Tony Humphries

Choice: A Collection of Classics

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Azuli's Choice: A Collection of Classics series has become more valuable to the history of club music than most old-school dancers and DJs realize. For youngsters who are just beginning to understand the value of disco and house beyond the derided mainstream (and often watered-down) hits, these sets -- pieced together by venerable jocks -- are small treasures, glimpses into eras that deserve the same level of analysis accorded to anything rock-related. Since the average dance-music fan is more likely to be found in a club or recovering from a night out than documenting his or her experience (as opposed to rock writing, more the domain of timid shut-ins, Lester Bangs wannabes, and frustrated list-makers), lists like "The Top 100 Disco Songs of All-Time" aren't nearly as common as "The Top 100 Rock Singles of All-Time." Just the same, getting a healthy introduction into dance music is terribly difficult for outsiders, given the number of near-sighted compilations that juggle the same songs over and over. That's where the reliable Choice series comes in. Tony Humphries, a DJ synonymous with Newark, NJ's Club Zanzibar, fills his volume with as much personality and expertise as the other series contributors. Given two discs to work with, he serves up a wide variety of cuts that covers the mid-'70s through the early '90s, encompassing the gritty disco-funk of Mass Production's "Welcome to Our World," the slick jazz-funk of the Blackbyrds' "City Life," the sophisticated machine-assisted soul of Deodato's "Are You for Real," the hardcore hip-house of Todd Terry's "Hard Core-Hip House," and the mid-'90s garage-house of LY's "Back 2 Zanzibar." Like the Fran├žois Kevorkian edition of the series, Humphries' take features the tracks in unmixed form. The sequencing doesn't make for optimal flow, but none of the transitions are particularly rough; still, out of all the other Choice comps, this one might function better as a source of tracks for your own mixes. The generous liner notes, as expected from the Azuli label, offer a wonderful historical perspective.

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