My Foundations column in 5 Magazine is all about the roots of the modern dance floor. One of the torchbearers of threading the foundations of music into the sounds of today is Dave Lee. Among his many monikers, Lee is best known to the adoring music world as Joey Negro. Dave’s sensibilities as a producer and remixer are beyond reproach. His discography is part of our contemporary dance legacy. For example, his recent cover of T.S. Monk’s “Candidate for Love” refreshed a sleeper-classic for baby boomers and millennials alike. Those sensibilities also shine when Dave is DJing as his selections always educate as well as satiate dancers’ and music lovers’ need for familiarity. Thus, I’m thrilled that he is releasing a new compilation, especially given that the inspiration for his selections is the legendary band, Chic!
In today’s “immediate access” music environment, compilations can be stale and superfluous. Joey’s LE FREAK: Music Inspired By Chic (on his high quality Z Records label) is the exact opposite… it’s fresh and relevant. This compilation is chock-full-o’ disco goodness with no less than fourteen burners and around 73 minutes of dance-inducement included! So let’s dive in.
Ann Margaret is known through her acting BUT, back in the late ’70s everyone was doing disco. So why include “Everybody Needs Somebody Sometimes”? Because it’s a sexy, sultry, and guitar-licked sleeper. Dave includes part one of the longer version but it is more than enough to begin your search for “somebody”.
Next, on our Chic-inspired rollercoaster of grooves is the UK’s Delegation with “Heartache No. 9 (Special Remix Version)”. This has always been a favorite of mine and it has really gained followers in the last decade. It is one of only five songs on this compilation that actually charted when released. I love accapella introductions and so does Dave so, it’s not surprising that “Not About That (Show Me Some Respect)” by Van Jones is on LE FREAK. This mid-tempo hottie definitely “shows respect” to Chic with a bass line that doesn’t quit.
Remember, Dave also loves giving you a little familiarity and he does so expertly with the thick and chunky “Love Is Gonna Be On Your Side” by Firefly. This song has one of my favorite breakdowns and was highly regarded in its day, hitting both the disco and R&B charts. All of the listeners will make a connection with Charanga ’76’s cover of the Chic classic, “Good Times (Como Vamos A Gozar)” however, in a typical Joey Negro twist… he selected a Spanish version that’s also ripe with percussion. New Jersey producer and keyboardist Michael Zager is best known for the uptempo club classic “Let’s All Chant.” Joey instead chose a welcome surprise as he picked Michael Zager Band’s smooth groove, “Don’t Sneak on Me” which employees the services of vocal giant Luther Vandross. I say, “GQ” – you say “Disco Nights” but Joey Negro says, “Shake”. Confession – I forgot how great this lesser-remembered (but #23 on the R&B chart in ’81) song was with a sing-a-long chorus and a rolling chord that you can’t help but move to!
Luther is back on vocals (along with Ullanda McCullough, Benny Diggs and Fonzi Thornton) in the Change classic, “Heaven of My Life.” This was part of their #1 album “Paradise.” Beyond the sheer beauty of the production and the vocal esthetics, the instrumental break is without doubt… homage to Chic. While appropriately included in this compilation thematically and because Chic’s Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards produced it, “Together” by Odyssey is ironically a decent but not great song for me. Nightlife Unlimited was a Canadian disco group that had a couple of good high energy songs including “Dance, Freak and Boogie”. I must give Dave credit in that he “got me again” with “Let’s Do It Again” – a solid mid-tempo number that I never heard before. I’d bet that most of you do not know She’s 1980 song, “Easy Money” but those that didn’t – WILL after they buy this compilation! Filled with a catchy hook, some basic but cool ’80s rappin’, and an infectious and melodic bass line… it was a wise inclusion.
I mentioned how Dave connects the foundations of the past to today and that is more than apparent with the final three songs on LE FREAK. B’More’s own Ultra Naté (how can anyone not love Ultra?!) did one of my favorites this year, “New Kind of Medicine (Original Extended Vocal Mix). While this could have easily been produced in ’81, the “spit and polish” definitely feels 2015 and Nate’s vocals add an energy and inspiration to everything she touches. Joey Negro has done incredible work with his Sunburst Band and the inclusion of “The Secret Life of Us (The Reflex Revision)” is definitely in the right lane for this LE FREAK journey. Titles matter and the last song on this masterful compilation is a great example, “I’m In Love (Joey Negro Edit) performed by Cela in 1979. After listening to Joey’s caring touch in this edit of adoration to the disco guitar… you’ll be “in love” too.
Joey, Dave, whatever the hell we call you – thanks for SELECTING a bounty of “chic” disco for us to “freak” with!
1. Ann Margret – “Everybody Needs Somebody Sometimes” (part 1)
2. Delegation – “Heartache No 9” (Special remix version)
3. Van Jones – “Not About That (Show Me Some Respect)”
4. Firefly – “Love Is Gonna Be On Your Side”
5. Charanga 76 – “Good Times (Como Vamos A Gozar)”
6. Michael Zager Band – “Don’t Sneak On Me”
7. GQ – “Shake”
8. Change – “Heaven Of My Life”
9. Odyssey – “Together”
10. Nightlife Unlimited – “Let’s Do It Again”
11. She – “Easy Money”
12. Ultra Nate – “New Kind Of Medicine” (original extended vocal mix)
13. Joey Negro & The Sunburst Band – “The Secret Life Of Us” (The Reflex Revision)