SOURCES Compilations

Bill Brewster is just brilliant isn't he? He's smashing. What I think what I most like about him is his entirely single-minded focus. Bill loves dance music, he's fascinated by its culture and history, he adores its classical peaks. That ought to be enough for anyone?! I mean, why dilute that with theoretical positions, half-arsed political posturing, pseudo-intellectualism or "eclectic" music taste? Dance music: There's a universe right there.

Recently I plowed through his and Frank Broughton's excellently researched, eminently sensible "Last Night A DJ Saved My Life". I loved it. I've no idea why it took me so long to get round to reading it. It's like a very, very, very large bag of chips which you can just sit there like a zombie munching through. Lots of nicely chosen tracks pepper their extensively detailed history. I know a fair bit about dance music, but I learnt an untold amount more.

Then there are these SOURCES CD compilations for the now defunct BBC subsidiary Harmless. I'm a total sucker for labels. Of course it's all about labels! Transmat, Nu Groove, TRAX, Sub Base, Reinforced, Moving Shadow. Bill picks off nine historic US dance music labels from the Disco, House and Electro era and provides comprehensive 3 CD collections packed full of what are (slightly generously) described as the full twelve inch mixes. Let's deal with that right away!

The web is full of outraged punters fuming at the disgraceful injustice of such and such track from the set only being 9 minutes long when their scratchy 12" mix is 11 minutes long. They sound so fucking angry these people. Equally they complain about the remastering. I know, how weedy!? I think these complaints are the grossly unjust whingeing of sad-sacks. These comps aren't "needledrops" (great term to describe reissues recorded from vinyl). They're excellently put together, great-sounding, exhaustively detailed labors of love replete with alarmingly thorough liner-notes.

If they do have a fault though it's this very exhaustiveness. Though actually I'm not complaining; I'm happy to view them as big dumps of data - for the onus being on me to trawl through them to pick out the tracks I like.

Also, again a personal thing, I don't have room for all of these in my collection. In the first case I have a relatively low threshold of interest in Disco. To my mind Disco is generally a bit of a bore. That Dan Snaith 1000 track mix on YouTube which I assiduously combed through was about 50% disco and it only confirmed my suspicion that as a genre it is criminally over-rated. Oh sure there's Disco I love, just as a set of cliches it's simply not got the power ascribed to it by unthinking Loft fetishists. So, although I dipped my ear in on Spotify, I passed on buying both the two P&P sets AND the two Sam Records sets. I'm not certain what the methodology for choosing those two labels was? Perhaps it was simply that the catalogue was available for licensing at a sensible price? I'd like to hear Salsoul, Prelude and West End sets though...

I also passed on the three SOURCES Chicago music compilations. for DJ International, Underground and TRAX. I have so much of this stuff on record. What I did find sufficiently appealing to buy on CD were the following four sets. What follows is a very brief, not uncritical, review of them.

The Sleeping Bag Records Anthology (XXXXO)

From reading this interview with Brewster I know that this is his favorite of all the SOURCES comps owing to "the variety of music they released". The first disc of the Sleeping Bag comp is an embarrassment of riches - I actually have all these records, for which I only paid a few pounds in the early nineties before Arthur Russell was anything more than a whisper. But the sheer thrill of having all these tracks on one shiny disc (buy the CD not the record here) was more than I could resist. However, sadly it does need lamenting that Sleeping Bag, for all its undeniable hipster cachet, quickly went off the boil. The bohemian quixotic-ity of the early releases was hardly sustainable. The Mantronix stuff is of course great and the Hip-Hop stuff is nice... perhaps it's just the neo-R'n'B (Early Garage?) that I find a little grating? In fact its later releases, the Todd Terry stuff, to my mind arrested the decline.

The Fresh Records Anthology (XXXXO)

Ok, so this was a surprise! I hadn't really grasped that Fresh records was effectively the reincarnation of Sleeping Bag. Sleeping Bag Part Two. There's quality here to match the best of the Sleeping Bag compilation. Highlights have to be Mantronix' spell-binding production of Chandra Simmonds "Never Gonna Let You Go" and the Just Ice and T La Rock tracks filling the second CD which are still incredibly powerful. But lots more besides.

The Streetwise Records Anthology (XXOOO)

These last two are very much the curate's egg. On this I only selected six worthy tracks (by Pushé, Cuba Gooding Jnr, Freez, Dominatrix and Citispeak). The Dr John does "The Message" track "Jet Set" , is a fascinating idea, should have been brilliant. But, regrettably, aint. A lot of quite dated electro here. Very pleased to hear it all in one place though and to be able to have the opportunity to appraise it.

The Easy Street Records Anthology (XOOOO)

Ouch. Very little here worth hearing. You can't fault Cultural Vibe's "Ma Foom Bey" but the rest seems caught up in its own stylishness and feels self-congratulatory. The only other highlight is the Deep Dish remix of De 'Lacy's "Hideaway" which, truthfully, doesn't have much to do with Easy Street. It certainly sounds like an an outlier and is arguably more a product of Washington or even the "post-local" phase of dance music after 1995. Monster tune though.