My 2016-17 Modern Jive Highlights

It’s a year since I started my modern jive blog, and in that time I’ve danced on average three times a week. I must have visited over fifty different Modern Jive venues and written reviews on most of them. That’s a lot of dancing and a lot of writing.

With this in mind I thought readers might be interested in hearing about my highlights of the past year, and so I’ve decided to publish a Top Picks in four categories – Best Classes, Best Freestyles, Best Music Track and Best DJ playlist. In this third part I list my Top 10 Dance Tracks.

Music is very personal to us

We all have our own personal tastes in music and it’s the same when it comes to the tracks we love dancing to.  This Top 10 Listing is not a popularity chart.  If it was it would be topped by either DNCE’s Cake by the ocean or Justin Timberlake’s Can’t stop the feeling, two tracks I heard just about every time I went dancing in the past year.

No, this is my own personal list picked from the thousands of tracks I’ve danced to in the past year.  I’ve danced to some great music as I’ve travelled around, and it was no easy task trimming the list to ten.  I was helped by going back through the reviews I’d written over the past year and reminding myself of the standout tracks.

What makes a great dance track?

For me a great dance track means a great dance, and a great dance is more than the music I’m dancing to.  Its about the connection I make.  There’s the connection I make with the beat, the instrumentation and the melody, but there’s are other connections that’s play an important part before I declare a dance has achieved some level of greatness.

The first is my dance partner.  Modern Jive is a partner dance and it’s nothing without a connection with the person you dance with.  I can’t remember all the people I danced these ten tracks with, but they must have shared at least some of my enthusiasm for it and the joy I experienced.

Dance music comes with emotional connections

Secondly there’s the emotional connection.  Music often has a significant meaning to us.  Certain songs bookmark the passage through our lives.  Hearing a track that reminds you of your school days, or of the first time you had your heart broken, will give meaning to a track that few other people will understand.

One of my top 10 picks took me right back to a time before I was married and had my own family.  It was a time when I had few responsibilities and dancing was my number one indulgence.

A great track needs to be part of a great night of dancing

The dance tracks in my Top 10 List have one thing in common – they were all played during great nights of dancing.  If there is little atmosphere out on the dance floor, it’s doubtful if any of these tracks will sound as good as I’ve deemed them to be.  They need to be part of a playlist that has the dance floor rockin’ or they will fall flat.

Its about the track’s place in the mix

One of the most important factors, in determining a dance track’s greatness, is where the song falls in the DJ’s playlist.  If you played the full-on track I’ve selected as my No 1 at the beginning of the night it would fall flat.  It needs to be preceded by other hi-energy offerings.

My No 1 is not a track for a class night, it is a track for when the floor is packed and the DJ knows that one more track will set the dance floor on fire – only then does such a track take you to Dance Heaven and takes it place at the top of the list.

No 10: Disco Inferno – Tina Turner, DJ Roy Blewitt

I consider Disco Inferno by The Trammps to be one of the greatest disco tracks of The ’70s, and happily I got to dance to it a lot over the past year.  One night I was dancing at a Ceroc Passions freestyle at Braunstone, in Leicester.  DJ Roy Blewitt was on the decks and he played a more recent version of the track.  Surprisingly it had even more energy than the original and I remember dashing on to the stage, after a great dance, to ask Roy who it was by.

This September I was at Southport standing at the bar in The Thunderball Room, taking a break from some serious dancing.  Roy was once again on the decks, when I hear the distinctive intro to Disco Inferno.  My brain instantly recognised that it was the Tina Turner version and instinctively ordered me on to the dance floor.  Best dance of the night?  One of the best without a doubt.

 

No 9: Club Savoy – Rockin’ Louie & The Mamma Jammers, DJs Ian McLeod and Colin Shaul

One of the first freestyles I reviewed was the top East Midlands freestyle run by Pirate Jive at The Shed in Nottingham.  Without doubt the best dance of the night was to this Rock ‘n’ Roll inspired track.  I have often commented that most Rock ‘n’ Roll music is a bit too fast for Modern Jive, but here is a rockin’ track whose tempo is just perfect.  I was soon on the stage asking DJ Ian McLeod what it was.

While Ian was pleased to give me the details, he asked me not to mention it in my review, as he was understandably quite possessive of the finding this tracks for himself.  I respected his wishes and made no mention of it in my review, but I did wonder whether Ian was the only one to have found this track.  Surely other DJs had come across it, and recognised its Modern Jive potential.  Thankfully they had.

In February I was at a LeRoc Surrey Freestyle at Tylney Hall Leatherhead, with regular DJ Colin Shaul and Guest DJs Cliff and Amanda.  This mix of three top DJs kept the dance floor rockin’ from the very start, and so when Colin played Club Savoy I was already pretty high.  Colin had placed it perfectly in his playlist and when the boogie woogie piano solo kicked in, joy was plastered across my face.

I would go on to make this particular LeRoc freestyle my number one choice for 2016-17 (see the link below).

 

No 8: Instant replay – Don Hartman, DJ Ashley Davis

Back in October of 2016 I was very excited as Ashley Davis was making his main room DJ debut at a Ceroc Heaven Grange Hall Freestyle.  The Grange is one of the premier Modern Jive venues in The East Midlands and freestyles there are always top nights.  I was really interested to see how Ashley would do, and in my review of the night I talk about how Ashley created a great vibe on the dance floor, with his mix of tracks.

So good was his playlist, that I had to have one of his tracks from that night in my Top 10.  I picked Dan Hartman’s Instant replay, not only because it’s a great dance track, but because Ashley surprised me by actually playing it.  I can’t remember ever hearing it on the Modern Jive circuit before and you have to wonder why that was.

What helped get this track on to my list was the emotional connection I made with it.  This track transported me back to a time in my life when I had little responsibility, and it brought back great memories of disco dancing in the clubs of Nottingham.  Sadly I don’t think Dan Hartman gets the recognition he deserves.  He produced some monster disco hits in The ’70s, including the original version of Take That’s Relight my fire.

 

No 7: Played alive (The Bongo Song) – Safri Duo, DJ Rob Ambridge

Back in March DJ Rob Ambridge was spinning the tracks at Ceroc Passion’s Red Hot & Sultry Daventry freestyle.  I’m a great fan of Rob and he knows how to create a great vibe out on the dance floor.  It was past one o’clock in the morning and the main hall was starting to thin out.  It was as if Rob decided to create one last hurrah out on the dance floor before the thinning numbers made it impossible.

Rob spins the Moto Blanco remix of one of Adele’s Set fire to the rain.  This remix turned Adele’s soulful ballad in to monster of a dance track and I love it.  I was lucky – I was able to dance to it with my regular dance partner, and we absolutely smashed it.  We were both interested to see what Rob would follow it with.

I love the way DJs will string tracks together.  It was as if Rob used the Adele track to warm everyone up, knowing that the next track was one of the most energetic and potent dance tracks ever produced.  I knew from the first bongo sound what the track was – so did my dance partner.  We smiled at each other – we knew the track inside out.  We’d danced it so often together that we both knew every change of pace and where all the accents were.

Safari Duo’s Played alive (the Bongo Song) has the most hypnotic instrumentation, and it was the perfect track to follow the euphoria created by the Adele track.  It’s as if, my dance partner and I were born to dance to this track, and we had the best dance of the night to it by a mile.

For more info about this track see the link below.

 

No 6: Dancing Queen – Daecolm, DJ Ashley Davis

I’ve often struggled with slow paced music because I’ve never been a fan of close-hold Blues dancing.  I’d tried and failed miserably at West Coast Swing, so I was really pleased when Ceroc introduced their SILC dance syllabus – from the first time I saw it demonstrated I thought that this would be the way to dance to chilled-out tracks.

The trouble was, I just never really got to grips with the technique.  Back in the summer I decided to have one last go and went along, with my regular dance partner, to a ‘SILC in Six’ course of Sunday afternoon lessons run by Ashley Davis of Ceroc Heaven.  Ashley is a great teacher and about three weeks in it really started to click.

Ashley would often play this beautiful contemporary rendition of the Abba classic in the lessons, and to me its the perfect SILC track.  In July Ceroc Heaven held a Two Room Summer Prom freestyle at their Friesland School, Sandiacre venue.  Ashley was DJ-ing the Chillout Room and he played this track.  Myself and my dance partner now danced the moves Ashley had taught us and we had the most beautiful chilled out dance.

This song makes my list not only because it is a wonderful piece of chilled music, but because I associate it with the success of finally being able to dance to this laid back style of dance music.

 

No 5: Undercover agent for the blues – Tina Turner, DJs Rachel Pears and Marc Forster

I had to have something in my Top 10 List from Marc Forster and Rachel Pears.  Marc is a top main room DJ, but it’s his partnership with Rachel that makes these two stars of the Chill-out circuit.  Even though I’m not a fan of Blues Room dancing, I always have to pop my head in just to get a chill-out music fix.

I read through all the reviews of their wonderful music, and found myself reminded of their Chill-out Zone set from The Ceroc Passion Red Hot and Sultry Freestyle, at Daventry in March.

The reason I’m not a fan of Blues Rooms dancing is that I’m not comfortable with close hold dancing.  I end up just having to slow down my normal modern jive moves.  Sometimes I get away with it, sometimes I don’t.  On the night in question I was standing by the edge of the dance floor listening to Marc and Rachel’s wonderful music.  A new track started up, and I made an instant connection with the blues guitar intro.  A drum beat soon kicked in and I was hooked.

I had to give this a go, and I bravely asked someone to dance.  Thankfully the dance went well and both myself and my partner made a good job of interpreting the songs moody blues tempo and instrumental phrasing.  This track has many layers of instrumentation, including some great punctuation from a tight horn section, but it’s the blues guitar that gives this track its moody feel and offers the most opportunities for expressing your musicality.

The guitarist, and co-writer of the song is Blues/Country singer Tony Joe White, who is best known for his late ’60s hit Polk salad Annie.  The track came from the 1989 Album Foreign Affairs, that was produced coincidentally by Dan Hartman, whose disco anthem Instant replay is featured in my list at No 8.

I should also acknowledge that Tina Turner’s vocal delivery gives this song it’s wonderful soulful feeling.  The interplay of Turner’s vocal and White’s guitar is one of the reasons why this track is so wonderful to dance to.  What a talent Tina Turner is – and a good enough reason for this track to be the second of hers in my list.  I should also thank Marc and Rachel for treating me and everybody else to this wonderful blues track.

I know that there are dancers who only ever frequent Blues and Chill-out Rooms, and any top ten listing of theirs would look a lot different to my own, but I would like to think that this track would be given some credence by those people who love their blues dancing.

 

No 4:  Wall to Wall – Vance Kelly’s, DJs David Hyam and Jon Brett

This is a great piece of dance music.  It’s got an overflow of energy and a funkiness to match.  It’s got so many layers of instrumentation, and as the layers build up, it makes for a thumping great celebration of how lucky we are to be able to dance our hearts out.  It starts with a Hammond organ and simple guitar riff backing, but its not long before other instruments get in on the act.

The organ and guitar are soon joined by a horn section determined to be heard above everyone else, and then a fuzz guitar solo pushes its way to the front for your attention.  The resulting mash-up is a dance groove that I find irresistible, but that’s not enough for the track to make the list.  It was the way I wrote this track into two of my reviews, that makes me want to include it in this list.

The intro to the track is characterised by vocalist Vance Kelly counting up to ten.  Here’s what I wrote in my review of The Ceroc Cambs Freestyle at Letchworth, with DJ David Hyam on duty:

Half way through the evening DJ David played a track I hadn’t heard for some time.  As the track opened up with its blistering funky intro, my dance brain quickly worked out that I had to dance to it.  I sensed I would need an experienced dancer to get the most from it.  As Vance countered down the intro, ‘One – Two -Three’, I looked around for a partner.  People were already pairing up.  I’d have to be quick. ‘Four – Five – Six’.  I now knew what the track was and I didn’t want to miss out.

‘Seven, Eight’.  Back on my home territory I’d know the dancers who would enjoy dancing to the track’s energy infused pace, but this night I’d only ever danced with any of the ladies once, and anyway my partner options were diminishing every moment I hesitated.  ‘Nine, Ten’.  It’s amazing how quickly our brains work.  I spotted a lady, thankfully still sitting out, who I remembered had shown a real connection with the music during our first dance together.  ‘Would you like to dance please?’

This track, like so many others, only achieves greatness when you have a great dance to it.  Having a great dance depends on your dance partner too.  I got very lucky that night as the lady I danced with seemed happy to match my own enthusiasm for the Vance Kelly track.  I can only hope that she enjoyed it as much as I did.

A few weeks later DJ Jon Brett was creating a great vibe on the dance floor at The King Alfred Centre in Hove.  Suddenly I hear Vance Kelly start his countdown intro.  Once again I’m looking around for a partner to do the track justice.  Here’s what I wrote in that review:

I got lucky – very lucky, for the lady I danced with not only proved to be an excellent dancer, but she connected with the track’s funky and thumping beat in a way that made this dance one of the most memorable of the night.  The track that gave us both this fantastic dance was Vance Kelly’s Wall to Wall.  A great choice Jon, and a big thanks to my dance partner.

I wish that everyone is as lucky as I was, on those two nights, to find a partner that will turn a great dance track in to a memorable dance.

 

No 3: Contact – Edwin Starr, DJs Caroline Houlton and Tiggerbabe

Regular readers will know that I consider Edwin Starr to have one of the greatest voices ever to grace a dance track.  His track H.A.P.P.Y. Radio is one of my all time favourites.  When ever I go on my travels I’ll ask the DJs to give it a spin, and they are always happy to oblige for it is a proven Modern Jive floor filler.  Surprisingly it does not appear in this list, but Starr’s other great ’70s disco masterpiece does.

If you like to be on the dance floor when a DJ sets the dance floor on fire, then you can’t beat The Thunderball Room at a Southport Weekender in the hours either side of midnight.  I went to Southport three times in the past year and The Thunderball Room provided me some of my best dance highlights.

On my first visit in February I remember DJ Caroline Houlton having a packed Thunderball rockin’ to her great mix of music.  The standout track from her set for me was Edwin Starr’s Contact.  From the moment the bongo drum and clapping intro kicked off I was in Dance Heaven.

Hear those hypnotic bongos anywhere and I know I’m in for a good dance, but combine it with an atmosphere as heightened as the one Caroline had created out on the floor, and the song takes on a new dimension.  This song certainly did that again back in June when it was included in what I consider the best dance session I’d ever experienced in The Thunderball Room.

It was the Sunday Night.  DJ Roy Blewitt had done his job by nicely warming up the floor for DJ Tim Sant to take over.  Tim then sets the floor on fire with a top playlist.  Hayley Epps is on next – can she follow Tim?  You bet she can, and it’s another sixty minutes of cracking tunes and the temperature out on the dance floor goes up another notch.

As Tiggerbabe takes her turn on the decks I wonder if she’ll be able to maintain the amazing vibe out on the dance floor.  Here’s what I wrote in a live blog from The Thunderball Room:

Can this night really keep getting better. The answer is yes. Tiggerbabe (real name Sheena) is next up, and I’m lovin’ every one of her picks. Top track is the second of Soul Brother Edwin Starr’s monster ’70s hits Contact. This track lights up the floor…

I could have included many tracks from this incredible night of dancing but Edwin Starr’s track, with its iconic chant of ‘We made eye to eye contact’ and driving beat that never gives up for a moment, gets my vote as the track that truly epitomises the spirit that that was in The Thunderball Room that night.

 

No 2: Only the strong survive – Billy Paul, DJ Chris Uren

Regular readers of my blog will know of my Northern Soul roots and my love of ’70s Disco music.  This next track is a fusion of both these dance music genres, and from nowhere, gave me one of the best dances of the year.

The Ceroc Heaven freestyle at The Grange, in Radcliffe on Trent, near Nottingham had been one hell of a night.  Chris Uren had been the DJ on duty and he had, as always, set the floor on fire. It was near the end of the night and quite honestly I was whacked, but Chris wasn’t finished yet.

I and my regular dance partner were walking off the floor when I heard the introduction to a track I didn’t recognise, but it somehow compelled me to turn round and start dancing again.  The instrumentation had all the hallmarks of a Northern Soul track – a strong four-four beat and layers of instrumentation including Motown style soaring strings .

We started dancing, and immediately connected with the driving rhythm.  Within a few bars of the music, the tone of the dance was set.  This was to be a full on dance – the moves would be simple.  Nothing fancy, plenty of  basic Forward and Back, Travelling Returns, Man Spins followed by Ceroc Spins.  We would simply crisscross each other at speed, taking our energy from the driving beat and transform it in to fast paced movement across the dance floor.

I picked up on the catchy chorus but I still I had no ideas what I was dancing to.  The track seemed to go for ever (unbeknown to me Chris had the 12 inch version on the deck) but we weren’t complaining.  This was one of the best full-on dances we’d ever danced to and we were happy for it to continued until we dropped.

After five and a half minutes it ended and , with joy on my face, I dashed over to Chris to ask him what we’d just danced to.  ‘OK Chris what the hell was that?’  ‘Billy Paul’s Only the strong survive,’ came the answer.

While this track was picked up by The Northern Soul Boys it was actually a Sound of Philadelphia recording and amazingly I can’t remember ever hearing it before.  My thanks then to DJ Chris Uren for finding and playing this amazing piece of dance music.

 

No 1 Dizzy – DIMMI, DJs Sue Astle and Tony Ricardi

The first time I heard Dizzy it was just another dance track.  Created by French jazzy house producer DIMMI, Dizzy is a track that must have passed me by since its release in 2013, because I can’t ever remember dancing to it.  However the second time I heard DIMMI’s electronic masterpiece it gave me one of the best dances of my June visit to The Thunderball Room at Southport.

The first time was at a Ceroc Cambs freestyle at St Neots.  DJ Sue Astle was on the decks.  Sue’s playlist that night was filled with the most wonderful dance music, that created a great vibe out on the dance floor – so much so that I voted it my second best freestyle of the whole year (see link below).

It was only when I was going though the list of tracks that I’d Shazam-ed, that I realised that Sue had included this club anthem.  As I wrote my review of the St Neots freestyle I had this track playing on repeat through my headphones.  My review even included the thought that Dizzy might end up being one of my top tracks of the year.

Of course listening to a track constantly on headphones, while writing at your desk, is no substitute for actually dancing to it.  If Dizzy was to be included in my list, I needed to dance to it at a freestyle when the DJ already had the floor buzzing.  This is not a track to use as the atmosphere out on the dance floor is being slowly cranked up – this is a track to actually set the floor on fire.

I didn’t have to wait long.  The venue was the Thunderball Room at June’s Southport dance fest, and the DJ was Tony Riccardi.  I’d randomly picked Tony’s set as the one I’d review on the opening Friday night.  It was a great choice as Tony created a vibe that would eventually set the dance floor on fire, and the track he did it with was Dizzy.  Here’s what I wrote in my review:

After the gentler Soul Boy interlude, Tony soon got the floor rockin’ again.  Sigala’s latest Came here for love, was followed by Walk the Moon’s Work this body with its thumping beat.  The energy levels were rising again as Tony span the Ryan Riback remix of Starley’s Call on me.  With the atmosphere on the floor back to the max, Tony played what I consider to be my favourite track of this Southport weekend.

It’s a track that passed me by when it was released in 2013.  I think it got missed by a lot of DJs too, because I can’t remember dancing to it until DJ Sue Astle played it at St Neots back in May.  On first listening to DIMMIs Dizzy, it sounds like any other club track, but like Bakermat’s Living it treats you to a roller-coaster ride of dance intensity. The saxophone instrumental break, with its thumping drum and bass, is one of the best bits of music I’ve danced to all year.

So what is it about this track that makes it my number one choice.  It’s a club style track with a thumping beat, but it’s more than that.  Essentially it’s the way the track builds in stages to a crescendo created by a sax solo of joyous intensity.  It’s a technique used by a lot of record producers who create club anthems.

The aforementioned Living from Bakermat does the same thing, building towards an instrumental climax that creates the same feeling of joyous release.  The Bakermat tracks builds to a climax twice, while the DIMMI track goes one better and creates the euphoric feeling three times over.

I must admit that you have to be very familiar with these tracks to know when the climax is coming, but after St Neots I had listened to Dizzy so many times, that by the time Tony Riccardi span it at Southport I knew just when the exhilarating climax was coming.

 

To read the related articles and reviews please follow the links below

My Top 5 Freestyles:  This includes reviews of the LeRoc Surrey Tylney Hall and Ceroc Cambs St Neots freestyles

Tony Riccardi set:  My review of Tony Ricardi’s Southport set in June

Played alive (The Bongo Song):  My article about this great Safri Duo track