JOHN MORALES PRESENTS CLUB MOTOWN.

JOHN MORALES PRESENTS CLUB MOTOWN.

DJ and remixer John Morales, spent much of the last seven years working what he describes as his “labor or love,” John Morales Presents Club Motown. It’s a lovingly compiled double album which was recently released by UMC. John Morales Presents Club Motown  features a total of twenty tracks from Motown’s eighties’ roster. These twenty tracks are a combination of stonewall classic and hidden gems. 

Among these hidden gems are five previously unreleased M+M mixes. This includes Tata Vega’s Get It Up For Love, Diana Ross’ The Boss, Teena Marie;s I Need your Lovin,’ Thelma Houston’s Saturday Night Sunday Morning and Val Young’s If You Should Ever Be Lonely. These five tracks alone should make John Morales Presents Club Motown a must have. However, there’s more to John Morales Presents Club Motown than these five tracks. Much more. However, before I tell you about John Morales Presents Club Motown, I’ll tell you about the man behind the remixes, John Morales.

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 favoured 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 the 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. Remixing such high-profile tracks helped John’s career no end. 

It helped John Morales 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 become one of the most respected DJs and remixers, respected by everyone within dance music. John has also released some of the most successful compilations over the last five years.

It was back in February 2009, that John Morales released his first compilation for BBE Music. This was John Morales-The M&M Mixes. It was released to widespread critical acclaim and reinforced John’s reputation as one of the top remixers. Two years later, John released his second volume of M&M Mixes.

John Morales The M+M Mixes Volume 2 was released on BBE Music, in March 201. It featured remixes of Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes, Candy Staton, Sandy Babrber, Loletta Holloway and First Choice. Released to critical acclaim, everyone hoped Volume 3 would follow.

It did. Two years later, John Morales The M+M Mixes Volume 3 was released on April 2013. John had surpassed himself. Volume 3 featured twenty-four tracks spread over three CDs. There were remixes of tracks from Loleatta Holloway, The Salsoul Orchestra, John Davis and The Monster Orchestra, Marvin Gaye, Teddy Pendergrass, Sandy Barber, Jean Carne and The Dramatics. This wasn’t the only John Morales release that day in April 2014. 

No. As an added bonus, John Morales The M+M Mixes Volume 3-Instrumentals was released at the same time. For anyone interested in disco, this was disco heaven. Critics ran out of superlatives when John Morales The M+M Mixes Volume 3 was released. However, little did anyone know, John’s labor of John Morales Presents Club Motown was nearing completion. 

Eventually, John Morales Presents Club Motown was completed earlier this year, and released on 21st July 2014. It features a who’s who of Motown’s eighties roster. The Commodores, Diana, Ross, The Temptations, Lionel Ritchie, Teena Marie, Rick James, Thelma Houston and Debarge. There’s also contributions from Dennis Edwards, Vanity, Rockwell and Tata Vega. In total, there are twenty tracks on John Morales Presents Club Motown, which I’ll tell you about.

Side One.

Opening side one of John Morales Presents Club Motown is Dennis Edwards featuring Siedah Garrett’s Don’t Look Any Further. It was released as a single by Dennis in 1984. That was the year he left The Temptations and signed to Motown as a solo artist. Don’t Look Any Further peaked at number two in the U.S. R&B charts and number one in the US Hot Dance Club Play charts. Buoyed by this success, Dennis released his debut solo album Don’t Look Any Further. It reached number two in the U.S. R&B charts. This proved to be the most successful album moment of Dennis’ solo career. The single that started kickstarted Dennis solo career was the soulful delights of Don’t Look Any Further.

Before embarking upon a solo career, Michael Lovesmith had been a songwriter. From the sixties onwards, he wrote for many artists, including  Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight and The Jackson 5.. Then in 1983, Michael embarked upon a solo career. By 1985 he released his third and final album Rhymes Of Passion. It featured the single Ain’t Nothin’ Like It. Neither  Rhymes Of Passion nor Ain’t Nothin’ Like It charted. Commercial success eluded Michael. Ain’t Nothin’ Like It proved to be popular within clubs. It’s been remixed by John Morales. The Extended M+M Mix of Ain’t Nothin’ Like It is sure to result in the track finding its way into DJs record boxes once again.

The Mary Jane Girls only ever released two albums. Both albums were certified gold. No wonder. They were produced by Rick James. Their sophomore album was Only For You, which surpassed the success of their debut, reaching number five in the U.S. R&B charts. This resulted in gold disc number two. Only For You contained three hit singles. The most successful was In My House, which reached number three in the U.S. R&B charts and number one in the Billboard Dance Club Play charts. Hook-laden and dance-floor friendly, it’s no surprise that In My House was The Mary Jane Girls most successful single

When The Temptations released Reunion in 1982, it was their twenty-eighth album. The Temptations changed with the times. Standing still wasn’t an option. So, when they came to record Reunion, they decided to collaborate with one of music’s most exciting artists, Rick James. He wrote, arranged and produced Standing On The Top. On its release as a single in 1982, it reached number six in the U.S. R&B charts. When Reunion was released, it reached two in the US R&B charts. This was The Temptations most successful album in the U.S. R&B charts since 1975. One of the highlights of Reunion was  Standing On The Top, where Rick James gives The Temptations a musical makeover and ensures their music remained relevant.

On October 11th 1983, Lionel Ritchie released his sophomore album Can’t Slow Down. It would go on to become the most successful album of Lionel’s career, reaching number one in the U.S. Billboard pop and U.S. R&B charts. Can’t Slow Down sold over twenty-million copies, won a Grammy Award in 1985 and featured five hit singles. The most successful single was All Night Long (All Night), which reached number one in the U.S. Billboard 100 and U.S. R&B Charts. It also reached number five in the U.S. Hot Dance Club Play charts and was certified gold. Produced by James Anthony Carmichael and Lionel, it features Lionel at his soulful, sultriest best.

Model, actress, dancer, singer and songwriter Denise Katrina Matthews was christened Vanity by Prince, who they met in 1980. Vanity became the lead singer of Vanity 6, who enjoyed a hit with Nasty Girl in 1982. Then in 1984, Vanity signed to Motown, and her solo career began. She released her debut album Wild Animal. in 1984, Vanity returned with her sophomore album Skin On Skin in 1986, which featured Under The Influence. It was a Robbie Nevil, Tommy Faragher and Tony Haynes composition, produced by Skip Drinkwater. Released in 1986, Under The Influence reached number nine U.S. R&B and number six in the Billboard Dance Club Play charts giving Vanity her biggest hit single. It’s reinvented by John Morales on his M+M Mid-Day Mix and transformed into a mid-tempo epic.

By 1985, The Commodores were one of the most successful groups on Motown’s roster. They had signed to Motown in 1972. Since then, The Commodores had released ten studio alums and enjoyed six number one U.S. R&B singles. However, their career at Motown was almost over. Nightshift saw The Commodores bow out in style. Nightshift was released in January 15th 1985. This was their second album without Lionel Ritchie. It reached number twelve in the U.S. Billboard 200 and number one in the US R&B charts. Things got even better, when the title-track reached number three in the U.S. Billboard 100 and number one in the U.S. R&B charts. Written by Walter Orange, Franne Golde and producer Dennis Lambert, this was a poignant tribute to Jackie Wilson and Marvin Gaye two legends of soul, who died in 1984. Nightshift also proved a fitting and beautiful finale to The Commodores Motown career.

Between 1981 and 1985, DeBarge released a quartet of albums for Motown Records. DeBarge’s most successful album was their fourth album Rhythm Of The Night. Everything it seemed, had been leading up to Rhythm Of The Nightm which was released in February 1985, reaching number three in the U.S. R&B charts. This resulted in DeBarge’s first platinum disc. When Rhythm Of The Night was chosen as the lead single, it reached number two in the U.S. Billboard 100 and number one in the U.S. R&B charts. DeBarge received gold disc number two. Two became three when Who’s Holding Donna Now was also certified gold. Since then, is Rhythm Of The Night has been perceived as an eighties Motown classic that’s synonymous with DeBarge.

Before signing to Motown in 1984 and releasing Candlelight Afternoon as a single, Phyllis St James had enjoyed a successful career as a songwriter, backing vocalist and percussionist. She was a twenty year veteran of the music industry. Phyllis put her solo career on hold in 1975. By 1984, she was ready to make her comeback. In 1984, Phyllis released her debut album Ain’t No Turnin’ Back on Motown. Produced by Velton Ray Bunch,it featured the single Candlelight Afternoon. Sadly, success eluded Ain’t No Turnin’ Back. Phyllis returned to songwriting and singing backing vocals. Candlelight Afternoon gave Phyllis’ a minor hit and is a reminder of her brief, but memorable solo career. It’s another hidden gem that’s a welcome addition to John Morales Presents Club Motown.

Bobby Nunn released two albums on Motown between 1982 and 1983. His 1983 sophomore album Private Party which was co-produced by Bobby and Winston Monseque. It featured Don’t Knock It (Until You Try It). Written by Bobby, he delivers one of his best vocals on Private Party. It’s a soulful, sassy, sultry, vamp, which delivered against an arrangement that’s funky and dance-floor friendly. Sadly, this is one Private Party that wasn’t a success. After leaving Motown, Bobby returned to songwriting and enjoyed a successful career. Don’t Knock It (Until You Try It) is a reminder of Bobby’s “other career.”

In 1972, Jermaine Jackson launched his solo career. His debut album Jermaine,reached number one in the U.S. R&B Charts. This was the perfect start to Jermaine’s his solo career. His next four albums, released between1973 and 1978, never came close to replicating the commercial success of Jermaine. However, as a new decade dawned, Jermaine’s career was transformed with 1980s Let’s Get Serious. Co-produced by Stevie Wonder, Let’s Get Serious became the most successful album of Jermaine’s career. It reached number six in the U.S. Billboard 200, number one in the U.S. R&B Charts and was certified gold. Then when the title-track, which Jermaine and Lee Garratt cowrote, reached number one in the U.S. R&B Charts Jermaine’s career was back in track.

Disc Two.

Not many groups enjoyed the longevity and success The Temptations enjoyed. In 1984, twenty-four years after they formed in Detroit, The Temptations were still going strong. Things were changing. They embraced musical technology on Truly For You. It was the first album to feature new member Ali-Ollie Woodson. He joined The Temptations in 1983, replacing Dennis Edwards. Ali-Ollie cowrote the most successful single The Temptations had released since 1975, Treat Her Like A Lady. It was the lead single from Truly For You and reached number two in the U.S. R&B Charts. The commercial success continued when Truly For You reached number number three in the U.S. R&B Charts. Twenty years after their debut album Meet the Temptations, The Temptations were still enjoying commercial success and critical acclaim with what’s without doubt, their finest single of the eighties.

Kennedy Gordy was a staff songwriter at  Jobete Music when he wrote and recorded Somebody’s Watching Me which featured Michael and Jermaine Jackson on backing vocals. Ray Singleton spotted the song’s potential. So did Berry Gordy, Kennedy’s father. It was then that Kennedy’s half-brother Kerry Gordy, suggested Kennedy adopt the Rockwell persona. When Somebody’s Watching Me reached was released in 1983, it reached number two in the U.S. Billboard 100 and number one in the U.S. R&B charts. This resulted in a gold disc for Rockwell. Then in January 1984, Rockwell’s debut album Somebody’s Watching Me reached number five in the U.S. R&B charts, resulting in another gold disc for Rockwell. This was the most successful period of Rockwell’s three album career.

Way before Rick James found fame, fortune and later notoriety, he was the lead singer for R&B and doo wop groups. This was the early sixties. Later, Rick modeled himself on David Ruffin, Marvin Gaye and Smokey Robinson. So it’s fitting that Rick eventually signed to Gordy, a subsidiary of Motown Records. By 1981, Rick hit the musical equivalent of a home run in 1981, when he released his fifth album Street Songs. Released in April 1981 it  reached number three in the U.S. Billboard 200 and number one in the U.S. R&B charts. It was certified triple platinum. Then Super Freak was released as a single, reaching number sixteen in the US Billboard 100, number three in the US R&B charts and number one in the U.S Dance Club Play charts. Rick James it seemed could do no wrong. Not only had he released his most success album, but a classic track Super Freak, which will forever be his best known song.

After releasing her debut album when she was just twelve, Stacy Lattisaw met Narada Michael Walden. He guided Stacy’s career for the next six albums. They proved a successful partnership, enjoying five consecutive hit albums. Then in 1985, after I’m Not The Same Girl failed to chart, Stacy left Cotillion Records. For her seventh solo album, Stacy signed to Motown Records. Take Me All the Way was Stacy’s 1986 debut for Motown Records. Several producers worked on the album which reached number thirty-six in the U.S. R&B charts. It featured two hit singles, including Jump Into My Life. It was produced by Kashif. Released in 1987, it reached number thirteen in the U.S. R&B charts and number three in the U.S. Club Play chart. Not only was Stacy Lattisaw’s career was back on track, but Jump Into My Life would be perceived as an eighties Motown classic.

Looking back at Teena Marie’s thirteen album career, the most successful period was her time at Motown Records. She released four albums between 1979 and 1981. During that period, three of Lady T’s albums were certified gold. This includes 1980s Irons In The Fire, which featured I Need Your Lovin.  It was Teena’s third album and the first album Teena produced herself. This might have seemed a risky move. It wasn’t. Teena had learnt from Art Stewart, Rick James and Richard Rudolph. When Irons In The Fire was released in July 1980, it  reached number number nine in the U.S. R&B charts and was certified gold. The single I Need Your Lovin’ reached number nine in the U.S. R&B Charts and number two in the U.S. Dance charts. This meant Irons In The Fire was the most successful album of Teena’s career so far. As for I Need Your Lovin,’ it’s a poignant reminder of Lady T at the peak of her powers.

It was none other than George Clinton who discovered Val Young in 1977. Val became a backing vocalist for The Brides Of Funkenstein, one of the band’s in Funkadelic’s stable. She then progressed to singing backup for Roy Ayers and The Gap Band. However, it wasn’t until Val met Rick James that her solo career began in earnest. Rick introduced Val to Berry Gordy. He signed Val to Motown. Rick produced Val’s 1985 debut album Seduction, which featured three single, including If You Should Ever Be Lonely. It was produced by Fred Jenkins and Levi Ruffin Jr. and reached number one on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play chart. This was Val’s most successful single. Sadly, it was Val Young’s last release for Motown. Rick James was having contractual problems with Motown, and Val’s sophomore album Private Conversations was released on Amherst Records. Never again did Val enjoy scale the same soulful heights.

Having left The Supremes in 1970, Diana Ross’ solo career began. By1978, Diana had enjoyed continued commercial success. One thing eluded her grasp in America, a gold disc. Over the Atlantic, in the UK, Diana had three gold discs. However, in America, gold discs eluded Diana. This was about to change. Ashford and Simpson, who had previously worked with Diana, set about rectifying this. They wrote and produced her 1979 album The Boss. It peaked at number fourteen in the U.S. Billboard and number ten in the U.S. R&B Charts. At last, Diana had her first American gold disc. Then when The Boss was released as a single, it reached number one in the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play chart. Diana had just enjoyed the most successful album of her solo career, The Boss, and was on the cusp of the most successful period of her career.

Thelma Houston released her sixth solo album Ride To The Rainbow in 1978, on Tamla. Sadly, due to poor promotion, the Hal Davis produced Ride To The Rainbow failed to chart. One of the highlights of Ride To The Rainbow was the Mitchell Bottler and Norma Helms penned Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, which was penned by Mitchell Bottler and Norma Helms. It gave Thelma a minor hit single, reaching number thirty-four in the US Billboard 100, number nineteen in the US R&B charts and number thirty-three in the US Dance charts. This helped Thelma reinvent herself as a disco diva. On John Morales Presents Club Motown, John totally reinvents Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, turning it into a dance-floor classic.

Multitalented describes Táta Vega. She is a singer, songwriter and actress. Táta came to prominence in the Broadway production of Hair. When she left the cast of Hair, Tata joined Pollution, who released a trio of albums. After that, Tata’s solo career began. Following the release of Táta’s 1976 Motown debut Full Speed Ahead, she followed this up with 1977s Totally Táta. Despite not receiving the critical acclaim of her previous album, Totally Táta surpassed their commercial success. The double-A sided single I Just Keep Thinking About You Baby/Get It Up For Love went on to reach the top twenty in the Billboard Dance Club Play charts. This made Totally Táta, the most successful single of Táta Vega’s nascent solo career.

For DJ and remixer John Morales, he’s spent much of the last seven years working what he describes as his “labor or love,” John Morales Presents Club Motown. It’s not all been plain sailing. Far from it. There’s been problems getting tracks licensed. So the final track listing isn’t what John envisaged. Ironically, this has worked in his favour. 

John Morales Presents Club Motown is a combination of stonewall classic and hidden gems. Classics come courtesy of The Boss, Diana Ross, the Super Freak himself, Rick James, and Lady T, Teena Marie. That’s not forgetting true Motown legends The Temptations, soul seducer in-chief Lionel Ritchie and his former band The Commodores. There’s also successful tracks from The Mary Jane Girls, Debarge, Rockwell and Stacy Lattislaw. Hidden gems come courtesy of Bobby Nunn, Thelma Houston and Michael Lovesmith. Quite simply, if you like your music soulful, funky and dance-floor friendly, then there’s something for everybody on John Morales Presents Club Motown, which is John’s first visit into the Motown vaults. Hopefully, there will be further instalments.

Especially if there’s eleven M+M Mixes on future instalments of the John Morales Presents Club Motown series. John breathes new life and meaning into the tracks from the Motown vaults. Some of the tracks have been released before. Not all. There’s previously unreleased tracks from Diana Ross, Tata Vega, Teena Marie, Thelma Houston and Val Young. They’ve never been released before. Instead, they’ve been hidden away in John Morales’ vaults. Not any more. They make their debut on John Morales Presents Club Motown, which was recently released by UMC.

John Morales Presents Club Motown is best described as a lovingly compiled double album. It features a total of twenty tracks from Motown’s eighties’ roster. These twenty tracks are a combination of stonewall classic and hidden gems. Some of the biggest names in Motown’s history make an appearance. Others played just a walk on part in Motown’s history. However, each of the twenty tracks on John Morales Presents Club Motown are a reminder of Motown as it tried to reinvent itself during the post-disco eighties. 

JOHN MORALES PRESENTS CLUB MOTOWN.

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1 Comment

  1. Mel

    Excellent review. I would really like to see a full CD of M & M Motown mixes. There are so many that are You Tube. I am so spoiled. I love the Rick James mixes of Big Fun & You & I. A man can dream…Great review as always!!

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