lthough technically “created by Tom Middleton”, this is the first in the The Trip series of mix CDs. It is actually the second. The first one was by Dirty Vegas, and as such doesn’t count.
Tom Middleton, he of Global Communications and Jedi Knights moderate fame, caused a collective orgasm of delight amongst the dance music cognoscenti a few years back with his Sound of the Cosmos three CD mix set, released back when Tiga was still considered a good idea. And whereas there Thomas saw fit to indulge us with a whole CD of deep house (yeah, thanks), here we have two CDs, CD 1 being “party”, CD 2 being “chillout”, and amongst the 46 tracks on show we have assorted children’s TV theme tunes from the 70s. So far, so engineering student.
However, if you actually listen to the album, what you get rewarded with is a *cough* “dance” DJ making a mix CD with the mentality of a *cough* hip-hop DJ. And the main reason for this is the breadth and humour with which he tackles his subjects. And, mein gott, the wide array of cover versions that get served up here. Ever wondered how you survived for so long without hearing “Sunshine Of Your Love” as a female-vocalled soul tune? “Pastime Paradise” redone with bongos? “Ain’t No Sunshine” being tackled by Horace Andy, sounding like a wounded soldier crawling through the trenches as skank artillery still fires around him? MOR Italo-house classic “Gypsy Woman (She’s Homeless)” being turned into the lounge-jazz track it always was at heart? Harpers Bizzare having a bash at “Knock On Wood” and injecting it with neat serotonin straight from a chill-out syringe? Ramsey Lewis performing alchemy by making “Dear Prudence” bearable (his secret: remove the lyrics)? Even Senor Coconut, purveyors of “You don’t have to be mad to work here…” covers to the hipster elite for the past few years get redeemed by their take on “Smooth Operator”. Of course, it’s not a patch on the original, but then we get blessed with… Oh my god. “Chhupke Kaun Aya” by Usha Uthup. It’s “Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough”. Translated and redone as a Bollywood dance number. Can you read this, Alien Ant Farm? You useless, useless cunts.
It isn’t just covers though. As with any mix nowadays, you get your failsafes, the records that DJs keep in “In case of emergency, break glass” boxes. So, whereas in Sound of the Cosmos “Blue Monday” got dropped, here we get the Star Wars theme, James Brown’s pre-wifebeating grunt-anthem “Sex Machine”, and “Wordy Rappinghood” by Tom Tom Club, a song who’s stock has risen so far in recent years that one could mistake it for Halliburton.
And the hits continue to roll in. A second side appearance from “Long Hot Summer” prepares you for the inevitable critical reinvention of The Style Council that’s due (overdue? Maybe). Conclusive proof that the reason that Dudley Moore became more famous than Peter Cook due to the fact that he was a lot more talented is served by the dead midget’s jazz track “Millionaire”, an epic of a tune that serves as the centrepiece of the chillout section of the mix. Vangelis and Common, whose career discographies tend to serve as aural anathema, have their one good songs salvaged from the sewage silos that constitute their careers (“Creation Du Monde” and “The Light” respectively) for our consideration by Tom. “Midnight” by UN-CUT, variously praised and denigrated on this site in recent months, firmly throws its hat into the “praised” section here, coming across as the case for the defense in the trial of The People vs. Bristol, and, my god, don’t you miss Breakbeat Era? There’s even a guy who’s decided to call himself Sugar Daddy here, and he’s not even rubbish? Swerve, no? Instead of sucking, he goes all soca-crazy over a The Verve sample. Genius.
And then… well, it’s the best song ever. Fuck the Belle Stars, it’s my girl Shirley Ellis. It’s the original. It’s the best. It features the strangulation of a monkey. It’s “The Clapping Song”. Of all those 60s nursery rhyme funk tunes, only Lee Dorsey’s “Ya Ya” steps within a 100 mile radius of it. It still sounds as essential as it did when I first heard it, age six in a branch of Deep Pan Pizza. It’s a basic, simple, delicious, fun pop tune.
And it’s a basic, simple, delicious, fun pop mix. A mix not tied down to one genre, but not celebrating its own “eclectism”. Just a simple mix showcasing one man’s love of music. And if there aren’t rules against giving albums that feature “Don’t Leave Me This Way” less then 9/10, there should be.