Jeff Mills

Choice: A Collection of Classics

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Jeff Mills has rarely been one to look (way) back, so it's a shock to see him contribute to Azuli's Choice: A Collection of Classics series. Like Frankie Knuckles, Tony Humphries, Fran├žois K, and several jocks before him, Mills takes the opportunity to put focus on some old personal favorites. This is, however, the most special volume in the series thus far. Hardly anyone -- excepting those who were with him before he reached infamy as the Wizard and as a founder of Underground Resistance -- has seen him in this particular light. Even the average longtime follower's earliest memory of the DJ tends to only date back to the lightning-fast mixes of hip-hop, electro, and house that were laid down on the air in the mid- to late '80s. Years prior to becoming known outside Detroit, Mills was part of the city's youth-oriented party subculture, in which European music and fashion was taken to heart as much as the latest Cameo single. This release is the closest you'll get to that very specific atmosphere; more than half of the tracks date from the early '80s or earlier, illustrating the broad range and unique sensibilities of the scene. The compilation is therefore not another run through predictable underground hits -- if there's any indication, Azuli wasn't able to hunt down several repertoire owners. Just about every selection is worth mentioning. Teddy Pendergrass' sweaty disco workout "The More I Want, the More I Get" and Telex's lustrous "Moskow Diskow" (one of the key precedents for A Number of Names' "Sharevari," a 1981 single made by young Detroit clubbers) are the most popular tracks. Less popular but just as notable are Chas Jankel's "Ai No Corrida" (hip enough to be performed by Quincy Jones, square enough to be interpreted by the Nylons), Change's "The End" (a charging, heavily synthesized Italo-disco instrumental that sounds nothing like their pop-oriented R&B hits "Paradise" and "The Glow of Love"), and Sinnamon's underheard "Thanks to You" (a sparkling post-disco club cut with defiant vocals reminiscent of Teena Marie). And it wouldn't be fair to mention some of the later tracks that are present, such as King Sun's "On the Club Tip" (a hip-house trip down memory lane for Wizard fans), Carl Craig's breathless remix of DJ Q's "We Are One," and Joey Beltram's set-closing "South Pacific" (a sharp, ethnic fusion-style turn away from his usual work). As with the other Choice compilations, the focus here is on the songs, not the skills of the DJ; Mills doesn't provide each track in whole, but they are often slightly blended into one another whenever it makes sense to do so. Mills also pens the must-read liner notes.

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