Tuned In To Music

Reflections from a lifetime

Review: Masters at Work, The Tenth Anniversary Collection, Parts 1 & 2

The Tenth Anniversary Collection is a massive retrospective of the work of house remixers and producers Masters at Work.  Each Part is a four disc set with Part 1 maw 1covering the years 1990-1995 and Part 2 covering 1996-2000.  Tracks on Part 1 are organized by type with individual discs entitled Vocals, Dubs and MAW Vocals, Beats and Loops, and Tools and Grooves.  Part 2 loses the organization for four discs of varied music.  Both arrangements have their strengths and weaknesses – if you want a focused set, you have Part 1, if you want something more like a club mix (with gaps between tracks) you have Part 2.  The documentation for Part 1 is simply a track listing with production credits and some pictures.  The track listings in the booklet reprint the info printed on the foldout digipack.  Part 2 contains a booklet that has an extended essay on the Nuyorican Soul project by Tim Lawrence, author of Love Saves the Day (see the Tuned In review published here on June 10, 2007), and several tributes to MAW but no detailed production info.  The extended discussion of Nuyorican Soul seems out of place given that only 4 of the 33 tracks on Part 2 (there is an additional track on Part 1)are Nuyorican Soul tracks.  (Note that the light tan color in the scan of Part 1 above is inaccurate.  The color on the digipack is silver which reflected the light of the scanner producing the tan color you see.)

Masters at Work is Little Louie Vega and Kenny Dope Gonzalez.  They had each developed independent reputations as New York DJs with Vega working in house and freestyle and Gonzalez in rap when they decided to work together releasing their first maw 2collaboration, “Blood Vibes”, in 1991.  Throughout the 1990s they were one of the premier, many would say they were the premier, remix and production teams in dance and house music.  Their remix clientele is vast, varied and impressive.  Among the remixed artists included in “The Tenth Anniversary Collection” are Ce Ce Peniston, Tito Puente, Simply Red, Chic, Lisa Stansfield, and First Choice (on Part 1), and Luther Vandross, Incognito, Kenny Lattimore, George Benson, Roni Size/Reprazent, and Daft Punk (on Part 2).  MAW’s Nuyorican Soul album featuring a number of latin and soft-jazz musicians like Tito Puente, Eddie Palmieri, George Benson and Roy Ayers is probably the most famous of their production projects and several Nuyorican Soul tracks are scattered across the two Parts.  Because the two Parts of the Collection are divided chronologically, Part 1 contains most of the single tracks that made them famous such as “Blood Vibes”, “Love & Happiness (River Ocean, a MAW side-project), “Carry On” (Martha Wash), “The Bomb” (The Bucketheads – another MAW side project), “I Can’t Get No Sleep” and “When You Touch Me” (MAW). 

Although the booklets are a hit and miss disappointment, The Tenth Anniversary Collection is clearly a labor of love.  Both sets are excellent and each contains a wealth of outstanding house and dance music.  For people who may be unfamiliar with MAW and/or ’90s house music, the rhythms and beats here are more varied, complex and sophisticated than the driving four-on-the-floor rhythm that is closely associated with the pop-disco dance music of the ’70s and early ’80s.  There is a more pronounced Latin influence as well.  The music also tends to be more laid back than the exuberant and sometimes wildly dramatic dance music of the earlier time period.  Fans of ’90s dance, house, and club music in general or MAW in particular may find that both Parts 1 and 2 are very close to must buys.  For others, four discs worth of MAW, let alone the eight discs available across both Parts, may be a bit much.  However, even if you want an introduction to ’90s dance music, either of these sets wouldn’t be a bad bet.  You certainly lose the variety of a Various Artists collection which is likely to be appealing to someone who wants an introduction to the music, but what you lose in diversity, you more than make up in quality. 
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06/17/2007 - Posted by | CD reviews, music, music reviews |

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