Larry Levan

Live at the Paradise Garage

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Larry Levan is one of the few legendary figures in contemporary dance music, a DJ and remixer whose reliance on audiophile-level sound, in both the clubs he played and the records he selected, set a standard that, according to many witnesses, has never been equalled. In the years after his death in 1992, dance fans were forced to content themselves with his remix work, which admittedly, made for some great post-productions. Despite the lack of material, his legend has persisted primarily as a DJ, and primarily for his residency at one of the most revered clubs in the history of dance, the Paradise Garage. And in late 2000, more than 20 years after it was recorded, a relic from another era appeared on the British rare groove label Strut Records. High expectations notwithstanding, Levan comes through with a stunning, invigorating 80-minute set of disco movers and sweet Philly soul, the performances almost as uplifting and the bass almost as chunky as they must've sounded at the original SoHo nightspot. Though it's virtually untouched by Levan's notorious genre-bending (the Clash's "Should I Stay or Should I Go" was a Garage favorite), Live at the Paradise Garage is one of the best, and best-sounding, documents of the disco era ever produced. And it's a rare latter-day disco fan who will have heard many of these tracks before; though many of the artists are familiar (the Supremes, Cher, Shalamar, the Chi-Lites, Ashford & Simpson), Levan selected songs with great productions or the right tone to reflect his moods. Though the spotlight is clearly on Levan's mixing, a few highlights do appear, including "Angel in My Pocket" by Change, "By the Way You Dance (I Never Knew It Was You)" by Bunny Sigler, and "Get on the Funk Train" by Giorgio Moroder's Munich Machine. Clearly a labor of love (as well as an invaluable musical and historical document) from the people at Strut, Live at the Paradise Garage includes a complete history of both the club and Levan himself, as well as dozens of photos and reminiscences from inheritors like François Kevorkian, Danny Tenaglia, Joe Claussell, and Danny Krivit included in its 36-page book.

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