Wednesday, 18 February 2009

DJ Spen & The Muthafunkaz presents Marc Evans - The Way You Love Me

If any album has real “YES!”value then it's this classy, classy set of soulful dance from the brilliant DJ Spen, Marc Evans and the Muthafunkaz. If you have not yet checked them out then I suggest you do so ASAP. Hailing from Baltimore, DJ Spen associated himself with e Basement Boys label as far back as 1989, and co-founded Code Red Records with co-Muthafunka, Engineer Gary Deane in 2004. Recent releases have been on the Defected label, which is where you will find this fine release. Alongside Spen on the mix are Gary Hudgins on keys and Irvin Madden on bass and together they form the Muthafunkaz. The group are also well known for their vibrant and popular remixes and have sprinkled their dancefloor magic over the likes of Diana Ross, Ann Nesby and even Everything But The Girl! A real milestone for me, though, was their sublime “The Way That You Love Me” from late 2006 which was a moment of musical ecstasy...the T.S.O.P. And Salsoul mixes were to die for and anyone who loves to groove to a feel-good, frantic boogie-times beat will simply adore this CD crammed with similar flavours. The aforementioned song is included here in a more bass-powered mix, minus strings and hi-hat but is still something you can really get into. The new single, “Given Me Joy”, is simply wonderful. The pumping bass and gospel-like backing vocals are buffered by a Barry White / Love Unlimited Orchestra string sequence which raises the song to some really serious heights. The vocals are spot-on and immensely poetic and lyrical when Marc delves into spoken word part way through. This is just blinding. The contrasting song lyrically but not musically is the excellent “Reach Out For Love” which is socially conscious, using strings which not only sweeten but have an urgency to them and carry a mournful feeling. I tell you this, rarely will the dancefloor get better than this. If, like me, you loved Little Louie Vega's “Extensions” album a few years back, and loved the inclusion with Raul Midon then you are going to really appreciate the pseudo-Latin rhythms of “Beneath The Crescent Moon” - the icing on the cake is some tasteful muted trumpet. I find that jazz and house can be perfect partners if handled properly, and this is done with aplomb. I direct you to the synth-laden, harp-drizzled and guitar-led “I Am Crazy”with its frantic beats and bassy undertone. The flavour hints at past dancefloor flavours and the vocals are right out of the 80s. Barry White comes straight to mind with the interpolation of his famous break-beat on the soulful yet earnest “The Promise”. The Vince Montana flavoured sample that carries “What Is This Thing Called Love” really KICKS. For me it's the showcase track on the album...the bass pumps, the rhythm skips and the affair is cemented together with so much Philly flavour that it's simply fantastic. Feel-good soulful dance for the summer! My final pick on here is going to be a smash on the soulful dancefloors this summer...I rate this as high as the previous highlight, and that is the stellar "(If You Want My Love) Put Something Down On It". Its throbbing bassline, harp and eerie synth aligned with the sheer inspirational quality of the vocals is going to make any party rock! An absolutely essential release and thanks to the good folks at Defected for giving us not only what we want but what we NEED!

Barry Towler