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V/A - A Tom Moulton Mix

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Artist: V/A

Album: A Tom Moulton Mix

Label: Soul Jazz

Review date: May. 14, 2006

A Midwestern boy who fell in love with R&B at an early age, Tom Moulton worked as a jukebox rep for Seeburg and a radio promotions associate for King/Starday before moving to New York City in the early ’70s. With his catalog good looks, he landed a modeling contract; his image and his love of music moved him into the burgeoning world of the club scene in and around Greenwich Village and Fire Island, just as things were starting to kick off for the disco era and the decadence that went hand-in-hand. Radio had taught Moulton what programmers were looking for in a single, the hooks and elements of a track that held listener and programmer attention alike; combined with his studio expertise, he was able to create a legendary 45-minute tape to be played at the Sandpiper Club consisting of edits from a variety of pre-disco soul and R&B tracks – no mean feat, as the mix was made without the benefit of channel mixing, pitch control, crossfaders, or even direct-drive plates, let alone anything more than 7” singles and album tracks (not the ideal formats for mixing in any environment). Striving for perfection, Moulton continued along this path by asking record companies for copies of the tapes and dub plate pressings of a song’s requisite parts, separated out piecemeal for him to reassemble in the studio. As history has proven, the labels relented over time. While some artists complained, there was little whining from the DJs and crowds when tracks like Moulton’s creations set dancefloors on fire and flew off of record racks. The tools of the trade had been reconfigured by an individual who knew what DJs needed.

Judging by the content of the mixes on Soul Jazz’s double-disc A Tom Moulton Mix, his signature style is one that hits you square in the chest with the beat. These are some of the most up-front disco tracks you are likely to hear; even the congas ride on top of the mix. Bass lines, string sections, and any other elements that define the rhythm are EQ’d for impact. The parts of tracks that strike Moulton’s fancy are singled out, looped, repeated, re-cut. Nowhere on the collection is this more prevalent than on Patti Jo’s “Make Me Believe in You.” Four bars of stern drums, low-end piano drops, a touch of harp and a sassin’ back flute riff are stretched out and built up with a grandeur that redefines the track completely. The main riffs in the song are visited within, a momentum is built similar to the long break at the beginning of the Temptations’ “Papa Was a Rolling Stone,” and by the time the vocals kick in, you’re just about ready to give Moulton – and the DJ – a round of applause. The rest of the track is spent playing out the single as was recorded, and looping the chorus while playing with the dynamics in much the same way as the intro was built. The track verges on sounding piecemeal, as do his mixes of ORS’s synthed-out stomper “Moon-Boots” (which Moulton also produced and released on his Tom ‘n’ Jerry production imprint) and the Andrea True Connection hit “More, More, More,” but all are unrelenting in their delivery and re-envisioning; they are primed for the dancefloor, and all have seen their fair share of action in that medium since their release. Other mixes flow with more grace, like his epic 11+ minute reworking of Eddie Kendricks’ “Keep on Truckin’” – the breaks just keep on coming, shot through with tympanic thunder and an easy, steady groove. In the short form, Moulton empowers tracks like Al Downing’s “I’ll be Holding On” and Udell’s “Won’t You Try” by strengthening their most memorable elements and shoring up the beats. And on the leftfield tip, Grace Jones’s “La Vie en Rose,” with its Rhythm Ace drum track and easy acoustic shuffle, is reconfigured into a trancelike, neatly shambolic love affair.

Depending on who you ask, Tom Moulton: invented the remix; was the first pre-programmed DJ in clubs, before turntable and mixer technology even existed; and invented the 12” single – all terms that are debatable, of course. But in all of these areas, the effect that Moulton had on dance music is inscrutable; he was there at the outset, his remixing skills were formidable, and the works collected on the double-disc set A Tom Moulton Mix cut a clear path to the idea of the remix as it exists today.

By Doug Mosurock

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