracks. However, this track has one thing in common with these tracks…quality.

Ashford and Simpson were also known for writing, producing and recording quality music, including One More Try released in 1976, reaching number nine in th US Dance Charts. This track is from their album Come As You Are, which reached number 189 in the US Billboard 200 and thirty-five in the US R&B Charts. Why the single never fared better, is a mystery given its sound and quality. It’s a perfect tempo for the dance-floor 124 beats per minute, with an arrangement driven along by chiming, soaring guitars and rhythm section. Atop that sits Valerie and Nick’s vocals, while drums crisp and fast accompany the dual guitars, on this this hugely catchy and dramatic track. This is very definitely a welcome addition to Johnny D Presents Disco Jamms Volume 1.

WIth so many great tracks on Johnny D Presents Disco Jamms Volume 1, it’s difficult just to pick a selection to review. One track definitely that deserves a mention in the electro disco of Spencer Jones How To Win Your Love. Released in the Netherlands in 1986, on the Injection Disco Dance label, the arrangement marries an electro sound to a disco beat and even features a touch of hip hop. Add to this the sweetest of vocals and you’ve got a track that has an irresistibly catchy, feel-good sound.

The B-Beat Girls contribute For the Same Man, a single from 1983, released on 25 West Records. It has an old school electro sound, with a proliferation of squelchy synths and crunchy beats accompanying a sassy, confident vocal. The track veers between a diva-esque vocal style to dramatic spoken style full of jealousy and rivalry. All the while, synths and beats providing a retro backdrop, to a track that reminds me of how dance music used to sound.

My final choice from Johnny D Presents Disco Jamms Volume 1 is Lafleur’s Dance Till We Drop (Dub Version), released in 1983 on the Dutch label High Fashion Music. This track I feel has a real Euro Disco sound. Pounding drums of and percussion open this epic track lasting eight minutes, driving it along, as it builds and builds. Later, keyboards enters, joining the variety of drums and percussion. A vocoder is used, adding to the Euro Disco sound, while the funkiest of bass lines enters. Later, a variety of types of drums are used during an extended breakdown, their different sounds adding to the track’s catchy, yet driving sound. They give way to synths, bursts of horns and subtle backing vocalists who drop out when the drums and percussion drive the track to its dramatic ending. 

Having been able to listen to Johnny D Presents Disco Jamms Volume 1 for a number of days, I’ve been struck by not just the quality of the music, but by the eclectic range of music. The compilation features not just the twenty tracks, ten of which I’ve reviewed here, but a continuous disco mix from Johnny D. He really has an exquisite taste in music, with everything from Philly Soul, house and Euro Disco, to soul, R&B and disco, with even a sprinkling of electro and funk thrown in for good measure. On Johnny D Presents Disco Jamms Volume 1 we’re given a sneak preview into the colossus that is Johnny’s eighty-thousand record collection and just what one of his DJ sets sounds like. Anyone who can compile a compilation which features everything from the soulful sound of The O’Jays and Ashford and Simpson, to a stonewall club classic Klein and MBO’s Dirty Talk, to Cerrone and Skyy’s disco classics, deserves your admiration and attention. Not only that, but of the twenty tracks on the album, there’s neither any filler or poor tracks, just good quality dance music. You also get the chance to hear Johnny’s disco mix which demonstrates just how talented a DJ he really is. So having told you all about Johnny D Presents Disco Jamms Volume 1, do I recommend that you buy this compilation? Of course you should, Johnny D Presents Disco Jamms Volume 1 is an album full of some fantastic music which  is constantly crossing the musical genres, resulting in an irresistible combination of some stunning dance music. Standout Tracks: The O’Jays This Time Baby, Klein and MBO Dirty Talk, Cerrone Look For Love and Lafleur Dance Till We Drop (Dub Version).





    thank you for a great review
    i’m glad you like it
    i hope it connects with people as it did you
    take care
    give me your address and i will send you more mixes if you are interested.
    johnny d

    • Hi Johnny, Thanks for the kind comments. I really enjoyed the album, it was great to hear such an eclectic and fresh mix of music. I’ve had a lot of positive feedback and emails from people who said they’ll be buying the album when it comes out. I can’t wait for Volume 2 as to hear such a refreshing mix of music is a rarity. I’d love to hear some more of your mixes and my email address is . Thanks again for your comments. Good luck with the compilation.

      Best Wishes,
      Derek Anderson.

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