JOHN MORALES-THE M & M MIXES.
JOHN MORALES-THE M&M MIXES.
Over the past few months, I’ve reviewed a number of compilations of remixes from some of the best and highest profile remixers in the history of disco. Recently, I’ve reviewed Mixed With Love-The Walter Gibbons Anthology and Larry Levan-The Definitve Salsoul Remixes 1978, while previously, I reviewed Philadelphia Classics-The Tom Moulton Remixes, to name but three. These three remixers, Walter Gibbons, Larry Levan and the Godfather and inventor of the remix and twelve inch single Tom Moulton are a trio of the most talented remixers in the history of modern dance music. To this trio, I add one other name, John Morales who was responsible for one of my favorite compilations of 2011, John Morales-The M&M Mixes Volume 2 on BBE Music, which I reviewed some time ago. Two years previously in 2009, John released his first volume of remixes John Morales-The M&M Mixes on BBE Music. Like Volume Two, John Morales-The M&M Mixes is a double-album, featuring nineteen remixes, including previously unreleased Salsoul remixes. Now given John’s track record of being responsible for some of the best Salsoul remixes and that I was a huge Salsoul fan, buying this album back in 2009 was a slam dunk. What could be better? Here was one of the pioneers of modern dance music, a remixer who was innovative and imaginative releasing a double album, with these unreleased Salsoul remixes an added bonus. For anyone whose yet to discover John Morales-The M&M Mixes, here’s what I found.
John Morales’ love of music started at an early age, working in an after-school job at a local record shop. He was only about twelve at the time, with the record shop paying him in singles. By fourteen, John formed a band, the F Band. They played gigs at local high schools, but nothing became of the F Band. However, even then, John knew that he wanted to make music a career. Then his collection of singles, which he’d started when working in the record shop lead to a career in music.
When John started DJ-ing in 1975, he played first at small clubs and bars in his native Bronx. Then when the rollerskating craze started in the early eighties, John started working at the Bruckner Roller Dome. From there he played at other rollerskating venues, before heading into New York, where he’d DJ at various bars and clubs. Soon he was playing the Limelight, Pippins and Studio 54. With Sergio Munzibai, John opened a club, with 1018 becoming M&M. However, during that period, John had established another career which ran parallel with his DJ-ing career.
This other career was working at New York’s WBLS radio station, where Frankie Crocker, was musical director. John was responsible for the midday and weekend mixes. These mixes required John to teach himself to reedit tracks. He had to make them longer, because the records were far too short. To do this, John bought a Sony reel-to reel tape recorder. At home, he taught himself to edit tracks, splicing the tape up, rejoining it, lengthening breaks and making them much more dance-floor friendly. Remember there were no Apple Mac’s running Logic, ProTools or Ableton Live. This was an example of John was learning his craft, something many modern producers no longer do. However, John Morales, like Tom Moulton learnt his trade and next step would see John as one of the best remixers of the mid-seventies and early eighties.
Soon, John Morales and Sergio Munzibai launched one of the most fruitful and prolific remixing partnerships in dance music history. After their first remix, they decided that each of their remixes would feature the M&M name. John says his first credited remix was Inner Life’s Caught Up, although before that, he’d undertaken a number of remixes. Ironically, on Caught Up, his first credited remix, John’s name was spelt wrongly. Since then, they’ve undertaken literally hundreds of remixes, all featuring the M &M logo. Of all the remixes John’s undertaken, his Salsoul remixes are some of his best known.
After meeting Patrick Adams and Greg Carmichael, John Morales became their favorite remixer for their Salsoul work. The Patrick Adams and Greg Carmichael’s production team’s partnership with John Morales at Salsoul Records proved to be a fruitful one. It’s not just Greg and Patrick’s Salsoul recordings John remixed, he also remixed non-Salsoul acts like Universal Robot Band. However, it was for his remixes of Greg and Patrick’s Salsoul recordings John became best known for. This saw John remix tracks by Inner Life, Logg, Aurra, Sky, Funk Deluxe and Instant Funk. Several of John Salsoul remixes feature on Disc Two of John Morales-The M&M Mixes, including previously unreleased remixes. Remixing such high-profile tracks helped John’s career no end. It helped him become one of the most successful, busiest and highest profile remixers of eighties and early nineties. By 1989 John and Sergio ended their remixing partnership. Then in 1993, illness had a huge impact upon John’s career.
Sadly, John became ill in 1993, with the illness lasting a decade that meant time away from the recording studio. However, this gave him the opportunity to test learn the musical software that would soon dominate the music industry. During this period, John tested what would become Cubase for Atari Computers. In some ways, this must have given John an advantage over other producers for his return the recording studio. Since his return to the studio, John has been even busier than ever, remixing some of the highest profile names in dance music. He’s now spent forty years as a DJ and remixer. During that time, John has becomoe one of the most respected DJs and remixers, respected by everyone within dance music. On John Morales The M&M Mixes nineteen of John’s mixes feature on two discs, which I’ll now tell you about.
On Disc One of John Morales The M&M Mixes there are ten underground New York disco anthems, including five tracks from men who’d play a big part in John’s remixing career. Two tracks are from Universal Robot Band produced by Greg Carmichael, while Bumblebee United were produced by Greg Michael and Patrick Adams. Greg and Patrick would also produce many tracks for Salsoul, with John their favored remixer. La-Rita Gaskin was another Greg Carmichael produced track. Class Action featuring Chris Wiltshire was written by James Calloway and Leroy Burgess, with whom John would work at Salsoul. Among the other tracks on Disc One are Ronnie, Dyson, Julia and Company and Cubie Burke. Most of the tracks on Disc One were remixed in the early eighties. However, what are the highlights of Disc One of John Morales The M&M Mixes?
My first choice from John Morales The M&M Mixes is Class Action featuring Chris Wiltshire’s Weekend. This is the JM After-Session M&M Mix which was remixed in December 1982. The track was released in 1983 on Sleeping Bag Records and written by James Calloway and Leroy Burgess, while Bob and Lola Blank produced the track. Punchy, soulful and sassy backing vocalists beckon your attention. With voices like that, you can’t ignore them. They’re joined by pounding drumbeats, before swathes and stabs of synths are joined percussion. Soon you’re hooked, smitten by the track’s delights. Chris’ diva-esque vocal vamps and struts its way through the track, while the beats, synths, keyboards and percussion provide a backdrop that combines disco with eighties synths and a soulful vocal from Chris. Although nearly thirty-years old, the track still retains a contemporary sound.
Ronnie Dyson’s All Over Your Face was a track from his 1983 album Brand New Day. Written by Norman Ingram, Butch Ingram arranged and produced the track. Here, the JM After-Session M&M Mix, remixed in May 1983 is chosen. Straight away, you realize how good and underrated a vocalist Ronnie Dyson was. His vocal is emotive, impassioned and powerful. He’s accompanied by Latin percussion, while the rhythm section are augmented by layers of synths. Barbara Ingram, one of the Sweethearts of Sigma adds backing vocals. Later, a prolonged synths solo adds to the track’s drama and impact. When Ronnie’s vocal reenters, he delivers it with the confidence of someone like Teddy Pendergrass. The remix transforms the original track, turning it into a dance-floor epic that’s irresistible and laden with hooks.
Julia & Company released Breakin’ Down (Sugar Samba) in 1983, on the District of Columbia label. It’s a track John remixed in March 1984. His JM After-Session M&M Mix opens with crunchy drumbeats, percussion and synths combining with handclaps. When stabs of keyboards, a sultry lone and Julia’s vocal enters with swathes of strings cascading, you’re spellbound. Truly, Julia makes the song swing. From there, things get even better. Julia’s vocal grows in power and passion, while bursts of horns and backing vocalists take the track to new heights. Key to the track is Julia’s vocal, with the strings, percussion, keyboards and horns providing an arrangement where soul, disco, jazz and Latin music are fused. Together they create a track that’s enchanting and captivating.
The version of La-Rita Gaskin’s Never Can Say Goodbye that appears on John Morales The M&M Mixes is a Demo Version. Why a track this good was never released, seems incredible. Her vocal is one of the best on Disc One, strong, laden with emotion and passion. La-Rita just struts her way through the track, delivering her vocal forcefully, not unlike Loleatta Holloway in her prime. Blazing horns, a pounding rhythm section, percussion, handclaps and backing vocalists accompany her. While La-Rita’s vocal is outstanding, so is the band’s performance and the production. Mind you, with Greg Carmichael producing the track and Peter Jacques of The Peter Jacques Band the engineer, it’s no surprising this track is as good as it is. For me, this is a real hidden gem, one of the highlights of the compilation.
Barely Breaking Even by the Universal Robot Band is another Greg Carmichael production, released in 1982 on Moonglow Records. This track was remixed back in November 1981. It’s very different to Never Can Say Goodbye, when the track opens, with an almost space-age sound combining with boogie. Percussion, pounding beats and peels of bells combine, before a funky bass-line enters. The bass races ahead, while the rest of the arrangement meanders along. It’s a compelling combination, with surprises aplenty revealed during nearly thirteen minutes. Synths, a dramatic keyboard solo and vocoder combine before an impassioned, joyous vocal enters. Gospel-tinged backing vocalists and guitars are added, as the track starts to unfold. You’re taken on an action packed, joyful musical journey, where surprises are sprung by John Morales and Sergio Munzibai.
Disc One of John Morales The M&M Mixes sees ten of John’s early eighties mixes, with five of them tracks written, arranged or produced Greg Michael, Patrick Adams and Leroy Burgess. These three men played an important part in John’s remixing career, especially their productions for Salsoul Records. However, there’s more to Disc One than these five tracks. Of the other five tracks, the tracks from Ronnie Dyson, Julia and Company and La-Rita Gaskin are of the highest quality. Why La-Rita Gaskin’s Never Can Say Goodbye wasn’t commercially released is astounding, given how good a track it is. Like Julia and Company, the success of La-Rita Gaskin’s track is the vocal, which is sassy and struts its way above the arrangement. While many people might not have heard several tracks on Disc One of John Morales The M&M Mixes, they don’t know what they’re missing. These tracks are of the standard you’d expect from a release baring the M&M logo. Will that be the case on Disc Two of John Morales The M&M Mixes where we hear the delights of John’s Salsoul remixes?
Unlike Disc One, Disc Two of John Morales The M&M Mixes is given over to nine of John’s unreleased Salsoul releases. On Disc Two, there are remixes from Inner Life, First Choice, Logg, Skyy, Funk Deluxe and Instant Funk. During a period of his career, John became synonymous with Salsoul Records, being the chosen remixer of Patrick Adams and Greg Carmichael. John also remixed several of Leroy Burgess’ releases, including Logg, who have three tracks on Disc Two. Many of the tracks are late-period Salsoul, very different from the early Salsoul sound. Several of these tracks feature a much more electronic sound than say, Loleatta Holloway, Double Exposure and The Salsoul Orchestra featuring the Baker, Harris, Young rhythm section, vibes supremo Vince Montana and Don Renaldo’s swirling strings and horns. How will this affect the tracks on Disc Two of John Morales The M&M Mixes?
Like so many Salsoul releases, Inner Life’s Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, a track from their 1981 album Inner Life, has a real timeless sound. It’s hard to believe that it was originally released back in August 1981. This timeless sounding arrangement is combined and a stunning vocal from Jocelyn Brown. Her vocal is diva-esque, as she delivers Ashford and Simpson’s lyrics. Produced by Patrick Adams and Greg Carmichael, the version chosen is the JM 4AM Mix. It’s a track that after a subtle, hesitant start, where drums, percussion and then Jocelyn’s vocal combine. Then the track literally bursts into life. Drums pound, strings swirl, percussion, keyboards and chiming guitars combine before Jocelyn’s powerful, emotive vocal enters. After that, the track just gets so much better. Handclaps and bursts of backing vocalists join the arrangement, combining power and drama and gives the track its uplifting, joyous and energetic sound.
From one of the highlights of John Morales The M&M Mixes comes another, First Choice’s Happy Love Affair. This was a track from First Choice’s final Salsoul album Breakaway, released in 1980. John remixed the track in December 1982, with the JM After-Session M&M Mix the result. Here he has a great track to begin with, with Rochelle Fleming’s vocal a mixture of tenderness, power and passion. She’s accompanied by tight, punchy soaring harmonies, while Don Renaldo’s strings sweep and swirl and his punchy horns rasp. As usual, the track’s driven along by the Salsoul rhythm section, with Bobby Eli adding guitar. Keyboards add drama, as percussion is sprinkled throughout the arrangement. However, it’s Rochelle, Debbie Martin and Annette Guest’s vocals that are key to the track’s sound, along with Don Renaldo’s Swinging Strings and Horns. Tracks like this, and Ain’t No Mountain High Enough are what made Salsoul the greatest disco label ever.
Logg were the brainchild of Leroy Burgess and John Morales was Leroy Burgess’ chosen remixer for Logg’s tracks. On Disc Two of John Morales The M&M Mixes three tracks by Logg feature. These are Lay It On The Line, and (You’ve Got) That Something, my favorite of the trio. All three tracks featured on Logg’s 1981 album Logg. The version chosen is JM After-Session M+M Mix, which has a real Leroy Burgess sound and feel. Percussion, drums, a crashing cymbal and then funky bass gradually build up the track. Next comes guitars, layers of keyboards and then Leroy’s vocal, accompanied by tight, punchy backing vocals. From there, boogie, funk and disco are combined, with synths and keyboards adding to the Leroy Burgess sound. Although Logg only produced one album for Salsoul, if you’re only going to produce one album, make it one as good as Logg’s.
Funk Deluxe are another group who only produced one album for Salsoul, their 1984 album Funk Deluxe. The album was written and produced by Randy Muller. This Time was a track from that album and has a very different sound to early Salsoul albums, Whereas early albums featured the Baker, Harris, Young rhythm section, vibes supremo Vince Montano and Don Renaldo’s strings and horns, Funk Deluxe has a much more electronic sound. Synths, keyboards and a vocoder are combined, with the drums having an electronic sound too. One thing stays the same, a classy, sassy female vocal. It’s contrasted by a male vocal that’s deiver without emotion, sometimes rapped, while a vocoder to the adds to the electronic sound. However, what makes the track is the vocal, which is sassy and emotive, plus John’s hypnotic sounding M After-Session M&M Mix.
The last track I’ve chosen to mention is Instant Funk’s No Stoppin’ That Rockin,’ a track from their penultimate Salsoul album Instant Funk V in 1983. The original track was produced by Bunny Sigler, with John’s JM After-Session M&M Mix mixed in October 1982. Again, the track has a much more electronic sound, with a vocoder opening the track. Similarly, the drums have a more electronic sound, with synths and a funky bass contrasted by a tender vocal. Tight backing vocalists accompany the vocal, which when it changes hands, grows in power and is replaced by the vocoder. While the track has a real electronic sound, there’s still a really funky side to the track and sometimes, a really soulful vocal escapes. All this plays its part in giving the track a compelling, hypnotic sound, where soul, funk and electronic music unite as one.
Although many of the tracks that feature on Disc Two of John Morales The M&M Mixes are late-period Salsoul releases, they’ve one thing on common with the earlier Salsoul music…quality. The track bursts into life with Inner Life’s Ain’t No Mountain High Enough. Then comes First Choice’s Happy Love Affair, another of the real highlights of the compilation. Rochelle Fleming’s vocal is key to the track, as is Leroy Burgess’ vocal on the trio of tracks by Logg. While Funk Deluxe’s Funk Deluxe and Instant Funk’s No Stoppin’ That Rockin’ have a quite different sound from Inner Life and First Choice’s, it shows Salsoul as a label changing. Disco was dead, with boogie and electronic music taking over. This is reflected in several of tracks on Disc Two. Still, the quality is there however, with Salsoul Records’ providing the perfect material for John to remix. This he does with flair, imagination, innovation and an eye to what works on a dance-floor. Like the ten tracks on Disc One, John deconstructs them, then reconstructs them, giving them his own unique twist. These nineteen tracks are a mixture of well-known tracks, hidden gems and previously unreleased remixes. For anyone who wants to hear one of the greatest remixers in the history of modern dance music doing what he does so well, then John Morales-The M&M Mixes is the album for you. After that, why not look out for John Morales-The M&M Mixes Volume 2, which features another twenty M&M remixes. For any nascent producers, then remixes like the ones on John Morales-The M&M Mixes show a remixer at the peak of his powers. Along with Tom Moulton and Walter Gibbons, John Morales is one of the greatest remixers in modern dance music. John Morales-The M&M Mixes and John Morales-The M&M Mixes Volume 2 both released on BBE Music proves this perfectly. Standout Tracks: Julia & Company Breakin’ Down (Sugar Samba), La-Rita Gaskin Never Can Say Goodbye, Inner Life Ain’t No Mountain High Enough and First Choice Happy Love Affair.
JOHN MORALES-THE M&M MIXES.
- Posted in: Boogie ♦ Disco ♦ Electronic ♦ Philadelphia Soul ♦ Soul
- Tagged: First Choice Happy Love Affair, Inner Life Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, John Morales-The M&M Mixes, John Morales-The M&M Mixes on BBE Music. Like Volume Two, Julia & Company Breakin' Down (Sugar Samba), La-Rita Gaskin Never Can Say Goodbye, Larry Levan-The Definitve Salsoul Remixes 1978, Mixed With Love-The Walter Gibbons Anthology, Salsoul Records