Album Reviews by Mark Bayross and EDF
Review by Mark Bayross
Since he started DJing in the seventies in his native Boston, playing classic soul and Philly grooves, Arthur Baker has made a name for himself as one of the originators of dance music. Inspired by the collision of breakdancing and Kraftwerk that was taking over clubs in the US, particularly in the North East, he created a number of classics that have since re-emerged in the dance music of today.
AFRIKA BAMBAATA and SOUL SONIC FORCE’s ‘Planet Rock’, ‘Perfect Beat’, ROCKERS REVENGE’s ‘Walking On Sunshine’, and his solo BREAKER’S REVENGE – all appear on this double compilation, courtesy of Perfecto Records. The collection is split into two halves – “New Skool” and “Old Skool” tracks.
Of course, Arthur Baker is just as well-known for his work as a producer and collaborator, famously suggesting to New Order that they turn the embryonic 586 on POWER, CORRUPTION & LIES into a full-blown song (what became BLUE MONDAY) and then co-writing and producing their next single, “Confusion”.
CONSUSION is here, kicking off the “Old Skool” half, and skidding into PLANET ROCK via a journey through retro floor-fillers that takes in WILL DOWNING’s ‘A Love Supreme’, CRIMINAL ELEMENT ORCHESTRA’s ‘Put The Needle On The Record’ and FLEETWOOD MAC’s ‘Big Love’.
The “New Skool” features no less than 16 collaborations and remixes with an impressive range of big name stars and well-respected artists (including Utah Saints, Dave Clarke, Paul Oakenfold, Timo Maas and Armand Van Helden).
The “New Skool” is just that – a breakbeat extravaganza that takes in rap (‘Jamaica C’mon’, with DJ FACE and TOPCAT), robo-techno (THE CRAZIES and FELIX DA HOUSECATs ‘Quiet Riot’), dark trance (TINA B’s ‘Si Mia Vita’), and thumping house (just about everything else).
Nothing short of definitive.
Review by EDF
The follow-up to the successful Paul Oakenfold and Timo Maas compilations released on the Perfecto label, this time we have the master of dance beats, Arthur Baker. A double CD release, this is interesting as, believe it or believe it not, there is something here for everyone.
The first CD, titled New Skool, comprises various tracks mixed into one long dance session. As anyone who is familiar with Arthur Baker’s production, his mixes are so infectious that you would be hard pressed not to move any part of your body to this. From the opening UTAH SAINTS’ ‘The Illuminous’ through to the closing classic PLANET ROCK, this is the type of mix you would wish to hear in a top club. The most curious track which surprisingly works well comes in the form of TINA B’s ‘Si Mia Vita’ where operatic vocals fuse with dance beats. ROCKERS REVENGE ‘Walking On Sunshine’ remix has a busy bass line that is reminiscent of Donna Summer’s ‘I Feel Love’.
CD 2 is where the crown jewels are held and it comes under the title of Old Skool. Here is a collection of productions and re-mixes that Baker was involved in back in the 1980’s. Starting off with New Order’s “Confusion”, other mixes here come in the form of AFRIKA BAMBAATAA & THE SOULSONIC FORCE’s ‘Looking For The Perfect BeaT’ and ‘Planet Rock’. FLEETWOOD MAC’s ‘Big Love’ is a strange track to remix for the dance floor but Baker somehow pulls it off with the use of an additional house-style keyboard hook line and extra percussion. It’s great to hear the full mixes of WALKING ON SUNSHINE, one of the tracks featured on CD 1 and the semi forgotten WILL DOWNING track ‘A Love Supreme’. While the inclusion of tracks which people might not be familiar with such as CUBA GOODING’s ‘Happiness Is Just Around The Bend’ and INCREDIBLE MR FREEZE’s ‘Back To The Scene Of The Crime’, these tracks are as essential as any other track from the 80’s.
As a fan of both present day dance music and music from the 80’s, there will be a tendency to listen more to the Old Skool CD than the New Skool tracks. That is not saying CD 1 is not great, it is but listening to CD 2 is a lot more fun.