Dance Zone Level 4 (Polygram TV, 1995)

Dance Zone L4

Dance Zone L4 r

Review
Spring ’95 and time for Level 4. The centre pages open into a massive zone logo from Qd Design Limited. Upfront are Alex Party, East 17, N-Trance, The Real McCoy, The Brand New Heavies, Perfecto Allstarz, Deuce, JX, Nightcrawlers, Mory Kante, Corona, Clock.

Don’t Give Me Your Life reached #2 in Ireland, Israel and the UK, plus it topped the Club Record category at Music Week’s 1995 Awards. The next song makes me turning back my memory clock to the late ’80s and I remember both Pig Bag and Big Pig as graffiti on an unapproachable person’s pencil case. Papa’s Got A Brand New Pigbag had an amazing bassline; much too bright for post-punk. In January 1995, Paul Oakenfold released the addictive Reach Up, credited to the Perfecto Allstarz. A fav of Mitch’s. Anthems abound on Nightcrawlers’ Push The Feeling On, N-Trance’s Set You Free and Clock’s Axel F. Don’t you forget about Deuce’s poptastic Call It Love which is followed by the Human League’s Tell Me When, their biggest hit for nine years. Purchased just after Christmas in Virgin. Ready to wear: the joyful Close To You by The Brand New Heavies coupled with Mory Kante’s expansive Yeke Yeke, caned by Tom and Emma in the bedsits of Beechwood Avenue. Working those Euro dance moves are Corona on the simply wonderful Baby Baby.

“A generation without soul” wonders MC Sar on the evocative Run Away, the outstanding follow-up to Another Night. Adapting their sound were Snap, a throwback to the heady 1990-1992 period on the sublime Welcome To Tomorrow. Joo talks: “The nursery rhyme synth riff which goes throughout the song and especially under the Hocus pocus turn around, ain’t no magic at around.” Thank you for the days – there’s Whigfield’s carbon copy Another Day and East 17’s Stay Another Day pumped up in Less Sad Mix guise. Time for True Faith ’94, used to promote the November ’94 Best Of, a popular Christmas present. Next, another winter hit, M People’s Sight For Sore Eyes, the lead single from Bizarre Fruit. Less cerebral are Reel 2 Reel plus The Mad Stuntman on Can You Feel It while Driza Bone let Real Love have a second crack (#24 vs #16 in 1991). Bringing us to half time, Ultimate Kaos representing teenage London on the smooth Hoochie Booty.

CD2 brings us on a somewhat less familiar road. Some big ‘uns: Loveland’s powerful Let The Music (Lift You Up) and Lovestation’s uptempo Love Come Rescue Me. Plus more: Strike’s handbag classic U Sure Do and JX’s shimmering You Belong To Me; the latter summoning up the sensation of being in a fast car, windows open on a warm night. Move around the zone for Mr Roy’s party classic Saved – as Kee Lo says “Great track that used the BBC’s cricket theme nicely. Very euphoric and typical of the Eurodance movement of 1994.” Back once again or a slight return? Wildchild’s slammin’ Legends Of The Dark Black Part 2. A drop into the dark side on Giant City’s Feel The Spirit, a Hacienda memory for some as the North Mix Edit kicks in. And then a nice reggae detour with Sharon Forrester’s jungle-tinged Love Inside before the big, fat and heavy beats of Leviticus’ Burial. That one came from Freebird’s basement on Eden Quay. And taking it right back are Greed featurng Ricardo Da Force with a wicked version of Pump Up The Volume.

Quarter 4 opens with Ace Of Base and the doomy remix of Living In Danger courtesy of Armand Van Helden. In the name of love: Coming Out Crew’s Free, Gay & Happy. 23 years on, I’m still blown away by Moby’s Everytime You Touch Me. Its killer chorus and soaring melody along with the uplifting vibe – a true sound of Moyne Road. The nostalgic feeling continues with the arrival of Passion from Jon Of The Pleased Wimmin. Remember that on The Word? Get your hands in the air for Escrima AKA Tall Paul’s Train Of Thought – we all did at the Ormond Multi Media centre. Elsewhere, The Tabernacle give us the righteous I Know The Lord while Swing 52’s warehouse groove Colour Of My Skin still packs a punch. One of the forgotten hip hop records of the era is Darkman’s cutting and edgy Yabba Dabba Doo, inspired by a documentary on the killing of Stephen Lawrence. Quality London beats. Equally sublime is D*Note’s joyful acid jazzer The Garden Of Earthly Delights. Lastly, a call to arms from Outrage, a belter called Tall ‘n’ Handsome.

“And he’s got to be free”

Favourite tracks
Corona – Baby Baby

Darkman – Yabba Dabba Doo

Brand New Heavies – Close To You

Escrima – Train Of Thought

D*Note – The Garden Of Earthly Delights (X-Press 2 Radio Edit)

Lest we forget
Leviticus – Burial

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Dance Zone Level 3 (Polygram TV, 1994)

Dance Zone L3

Dance Zone L3 r

Review
Level 3 of Dance Zone saw the number tracks increase – “42 essential dance hits.” Getting their names out front were Whigfield, Corona, DJ Miko, Tinman, Reel 2 Real, M Beat featuring General Levy, Maxx, The Brand New Heavies, 2 Unlimited, China Black, Salt ‘n’ Pepa with En Vogue. It was released in autumn 1994, around the same time that I went to see Pulp Fiction in The Savoy and the release of Now That’s What I Call Music 29.

1-2-XU as Whigfield’s Saturday Night leads into the glorious sound of Corona and The Rhythm Of The Night. Dead on the heavy funk are DJ Miko (What’s Up) and Tinman (18 Strings) while it’s a case of maximum familiarity for Go On Move and Incredible. Jungle is massive and so were The Prodigy in 1994. That Christmas would see the band on an Irish tour with a memorable climax on New Year’s Day 1995 at Waterford’s Metroland. I had previously seen them there on 17 September 1993 with The Fourth Dimension in tow. Vicks central. No Good (Start The Dance) is here, a sublime reminder of those hedonistic times, the era of 21st birthday parties. Escape to paradise with 2 Unlimited’s subdued No One. From despair to where – Maxx’s pulsating No More. Meanwhile CJ Lewis stays sweet on Everything’s Alright as The Brand New Heavies excel on Midnight At The Oasis.

Livin’ Joy’s Dreamer remains as vibrant as ever. Ex-Frank’s APA man Tom Ewing says “The bumping, cut-up rhythms and vocals that begin the remixed Dreamer feel like garage, for example, but as Janice Robinson takes the song into its urgently blissful chorus I want to call it house – or even go more specific and say handbag house, that showy, uplifting offshoot that strutted across superclub dancefloors in the mid-90s.” It’s followed by Juliet Roberts’ catchy Caught In The Middle and Eternal’s superb Just A Step From Heaven. After a skank-off between Searching and Whatta Man, we’re treated to the euphoric rush of Cappella’s Move It Up, full of energy and emotion. Next the somewhat forgotten melancholia of Time Frequency’s Dreamscape, a hazy Spar Ranelagh memory. Check out the late Debbie Millar’s cracking vocals. “Wherever you are, enjoy your cake.” There’s a descent into ordinariness with D:Ream’s average Take Me Away and The Hed Boys’ so-so Girls And Boys with CD1 ending on a jungle breakthrough Original Nuttah.

CD2 offers some lesser-spotted numbers from Tony Di Bart, Atlantic Ocean and Club House. The former’s Do It got as far as #21 in the UK and takes a while to grow on you. Like a teenage New Order. Body In Motion is like Don’t Stop compared to Waterfall, camp as hell. And Living In The Sunshine plays like a ghostly walk through fields of corn, wispy summer evening tinged with tragic trance. Ragamuffin mysteries abound next – Chaka Demus & Pliers ply the Gal Wine, Dawn Penn drops the raucous You Don’t Love Me (No No No) while Aswad’s Warriors is welcome history lesson. In the zone, Aaliyah’s timeless Back And Forth, a smooth crossover that once heard, is never forgotten. +8 Shara Nelson’s Down That Found, the lively Def Classic Mix Edit followed by the nocturnal pulsating beat of Kim English’s Nite Life. New for ’94; Diddy’s shimmering remix of Blondie’s Atomic.

Pizzamania: John Reid and Norman Cook joined forces and gifted us with Trippin’ On Sunshine, an epic trip that hit the public’s consciousness upon re-release in 1996. Turn up the music! Tin Tin Out & Sweet Tee’s master blaster, The Feeling with a new updated take on Raze’s Break For Love – Our Tribe Radio Mix. Sasha is not to be confused with Sash! Magic is a superclub smash. More, more, more: House Of Virginism’s rare rapido moment Reachin’ plus D-Mob’s upfront One Day. In a similar vein, Black Diamond’s plaintive yet chunky trance number Let Me Be which slips nicely into DJ Bobe’s Swiss roller Everybody. Elsewhere catch the vibe of Lucas and the nifty dubkatz sound of With The Lid Off. And then a flashback to an earlier era as Ice MC lets fly with Think About The Way. Just one more tune! What a finish, Orbital’s sublime Are We Here? Like an ambient Kate Bush with breakbeats, a fantastic finale. The Trap remembered: Machines (Or Back To Humans).

Favourite tracks
Orbital – Are We Here?

Cappella – Move It Up

2 Unlimited – No One

Club House featuring Carol – Living In The Sunshine

Aaliyah – Back And Forth

Lest we forget
Time Frequency – Dreamscape

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Dance Zone Level 2 (Polygram TV, 1994)

Dance Zone L2

Dance Zone L2 r

Review
For the second volume of Dance Zone – 2 CDs of mega value – the advertising tagline said “40 more massive dance hits”. More was a larger font and written in yellow. The featured artists being The Grid, 2 Cowboys, Salt ‘n’ Pepa, Cappella, Aswad, Maxx, Crystal Waters, Gloworm, The Brand New Heavies, M People, D:Ream, Ace Of Bass, Degrees Of Motion.

In the summer of 1994 I was mostly working in Lucan. Two buses – the 10 into city centre and then a 25 / 66 / 67 to the village. Swamp Thing was massive then; you’d hear it almost every morning, a big breakthrough for The Grid. Always linked is 2 Cowboys’ Everybody Gonfi Gon, a kind of more tolerable version of Rednex. Another track that’s better than you think is Salt ‘n’ Pepa’s Shoop while Cappella’s U & Me is simply magnificent, a gigantic slice of quality Eurodance. Now That’s What I Call Music 28 is the canon compilation of this era and many of its tracks turn up here – e.g. Maxx’s Get-A-Way, Gloworm’s Carry Me Home, M People’s Renaissance. The beat goes boom for Crystal Waters and her percussive twirler 100% Pure Love. Loads of cowbells with a great pop sound. This what happens when two worlds collide: Kym Mazelle and Jocelyn Brown’s defiant Enough Is Enough.

Pump up the volume! The Brand New Heavies’ Back To Love is a brilliantly sung jam that plays like a duet. Sunday morning gospel next – Sound Of Blackness and the hearty I Believe – before we slip back into Italian project territory on Blast’s Crayzy Man. There’s frantic energy expelled by Anticappella and MC Fixx It on Move Your Body. Someone, somewhere plays this on You Tube and sighs “’90s forever” – especially if Haddaway’s Rock My Heart comes next. The spirit and face of the decade. Dropping down the BPMs are Galliano on the honeyed groove of Long Time Gone. CD1 ends with the long lost Utah Saints single, I Still Think Of You. A non-album 45 with vocals by Jez Willis, it scaled the heights of #32 on the UK charts. They pulled the same trick in ’95 with the underrated Ohio, also preserved on a Dance Zone compilation – Level 6 – reviewed in December.

“I will survive . . . without you”
Ace Of Base’s recording (in a minor key) of Don’t Turn Around continues to endure, its mixed black & white / colour video a vivid memory. Naturally followed by Aswad’s Shine and the mayhem of Doop before the banging I’m In The Mood by Ce Ce Peniston, first fruits of her sophomore LP. Classical gas – the instrumental riff in 2 Unlimited’s The Real Thing is inspired by Johann Sebastan Bach’s Toccata And Fugue In D Minor. Now that’s what I call quite good: Motiv 8’s energetic Rockin’ For Myself. Building like a skyscaper, The OT Quartet’s epic Hold That Sucker Down. Thanxx recalls: “The greatest part of the brain is memory, the worst thing that comes from memory is nostalgia. We remember but we can never go back! So sad.” And a response from Mark R – “This track gives me chills. And the level of nostalgia i feel for it is beyond words. I had one of the best nights / mornings of my life when this dropped. It was the closing track and the rave just exploded before my eyes. It was simply breathtaking. Every single person got up for this track & danced so hard to it. The feeling of unity i felt in that space and time was mesmerizing & I’ll never forget it. If only i could go back just one more time..”

A nice 12″: Dina Carroll’s Here (West End Mix) coupled with Jody Watley’s ace When A Man Loves A Woman, as remixed by BBG. Another legendary diva, Mary J Blige drops the hard-edged Reminisce while Rozalla – somewhat out of time – appears with I Love Music, an O-Jays cover as heard on Carlito’s Way. I rented the video from Late Night Movies, Donnybrook. As is the wont with Dance Zone, there’s a great mix of the well known and the forgotten. Mr Vain followed by the singalong K7 swinger Hi De Ho. Video not seen since back in the day. The old skool party continues on SWV’s crucial Anything with EYC give us plenty beats on the high energy rush of Number One. Meanwhile our friends The Time Frequency bring us to the summit on Such A Phantasy, music from the last rave on earth. Back to reality: CB Milton’s sparking It’s A Loving Thing before Denise Johnson’s rocks out on the intense Rays Of The Rising Sun. Finally, it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy courtesy of DJ Duke – Turn It Up – all mean rhythms. Say yeah to tribal madness.

Favourite tracks
The OT Quartet – Hold That Sucker Down

Haddaway – Rock My Heart

Brand New Heavies – Back To Love

Anticappella featuring MC Fixx It – Move Your Body

Dina Carroll – Here (West End Mix)

Lest we forget
Utah Saints – I Still Think Of You

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