Tuned In To Music

Reflections from a lifetime

Review: Various Artists, A Tom Moulton Mix

If you ever wanted evidence that the world is not about fairness or justice or rightness and truth, you wouldn’t have to look any further than the fact that when it comes to ’70s disco moulton mixand dance music, most people know the name John Travolta and very few recognize that of Tom Moulton.  Travolta, at the time a B-list TV actor, played the title role in “Saturday Night Fever”, an enormously successful film that played a major role in popularizing the dreck disco that the music industry was manufacturing for the masses.  At the same time Moulton was revolutionizing, and in many ways inventing, the art of the mix and in so doing was creating much of the great dance music that the industry bastardized to promote discomania.

“A Tom Moulton Mix” is a two disc collection of tracks mixed by Moulton from 1973 to 1982.  This was a time when Moulton was so well know in the industry that record companies would regularly come to him and ask if he would save a song that the company had high hopes for but that hadn’t turned out as expected.  Time and again, Moulton worked magic.  During the ’70s it became common for well known deejays, like the Paradise Garage’s Larry Levan, to remix songs for the dancefloor.  All of these deejays looked to Moulton as the model of how a mix should be done and yet Moulton, who was never a deejay, produced mixes that sounded different from the deejays who came after him.  I’ve been trying to put my finger on how Moulton differed from the deejays and the best I can come up with is that the deejays mixed songs into dance music while Moulton mixed dance music into songs.  The deejays tended to emphasize rhythm and percussion by often inspired extensions of breaks and intros.  Moulton, on the other hand, tended to use all aspects of a song to create a mix that, in his words, kept what was good and threw out everything else.  Both types of mix were designed for the dancefloor and both worked very well but the approaches were different.

The range of music presented on “A Tom Moulton Mix” is noteworthy especially toward the end of the time span the collection covers.  Much of disc one is fairly clearly disco in style but on disc two we get Moulton mixes of tracks by Grace Jones, Isaac Hayes, and “Moonboots” by Orlando Riva Sound that presages, in a gentle way, some of the directions dance music would take in the coming years.  One notable inclusion in the disco vein is Moulton’s 11+ minute mix of MFSB’s “Love is the Message”, the song that, more than any other, captured the spirit of the underground dance nightworld of 1970s New York. 

The collection is especially noteworthy in the degree to which it gathers previously unreleased, promo only, and acetate tracks.  Many of these mixes are almost impossible to find.  Moulton “invented” the 12″ single when he wanted to save a mix he’d just done and discovered that the studio was out of the 7″ blanks (the size of a 45-record).  He told the engineer to use the larger size and to expand the size of the  grooves so that it didn’t look bad by only taking up a small part of the disc.  By expanding the grooves he discovered you could play the music much louder without losing fidelity which was perfect for the dance clubs where music was played at excessive volumes.  The song he was mixing was “I’ll Be Holding On” by Al Downing and the unreleased acetate is included here.  Some additional unreleased or promo only versions in the collection are an 11+ minute version of Eddie Kendricks’ “Keep on Truckin”, Andrea True Connection’s :More, More, More”, and South Shore Commission’s “Free Man” among many others.

“A Tom Moulton Mix” is a good collection for anyone interested in 1970s dance music; Moulton was the master and there are many tracks here that are hard to find anywhere else.  If you have a pronounced preference for the more percussion and break driven extended remixes, one of the Larry Levan collections like “Larry Levan’s Paradise Garage” might be a better choice.  If you would prefer a sampling of Moulton, Levan and other mixers you might try one of the “Definitive 12″ Masters” volumes.

Music from This CD can be heard on Tuned In To Music Podcast 009 – Tom Moulton (Part 1) “A Tom Moulton Mix” and Tuned In To Music Podcast 010 – Tom Moulton (Part 2) Accidental Discoveries


08/06/2007 - Posted by | CD reviews, music, music reviews

1 Comment »

  1. […] the 11+ minute version of M.F.S.B.’s era-defining “Love is the Message” is the Tom Moulton mix.  The 13+ minute extended outro with skit on “Cruisin’ the Streets” by Boys Town […]

    Pingback by Review: Various Artists, Grand 12-Inches Vol. 3 « Tuned In To Music | 07/14/2010 | Reply

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