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99' Top Picks

Los Angeles, December 28, 1999


A DJ-friend asked me last week what I thought was the “record” of the year. I said I can never answer that question. It’s too many “apples” and “oranges” that you just can’t compare. But I said I could come up with my top 10 and would do so over the weekend.

I was wrong. I couldn’t limit it to 10. So I went to top 20, then 25. While “top 40” had a familiar ring, I found myself wanting to push even further, not leaving anything off. I even thought about using the excuse of my age (42) to squeeze at least a couple more songs on the list. You know, like “candles on the cake.” But finally, I decided enough was enough. 40 picks was it.

Being fairly obsessive-compulsive (not to mention fanatical about music), I spent most of Saturday afternoon stressing over my list (having rushed back from my mom’s house Christmas Day for this much more important activity). There I was, blasting late night dance tracks back and forth at 5 in the afternoon, trying to decide, and of course spreading a good deal of Christmas cheer and Yuletide good will to all of my neighbors.

A big initial problem was figuring out what records even came out in 1999. Some of the first things on my list were the King of Pain remix, Tina Arena’s If I Was A River (Nikolas & Sibley), SM Trax/Got the Groove, Ruff Driverz/Dreaming, my Phil B signature favorites - Elan’s Find Your Way (Van Gough’s Blissed Out) and Da Hool’s Mama Sweet (Quake) - so imagine my surprise to read the labels and discover they all came out last year. And then there were the early 1999 white label remixes that either I was never able to locate (Tramps’ Disco Inferno or ABC’s The Look of Love) or which in any event (and quite understandably) had no copyright line or year (like the remake of Talking Heads’ Psycho Killer, which I like a lot). So I left all of those off.

Then there were great records that I am told came from prior years, but which I never heard until this year. Like some things played at the NYC Black Party (Lemon Interrupt/Big Mouth; Simone/Hey Fellas; Frosty/Desert Sun; Kodo/Strobe-Nanafushki) or at LA Aftershock (Montelimar/I’ll Take You; Kinky Boy/What is Love; The Project/Shout It Out). And then there was that amazing Groove Thing with Debbie Harry, Command & Obey, that is apparently several years old, even though it seems to have made half of the harder House compilations this past year, which is when I first became aware of it. So I had to leave all of these off as well.

And then there was the “little ole me” issue. I mean is it wrong to just subjectively pick my own personal favorites? Do I have to be able to justify in artistic terms why my commercial diva picks are better than any number of other records? And should I at least include some songs because they were “important,” would be on any self-respecting DJ or dance enthusiast’s list, or simply because they were leading tracks that really got the dance floor (including myself) revved up for awhile (like Kim English’s Unspeakable Joy). And then I just decided: Hell No. This is my list. Make your own!

But then there was a bigger “little ole me” issue, which is that there is a lot of music out there that I heard and loved, but never found out what it was, and then a whole lot more that I simply never heard at all. That was really drummed home when I went out Saturday night to the Christmas Party at the Factory, where Manny Lehman was playing. I know he is very hot this year. But I have always thought of him as someone from the “other camp.” Suffice it to say that from 2-3:30 he played a solid block of what I would call pretty flawless house, and I don’t have a clue what any of it was. And then Sunday night Phil B played a t-dance at Icon and again played some very good records (non-vocal) that again, if I knew the music, if I listened to the records at home (where I can really feel the music in a more objective state of mind), might require that I make some last minute substitutions.

But finally I realized, honey, just call it a day. Don’t pretend that a list like this is of the “top 40” records of the year. At best, it is a list that answers this more answerable question: “If the house was burning down right now, and I could only take from my collection 40 records from 1999, which would they be.” And here’s my answer.

1. Amber, Sexual (Thunderdub)

While the Kim English somehow never got under my skin, this one somehow did. And it reminds me of the early part of the year, before the Trance Invasion, when a lot of energetic “crossover” songs could be heard on pretty much all of the dance floors - the harder house and the softer disco venues.

2. Anggun, Snow on the Sahara (Trouser Enthusiasts)

Blend an already gorgeous track with one of my two favorite remixers (Jimmy Gomez being the other), and you’re in for magic.

3. Blockster, You Should Be (Blockster Club)


The guy at the record store said he thought this song was “cheese-y.” And he probably thought the same of last year’s Baby Bumps’ Burnin. But with these songs, Bad Boy Brandon Block powered up disco at a time it desperately needed powering. I say great job.

4. Carey, Mariah, I Still Believe (Morales)


I think David Morales still has the magic touch, and I knew it whenever Mike Duretto used this song to warm up one of his morning sets.

5. Carroll, Dina, Without Love (Tall Paul)


This is my kind of late night progressive music


6. Cher, All or Nothing (Almighty Definitive)


Come on, give me a break. No Whitney on my list. No Madonna. But there’s a reason the Almighty folks have been powering out hits for the gay dance scene all these years, and this great spirited record proves the point.

7. Chicane, Saltwater


While not as overwhelming as last year’s Strong In Love (a very hard act to follow), this song reminded me of how amazing these folks are (and all of Chicane’s hits still hold up really well over time).

8. Delerium, Silence (Sanctuary)


When I was in high school, my favorites were Carly Simon, Joni Mitchell, Judy Collins, etc. You get the picture. And last year I loved the remixes of Natalie Imbruglia’s Smoke and Alanis’ Uninvited. I love the drama and for this year’s “women on the verge” award, this record gets my vote.

9. Eurythmics Revival

I am going to cheat. Because I can. (There are advantages to being the listmaker). And I am including as one pick two revivals from that great 80s band: I really love the white label remix of Sweet Dreams, but also enjoyed the more commercial Sheryl Ralph remake of Here Comes the Rain (Solar City Club).

10. Everything But the Girl, Missing ’99


A gorgeous facelift for this gorgeous classic. Amazing.

11. FPI Project, Everybody All Over the World (Chris & James Solar Power)

This never got played all that much, but I thought it was right up with the Blockster for firing up disco on all engines at the beginning of this year.

12. Gouryella, Gouryella

I wouldn’t try to pronounce it. And there are so many versions out there, I don’t even know which mix is my favorite. But this is very good progressive music. (And is it just me, or are there some chords in there that sound very similar to Johnny Vicious’ white label remix of Where The Streets Have No Name, which by the way, I think was one of the most remarkable records of last year).


13. Hamilton, Erin, The Flame (Solar City)

Erin says no more “covers.” I say if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. This was just one really fine feel good dance song.

14. Heller, Peter, Big Love

“You played a song twice!,” I said to Buc, hearing it for the first (and second) time at his fabulous Friday night party at White Party Palm Springs. “Yes I did,” he declared, puffing out his chest and thrusting up his chin, “and this is going to be one of the most beautiful House records of the year.” And the Music Man, of course, was right.

15. Inner City, Good Life (Buena Vida) (Tommy Onyx’s Summer Fiesta)


I thought this beautiful remix was largely overlooked. The only way I can understand that is as part of the larger decline of softer/morning music, which I think is the most musically tragic development on the circuit.

16. Katcha, Touched By God (4 AM with Pecker)


They call it the “Year of Trance,” and it blew me away when I got an initial taste from Julian Marsh in Palm Springs and then a full dose from Phil B at Cherry 4. By summer, a lot of it was starting to sound formulaic and even a bit whiny, but I thought this was one of the best - lots of drama, sweep and power.

17. Klubbers Revenge, Mental Atmosphere ’99 (Equator)


I never heard this played a single time all year. I only found it on one of Rick Mitchell’s Spinfinity CD’s (may they rest in peace), but I was very happy to find a vinyl copy because I think it’s a great dance record.

18. Lopez, Jennifer, Waiting for Tonight (Hex Hector Vocal Extended)

Just when I liked to boast that I was so over Hex Hector and his predictable diva remixes, I heard this song. Sorry, Hex. I was wrong. I take it all back. Please forgive me.

19. Lustral, Everytime (Mike Koglin or A Man Called Adam Balearic)

I would have said, honey, we’ve got the Nalin & Kane mix. Leave well enough alone. And that’s why I should just stick to the dance floor. Everyone is raving about the Mike Koglin mix (who also scored big time with the Ruff Driverz on On My Way). But don’t overlook A Man Called Adam (it’s really pretty).


20. M People, Dreaming (Jimmy Gomez)

A wonderful follow up to last year’s absolutely phenomenal remix of How Can I Love You More. Gomez is doing for M People what he did for Sunscreem, and I couldn’t be happier about that.

21. Mad Doll, Walk on By (Welcome or Haarmeyer)

What’s the point of one of these lists if you can’t throw in some odd things that nobody else would pick. This is my favorite Dionne Warwick song (not that I have that many), but also one of my favorite songs of that style from that era. As for its potential as an updated dance track, who knew?

22. A Man Called Adam, Easter Song (North Star Dub)

The decline of morning music is really disheartening. On a Sunday morning we should be in church, not just hung over or prowling for sex. These records are our hymns. This is our music. We need to preserve the traditions and at the same time replenish the song books. Last year we had the whole wonderful morning tribal thing continuing with records like Orinoko’s Vila Nova or African Dream’s Soweto Funk. This year I feel like I am grasping. But this song (courtesy of Susan Morabito), even if there is no real dance beat, does justice to the sensibility.

23. Moog, Michael, That Sound (Extended Vocal)

Honey, I’m getting old, and it takes a lot to get me to run up that flight of stairs at Icon to ask the DJ, “What is this!?” before the song ends (so I can rush out and buy it the next day). But this song did it (and thank you Bryan Pfeifer). And in the grand tradition of Express of Sound/To the Sound, Hardy Hard/Here Comes That Sound and Discobump/Discosound, the titles alone remind us that there is nothing quite so beautiful as a record that isn’t simply a good track, but one that captures a new and wonderful “sound.”

24. Moroder, Giorgio, The Chase (Paul Oakenfold)

If you can’t lure the younger set back to classic disco, then I say just drag classic disco up to the present. And no one better to do it than Paul Oakenfold.

25. Mother’s Pride, Learning to Fly (Trouser Enthusiasts)

Hello! I already bought this record. But what can I say. I’ve never met a Trouser Enthusiasts remix I didn’t like. (But give me a little credit; I can still pick and choose; no “Bullet in the Gun” on this list; and that was hard, really hard).

26. Nightcrawlers, Never Knew Love (Matt Darey)

Matt Darey is another remixer I can’t resist. Just good old progressive dance floor sex in the middle of the night.

27. Orbit, William, Adagio For Strings (Ferry Corsten)

Now I’ll say something really extreme. But I happen to believe it. I think the best Progressive music that has been coming out of Europe in the 90s is like a new “classical music” that combines incredible symphonic and operatic traditions. And so Flowers Duet should really come as no surprise, nor this, nor O Fortuna. Call me crazy, but that’s what I think. If I am right, this tradition will continue.

28. Pet Shop Boys, New York City Boy (Lange)

The double-CD import pack came out. I listened to all of the mixes. Yawn. Later I heard this. Oh, yes. Yes, Yes. We like this very much.

29. Planet Perfecto/Grace, Not Over Yet ’99 (Matt Darey)

The original Perfecto mix really couldn’t be touched. But Darey didn’t mess with the main “juice” too much, and he got this classic (one of my all time favorites that harkens back to Mike Duretto’s Probe parties of yesteryear) back in the clubs.

30. Pulp Victim, The World ’99 (Lange)

Lange is one of those names that just keeps coming up, and this is one of the very good reasons why.

31. Roberts, Juliet, I Want You ’99 (Junior Vasquez)

It has become very fashionable on the circuit for individuals who I frequently suspect know very little about music to bash Junior Vasquez. No, I wasn’t in Miami, and maybe it was a fiasco. But guess what? Artists have bad days. And nights. Sometimes they are tired. Sometimes their “energy” is off. Sometimes they take artistic risks (a good thing) which don’t always pay off. Junior is one of our “elder statesmen,” and let’s have a little respect. And as it happens, I thought he did a real nice job reinvigorating this dance classic.

32. Shaker, Johnny, Pearl River (Serial Diva Vocal)

I went to New York for Black Party weekend. I was staying at the Paramount. I arrived. I threw my bags on the bed. And within 5 minutes was prowling the racks at Virgin. Dance Nation 6 was hot off the press. Disc One (from Brandon Block) blew me away. Once again, that Disco Revival thing. But this track (on Disc 2), even the edit, was what really caught my ear. The following week I heard a chorus of “never heard of it” from every record store guy in LA. Imagine my smug expression a few weeks later. This song embodies for me the incredible beauty of high drama, epic sweeping, very pretty progressive music.

33. Spiritual Project, O Fortuna

Honey, talk about drama! I have no idea when this record came out. Maybe in the days when Goths and Vikings roamed Olde Europe. But the copyright line on my CD says “1999,” and that’s good enough for me to include it. Cause this thing blew me away when I first heard it. I was at the Black Party, anxiously awaiting Fierman and trying to recover from an extremely unnerving previous 24 hours (caused by out-of-towner me looking for excitement in the most wrong of places). And Fierman delivered, opening that great party with just what I needed. Once I heard those chords, I knew everything was going to be alright. And it was.

34. Stingley, Byron, That’s The Way Love Is (Vicious Club)

You know you’re getting old when you go into the record store and say to the guy, “Do you have the Byron Stingley remake of That’s The Way Love Is, and the owner (who really knows music) says, “That’s not a remake.” But it is. I know. I was there. But in any case, what a wonderful remake it is. After those spectaculars from last year (Veronica’s Someone to Hold and Where the Streets Have No Name), Johnny Vicious strikes back.


35. Summer, Donna, I Will Go With You (Hex Hector Extended or Rosabel Main Vox)

Yes, I am biased. Yes, I am an aging (oh, let’s be frank, aged) Disco Dolly. Yes, it would be hard for me to do a list of this size and not include Donna Summer. But so what! It’s a beautiful record and Donna’s voice is still one of the most beautiful instruments we have. Don’t fight it! Just give in and rejoice!

36. Sunscreem (Infrared), Cover Me (Trouser Enthusiasts Dub)

Okay, this is another record that may well be from last year. But I don’t care. Because in response to that initial DJ query that started all of this, my personal “record of the year” (please don’t make me choose between my children) might just be this. It’s one of those moments you recall. A Saturday night at Orbit some time around last Spring. Neil Lewis played it. I had to know. But the booth was supposed to be off limits. Should I take a chance, distract the guards and boldly storm the gates. Just then, Manny Lehman passed by. I asked with desperation in my eyes. And he went up to Neil and found out for me. And then thank you to the guys at CD Record Rack who got me a copy. I sat in my living room and played this record like it was a concert. I should have worn long white gloves. It’s like Binary Finary’s 1998 or Tin Tin Out’s Sometimes. (Not to mention the prior Trouser Enthusiasts masterpieces). Okay, enough already. I love this record. Thanks to the SF DJs (and Darin Arrowood) for playing it.

37. System F, Out of the Blue (Ferry Corsten)

I don’t know who or what Ferry Corsten is, but this mix, combined with the remix of the William Orbit song, are enough to make me sure I wouldn’t want to meet him in a dark alley. But on the dance floor…that’s quite another matter.

38. Tilt, Children (Tilt’s Courtyard)

Tilt’s Invisible made it on to a lot more compilations, but I prefer this record (and I suspect Robert Miles’ beautiful early trance sound may provide raw material for more remixes to come). Actually, for “the record,” my real favorite was the Cevin Fisher remix of Fable, but I am pretty sure that came out last year.

39. Trancing Thievers, 3 is Family

The original Dancing Divas mix is one of my all time favorite records. The first time I ever got the nerve to approach Susan Morabito was when she was at the turntables (at Probe), and I anxiously went up to ask the name of this song. And guess what? She told me! This remix is not necessarily a work of genius. But honey, it doesn’t have to be. Just a little updating and yeah, we’re back!

40. Van Helden, Armand, You Don’t Know Me

Last Spring, I was actually thinking/hoping that what people were calling “Progressive House” (phenomenal records like Dreaming, Got the Groove, or Someone to Hold - and hey everybody, it’s not “Someone to Hold Me;” that’s a very different concept; think about it), would combine with the new Progressive Trance and the older “Progressive” tradition (e.g., what you hear on the Master Beat Black Party CDs, the Spin-In series, or that brilliant Magnitude double-CD from last year) to create a unified “Progressive” music for all. But while throughout the year I found myself increasingly drawn to House (at least partly out of desperation for some powerful vocals given the Trance Invasion and the complete collapse of great dance music “songwriting”), no grand synthesis (as far as I can tell) really occurred. Like I suggested at the outset, Manny Lehman’s Christmas Party at the Factory reminded me how self-defeating it is to set up these false barriers and limiting categories. And many of my favorite DJs - Fierman, Arrrowood, Buc and Morabito - are often “in the House “ But if we didn’t have another Dreaming or Got the Groove (which is partly why those great records are still being played so continuously), we did get this song, much more low key, much more sultry, but a beautiful record that probably came as close as any to being a “unity” song for last year’s dance floors. It has a lot of integrity, and I thought it was pretty great.

Happy New Year everybody!

Los Angeles,December 28, 1999