reviewed by Ben Hogwood
What’s the story?
Traditionally dance music has paid homage to its heroes through the sample rather than the cover version. DJs and producers have tended to use material from the originals, from complete chunks right down to the bare hi-hats, updating them for current and future dancefloors. This has often carried baggage, however, in the time spent clearing samples from their original owners and with money often having to be exchanged prior to the tracks being released.
Glasgow Underground owner Kevin McKay has taken a different approach. Removing the problem stage at a stroke, he releases an album of 14 choice house and disco covers without sampling a single note. The first fruits of this fresh angle were a joint cover with David Penn of Randy Crawford’s Hallelujah in May, followed by a take on Whitney Houston’s Million Dollar Bill in June – and now we have these freshly minted covers to enjoy as an album.
What’s the music like?
Excellent. McKay’s approach works really well, giving us new dancefloor winners but also letting us here the originals in a different light, showing us just how good they really are. The hand-picked vocalists deliver, so much so you can often sense them literally throwing their hands to the sky.
“You blow my troubles away like the winds of autumn”, goes the vocal on Hallelujah, and it’s difficult not to agree when the gospel chorus kicks in afterwards. This is arguably the pick of the tracks, though several run it close. Such A Good Feeling benefits from Joshwa’s excellent contribution, throwing off its cares completely, while the way McKay brings in the piano riff for a cover of Xpansions’ Move Your Body is also a thrill.
Elsewhere the version of I Got The Feeling is a Nile Rodgers-influenced high, while Million Dollar Bill is brilliantly executed, with disco bounce and classy keyboards. This track was made with Start The Party, who McKay also enlists for the immortal Donna Summer classic I Feel Love. A brave move, but he emerges intact with an excellent cover that doesn’t try to do to much with Moroder’s timeless source material.
Also well worth noting are a suitably deadpan cover of Technologic with Marco Anzalone – excellent cold bass sound here – and a well-judged version of A Deeper Love. Get Ur Freak On takes a while to get used to – the Missy Elliott original is so distinctive it’s odd to hear it done any other way – but the version of Paul Johnson’s Get Get Down, with Matt Fontaine, is spot on. That also applies for the final Start The Party collaboration, Don’t Leave Me This Way wrapping the collection up in style.
Does it all work?
Mostly. McKay has all the experience needed to make the dancefloor a heaving mass of bodies, and the vast majority of these tracks fit the blueprint comfortably. The music is at its best when disco meets house and throws in a few extras, and it is clear these covers are made with a true love of the music and its history.
Is it recommended?
Without hesitation. Who knew when it started in the late 1980s that dance music would be so durable and flexible? Albums like this only prove its longevity and continued ability to raise us from the doldrums.
You can buy No Samples Were Harmed… at Traxsource here