tisdag 25 oktober 2011

"You Sure Huh...?"

U.S.U.R.A. - Open Your Mind (The Album)
Released in 1993

Label: Time / Deconstruction  

I will never forget the first time I heard Open Your Mind. It was during the fall of 1992 and MTV slowly started to adapt to the fact that club music were about to be played during an increasingly amount of hours during both day and night time. Open your mind became an enormous hit all over Europe and the music video were played on heavy rotation, a video that was very typical for this period of time. The music video consisted of different 3D objects circulating round and round, and also faces transforming in different shapes and colors. Back then this was considered as very futuristic, and then followed many years when we laughed at it. Today the music video of Open Your Mind would probably be considered as a piece of cultural art with it's subliminal messages and ambiguous possibilities of interpretation. The song contained musical samples from 1982 hit New Gold Dreams by Simple Mind and a well-known voice sample from the movie Total Recall (1990) and the single were released in over 20 various versions. The track also became a way for people to prove that electronic dance music could convey serious messages as an answer to the fact that club music still were considered as meaningless. I loved the song from the very first second and still today I listen to it every once in a while.

For a very long time, Usura (or U.S.U.R.A. as it usually was written) were a very anonymous project. No one really knew anything about either the name or the members. Gradually we learnt that they were from Italy (many of the instrumental elements of Open Your Mind and mainly the bass drum, has been used in several Italian releases from the early 90's) and that the leading members were Time Records owner Giacomo Maiolini and the producers Walter Cremonini and Alessandro Gilardi. The name Usura is rumored to be taken from Maiolinis mother Ursula. Usura combined many genres that were popular during the early 90's, in their music. The bass drum was generally a very commanding piece of the tracks and also the decisive fact why Usura were considered as a techno project even though they used eurodance influenced melodies. The single Open Your Mind was followed by Sweat that also became a big hit all over Europe.

Around the same time as the third single Tear It Up were released in 1993, the album came out. None of the other single releases got any international success but in Italy both Tear It Up and the fourth single Drive Me Crazy reached equal success as the first two singles. The "Usura sound" were extremly popular in Italy during this period and the producers spread the style through other projects like Deadly Sins and Jinny, how ever the rest of Europe were not ready for the pumping sound of Usura. The album contained the four singles and another five songs which gave us a total of 9 tracks which ofcourse is a bit few. I can't really find any reason why Usura choose to do so and it's a shame because the album is fantastic and the project continued to release music for antother 4-5 years but without releasing a second album. How ever Usura revolutionized the Italian scene and made a big impact on club music that lasted for many years.

söndag 23 oktober 2011

"Boom shack a lack, 2 puppets in a flack..."

2 Fabiola - Tyfoon
Released in 1996

Label: Dance Opera

2 Fabiola was formed in the early 90's by a man called Patrick Claesen aka Pat Krimson. Pat got his taste of the business working as a promoter with Antler Subway Records and a couple of years later he created his own label called Dance Opera and started to release music under many different aliases and together with many co-producers. Dance Opera recessed as a pure house label with no obvious commercial intentions. 2 Fabiolas earlier songs were pure house tunes and seemed to be released without any actual structure. The project took a different turn after beeing away from the scene for 2 years, when releasing Play This Song in june 1995. Pat and fellow producer Olivier Adams began releasing more commercialized music and choosed to release them under the name of 2 Fabiola, probably because of the fact that the name already had gotten some attention with The Milky Way and Kunta Kinte. Play This Song became a huge hit in many countries around the mediterranean sea and the project profilized themseleves as an odd group of people releasing fun and up-tempo music. The commercial effort with 2 Fabiola made Pat create a sub-label to Dance Opera called Circus. Circus contained projects who produced music in a futuristic sound with influences from trance and dance. The project also featured the singer Aït-Fath Zohra and the background singer Karine Boelaerts aka Carine B (who also participated in Cold Sensation - Bang To The Rhythm, another of Pat Krimsons projetcs).

Tyfoon were released in 1996 and consists of a double-cd, were the 1cd containes mainly radio and airplay edits and 2cd contains remixes, giving us a total of 19 tunes. The album is packed with amazing hits and it's a shame that Pat had to wait until late 1995 to start releasing music like this. Play This Song, Lift U Up, I'm On Fire, Universal Love, Lift Me Up and Freak Out were all released as singles and with the airplay edits plus at least one extra version of all songs, the album sustaines a great dymension towards us as listeners. It simply gives us hours and hours of amazing dance music! The E-Raver Remix of Lift U Up and DJ Joans mix of Raise Your Hands is two of the hidden gems on the album.

One strange thing about the album, is that many of the tracks were included with alternative versions all though there never were an actual release of the track except from the album. Raise Your Hands, I See The Light, A World For U And Me and Piano Latino were all included with alternative version names and it would be very interesting to find out if there were other versions. Pat were a highly productive producer so a possible scenario is that he has tons of unreleased tracks and simply picked the best ones for the album.

As far as I know, 2 Fabiola never got a big hit (a side for Play This Song) other then in their home country of Belgium. In Belgium they were huge and all of their releases reached lot of radio plays, but outside the boarders there were nothing.

onsdag 19 oktober 2011

"If it ain't rough, no, it ain't no thing"

2 Unlimited - Real Things
Released on the 6th Jun 1994

Label: Various

The first album I ever bought was 2 Unlimited - Get Ready. It was in the spring of 1993 and I were 11 years old. The album had been out for over a year and almost two years had passed since hits like Get Ready For This and Twilight Zone began taking over dancefloors all over Europe. However this was way before the golbalism of the medias and internet was still something only computer nerds had heard of. If an artist or a group wanted a big break through, it took something extra. No Limit came out in late 1992 and became the break through factor for 2 Unlimited. Now everybody knew them, and just like me, many people started to explore their earlier work. During the early summer of 1993 the album Get Ready got a sequal and No Limits were released, the success was immediate!

During 93/94 2 Unlimited were highly productive. No Limit were followed by Tribal Dance, Faces and Let The Beat Control Your Body. During this period the group also released a spanish version of the album called Sin Limites. Throw The Groove Down came out as an US-only release were the Quadrapack edition featured 4 12"s containing 13 versions of Throw The Groove Down plus 6 versions of No Limit '94. The ballad Where Are You Know were released in some parts of Asia and tons of remix albums and compilations came out all over the world. As a result of this, the album Real Things were surrounded by insane expectations. No Limits reached the number 1 spot in 7 European countries and the first single of the new album promised big things. The Real Thing reached equal success as many of the earlier hits and the song was launched with an amazing video.

Real Things were produced by the duo Jean-Paul De Coster and Phil Wilde and the vocal performences were still made by Raymond Lothar Slijngaard and Anita Dels. It was recorded at Soundsational Studios and released in june 1994. I still remember the day, I were so excited and together with a friend we went down to the city to buy the album. And i still remember the dissapointment!

During the spring of 1994 the eurodance scene exploded with thousands of new projects releasing thousands and thousands of singles. 2 Unlimited didn't really have anything to proove but still it seems like Real Things were released to distinguish some kind of uniqueness thowards the big mass. Rumours say: "The title was aimed as a dig at the several other similar sounding eurodance acts who had appeared to copy the 2 Unlimited sound" refering to The Real Thing. During a period were simplicity gained massive success on the eurodance scene, 2 Unlimited released an album with complicated melodies and diffuse messages. Not that any of 2 Unlimiteds earlier work made any sense, I mean "No limits allowed, cause there's much crowd".. wtf?! But while Get Ready and No Limits were dumb yet still fulfilled a purpose, Real Things tried to be smooth and intelligent but ending up beeing even dumber.

After The Real Thing, 2 Unlimited choose to release No One as a second single. No One is a slow tempo pop house track and a piece of crap tune to release as a follow-up to The Real Thing. Who got that idea? Here I Go came out as a third single, which made a bit more sense, too bad that the only good thing about Here I Go is the refrain! Fourth single; Nothing Like The Rain, a downtempo song!? The maxi contained two euro influenced versions plus the original album version. In the UK The Real Thing reached the gold status in sales, Nothing Like The Rain didn't even get a release.

Now weren't there any positive aspects of the album? The Real Thing a side, there were a few. Do What I Like is a great track and could easily had been released as a single. Here I Go and Burning Like Fire has promising elements and the refrain of Burning Like Fire is amazing! What's Mine is Mine is a hidden gem and a fantastic track. In fact I can listen to the album today and appreciate many things that I hated back in the 90's. Age makes us forgiving and understanding, but it didn't help when I was 13 years old back in 1994.

tisdag 18 oktober 2011

"Welcome to the world of Masterboy..."

Masterboy - Generation of Love, The Album
Released on the 27th of Oct 1995

Label: Club Zone

Masterboy was formed in the late 90's but it wasn't until 1994 that the project reached their big break through with the album Different Dreams. Once again eurodance became the deciding factor in wether a group would reach the big scenes or not. During the late 80's and the early 90's, european dance music were stuck in a grey zone between the influences from the 80's and the digitized 90's, and the resulst was a genre in a extensive identity crisis. Take a couple of seconds and name five big dance hits from 89-92. After that, do the same thing but pick your choices from 92-95. Same amount of years but a huge difference in the range of songs, and i does NOT take a eurodance fan to figure that out, it's just simple facts. Masterboy actually released two albums before the big boom of the eurodance era, the first one in 1991 and the second one in early 1993. Today no one remembers them.

Through the years, Masterboy has grown into a legendary status as a eurodance act. Masterboy is one of those phenomenons that people with no direct interest in eurodance as a genre, still can list a couple of hits from. Quallity of music is not decided by what get's played on the radio, none the less it still prooves a big point. Today Masterboy is synonymous with eurodance and makes many people relate to the eurodance era.

The group had huge success with Different Dreams, but this blog is based on my personal thoughts and from my personal point of view Different Dreams doesn't stand a chance compared to Generation of Love (GoL). GoL is a solid masterpiece and a perfect example of what eurodance sounds like when all essential elements are included. The album is like an immense eurodance trip from the first to the last second. Everything is there, the powerfull synths, the tight rap parts, the sentimental female vocals containing the pointless yet vital messages of love, hate and/or sex.

It's impossible to raise specifik tracks from GoL, they're all fantastic. Instead it's easier to devide them into different segments in wich we don't have to devide them depending on beeing fantastic or not (as I said, it's impossible!). We have the obvious hits like Anybody (Movin' On) and Generation of Love and both of them are complemented with one extra version. Baby Let It Be falls under the same label. Then we have Feel The Fire and Get It On that probably would have recieved huge success if they had been releases as singles. It's essential to mention the amazing track Give Me Your Love that is one of the most well know album-only tracks from back in the days. This is a subject that I will look deeper into later in this blog. Other then that, there is Feel The Force and The Third Masterboy theme, two tracks with no commercial intentions but still amazing of it's kind. Even the customary slow track, that usually is put on an eurodance album just to create a contrast to all the party music (some people call it Euro reggae, I call it crap), Land of Dreaming was released as a single and retained respectable success.

What's the backside of this release then? Well ther is one. GoL was released during the fall of 1995 and as we all know, 1996 was the first year when the mid 1990's type of eurodance started to fade away. It's impossible to tell if the release date had any negative impact on the release, but it's not impossible.

But honestly, who cares?

lördag 15 oktober 2011

"Can't shake this monkey of my back..."

Culture Beat - Serenity
Released in june 1993

Label: Dance Pool

Culture Beat was formed in the late 80's and gained a fair amount of success during this period of time with a couple of hit singles and an album released in an european version and in an US version. However we had to wait until 1993 when the group revolutionized the whole eurodance world with their immense hit single Mr. Vain. Now up until this period, eurodance was still connected with a some what underground scene. Rhythm Is a Dancer by Snap, made an example of what could come and artists like 2 Unlimited, Captain Hollywood and DJ Bobo did what they could to spread the sound of eurodance. When Mr. Vain was released, they didn't have to fight any longer.

Mr Vain climbed the charts all over the world gaining huge success were ever it was released. The powerfull melody with the strong lead sining act by Tanya Evans and the characteristic rap part by Jay Supreme took the world by storm. No questions asked, just pure energy from the very first second. During the summer of 93 the group, that a side from Jay and Tanya also featured the producers Torsten Fenslau, Nosie Katzman and Peter Gräber, grew in to one of the biggest eurodance acts of the current time. The album came out in june 'bout the same time as Mr Vain was released. Got To Get It came out in september and Anything got released in december.

The album containes all the hit singles in various versions. The version of Mr Vain that was featured on the album is probably the most known version of the song despite the fact that it never got released on a single. The version on the album is 05:31 long and the version in the music video is an shorter and edited variant of that very same version. However the lead track of the maxi single is a 04:17 minutes long version called Special Radio Edit. Why the album version never got released on a single is a question that remaines to be answered. The album version of Got To Get It is also a unique version that didn't reach the maxi single. The versions on the single endures of different strings/organs and a different bass sound. The third single Anything also got a couple of changes. The album version is similar to the Introless version of the single however there is a slight difference in the length of the songs and in various instruments. For instance the album version features a simple bass while the Introless version contains a rolling bass line.

The Serenity album is very unique in many ways. A side from the fact that none of the hit songs reached an actual single release, the album containes songs in many different styles of electronic dance music. Rocket To the Moon would definitely fall under the style of trance during the early 90's and Adelante is a pure house track. Just two of the tracks are under 5 minutes long. When I listened to the album back in the 90's, I actually didn't like it all. When I put it on today, I enjoy every second!

("Can't shake this monkey of my back..." is a line taken out of the rap part in Got To Get It)

Eurodance as a step stone

As a Swede I've always been very proud of the swedish eurodance scene. Back in the mid 90's swedish producers built an impressive imperium that took Europe by storm. There were several huge acts like Basic Element, Pandora, E-Type etc that got the big publicity and back home within the borders, there were tons of projects trying to follow their footsteps. Today, over a decade later, it's interesting to see how many artists and actors that in various ways got in touch with the eurodance scene, but today is famous for something else. Now I don't refer to people like E-Type, Max Martin etc. These guys doesn't hide the fact that they got their first piece of glory from eurodance. Im refering to swedish celebrities who might even be a bit a shamed over their brief spell as a part of a eurodance act. I've listed a few just to make you understand what Im talking about. Im gonna go from the top left and end at the bottom right on the picture.

Vanna Rosenberg is a solid swedish actress that today has over 10 big movies and several theatre acts on her repertoar. Back in 94 she and here best friend from high school got to be a part of AdAstra that released two singles, one album and went on a short and intense tour.
Stefan Olsson aka Bosson has had a long and successfull carieer even if he today has faded the big scene. As far as I know, he ha's been huge in Russia and several other central asian countries, how ever here in Sweden he had his big moments back in 2000 and 2001 when he got a huge hit with One In a Million that got to be the leading track of the Hollywood movie Miss Congeniality. Bosson spent his eurodance era with Elevate that released three singles back in 93 to 95, and up until today both Mrs Brown and We Will Be One is still two of the most powerfull track ever coming out of the Swedish scene.
Shirley Clamp is a huge name withing Swedish music. She has participated in the swedish pre-eliminatory contest for the Eurovision song contest, on several occations. She has released tons of music and has toured the country up and down (sweden is a  very oblong country) for many years. She is also a common participant of swedish game shows on tv. Back in 1995 she teamed up with Ace of Base Ulf Ekberg and formed the project Metrix that released two singles were Shirley was featured on Slow Down from 1995.
Jessica Folcker participated in the Miss Sweden contest in 1994, and has had a successfull carieer as an artist releasing music both in swedish and english. In 1994 she was a part of Amadin that released Take Me Up and U Make Me Feel Alright. She also was featured as either backup singer or lead singer on several songs by E-Type, Leila K and Dr Alban.
Richard Silva II aka Swing / Swingfly made a lot of guest appearences on swedish hip hop acts during the late 90's and got his big breakthrough in 2003 when he released the single Hey Boy. Already in 1993 he teamed up with the producers Amatiello and Lundin (Amadin) and together with Jessica Folcker he was featured on both Take Me Up and U Make Me Feel Alright. Under he's own name he got to release Sweet Dreams in 1995 heavily supported by Dr alban.

To Be Continued...

Euro 4 ever

Tonight a friend of mine is holding a eurodance event at a club were I live. He holds these events one or two times every year and its always a big success. Im a party person and I love clubbin' on the weekends. There is so much energy on the dance floor on these events and in comparisment with an ordinary club night, they doesn't even come close to this! In addition to the ordinary dance floor, there is also a big screen playing eurodance music videos, all night long.

Now here's the deal. I've ben sick and home from work both thursday and friday this week, so im not really fit for a night out. I really should stay at home, but as soon as the night comes, I know I will have a hard time staying in.

fredag 14 oktober 2011

Missing Heart - Mystery
Released in may 2000

Label: Intercord Japan

Missing Heart was evolved from the same team that stood behind projects like E-rotic and Sex Appeal, a team that featured the producers David Brandes, Felix J. Gauder and Domenico Labarile and vocalists like Lyane Leigh and Jeanette Christensen. The project actually released their first single back in 1994, a single entiteled Wild Angels. Around this period the team was fully devoted to E-rotic and it seems a bit strange to release one single on the side under another name. Probably it had to do with the fact that E-rotic was strongly profilized with an image that prevented success in more conservative countries. In 1994 the communism still had a brief hold of eastern European nations restraining liberal attitudes against for example sex.Wild Angels allowed the team to spread their music world wide. However nothing happened up until 1996 when Charlene was released which was followed by Moonlight Shadow that came out in july of 1997. Moonlight Shadow gained a lot of success in Japan after beeing featured on the very popular mixed compilation Dance Mania (7). Dance Mania was released by Intercord Japan, the very same label that released Mystery in 2000.

Mystery containes an intro and 13 songs and officially a girl called Miss Manu aka Manu Moore was chosen as the front figure, how ever most of the songs were probably recorded with the voice of Lyane Leigh. The tracks is characterized by very dark and sentimental melodies and the sound is highly influenced by the current trends that was popular around 1998-2001. The singles Charlene and Missing Heart was featured on the album, as well as Queen Of Light that actually was an E-rotic song and the lead track of the album Missing You, also released in 2000. There are many similarities between Mystery and Missing You and it almost seems like the producer team placed all of the happy songs with E-rotic while Missing Heart got all of the heart breaking tracks. Today Mystery is a highly valuaeble rarity and a very hard-to-get object.

Double You - The Blue Album
Released in february 1994

Label: DWA

Double You was formed already back in 1985 but started releasing singles in the early 90's. The group, that featured the Indian/Italian lead singer William Naraine and the producers Franco Amato and Andrea de Antoni, gained huge sucess world wide with the smashing hit Please Don't Go in 1992. The project was taken under the wings of the label DWA aka Dance World Attack and after releasing the pop-influenced album We All Need Love in 1993 the project started to adapt to the very popular DWA eurodance sound, very tipical for this era. Together with other DWA artists like Ice MC, Alexia and Corona, Double You now conqured big parts of Europe with their music and during 1993 and 1994 there were hits like Part-Time Lover, Missing You, Run To Me and Heart of Glass released in both maxi and remix maxi formats and also the album The Blue Album was released.

The Blue Album contains a great amount of classic eurodance tunes. All the hit singles are featured and also various versions of both Part-Time Lover and Missing You. The album was produced by the eurodance guru Robyx and also featured by Alexia, Sandy Chambers and Ice MC on several tracks. Many of the songs are covers of hits from the 70's and 80's and there is a strong and sentimental line in the album were the theme (as always when it comes to eurodance) evolves around love, hate and sex. Unfortunately the album also containes a lot of slow tempo pop tunes that was a very tipical element on eurodance albums released during this time. These tunes are often both worthless and pointless but likely put on the album just to even out the sound making the cd listenable to people that don't like eurodance. We can't ignore that fact that many people despiced eurodance back in the 90's, and here in Sweden there were periods around late 94 when easy listening pop rock/punk artists like Green Day, Offspring and Millencolin transformed eurodance into beeing music for nerds.

The Blue Album is sure not a rarity and i remember having somewhat around 4-5 copies in my collection a couple of years ago, due the fact that many low price shops had tons of copies placed in their big box of out dated releases. This doesn't cover the fact that the album still today is one of the most solid releases from the classic eurodance era.