CD REVIEWS – Dance/Electronica

Club Cutz USA: The 12” Mixes – Various Artists
BMG Entertainment
Previously Released

To cap off the blitz of summer releases, I had to include this non-stop Hi NRG compilation from three years back because it still has some of the fiercest mixes and the most fabulous songs and artists to ever be assembled on one CD. To begin with, there’s Pink (when people were asking “who’s Pink?”) with her first smash single “There You Go,” completely retooled by mix-master Hani. This segues seamlessly into Junior’s Marathon Mix of Toni Braxton’s smash “He Wasn’t Man Enough.” From there, it’s a wild 79-minute party that goes from the infancy of Christina Aguilera’s career as a recording artist, as “What A Girl Wants” thumps its way into her then-nemesis Britney Spears’ “(You Drive Me) Crazy.” Amber’s oozing anthem “Sexual” is complete with the full Thunderpuss treatment, as Club 69’s Future Anthem Mix of Charlotte’s “Skin” completely gets under yours. Cher’s 1999 club smash “Strong Enough” (also a Club 69 Future Anthem Mix) takes over your body, as the disc dances its way into your head with nine more exclusive mixes that include Donna Summer’s “I Will Go With You (Con Te Partias),” Deborah Cox’s “Things Just Ain’t The Same,” a Metro Mix of Tina Turner’s “When The Heartache Is Over” and closing down the party, but never the beat of your heart, is Cyndi Lauper’s sensational Soul Solution Mix of the dance staple “Disco Inferno.” If it’s a continuous party full of divalicious anthems you’re looking for to satisfy yourself or a major Memorial Day Weekend blowout, this compilation is the perfect party pleaser. These songs are tried and true, and baby, far from “old school.” If you have great taste or a young one you want to impress with real singers with real songs, this one’s for you.

Erasure: Light At The End Of The World
Mute Records
Release Date: May 22, 2007

Erasure has returned with their new CD, Light At The End Of The World, that’s complete with the electronic-synth-pop sound that put them on the musical map and dancefloor two decades ago. I had to wonder if the duo of Andy Bell and Vince Clarke were still on the cutting edge after all these years, and I’m happy to report that after listening to their latest effort, their 15th release is as fresh as their first.

When listening to the first single, “I Could Fall In Love With You,” I wasn’t surprised to learn that it’s Billboard’s Hot Shot Debut on the Hot Dance Club Play charts this week. By the time this article is published, it should reach the zenith position in the U.K.

The disc kicks off with the scorching “Sunday Girl,” which is absolutely mesmerizing, and the ingredients of electronica – synthesizer and heavy beats pooled with the infectious melody – is just a sign of what’s to come on this ten-track opus.

The trend of this album tends to lean toward an array of hit dance singles that are destined to be enjoyed all summer, and work their way easily into the dance clubs well into the fall, winter and beyond. Yes, this CD is that good!

“Sucker For Love” is probably one of the fiercest electronic tracks ever recorded by Erasure – or anyone for that matter. The opening synthesizer shoots straight to the heart while the pulse of the driving beat sends shockwaves through your entire system. If this track doesn’t make you move, call your doctor for a check-up immediately.

After a half-dozen tracks, the pace slows down ever-so-slightly with “How My Eyes Adore You,” followed by the haunting vocals and the contagious melodies that make up “Darlene,” “When A Lover Leaves You” and the brilliant closer “Glass Angel.” Each and every track on this album is a highlight – there’s not a dud in the bunch.

This album’s powerful and meticulous production is reminiscent of Erasure’s most inspired work, and will be as popular as their earlier stunning successes like 1989’s The Innocents and their 90’s masterpieces Chorus and I Say, I Say, I Say.

Light At The End Of The World is sure to please Erasure purists as well as developing a whole new appreciation and fanbase for younger first-time listeners. To say it’s a great CD would be a gross understatement, so I’ll just use the “F” word – Fabulous!

Gay Days Volume 4: DJ Randy Bettis
Centaur Records
Release Date: June 5, 2007

In the “thank you” notes on this fourth volume of the successful Gay Days series, DJ Randy Bettis signs off with three words, “Keep on dancin’.” After listening to this 75-minute non-stop compilation, it would be hard to do anything but. What’s most interesting and fun about this collection is that Bettis aims to please a wide demographic, mixing in “old school” artists such as the legendary Viola Wills, with one of her several signatures “If You Could Read My Mind,” and Suzanne Palmer’s “There Will Come A Day,” to newcomers such as Peyton, who delivers a fierce rendition of the old Christopher Cross hit single “Ride Like The Wind.” Then it’s on to the unambiguously gay duo of the new millennium, Jason & deMarco, and their ferocious interpretation of “This Is Love,” which ended up as the #1 Song of the Year on MTV’s sister station LOGO.

The CD is kicked off with the diva vocal of Dirty Old Ann wailing to the waiting audience “Turn Me On,” which segues seamlessly into Freemasons’ “Ain’t Nothing But A Heartache.” After just two non-stop tracks, it’s safe to say you’ll catch the infectious vibe that sets the stage for the next hour-plus set.

Other familiar sounds come out of Dark Lady, who channels Cher with “Different Kind Of Love Song,” to the one and only Billie Myers’ “Just Sex.” Not enough? How about a stunning interpretation of “Rise Up” by Andrea T. Mendoza, featuring Manuela, as it melds without a glitch into “Turn It Up” by Basstoy. Dance favorite Danielle Bollinger closes out the set with the recently released “You’ll Always Have Me.”

Bettis claims that he always has fun choosing music for these annual compilations, and nothing could ring truer than this latest collection of one dozen scorching hot tracks. Randy Bettis may have advised you to keep on dancin’ but he may not have realized that this CD is sure to keep you dancin’ long into the dog days of summer. The songs have plenty of fire to keep you sweltering on the dance floor well into Labor Day weekend and beyond.

Pride ’07: DJ Max Rodriguez
Centaur Records
Release Date: June 26, 2007

This CD is released in celebration of the tenth anniversary of Centaur Records, the premier gay label that has brought us Hi NRG dance compilations from high-profile DJ’s Junior Vasquez, Randy Bettis, Roland and Belmares, David Knapp and several others. Over the past decade they have also spotlighted such amazing talent as Angie Stone, Jimmy Somerville, Kristine W, Deborah Cox and Destiny’s Child, to name just a few.

This brand-new release highlights remakes of some of the biggest gay anthems originated by Cher, Thelma Houston, Bonnie Tyler, Laura Branigan and more. In other words, this album is diva-filled with diva delights, and the HI NRG remixes by the exceptionally talented Max Rodriguez make this one hour-plus non-stop collection a must for anyone that enjoys the celebration of dance. In true Centaur tradition, this is the sixth “Pride” CD in a series that began in 2002. The demand for the CD’s was so overwhelming, consumers now look forward to these collections every summer in time for Pride.

The retrospective contains a dozen sterling dance anthems updated by Rodriguez, and they include new versions of “Self Control,” “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” “Don’t Leave Me This Way,” “If I Could Turn Back Time” and eight more classics with two new singles, “Tell Me Right Now (Shout)” by Liquid 360, and a new 2007 mix of Gina G’s classic “Ooh Ahh Just A Little Bit.” The closer is the fabulous anthem “Forever Young” performed by Ella.

If diva anthems are your thing, this collection is a can’t-miss.  Take the ride with Pride ’07, it’s a real trip.

Mark Ronson: Version
RCA Records
Release Date: July 10, 2007

“God Put a Smile Upon Your Face” is the track that kicks off this very sexy 60’s style CD. This song, like the entire CD, has a “groove” sound that could’ve been lifted as an alternative track to “The Dating Game” back in 1966. Put on your Pucci’s before you press “play” – it’s party time. The first track flawlessly segues into “Oh My God” featuring Brit sensation Lily Allen, who put a “Smile” on our faces this past winter and keeps us grinning ear to ear with this song that is pop ‘n soul perfection.

You’ve heard the Britney Spears dance ditty “Toxic” from a couple of years ago, and admit it, even if you’re not a Spears fan, you couldn’t escape the infectious melody. This time around, the song features The Tiggers with a sample of the late Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s vocals on a track that is slowed down for a ride that’s smooth and sexy.

Perhaps the most radio-friendly track is “Valerie” which features vocals by another British import, the breakout artist of the year, Amy Winehouse. Speaking of Amy, another track that’s named just that, “Amy,” featuring Kenna, is a highlight among highlights.

“The Only One I Know,” with Robbie Williams and L.S.F. featuring Kasabian, closes out one of the best albums I’ve heard in ages.

This is most definitely a party record and it’s unquestionably the sleeper hit of the year. This one caught me off-guard and I haven’t been able to stop playing it. Take a listen, I have a feeling it’ll have the same effect on you. This CD sounds like a cross between the trumpet of Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass and Chicago with an addition of beats that’ll make the hippest of hip-hoppers green with envy. This is the album to beat this summer.

© 2007 Steven M. Housman. All Rights Reserved.