|Los Angeles, December 28, 1999
MY TOP 40 RECORDS OF 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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