Lately we've reactivated a long-held obsession with the work of the great Larry Levan, the DJ at the helm of one of the world's great clubs Paradise Garage, and found it to be the perfect musical accompaniment to the sublime summer days currently engulfing Auckland. Levan was so influential and so unique in his production and remixing skills that his music continues to excite and influence many of today's electronic producers: Chromeo, Hercules & Love Affair and Junior Boys among others. The recent remix of Hercules & Love Affair's Blind by Levan contemporary Frankie Knuckles is so resonant of the sound of the time it could well be time for a revival. Here's five of our favourite Larry Levan remixes:
1. Walking On Sunshine (Larry Levan mix) - Rockers Revenge
This tune, produced by the legendary Arthur Baker (above) and written by Eddy Grant was a clear cut crossover tune between the Paradise Garage and the breakbeat/electro explosion of the time. Levan's version features his trademark congas, rolling bass and a swell treatment of singer Donnie Galvin's uplifting vocal.
2. Tearin It Up (Larry Levan Garage House Vocal mix) - Chaka Khan
Beginning with a pastiche of electro bass and choppy garage gat, Tearin It Up soon falls deeply into the super diva soul machinations of the great Chaka Khan who presents, in one song, the full range of her sassy, sublime and undeniably powerful voice. Divas all over the world (and in Aotearoa the likes of Annie Crummer and Betty Ann Monga) would have considered this a template. Levan moves the whole shebang along at a rate of knots making this a huge dancefloor hit. Fierce in the truest sense...
3. Is It All Over My Face (Female Vocal) - Loose Joints
This tune is one of the club's all time greats. Loose Joints was ostensibly Arthur Baker and Steve d'Aquisto but also featured rhythmic input from the Ingram Brothers and Levan himself. Vocalist Melvina Woods wrote the words: "Is it all over my face, you've got me luv dancing" which was appropriated years later by Strictly Rhythm outfit Underground Solution and Jasmine. The tune has been remixed many times but is most perfectly remixed in this version by Levan.
4. At Midnight (Larry Levan Remix) - T-Connection
This tune had been a big late seventies disco hit for T-Connection but Levan adds something special with his rolling garage affectation that starts with a percussion jam, erupts into the tune's legendary horns, disco guitar and strings and ends with a section that simply goes boi-yoi-ying. Activate your boogie shoes!
5. Stand On The Word (unreleased Larry Levan mix) - Celestial Choir
Recorded at the First Baptist Church, Crown Heights, New York in 1982, this exemplary mix of a gospel tune by Levan lay largely hidden for many years until recently rereleased and re-invented with a quality pressing. Somehow this perfectly represents the celebratory ethic of Larry Levan as well as any tune.