UNDER THE INFLUENCE VOLUME ONE COMPILED BY DJ RED GREG.
UNDER THE INFLUENCE VOLUME ONE COMPILED BY DJ RED GREG.
With so much good music being released, sometimes I don’t get the opportunity to write about an album when it’s released. One such album is a compilation of rare soul and disco entitled Under the Influence Volume One Compiled By DJ Red Greg. Released in October 2011, on Joey Negro’s Z Records, this was one of my favorite compilations of 2011. Compiled by Darren Griffiths aka DJ Red Greg, a DJ and crate digger extraordinary. Under the Influence is the first installment in a new series, which the ZR label have planned. Joey Negro know Darren Griffiths’ reputation as a avaricious collector of music and as a talented DJ, so decided that Darren should be given the honor of compiling the first compilation in the series. Using the knowledge and music that only a lifetime spend crate digging in record shops, dusty basements and warehouses gives you, Darren compiled a double album which contains twenty-four delicious slices of lesser know soul and disco tracks, eight of which Darren has edited. Rather than choosing the usual tired collection of “classics,” Darren has decided to dig deeper, way deeper. So what you’ll find on Under the Influence Volume One Compiled By DJ Red Greg, are a mixture of hidden gems, B-sides and vastly underrated tracks. Truly, Under the Influence Volume One Compiled By DJ Red Greg is a compilation containing so many great tracks that choosing just a few of its highlights isn’t easy, but that’s what I’ll now do.
Straight away, the track that opens Under the Influence Volume One Compiled By DJ Red Greg, Donnell Pitman’s Love Explosion grabs your attention. Released on the Arpco label, and produced by Archie Russell and Floyd, the sound it’s a funky sound that opens the track with a loping bass line and drums combining with keyboards and percussion. After that, the arrangement then takes on a Philly Sound influence with cascading strings entering, before Donnell’s emotive and powerful vocal enters. From there on, the track just gets better, with punchy, rasping horns joining the lush strings and funky rhythm section. Similarly, Donnell’s vocal grows in power and emotion as this lost disco gem reveals its brilliance over six majestic minutes.
The first of the eight of DJ Red Greg’s edits is Beckie Bell’s Music Madness, a gorgeous slice of French disco with a soulful sound. This is from Beckie’s 1980 album In Need Of, released in 1980 on the French Trema label and only released in France. Playing on this track are former members of Lafayette Afro Rock band, while Patrick Cowley played synths. It’s an uptempo track with a real feel-good sound, where percussion, stabs of blazing horns and swirling strings combine with Beckie’s beautiful subtle vocal. She’s accompanied by backing vocals throughout a track that mixes funk, soul and even Afro Beat with disco. Why a track so good as this was only released in France seems strange, and DJ Red Greg deserves credit for including this gorgeous track on the compilation.
Andy Crown’s track Why Do I Love You is another of DJ Red Greg’ edits of a track released on the Magic Touch Label. This version sees Andy Crown’s vocal removed, with female backing vocalists and instrumental parts of the track replacing his vocal. The tempo is quick, with keyboards, lush strings, bursts of synths and the rhythm section combining with braying horns and soulful female backing vocalists. While the track has a really lush sound, thanks to the strings, the backing vocalists add a soulful side and the rhythm section add some funk. Later, filters are used effectively and sparingly, transforming the sound and adding an element of drama. It’s a great track, perfect for any dance-floor, with a tempo of 117 beats per minute and its lush disco strings and soulful backing vocalists.
Released on New York’s Reflection Records in 1975, Sophisticated Ladies’ This Ain’t Really Love is a cover version of a track originally recorded by Bobby and Cindy. Written by Bobby Dukes and The O’Jays, it’s four stunning minutes of disco soul, with a diva-esque vocal. Accompanying this vocal, are soaring backing vocalists, crunchy drumbeats, shivering strings, stabs of keyboards and handclaps. Of the twenty-four tracks on Under the Influence Volume One Compiled By DJ Red Greg, this track has the best vocal..by far. Impassioned and powerful, it’s made even better by the backing vocalists. Together with a stomping, dramatic arrangement, this is one of the best tracks on the compilation.
Feeling Freaky by The Vandales was released on Q-City Records, but only as a seven inch single. Here, Parts One and Two of the single are edited together to lengthen. This works really well with blazing horns, sweeping strings, the rhythm section and percussion combining with the vocal to give the track a sound that veers between a laid back and a catchy upbeat sound. What I really like about this track is the gentle, lilting vocal accompanied by crisp drumbeats, female backing vocalists and handclaps. DJ Red Greg’s edit is one of his best on Disc One and transforms this track into one that’s catch and hook laden.
My final choice from Disc One of Under the Influence Volume One Compiled By DJ Red Greg, is a track that was originally released in 1979 on Ardent Records. Sir Ted Ford’s Disco Music is a rare single, that features Fred Wesley’s horn section. When the track opens, it reminds me slightly of George McRae’s The Hustle. What follows sees a flute, rasping horns, the rhythm section and keyboards combine with Ted’s sultry vocal. Meanwhile, Maxine and Julia Waters contribute soaring backing vocal, while the arrangement even features a searing guitar solo. Produced by Ted Ford and featuring some blazing horns from Fred Wesley’s horn section, the track is a sizzling slice of soulful disco.
So Disc One of Under the Influence Volume One Compiled By DJ Red Greg is absolutely crammed full of quality soul, funk and disco music, featuring a few real hidden gems. I’ve only mentioned six of the twelve tracks on Disc One, but there’s much more to Under the Influence Volume One Compiled By DJ Red Greg than these six tracks, with each of the tracks of a consistent quality. However, can Disc Two of Under the Influence Volume One Compiled By DJ Red Greg match the consistency and quality of Disc One? Let’s hope so.
Opening Side Two of Under the Influence Volume One Compiled By DJ Red Greg is a track that combines elements of Afro Beat, funk and soul on a blazing, percussive heavy disco track. Punchy vocals, bursts of sizzling horns, a proliferation of percussion and the funkiest of rhythm sections combine on Rim and Kasa’s Love Me For Real, from their 1982 mini album released on Sum Sum Records. Add to this grand strings and squelchy synths, and the result is a compelling and hugely catchy funk laden track, edited by DJ Red Greg.
Produced by Ross Whitney and released on New Hit Records, You Don’t Want My Love was the B-side of Let’s Go Disco. This is a fast, lush sounding string drenched track with a soulful soaring vocal accompanied by braying horns, rhythm section, keyboards and cascading strings. With a tempo of 129 beats per minutes, it’s one of the quickest tracks on the album, and it also has one of the best vocals on the compilation. It’s a combination of emotion and passion delivered powerfully, against a backdrop of the lushest strings and braying horns.
It’s always interesting to hear the history of songs on a compilation were discovered by the compiler. Lafayette Street’s Can You Dig It was originally hidden on the B-side of an album entitled “Learn To Hustle,” one of numerous albums teaching the listener how to “disco dance.” On the track’s discovery by DJs, the track was released as a single. With its sound effects, funk laden rhythm section and sweeping, swirling strings augmented by bursts of rasping horns it’s a track that marries disco strings with a loping bass line and punchy drums. Produced by Michael Goldberg and Eddie Youngblood, it’s a stunning instrumental track that has a real mid-seventies sound.
When you hear New Love Ltd and Interstate ’95’s So Much To Talk About, from the group’s debut album So Much To Talk About you’ll immediately hear the influence of groups like Brass Construction or B.T. Express. Disco funk is how I’d describe the music, with bursts of rasping horns, the funkiest of rhythm section and lush disco strings combining with percussion before the vocal enters. First a powerful female vocal enters, before being replaced by a near falsetto male vocal. Later, backing vocalists enter as the track speeds along at 127 beats per minute, with the strings swirling frantically as the powerful vocal soars high above the arrangement. It’s a catchy, irresistible slice of percussive heavy disco funk with plenty of lush strings and emotive, powerful vocals.
The sensuous sounding I Got To Have Your Love by Jim Manns, released on Black Giant Records in 1980 features the sultriest of sensuous backing vocalists, sweeping strings, punchy horns, keyboards and rhythm section accompanying Jim’s lead vocal, a beautiful track quickly reveals itself. What makes this such a great track are the female backing vocalists, lush strings and flourishes of keyboards. Produced by Offe Reese this is one of my favorite tracks on the compilation, one that sounds just beautiful.
Crazy by Carl Marshall and The S.D’s is my final choice from Disc Two of Under the Influence Volume One Compiled By DJ Red Greg. This is taken from his 1980 album You, released on Chantilly Records. By 1980, Greg was an experienced singer, songwriter and musician, having worked with The Neville Brothers and previously been a member of Sam and The Soul Machine. The tempo is quick, 126 beats per minute, with crisp drumbeats, guitars, handclaps and bursts of horns that punctuate the arrangement. Carl’s vocal is thoughtful but tender, with backing vocalists accompanying him, while drumbeats and handclaps add to the driving, funky arrangement. Although it’s quite different to other tracks I’ve mentioned, it has something that each of these tracks has in common…quality.
Having wondered whether Disc Two of Under the Influence Volume One Compiled By DJ Red Greg would match the consistency and quality of Disc One, I can certainly say that it does. This is testament to DJ Red Greg aka Darren Griffiths’ determination and tenacity in discovering quality music. Just when you think the music can’t get any better, it does, with a track coming from leftfield to bowl you over. Many of these tracks are little known, hidden gems that are quite stunning. With tracks ranging from soul, funk and disco, there’s an eclectic and compelling selection of music on Under the Influence Volume One Compiled By DJ Red Greg. Some of the tracks incorporate all three genres in one track. Like Disc One, Disc Two is chock full of some great music. Throughout the album, there’s plenty of the lushest disco strings, fat bass lines and blazing horns, together with some hugely soulful vocals. If you like either soul or disco music then Under the Influence Volume One Compiled By DJ Red Greg is an album that belongs in your music collection. Unlike lesser compilations, it’s an eclectic collection of music, where the quality of music is consistent from the first track of Disc One, to the last track on Disc Two. Standout Tracks: , Donnell Pitman Love Explosion, Andy Crown Why Do I Love You, Sophisticated Ladies This Ain’t Really Love and Jim Manns I Got To Have Your Love.
UNDER THE INFLUENCE VOLUME ONE COMPILED BY DJ RED GREG.