Over the last few months, I’ve been reviewing just a few of the Backbeats series of compilations released by Harmless since 2009. This is a comprehensive overview of various genres of music that numbers everything from Deep Soul, Eighties Garage and Northern Soul to Philly Soul, Disco and House music. One of my favorites of the thirty compilations that Backbeats, a subsidiary of Harmless have released is The Big Apple Bites Back-New York House and Remix Culture, released in July 2010. This is compilation that contains a combination of Salsoul and house music, many of which are remixed by various DJs. Among the DJs remixing tracks are Frankie Knuckles, Kerri Chandler, Joe Clausell and Blaze. These remixes offer a new take on some familiar tracks, bringing a new twist to these songs. On The Big Apple Bites Back-New York House and Remix Culture, are eleven tracks by from artists like First Choice, Inner Life, Candido, Jungle Brothers and The Todd Terry Project. Overall, this is an eclectic compilation, which will appeal to anyone who loves either disco, house or dance music. With an album that’s both eclectic and full of some great music,  what are the highlights of The Big Apple Bites Back-New York House and Remix Culture? That’s what I’ll now tell you.

My first choice is Double Exposure’s Everyman, which was from their 1976 album Ten Per Cent, released on Salsoul Records. Everyman was produced by Norman Baker of the Baker, Harris, Young rhythm section, who were part of M.F.S.B. and later, the Salsoul Orchestra. They too feature on Everyman, written by Allan Felder and Bunny Sigler. The version that features on The Big Apple Bites Back-New York House and Remix Culture, is Joe Claussell’s Remix, which offers a new take on a classic Salsoul track, transforming the track into a ten minute epic, with the typical quality and sound you’d expect from a classic slice of Salsoul. As well as featuring the Baker, Harris, Young rhythm section, Vince Montana Jr. contributes vibes, while Bobby Eli plays guitar and there’s plenty of blazing horns and cascading strings. Together, with a big production and dramatic vocal, the track gets underway, with drums, blazing horns and lush strings combining with a flourish of piano. Tight backing vocals from Barbara Ingram, Carla Benson and Evette Benton accompany the vocal, while the arrangement unfolds, revealing a real joyful and feel-good sound, that has Salsoul written all over it. Joe Claussell’s remix extends the track by two minutes, improving an already stunning track.

Another track from Salsoul Records is First Choice’s Let No Man Put Asunder is another Salsoul Records release. Released in 1977, it’s produced by Ron Baker, Norman Harris and Earl Young, of the Baker, Harris Young rhythm section, This is very definitely one of their very best productions. Here, Frankie Knuckles Remix is chosen, which again, takes the original track and turns it into a dance-floor classic for another generation. Against a backdrop of the Baker, Harris, Young rhythm section, percussion and handclaps Loleatta Holloway’s sassy vocal enters, full of bravado and confidence. While backing vocalists accompany her, Loleatta vamps her way through the track. Over the years, I’ve heard literally dozens of versions of reedits and remixes of this track, but Frankie Knuckles version is right up there with the best. This is because he stays true to the original, realising that with such a good track to start off with, it’s best not to stray to far from the original track which after all, is worthy of being referred to as a classic.

Sometimes when you hear a track, you find it hard to believe how old the track is. With Ain’t No Mountain High Enough by Inner Life it seems just a few years when I first heard this uplifting and joyful Salsoul track, whereas it was released back in 1981. Unlike so many tracks from back then, it’s a track with a timeless sound and one of the best vocals on the compilation. Featuring a real diva-esque vocal from Jocelyn Brown and written by Ashford and Simpson, it was a track from Inner Life’s 1981 album Inner Life. Produced by Patrick Adams and Greg Carmichael, the version chosen is Larry Levan’s Remix. It’s a track that after a subtle, hesitant start, where drums, percussion and then Jocelyn’s vocal combine, the track literally bursts into life. Drums pound, strings swirl, percussion, keyboards and chiming guitars combine before Jocelyn’s powerful and emotive vocal enters. From there on, the track just gets so much better handclaps and bursts of backing vocalists join the arrangement, which combines power and drama. This is easily one of the compilation’s highlights, a track that’s uplifting, dynamic and sounds just fantastic, thanks to the arrangement and Jocelyn’s diva-esque vocal. 

Skyy are another group of the disco era who released so many great tracks on Salsoul during the seventies and early eighties. One of these was Call Me, released in 1981 and taken from Skyy’s Skyyline album. Here, it’s Blaze’s DJ Vocal Mix that features, with the track having a real house sound. Crunchy drumbeats, squelchy synths and keyboards open the track, giving it a contemporary sound. When the female vocal enters, it veers between a thoughtful, understated sound to a louder more powerful, sassy style. Listening to the track, two things strike me. Skyy were a vastly underrated band of the disco era, and the song has a really timeless sound. It could’ve been recorded any time in the last thirty years, whether 1981, 2001 or 2011. Blaze’s remix is one of my favorite remixes on the album, purely because of the way the track is given a really contemporary, vocal house style. If this was played in any club, it would still fill the dance-floor and that’s testament to Skyy, producers Randy Muller and Solomon Roberts Jr. and of course, Blaze’s remixing skills.

Very different to the previous tracks are The Todd Terry Project’s Bango (To The Batmobile). Released in 1988, on Fresh Records, this track came at a time when there was an explosion in popularity of Acid House music. Many tracks were released that sampled various cartoon’s with The Woodentops and Trumpton two that spring to mind. On this track, there’s a sample from Batman as the track opens, before crispy drumbeats, synths and a female vocal enter. The track has a busy sound, with sound effects and laughter part of the arrangement, as the same line is repeated constantly, giving the track a mesmeric, but catchy quality. Although very different from the other tracks I’ve chosen, it demonstrates the evolution of dance music during the late eighties.

The last track I’ve chosen to mention on The Big Apple Bites Back-New York House and Remix Culture, The Jungle Brothers’ I’ll House You, released in 1988. Like the previous track, it demonstrates how dance music had evolved since the seventies, with The Jungle Brothers hip hop sound. With a variety of scratches, crunchy beats and samples combining with a rapped vocal, it’s totally different in sound from other tracks on The Big Apple Bites Back-New York House and Remix Culture. However, like the other tracks, this has one thing in common with previous tracks quality. To me, The Jungle Brothers were one of the finest hip hop and rap groups of that era. Their music was love, happiness and having fun, quite different to other groups whose sound was more gritty. I’ll House You is a totally compelling track, where samples, sound effects, crispy beats and their rapped vocals are merged seamlessly together, creating a masterful soundscape that nearly twenty five years later still sounds just as good, as when I first heard the track.

I always enjoy reviewing compilations like The Big Apple Bites Back-New York House and Remix Culture, which feature an eclectic selection of music. There’s everything on the album from classic disco from Salsoul Records’ Double Exposure, First Choice, Inner Life and Skyy, to the Acid House of The Todd Terry Project and the hip hop sound of The Jungle Brothers. That’s not forgetting classic disco from Candido on Jingo, the old school house sound of Black Riot’s A Day In the Life and Afrikali’s combination of house and Afro Beat on Out Of the Jungle. This demonstrates the sheer depth of consistency and quality of music on The Big Apple Bites Back-New York House and Remix Culture. Although this is an album of some of the finest dance music of the seventies and eighties, the price tag of The Big Apple Bites Back-New York House and Remix Culture isn’t high. Like each of the Backbeats series, the compilation only costs £4, €5 or $6. This allows music lovers to explore a wide range of musical genres at a budget price. In total, there are thirty volumes of the Backbeats’ series, each of which is a perfect introduction to a different musical genre. It’s like a musical education for anyone who wants to find out more about various genres of music. Previously, I’ve reviewed Backbeats compilations featuring South Soul, Philly Soul, New York House and eighties and nineties garage music. Each of these albums have a similar quality of music, like The Big Apple Bites Back-New York House and Remix Culture. If you love either disco, house or dance music, or maybe just want to find out more about either of these genres of music, then The Big Apple Bites Back-New York House and Remix Culture is the perfect introduction for you. Standout Tracks: Double Exposure Everyman, First Choice Let No Man Put Asunder, Inner Life Ain’t No Mountain High Enough and Skyy Call Me.


The Big Apple Bites Back - New York House & Remix Culture


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