It’s been nice to have been part of the team working on the recent releases / re-issues from Demon Music/ Harmless Records in the utterly fantastic ‘DISCO RECHARGE’ series. The brainchild of Mr.Pinks, and compiled by DJ Simon White, the series has turned to the releases of the 70s & 80s by legendary producer Ian Levine. I featured Levine, and in particular Record Shack records in ‘Is That The 12” Mix’ so I was most excited about these as soon as I got wind of their possible release.
Here’s the lowdown:
In the spring of 1984, Evelyn Thomas burst back onto the scene with her massive top five single ‘High Energy’, a soundtrack to the gay-orientated HI-NRG that signalled disco’s re-emergence following a few years in the wilderness.
The man behind the track, Ian Levine, was also on the comeback. After a successful stint as DJ and producer in the late 70s Northern Soul scene, he’d got the recording bug back and had teamed up with Soho’s Record Shack Records which had just started its own label after having been a leading exporter of dance music from the states.
The partnership proved massively successful in the clubs, and on occasions in pop charts across the world. Miquel Brown’s anthemic ‘So Many Men, So Little Time’ sold two million copies around the world, while Thomas herself hit the charts across Europe as well as the Billboard Hot 100 singles.
Both Miquel Brown (best known for being Sinitta’s mum) and Evelyn Thomas recorded two albums for Record Shack, and have seen them reissued as special 2CD expanded, and remastered, sets in the ever popular Disco Recharge series.
With many of the tracks having seen the light of day on CD before a decision was made to make available some of the lesser known or ‘alternative’ mixes, sometimes at the expense of the better known originals. That’s not a bad thing either, with John Rocca’s ‘Hot mix’ of Evelyn Thomas’ ‘Cold Shoulder’ and the rare ‘extended dance mix’ of Brown’s ‘Love Reputation’ making welcome additions to the set-lists.
The CD sets also show that Levine & Record Shack were than one dimensional , with a number of more subtle, and slower soul numbers that have passed the test of time.
And that brings us onto the newly remastered ‘Out of the Darkest Night’ by Barbara Pennington. Originally released in 1985, one of the 80s most under-rated soul albums has received the same treatment. Hit singles ‘On a Crowded Street’ (of which there are two separate mixes on the album) and ‘Fan the Flame’ might not have gone top five around the world but they sound as fresh and as lush as ever. There are three tracks on this one that have never seen the light of day on CD before, including the original 12” mix of her first Record Shack single ‘All American Boy’, and a remix of the title track, which was her last before she recorded later singles for Levine’s new label ‘Nightmare Records’ .
I already have all these albums on vinyl. There’s not much Record Shack output that I haven’t been able to track down over the years. Finding ‘Manpower’ in Woolworth’s Skipton branch in late 1980s meant going without my school lunch for the rest of the week, ‘Close To perfection’ bought in a closing down sale in a long lost Leeds record shop, the vinyl LP ‘High Energy’somehow turning out to be a Portugese import…these reissues bring it all flooding back. It was ambition as a teenager to visit Record Shack store in Berwick Street, Soho one day. Alas, by the time I was old enough to get there it was no more.
The two Ian Levine 2cd sets, released in the past couple of weeks, contain different tracks to the above CDs. The first showcases the best of his 70s output, the second, many of his Hi-NRG masterpieces. I gather more Levine related releases are planned, can’t wait…
Miquel Brown – Manpower / Close To Perfection
Evelyn Thomas – High Energy / Standing at the Crossroads
Barbara Pennington – Out of the Darkest Night
Ian Levine – 24 Hours a Day – the Disco Years
Ian Levine – Beating Faster – the Hi-NRG Years