Walter Gibbons Walter GibbonsJungle Music. Mixed With Love: Essential & Unreleased Remixes 1976-1986
At first it looks like “Jungle Music” is covering an inexcusable hole in the historic recovery of the golden age of disco, like the (almost) definitive Tom Moulton anthology “A Tom Moulton Mix” did, released four years ago by Soul Jazz on a double CD on which there was not a single extra comma in the booklet nor one note in the musical selection, a thorough overview of the best of those years of altered funk and luxurious mirror balls. But “Jungle Music” doesn’t really cover anything, as another Walter Gibbons anthology has already been circulating among the specialised shops, selected by Suss’d Records, with liner notes by none other than Tim Lawrence, divided over three CDs and with the title “Mixed With Love. The Walter Gibbons Salsoul Anthology”, in allusion to the slogan with which the so-called “DJ of DJs” –ancestor of Danny Tenaglia as one of those deserving this distinction honouring the best selectors and mixers of New York- delivered his remixes and productions, already perfectly apt for the dancefloor. What reason could there be to release another Gibbons anthology so short after that one, including different liner notes by the same Lawrence and almost identical material but less, as there is no third CD here? On one hand, the relevance of this figure –bootlegs and sets by Larry Levan are also still being released all the time, nothing strange about that- and also the interesting fact that in 2004 disco music wasn’t fashionable nor was there a revival, while in 2010 it’s quite the opposite. Another good reason is the poor performance (sales-wise) of the Suss’d Records version, and its deletion from the catalogue, which made Strut decide to step in, occupy the space and do a bit of business taking advantage of its great position in the reissues and compilations markets. Good on them and good for us: no complaints there.
There’s yet another reason: “Jungle Music” unearths a previously unreleased mix of the engineer, DJ and mentor of the better part of the New York disco scene, which would later make the tough transition to house; it’s the three and a bit minutes of Arthur Russell’s “See Through”, a concise and not too surprising document of which the value consists of it having two classics, two myths working on one song, and only because of that the publication of an anthology with that extra piece is justified. Russell and Gibbons led parallel lives –and they would have deserved, why not, biographical sketches written by a modern Plutarch– that even had identical endings: both died of medical complications caused by the HIV virus, Russell in 1992 and Gibbons in 1994, and both applied advanced techniques to broaden the expressive palette of disco music, the first fusing it with contemporary music and the second with dub. Walter Gibbons has a special place in the history of dance music because his extended edit of “Ten Percent” by Double Exposure was the first maxi-single on 12” vinyl ever released commercially. What at first could seem a change of format –going from 7” to a larger format– was the result of a technological re-coding of the music pushed by Tom Moulton. The 12” didn’t only allow for longer tracks –that way, disco moved on to become stretched funk, prolonged, with more percussion and bass, intensifying the rhythm until achieving a jungle-like feeling, and the reason for his peers to call Gibbons’ music “jungle music”. It also allowed for a broader groove on the record, thanks to which the music resonated more, accentuated details inserted in the recording studio during post-production and mastering. Walter Gibbons learned how to make Jamaican dub and changed the face of black American dance music. The future was being written.
The selection included on “Jungle Music” is impeccable from start to finish and contains the defining moments of the progression of Gibbons’ style as a mixer and maker of extended versions of many of the tracks which at the time –we’re talking the golden age from 1975 to 1981- were being released by labels such as Salsoul: those elegant orchestras, those tender and loving vocals, that styling of funk to which this “white man in a world of black people” (and Latinos) added extended segments of frantic percussion, deep bass lines and uncontrollable passion. Even today, listening to a song like “Doin’ The Best That I Can” by the ever so young Bettye Lavette one gets possessed by an unstoppable lust for life. It has it all: the end announcing house with its electronic buzzes, but also some violins who make the old Hollywood orchestras seem like funeral bands and a concise application of techniques like echo, resonance and effects taken from Jamaican music to this new and genre, in constant evolution. The anthology also includes the essential “Ten Percent”, an unreleased version of Dinosaur L’s “Go Bang” –Arthur Russell again, although the original will always be better and unbeatable–, Gibbons’ attempts at hip-hop –he made the edit of Stetsasonic’s “4 Ever My Beat”, the last great rap band with “musicians”- and two high points: “Set It Off” by Strafe, on which he already played with electro rhythms, rolling out the red carpet James Murphy would be walking on with his mutant disco and punk, some twenty years later, and “It’s A Better Than Good Time” by Gladys Knight, past perfect disco music captivating, summing up the talent this man had to make soul turn into a storm. Remember King Midas, who turned everything he touched into gold? Walter Gibbons was like that.
Javier Blánquez Double exposure – Ten percent (Walter Gibbons 12“ mix)
Gladys Knight - Its a Better Than Good Time (Walter Gibbons 12" mix)