Tom Moulton was one of the first remixers ever who took the best ‘breaks’ and songs and extended them for the dancefloor way back in the 70s. After being fed up with the music scene in the 1960s, he was taken to Fire Island and heard soul tunes badly blended together and resolved to do better for the dancers. He created a mixtape with edits, mixes and extended breaks into a seamless groove. So popular this was, he went on to create many more and in the process, the remix. Where would contemporary music be without the remix?
2011 marked the 40th anniversary of legendary writer/producers Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff’s creation of a label that set the groundwork for some of the best soul and R&B sounds of the decade, and this year there are some excellent catalogue projects honouring that legacy.
One of these projects is the amazing four-disc box set that combines the great arrangements of Philly soul with the mixing techniques of Tom Moulton. This means there are classics by The O’Jays, The Three Degrees, Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes and MFSB . Tom was commissioned for a variety of other projects for the label, some of which never saw the light of day past a few rarer promo records or obscure compilations. And some of these are featured on the new release along with 15 extended versions commissioned exclusively for this release. Also included is a new booklet with liner notes from British music journalist Lloyd Bradley plus photos of Moulton at work in Sigma Sound Studios. I do love booklets that tell the stories of the songs, writing, recording and events at the time. It helps place into context how and why the music was created. And in the 70s and early 80s, there was more than making money and becoming a celebrity as reasons to make proper music.
The box set reached me this week and while I’ve had plenty of Philly soul in my collection, it’s never been my favourite disco genre. But, playing these extended beauties as this release intended has opened my ears to how influential the strings, horns and soul has been on modern dance music. Just when I thought the back catalogue for the decent disco and soul had been totally mined, up pops these stunningly remastered gems to further complete my collection. They are of such quality that it puts almost all recent attempts at soul and dance music to shame. I’m looking at you Ms. MDNA et al.
Here’s The Three Degrees “Dirty Old Man”. The remix on the album has a brilliant wee house breakdown at the end which I’m currently obsessed with.