Friday, June 04, 2010

Walter Gibbons- Jungle Music

I first heard about Walter Gibbons a few years ago after tracking down a tune he made famous -  a gospel record called Stand On The Word (after hearing Benji B play it at The Turnaround). It got reissued as a bootleg, which was wrongly attributed to legendary Paradise Garage DJ Larry Levan. Turns out Walter discovered the recording was by a gospel group, The Joubert Singers,  from a church near his studio. At that point in his DJ career, he'd discovered God and renounced playing all lewd, sexual dance music, which made him less than attractive to club owners of the day.

I read up on this thanks to author Tim Lawrence, (Love saves the day), who put up the liner notes he wrote for a Salsoul CD reissue of Walter's remix/re-edit work for that label - read them here.

As Lawrence says in those liner notes, referring to Stand On The Word... "The song soon became a Garage, Loft and Zanzibar classic, and Tony Humphries went on to remix the record - which was attributed to the Joubert Singers, after Phyllis McKoy Joubert, who penned the song for the Celestial Choir - for Next Plateau. For many, Gibbons had lost his way but not his ear." Listen to it here.

Now Strut has compiled an impressive collection of Walter's work across numerous labels... press blurb below...

"Walter Gibbons remains one of the most important and unheralded DJ / remixers in New York dance music history, a pioneer of reel to reel edits and the art of the remix and a tangible link between early hip hop and disco through his quickfire turntable skills developed during the mid-‘70s.

At his famed residency at Galaxy 21 (alongside a then young percussionist, Francois Kevorkian), Gibbons perfected his turntable prowess, mixing two copies of records seamlessly at a similar time to Kool Herc’s famed block parties across town in the Bronx in 1975. He was among the first to make his own reel to reel edits of tracks, extending breaks and restructuring tracks specifically for the dancefloor. As a direct result, he was the first DJ to be granted access to multi-track tapes as Ken Cayre’s Salsoul Records brought him in to re-work Double Exposure’s ‘Ten Percent’ in ‘76, a mix that would set the blueprint for disco, the 12” format and all future dance music mixes.

Gibbons would become a prolific remixer for Salsoul and developed a style his contemporaries called ‘Jungle Music’, a raw, uncompromising approach to DJ-ing and mixing which often extended tracks to 10 minutes plus with tribal percussion breaks and off-the-cuff, unexpected production touches. This compilation focuses on some of the more adventurous and ground-breaking mixes that Gibbons produced during the disco era including a freeform treatment of Dinosaur L’s ‘Go Bang’, Paradise Garage favourite ‘You Are My Love’ by Sandy Mercer and underground disco rarity, ‘I’ve Been Searching’ by Arts & Craft.

Into the ‘80s, Gibbons continued to break new ground. One of his recognised classics, ‘Set It Off’ by Strafe, fused electro, disco and New York post-punk in a genius re-work, later reprised on the proto-house version he recorded as Harlequin Fours with a young Barbara Tucker on vocals. He also worked with Arthur Russell during the mid-‘80s and became one of the only remixer / producers that Russell would trust with his work. Gibbons’ mixes of Indian Ocean’s ‘Treehouse / School Bell’ and Russell’s ‘Let’s Go Swimming’ are now acknowledged classics. We feature here the exclusive unreleased Russell track ‘See Through’, a brilliant minimal electro piece.

Walter Gibbons found religion and had stopped producing by 1986, although he continued to DJ with a much heavier slant towards gospel. He died of AIDS-related illness in 1994. This is the first multi-label compilation of his work to be released and features rare photos and a biography by Tim Lawrence, author of ‘Love Saves The Day’ and the recent Arthur Russell biography ‘Hold On To Your Dreams’.


CD 1
1. JAKKI – SUN… SUN… SUN… (Walter Gibbons Original 12” Edit)
2. DOUBLE EXPOSURE – TEN PERCENT (Walter Gibbons 12“ mix)
3. TC JAMES & THE FIST O’FUNK ORCHESTRA – GET UP ON YOUR FEET (Keep On Dancin') (Walter Gibbons mix)
4. GLADYS KNIGHT – IT’S A BETTER THAN GOOD TIME (Walter Gibbons 12” mix)
6. SANDY MERCER – YOU ARE MY LOVE (12" version)
7. BETTYE LAVETTE – DOIN’ THE BEST THAT I CAN (Walter Gibbons 12“ mix)

CD 2
1. ARTHUR RUSSELL – SEE THROUGH (Walter Gibbons mix)*
2. DINOSAUR L – GO BANG (Walter Gibbons unreleased mix)
3. STRAFE – SET IT OFF (Walter Gibbons 12” mix)
4. ARTS & CRAFT – I’VE BEEN SEARCHING (Walter Gibbons 12” mix)
6. STETSASONIC – 4 EVER MY BEAT (Beat Bongo mix)
7. HARLEQUIN FOURS – SET IT OFF (US 12" version)

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