MASTERS AT WORK PRESENTS WEST END RECORDS THE 25TH ANNIVERSARY MASTERMIX.
MASTERS AT WORK PRESENTS WEST END RECORDS THE 25TH ANNIVERSARY MASTERMIX.
Along with Salsoul, Casablanca, SAM and Prelude Records, West End Records is seen as one of the most important labels in the history of disco. Founded by Ed Kushins and Mel Cherin in 1976, West End Records became one of the most important, influential and popular disco labels. Unlike other labels, West End Records were innovators, not merely content to follow in the footsteps of other labels. Instead, they released records that were unique and innovative, leaving other labels trailing in their wake. Like Salsoul, Casablanca and SAM Records, West End Records music came to define the disco era. With artists like Loose Joints, Taana Gardner, Karen Young and the N.Y.C. Peech Boys, West End Records supplied the soundtrack for New York’s dance-floors. Now thirty-six years later, West End Records’ music is revered, still hugely popular with DJs and music lovers alike. Back in 2001, Masters At Work revisited the West End Records back catalogue releasing Masters At Work Presents West End Records The 25th Anniversary Mastermix. This is a double album where Masters At Work, Louie Vega and Kenny Dope mix a selection of their favorite tracks from West End Records. In total, there are twenty full-length tracks, with a trio of short breaks and loops of songs demonstrating the duo’s creativity as DJs. Of the twenty tracks, Masters At Work have remixed the original tracks. So Masters At Work Presents West End Records The 25th Anniversary Mastermix is a combination of the original tracks in all their glory, and some given a new twist by Masters At Work. Having told you about the album, I’ll now tell about some of the legendary music that can be found on Masters At Work Presents West End Records The 25th Anniversary Mastermix.
Disc One of Masters At Work Presents West End Records The 25th Anniversary Mastermix features thirteen tracks in total, with ten of the tracks full length versions. Among the tracks that feature on Disc One are Loose Joint’s classic Is It All Over My Face, Karen Young’s Hot Shot, N.Y.C. Peech Boys’ Don’t Make Me Wait and Raw Silk’s Do It To the Music. That’s not forgetting tracks by Brenda Taylor, Michele and Mahogany. Truly, there are some stonewall classics on this disc. Five of the tracks have been remixed by Masters At Work, with these remixes being like a labor of love for Kenny and Louie. They realize that they’re working with some of the best tracks of the disco era and treat the tracks with respect. They realize that with music this good, you don’t want to risk doing anything to either detract from the original, or spoil a cherished memory. Their remixes bring something new to the music. While some people might have preferred to hear the original tracks unadorned, I always enjoy hearing a new twist on classic tracks. The other tracks are in their original form, with each track bringing memories flooding back. Since I bought this album back in 2001, I’ve returned to it so many times, loving these classic tracks, which even thirty-six years later, still have a contemporary sound. However, of the thirteen tracks, what are the best on Disc One of Masters At Work Presents West End Records The 25th Anniversary Mastermix?
My first choice from Disc One of Masters At Work Presents West End Records The 25th Anniversary Mastermix, has to be one of West End Records’ best known and best loved tracks, Loose Joints’ Is It All Over My Face. Originally released in 1980, and written and produced by Arthur Russell and Steve D’Aquisto, Masters At Work have remixed the track. They’ve taken a track that was originally nine and a half minutes and shortened it by three minutes. Straight away, there’s a real house sound and feel, with the drumbeats not as crisp, before the keyboards and funky bass kick in. When the vocal enters, parts of the vocal are looped, the same line constantly repeated, building up a sense of anticipation. During a breakdown, the rhythm section, keyboards and percussion drive the track along, while bursts of vocal drift in and out of the arrangement. Later, horns blaze in adding just the final touch to what is a genuine disco classic. Much as I love the original track, Masters At Work have given the track a real contemporary sound. Considering the remix, like the compilation was released back in 2001, it really has stood the test of time. Like all good music, the original and remix has a timeless sound.
Mahogany’s Ride On the Rhythm was released in 1982 and features a vocal from Bernice Watkins. This is another Masters At Work remix, with the track again having a contemporary sound. Squelchy synths, cascading strings and rasping horns combine with the rhythm section before Bernice’s vocal enters. Her voice is suited the arrangement delivering the lyrics with a mixture of emotion, passion and controlled power. Behind her, the arrangement magically marries funk and soul, providing the perfect backdrop for her vocal. When you listen to the track, you realize how sophisticated a track this is, one that’s quite unlike much of the music of the time. Remember this is 1982, when the fashion in music was for synths, drum machines and post punk and“New Romantic” groups. This is very different and unlike much of that music, this track has aged better. With the help of Masters At Work’s remixing skills Ride On the Rhythm remains one of the gems of the West End Records back-catalogue.
During their career, N.Y.C. Peech Boys worked extensively with legendary DJ Larry Levan. Larry produced many of their tracks, co-producing Don’t Make Me Wait with Michael De Benedictus in 1982. This is one of the tracks not remixed by Masters At Work. With a myriad of handclaps, echoey vocals, percussion and synths the track opens. The drumbeats are crunchy, the tempo 115 beats per minute and the track a combination of disco and funk. It’s not a track with the smooth sound of Mahogany’s Ride On the Rhythm. Instead, the arrangement is choppy and busy, before later, the track changes, when the vocals kick in. Later, a rocky sounding guitar solo enters, before the track changes again, delay and echo being used on the vocals, with the track returning to its choppy, busy sound. Having said all that, it’s one of my favorite tracks from the N.Y.C. Peech Boys and demonstrates Larry Levan’s talents as a producer.
Let’s Go Dancin’ by Sparque is an uplifting and joyous track remixed by Masters At Work. Released in 1981, the track was arranged and produced by Larry Joseph, while Larry Levan and Francois K mixed the track. Like so many West End Records releases, this track benefits from a great vocal, almost diva-like in its quality. It’s sung against an arrangement that combines electronic music with disco and funk. With plenty of percussion, keyboards, synths and a rhythm section that injects some funk in to the track, it’s a track with a real joyful, feel-good sound and of course that diva-esque vocal.
My final choice from Disc One of Masters At Work Presents West End Records The 25th Anniversary Mastermix is Karen Young’s Hot Shot, released in 1978. This is the original version, with some filters added to the introduction, where keyboards, handclaps and the rhythm section drive the track along at 122 beats per minute. In some ways, the use of filters heightens the sense of anticipation. After ninety-seconds, Karen’s powerful, sassy vocal enters with blazing horns accompanying her. Meanwhile percussion, keyboards, handclaps and the rhythm section complete the swinging, Latin influenced arrangement. For nearly nine mesmerising, hook laden and hugely catchy minutes Karen’s vocal and one of the best arrangements on Disc One sweep you along. Just when you think things can’t get any better, it does. A prolonged percussion lead breakdown adds to the Latin feel of the track, before a funky bass and then Karen’s sassy vocal reenters. From there on, you can only revel in this glorious track, which to me, rivals Loose Joints for the title of the best track on Disc One.
So, the standard of music on Disc One of Masters At Work Presents West End Records The 25th Anniversary Mastermix proved to be of the highest quality, with my two highlights Loose Joints Is It All Over My Face and Karen Young’s Hotshot. Having said that, there’s so much more to Disc One than either these two tracks, or indeed the five tracks I’ve mentioned. Of the ten full-length tracks, each of them are a snapshot of the kind of music West End Records’ were releasing, and some are among the best tracks West End Records ever released. With tracks by Raw Silk, Brenda Taylor and Michele, there’s some great music throughout Disc One. Each of these thirteen tracks are seamlessly mixed together by Masters At Work. Like their remixing skills, their DJ-ing skills are almost peerless. However, will their DJ-ing and remixing skills and choice of music be just as good on Disc Two of Masters At Work Presents West End Records The 25th Anniversary Mastermix?
Whereas Disc One of Masters At Work Presents West End Records The 25th Anniversary Mastermix featured thirteen tracks, Disc Two only features ten tracks. Of these tracks, there is one short break featuring a loop of Taana Gardner and Billy Nichols and a track from Masters At Work entitled All Night (I Can Do It Right). Among the other eight tracks, are a near fourteen minute epic of Taana Gardner’s When You Touch Me, remixed by Masters At Work. Apart from that track, are Raw Silk’s Just In Time, Shirley Lites’ Heat You Up and a twelve minute remix of North End’s Kind of Life (Kind of Love). With so many great tracks to choose from, choosing just a few to write about isn’t easy, but I’ll now choose the highlights of Disc Two of Masters At Work Presents West End Records The 25th Anniversary Mastermix.
Taana Gardner’s When You Touch Me is my first choice from Disc Two of Masters At Work Presents West End Records The 25th Anniversary Mastermix. Released in 1979 and produced by Kenton Nix, Larry Levan mixed the track. Here, that ten and a half minute original track is transformed into a fourteen minute epic by Masters At Work. With a sizzling scratch, the track gets underway, the sound of the ocean hitting the beach, giving way to an understated combination of the rhythm section and percussion. Taana’s vocal is gentle and subtle vocal, before soaring high above the arrangement. Crunchy beats accompany keyboards, sweeping strings and percussion, as this epic track reveals its hidden charms and subtleties. Suddenly, with the beats crunching, the tempo increases, before the bass and keyboards enter. They give the track a jazzy feel that’s a contrast to the pounding beats. It would be easy to argue that the beats overpower the rest of the arrangement, but I prefer to think they provide a musical contrast. After that, Taana’s vocal reenters, soaring high, a combination of emotion and pure passion, while the rhythm section and keyboards are key to driving the track along, magically mixing funk and disco during this epic track.
Raw Silk’s Just In Time is one of two tracks from Raw Silk on the compilation. Originally released in 1983, it’s a track written and produced by Nick Martinelli and David Todd. Opening with percussion, flourishes of keyboards and the rhythm section combining, the track has a Latin influence in its choppy, busy arrangement. Synths join the mix, delay is added to the arrangement before the sweetest of vocals enters. This really lifts the track, giving it a soulful, joyous sound. Add to this equally sweet and soulful backing vocals and it’s a track that’s a bit of slow burner, taking a while to reveal its beauty and charms. By then, the earlier choppy, busy sound is gone, replaced by jazz tinged keyboards and funky bass. Together with that gorgeous vocal this is one of my favorite tracks from Disc Two, of Masters At Work Presents West End Records The 25th Anniversary Mastermix.
Keep On Dancin was released by Forrce in 1982 and is another track mixed by Francois Kevorkian, who also overdubbed the track. A sizzling funky bass line with delay added, opens the track. It’s joined by crispy drums and percussion, adding a Latin influence to earlier funky sound. When the massed vocals enter, they create a joyous sound, before a vocal is almost rapped. This gives the track a hip hop influence, while the Latin influence is represented by a myriad of percussion. Later, searing, rocky guitars join the mix, while the rhythm section continue to funk it up. Overall, its a mesmerising stew of musical genres, with funk, hip hop, rock and Latin music all incorporated into just four minutes of music.
My final choice from Disc Two of Masters At Work Presents West End Records The 25th Anniversary Mastermix is another track from Taana Gardner, Work That Body. Produced by Kenton Nix and mixed by Larry Levan, the track was released in 1979, Unlike When You Touch Me, this is the original version, not a remix. This is one of the quickest tracks on the compilation, opening at breakneck speed when the rhythm section, keyboard and percussion combine. Then Taana’s sweet and almost fragile vocal enters, while handclaps accompany her. With backing vocalists accompanying her, the track is driven along by a majestic mass of percussion, keyboards and a funky rhythm section. Adding the final touch to one of Disc Two’s highlights is Taana’s vocal which is sweet, soulful and impassioned.
Of the four tracks I chose from Disc Two of Masters At Work Presents West End Records The 25th Anniversary Mastermix, three were the original versions, with Taana Gardner’s When You Touch Me the only remix I chose. Although the remixes by Masters At Work are of the highest quality, it’s good to hear the original track. Of the ten tracks on Disc Two, only three are remixes, whereas there were five remixes on Disc One. However, Masters At Work treated the originals with respect and the reverence these tracks deserve. The quality of music on Disc Two, is just as good as on Disc One, with Masters At Work choosing some of the best tracks from West End Records back catalogue. Like the music on Salsoul, Casablanca, SAM and Prelude Records, West End Records’ music is part of disco’s history and some of the most important and influential music of that era. When Masters At Work Presents West End Records The 25th Anniversary Mastermix was released, I was pleased because I felt it was time someone released a compilation of the labels music. After that, I felt surely someone would release a comprehensive retrospective of West End Records music. That has never happened, and apart from the occasional mix album, there’s very few compilations of music on West End Records. While there are many compilations of the music on Salsoul Records, fans of West End Records aren’t so well catered for. As Masters At Work Presents West End Records The 25th Anniversary Mastermix demonstrates, West End Records is a label with a rich musical heritage, a musical heritage that deserves to be explored throughly, allowing a new generation of music lovers to experience the delights of one of the most important, influential and innovative labels of the disco era. Standout Tracks: Loose Joints Is It All Over My Face, Karen Young Hot Shot, Raw Silk Just In Time and Taana Gardner Work That Body.
MASTERS AT WORK PRESENTS WEST END RECORDS THE 25TH ANNIVERSARY MASTERMIX.
- Posted in: Disco ♦ Funk ♦ Soulful House
- Tagged: Karen Young Hot Shot, Larry Levan, Loose Joints Is It All Over My Face, Mahogany Ride On the Rhythm, Masters At Work, Masters At Work Presents West End Records The 25th Anniversary Mastermix, Raw Silk Just In Time, Taana Gardner Work That Body, West End Records