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 List in four categories – Best Classes, Best Freestyles, Best Music Tracks and Best DJ playlists. In this fourth and final part I list my Top 5 DJ Playlists.

We all have an opinion about the music

Before I consider what makes a great DJ playlist we have to acknowledge that being a DJ is no easy gig.  It can’t be easy pleasing all the people all of the time, especially when we all have our own personal favourites as well as tracks we are a little bored by.  It seems everyone has an opinion about the music that is played at class nights and freestyles.  Most of the comments I hear are favourable, but from time to time the people, who pay their money, are less than impressed.

So what makes a great DJ Playlist?

Perhaps it’s when the DJ pleases most of the people most of the time, but I’d like to think it is more than that.  I’d like to think that a DJs playlist can be viewed as an art form, and is worthy of the same kind of critical attention we might give to a painting or indeed any other work of art.

DJs can spend a considerable amount of time constructing their playlists, and they will often pick out tracks from their record collections that have taken years to accumulate.  But a playlist is not just a series of tracks, it’s more importantly the order the tracks are played in, but that still doesn’t explain why some DJ playlists stood out for me over the past twelve months.

It’s not just about setting the floor on fire either

When writing my reviews I’ll often write about how the DJ set the floor on fire, but while that will often make me take note, the craft of the DJ is more than that.  If the skill of the DJ was judged simply on whether he created fire out on the dance floor, my list would have been unfairly dominated by the sixty minute DJ sets in The Thunderball Room at Southport Weekenders.

I have to remember that not everyone wants to work up a sweat on the dance floor, and lest I forget the thousand of dancers who spend most of their time in Chill-out and Blues Rooms.  So what were the criteria I used in compiling my list?  As I detail each of the five DJ sets, I’ll slowly expand on what I think makes a great playlist of dance music.

Let’s give the DJs the ovation they deserve

Many DJs have a following and freestyle numbers often reflect the person on duty behind the decks.  As I travel further and further from my home base doing my reviews, I’m becoming more aware of the high regard that DJs are held across the country.  Whether I’m reviewing the really big gigs or just a small class night I’m forever being impressed by the quality of the music being served up by the DJs.

In my selection I’ve tried to give recognition to all the different types of DJ sets  So let’s hear it for all the DJs because without them they would be no music and no dancing, and that’s something not worth thinking about even for a moment.

The Best of the Rest

It was never going to be easy to select just 5 Playlists when I’d reviewed so many DJs in action.  So here are the Best of the Rest:

  • Mark O’Reilly’s set from a Kelham Hall Freestyle last December where, in amongst the great mix of musical genres, he re-introduced me to a ’70s disco classic Sylvester’s You make me feel (Mighty real).
  • Marc Forster & Rachel Pears’ Chill Out Room set at the Daventry Red Hot & Sulty Freestyle in March.  A wonderful mixture of Blues, Funk and tracks for WCS & SILC including Tina Turners Secret agent for the blues.
  • Steve Carr’s playlist for a Want2Dance class night in Melton Mowbray where he opened my eyes to the great dance opportunities that Rock ‘n’ Roll tracks offer Modern Jivers – like Lost in a dream by Buster Brown.
  • Ashley Davis’ DJ debut at The Grange last October, when he set the floor on fire with Dan Hartman’s Instant replay and Leo Sayers Thunder in my heart again.
  • John Brett’s fabulous set at The King Alfred Centre in Hove where he had the floor rockin’ from the moment I walked in right up to the last track.  Best track Vance Kelly’s Wall to Wall.

A Standout Track and a Link to The Full Review

For each of my Top 5 Selections I embedded a video featuring one standout track and I’ve also put a link to the full review, which includes more track listings and music videos.

 

No 5: DJ Vince Silva, Funk Hour at The Ceroc Southport Weekender

I love funky music.  I was there on the dance floor in 1970 when James Brown re-invented himself as the Godfather of Funk and released Get up I feel like a sex machine.  I can still remember dancing hypnotically to the 12 inch version in a night club on Brighton’s sea front until the early hours.  Three years later Stevie Wonder released his Higher ground, and funk had finally arrived as a main stream dance genre.

Funk was a major musical influence in The 70’s and it has left a dance music legacy that happily still finds favour with modern day record producers.  There could have been no Uptown funk without James Brown and Stevie Wonder.  The idea that you could have a whole hour of the stuff at Southport was always going to impress me and Vince Silva didn’t let me down.

I said in my introduction that DJs have to be mindful of the fact that we all like different music.  In a way Vince had it easy,  His session was labelled the Funk Hour and nobody was going to complain if that’s only what they got, surely!  Well they might actually.  There are not that many ageing Funksters at Southport these days and replicating the raw funk of ’70s Brighton might be a little self indulgent.

The ’70s Disco Age gave us some classic dance tracks, that are proven Modern Jive floor fillers.  I’m amazed we don’t dance to them more often.  Vince simply reminded us how much fun they are to dance to.

Vince has created quite a reputation for his Funk Hour, and he’s done it by mixing in some very well loved funk infused ’70s disco tracks in with the rawer James Brown style of funk.   Taste of Honey’s Boogie oogie oogie was a great example of an easy to dance to funkified pop tune.  In fact I loved dancing to it so much I’m wondering why we don’t get to dance to it more regularly at mainstream freestyles.

Another great pick, in the same vein, was K C and The Sunshine Bands Give it up.  While we rarely dance to K C & The Sunshine Band, we all know and love their hits – even those people who weren’t even born in the ’70s.  Vince’s skill was just to remind us what great dance tracks they are.

If there’s one thing I ask of DJs is that they play plenty of Modern Jive classics.  They are considered classics because they go down so well and many of them are proven floor fillers.  Vince played two that have a real funk pedigree – The Brothers Johnson’s Stomp and Funkin’ for Jamaica by Tom Browne.  Great tracks and they had a packed dance floor rockin’, or should that be funkin’.

Vince dug out some exclusive funk monsters from the music vaults that were so good, it’s only right I keep them secret for him

Just playing great tracks that fill the floor was never going to be enough to get a playlist in to my Top 5.  I was looking for fresh sounds that would excite me too.  Any DJ can find new tracks, but it can take time, and several plays before you really connect with them.  Vince mixed in some tracks I’d never danced to before but I instantly felt the funky groove.

Vince was kind enough to tell me the names of some of these tracks, but asked that I didn’t publicise them.  I respect that, and I’m careful to ask DJs if they are happy for me to tell everyone about their great exclusive tracks.  There was one track that I can tell you about.  It’s from the late ’70s and my research suggests it was a real club favourite.  Needless to say it was new to me but I instantly connected with its hypnotic funky vibe.  Here then is one of Vince’s funk monsters – Jingo by Candido from 1979.

 

Vince finished his set with a ’70s disco classic that put a smile on everybody’s face.  Perhaps Van McCoy’s The Hustle wasn’t the funkiest track in the hour, but it just seemed like the perfect track to finish on, and no wonder then, that when it brought Vince’s set to a close everyone on the dance floor burst in to a round of applause.

Read my full review of DJ Vince Silva’s set at Ceroc’s Southport Weekender

 

No 4: DJ Ian McLeod, Pirate Jive, Nottingham

Seeing a dance floor packed from very early on until very close to the end of the night tells you something about the music.  DJ Ian McLeod built up an enviable reputation for his Pirate Jive Freestyles at The Shed in Beeston, Nottingham by playing a great variety of musical styles.  There was always something for everyone and it’s the reason that people travelled a long way to dance at The Shed.

Nottingham is also blessed with a Ceroc Freestyle venue, at Grange Hall in Radcliffe on Trent, that is loved as much as The Shed.  What Ian appears to have done, was to offer a real alternative music mix to the Ceroc freestyles.  That’s something I really appreciated about visits to The Shed, and it’s one of the reasons I’ve included it in this Top 5 List.

You could go dancing on a Friday Night at Ceroc Heaven’s Grange Hall and have a fabulous time, and the very next night be dancing at The Shed to a whole different musical mix.  Of course you’d hear Justin Timberlake’s Can’t Stop the feeling and DNCE’s Cake by the ocean on both nights, but was there a main room DJ that didn’t play these two tracks for the whole twelve months I’m writing about!

The age demographic at The Shed were slightly older than that at the Ceroc venue, and this was rightly reflected in the music.  What Ian also did was allow many of us to relive our teenage years.

I’m a great believer in the saying that ‘You are only as old as the music you dance to’ and it’s a reason I love dancing to tracks from the charts and the past five years.  I’m sure that many people feel the same way, but sometimes you can’t beat dancing to music from when you were first stepping out on to the dance floor in your teens.  That’s what Ian provided every time, and that’s another reason why I had to include one of his playlists in my Top 5.

When I’m reviewing DJ Playlists I try to gauge the balance between old and new music.  Ian would play modern tracks, but his playlist would feature a lot of music from the ’40s ’50s, ’60s and ’70s.  When DJs shy away from filling their set with too many current favourites they leave big holes in their playlists.  This means they have to dig around the dance vaults to fill in the gaps.  Herein lies a danger.

These newly found tracks may be less familiar and so fall flat.  The trick is to find fresh tracks that people can instantly connect with, and so keep the dance floor busy.  Ian would dig out Rock ‘n’ Roll and Swing tracks, and mix them in with Motown and Disco Tracks.  He would also throw in the odd Country & Western song, and there would always be plenty of Latin inspired tracks, and every one a floor filler.

On a Saturday night in January Ian served up the perfect mix of musical genres for his dancers, with music from every decade from the ’40s to the present day.

On the night I visited in January Ian got his music mix spot on.  It had a bit of everything, and the great vibe coming off the dance floor told you that the dancers were lovin’ it.  There was music from every decade and from all the different musical genres I mentioned above.  He even threw in a Northern Soul classic with Don Covay’s Its better to have and don’t need.

One of Ian’s talents was to find dance-able Rock ‘n’Roll tracks.  Rock ‘n’ Roll can be a little fast for Modern Jive at times, but Ian would find tracks that had the perfect tempo for It.  On the night in question I was pleased that Ian played one of my all time Rock ‘n’ Roll tracks – Club Savoy from Rockin’ Louie and The Mamma Jammers.  This track actually dates from 1980 and Ian followed it with another modern rockin’ track – Boz Scaggs’ 1997 version of Fat’s Domino’s Sick ‘n’ tired.  In my review I talk about having the ‘Best Dance of the Month’ to it.

The Shed has now been taken over by Gary Wharton of Notts Jive Crew and from my two visits I have no doubt that he will continue with a very varied music playlist as refreshing and exciting as Ian served up.  Thankfully Gary has both Club Savoy and Sick ‘n’ Tired in his playlists – ‘nough said!

Read my full review of DJ Ian McLeod’s Pirate Jive Freestyle

 

No 3: DJ Chad Bloomfield, Motown & Soul class night at Ceroc Passion, Peterborough

When DJ Marc Forster started Motown & Soul class nights during his tenure as the teacher at Ceroc Passion’s Peterborough venue he really started something.  Motown and Soul have undergone a revival as retro nights have taken off in dance venues across the country.  It was only a matter of time before they crossed over in to Modern Jive events and I couldn’t wait until one took place not too far from my Nottingham base.

Of course DJs have long slipped in the odd Motown and Soul track in to their playlists, and The Isley Brothers’ This old heart of mine and Sam and Dave’s Soul man have subsequently become two Modern Jive favourites.  However when I saw that Chad Bloomfield was taking the baton from Marc at The Fleet, Peterborough, I did wonder how he was going to fill nearly three houses of lesson and freestyle sessions, without the music becoming a little samey.

Turns out that Chad is a bit of a Soul Boy, and he knew his way round the Motown and Soul dance music archives like a man who learnt his dance moves, in a northern disco in the late sixties or early seventies.  Quite amazing for a guy who was probably not even a twinkle in his parents eyes when Motown created their unique dance vibe in the mid ’60s.

Chad explored the whole of the Motown back catalogue to ensure that the evening wasn’t stuck in 1966, and he reminded me that many long forgotten tracks are great to Modern Jive to

1966 is considered to be the vintage Motown Year.  It’s the year of The Isley’s This old heart of mine, Stevie Wonder’s Uptight (Everything is alright) The Temptations’ Beauty is only skin deep and their monster dance hit Get ready.  1966 is also the year that Frank Wilson created what many consider to be the greatest Northern Soul track of all time Do I love you (Indeed I do) and The Four Tops had their greatest hit with Reach out I’ll be there.

But Motown produced hit records right in to the ’80, with stars like Lionel Ritchie and the ever evolving Stevie Wonder.  As a result the Motown back catalogue is packed with a diversity of music styles, and Chad used them to great effect to ensure the evening had plenty of dance style variety.  Many of the hits from 1966 were there, but I also loved the funkier offerings from Stevie Wonder.  Looking back you can see how Signed, sealed, delivered from 1970 marked the beginning of Stevie Wonder’s journey in to funk.

So big is the Motown back catalogue that you tend to forget just how many great dance tracks are hidden away in it.  Chad dug out some tracks I’d long forgotten about, and proved just how good they are suited to Modern Jive, and that’s why I had to include Chad’s playlist in my Top 5 List.  Two examples of great tracks that my dance brain had long ignored were Smokey Robinson’s Tears of a clown and the aforementioned Beauty is only skin deep by The Temptations.

Chad’s music took me back to a time when I first stepped on to a dance floor at The Nottingham Palais

Music accompanies us through our lives.  We hang so many memories on it – good and bad, and what Chad did was bring back these memories.  After one great dance in the last freestyle session, I was walking back to my seat when I heard a roll of drums and guitar riff I haven’t danced to for perhaps forty years.  I recognised the song instantly and, as I walked on to the floor with my dance partner, I was transported back to the Nottingham Palais, when the girls wore mini skirts or hot pants and the guys still wore ties.

Music has the power to do this, and when DJs take us back to the days when we first set foot on a dance floor, they deserve an extra bit of appreciation in my book.  I don’t care if you are transporting people back to the ’70s or ’90s.  We are all entitled to our journey back in time and I love DJs for digging out the enigmatic tracks that do this for us.

Perhaps Chad had it easy.  It was a bit like Vince Silva doing his funk hour – you knew what to expect.  A Motown and Soul night will feature Motown and Soul music, so you can hardly complain when you’re dancing to tracks by Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson and The Jackson 5 all night.  But you have to remember, most people come to this class night to learn their moves, and weren’t necessarily making a pilgrimage like I had done, to dance to the music of their youth.

I’m sure there were a few people in the room who could trace their dance beginnings back to the late ’60s or early ’70s like myself, but the majority were younger and some a lot younger.  The thing is that this music is seemingly loved by everyone and I’m surprised we don’t get to dance to it more often.  I wasn’t surprised then, at just how well Chad’s playlist went down with everyone.

Chad rose to the occasion and found some modern remixes and threw in a couple of ’70s disco anthems to ensure the music didn’t get stuck in the late 1960s

What helped make Chad’s playlist a standout one, was the fact he had also found some modern remixes of Motown songs.  Please follow the link and listen to a Reflex remix of Stevie Wonders Don’t make me wait too long.   I don’t know where Chad found this track, as it is not on YouTube, and I really had to dig around to find a copy to embed.

He also played a great reworking of Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrel’s Ain’t no mountain high enough which had a much more dance-able beat than the original.  By also adding lots of non Motown tracks like Fontella Bass’ Rescue Me and the disco anthem we all love singing along to –  Ain’t no stopping us now by McFadden and Whitehead, Chad succeeded in creating a great vibe out on the dance floor.

By spending time hunting through the dance music vaults Chad had put together a playlist that worked on several levels.  It gave a Soul Boy like me a nostalgic trip back in time, yet still gave the regulars at the class night the right type of music to accompany their lessons and made for two fun filled freestyle sessions.

So what was the track that transported me back to the Nottingham Palais?  It was the follow up to This old heart of mine and I couldn’t believe I was dancing to it.  Here then is The Isley Brothers Behind a painted smile with its unforgettable intro.  Now I wonder what ever happened to that pretty girl I danced with that night?

Read my full review of DJ Chad Bloomfield’s Motown and Soul night

 

No 2: DJ Sue Astle, Ceroc Cambs, St Neots

I had to have a Main Room DJ that played to a slightly younger demographic spread than The Shed in my list.  I had a lot to choose from.  Some I mentioned in my ‘Best of The Rest’ list at the top of this articles, but there were others too including Rob Ambridge and Hayley Epps’ masterful Main Room sets at Daventry in March.  It’s no easy gig creating a great vibe on the dance floor of what is essentially a soulless sports hall.

In the end I chose DJ Sue Astle’s set at The Ceroc Cambs Freestyle at St Neots back in May.  Perhaps Sue had an advantage, as I voted this night as one of the best freestyles of the past year (see link below), and it’s so much easier for a DJ to make their mark when everything else is spot on including a great turnout.  But I don’t really want to take anything away from Sue because her choice of tracks was top drawer.  Let me explain why.

I mentioned in my thoughts about The Shed freestyle above, that I looked for the balance between old and new music.  I’m never impressed when there are too many current chart songs mixed in with a lot of tracks from the last three or four years.  Individually these tracks may all be floor fillers, but when you hear too many together it can get a little tedious sometimes.

Rather than dance to too many recent tracks I’d rather dance to more of the Modern Jive classics.  Tracks like the uptempo remix of Kenny G’s Havana, BWO’s Sunshine in the rain, Nat King Cole’s Let there be love and Edwin Starrs’ H.A.P.P.Y. Radio.  The thing about these classics is that they all come from different decades and all have different sounding productions.  They will never sound samey.  To account for this I judge Main Room DJ playlists as follows:

I look for a balanced mix of tracks from the past five years, Modern Jive classics and the DJ’s own personal picks.  There also has to be a few ‘What was that track?’ moments

Sue got this balance absolutely spot on, and it’s one of the reasons why nobody had a bad word to say about the music on that night.  Trust me that’s not always the case as I travel round.

Out of the current crop and ones from the last five years, Sue played the ubiquitous Can’t Stop the feeling from Justin Timberlake’s and Cake by the ocean  from DNCE, and a whole stack of others we all love.  But what impressed me was that Sue didn’t overdo these tracks.

When it came to the number of classic tracks , Sue got that right too.  In her Facebook posting, to promote the freestyle, Sue had promised lots of them, and sure enough they were sprinkled throughout her set. Here are a few: Macy Gray’s thumping Kissed it, Zucchero’s equally energetic piece of latin funk Bacco Perbacco, Flo Rida’s I don’t like it, I love it and one of the highlights of the night Stomp your feet from Francisca Urio.

Sue’s personal picks took you on a tour of all the dance music genres and everyone of them rocked the floor

So that leaves me to talk about Sue’s own personal picks, and this is what gets her the No 2 spot.  They were exceptional in their individual dance-ability and more impressively in their variety of the music genres they came from.  There was rockin’ Blues, Rock ‘n’ Roll, Funk and Motown and even some Northern Soul.  There were contemporary club tracks mixed in with Latin and Disco delights.  It was all there and  the link below will take you to the full review so you can listen to some of the standout tracks.

And that leaves me to talk about those ‘What was that track?’ moments.  This is when I have an amazing dance to a track I can’t identify and I’m on the stage asking the DJ for the details.  The trouble was I had too many, and to avoid embarrassment, after one fabulous dance I actually asked my dance partner if she wouldn’t mind asking Sue what the fabulous track was. It turned out to be Shaggy’s Good times roll.

The best of these ‘What was that track?’ moments was when Sue told me about a funked up version of The Temptations Papa was a rolling stone.  If you like funk please follow the link to listen to this wonderful reworking of the Norman Whitfield produced Motown classic by Dr Heinz Funkenpumpe.  Oh, and while I’m at it can I ask Vince if he’ll play this track at February’s Southport ‘Funk Hour’.

A great playlist will always have the floor rockin’, but there’s something else that really impresses me – it’s when it’s obvious that the DJ has spent a lot of time rummaging around the dance vaults to bring us new or forgotten sounds that turn out to be floor fillers.

Prior to visiting St Neots I’d spent a good nine months devouring DJ playlists and learning the names of all the tracks, yet Sue kept playing tracks I’d never danced to before.  One such track would become my top track of the past twelve months, but I’ll reveal that later as it formed part of my No 1 playlist.

I’ll leave you with one of the great floor fillers that Sue treated everyone to.  I think I’d danced to it before, but I’m surprised it doesn’t get more plays, because it’s got a thumping beat and it gave me one of the best dances of the night.  It’s Shaggy again, this time with Chaka Khan, with a Graham Stack remix of Get my party on.

Read my full review of DJ Sue Astle’s St Neots Freestyle

 

No 1: DJ Tony Ricardi, Thunderball Room at The Ceroc Southport Weekender

On Sunday night in The Thunderball Room, at Ceroc’s June Southport Weekender, I had the best nights dancing of the entire year.  It was all down to the music, which was quite honestly awesome.  That night, from about ten o’clock until two in the morning, the energy out on the dance floor never let up, and in my live blogging from the dance floor, I couldn’t help but keep reporting how ‘The DJ set the floor on fire’.

Is it fair to include a one hour DJ set at No 1 when Ian McLeod prepared music for four hours, and Sue Astle’s playlist ran for four and a half. Perhaps not, but I have to somehow recognise the craft of the guys and gals who stand behind the decks at what many consider to be the top Modern Jive event of the year.

I’ve actually chosen a DJ playlist from the Friday night of the same Weekender to top my list.  Prior to arriving at Southport I’d randomly chosen a couple of DJ sets that I would review in detail, and it is Tony Ricardi’s set from the Friday night that made the bigger impression on me.

It’s no easy gig DJing Southport on a Friday night, and Tony’s set just after midnight, is the one that’s expected to really take off.  People have been looking forward to Southport for weeks and the heightened sense of anticipation is evident when you see people checking in.  Southport has quite a reputation to uphold and it falls to the DJs across the whole weekend, in all the different rooms, at all the different time slots to ensure that nobody is disappointed.  I imagine it must be quite daunting to stand on the stage in the Thunderball Room and play the music when there are four hundred people in attendance.

This is not a village hall freestyle with a hundred people.  This is The Thunderball Room at Southport with four hundred dancers ready to rock.  A DJ’s regular playlist will not work.  This needs something perfectly crafted for one of the biggest dance nights of the year

What impresses me about DJs is the way they fashion there playlist for the occasion.  In the same way that Ian McLeod had developed a playlist for the slightly older demographic at The Shed, Tony and the other Thunderball Room DJs, have to create a playlist for a quite diverse audience.

In the room were a vast number of people whose kids had flown the nest, and who had decided that this was their time to enjoy themselves.  At the other end of the demographic spectrum were those people who had yet to be weighed down by the responsibility of parenthood, and who were still relishing the freedom they enjoyed to party when ever they wanted to.  And dare I say there were still people who lived with their parents.  No easy gig then when the audience comes from such a wide age range.

Perhaps Thunderball Room DJs don’t worry about the age spread.  Perhaps they work on the principal that out on the floor are people who love dancing what ever their age, and the thing they want more than anything is music they can dance to.  That is exactly what they got from Tony – sixty minutes of great dance music.  Every track a floor filler and no duds, and I and everybody else lapped it up.

In a regular freestyle you have to cater for all tastes, and remember there are people who like to chill out a little.  No need to do this in the Thunderball Room – there’s a SILC Zone and Blues Room for that.

Perhaps the Thunderball DJs do have it easy, if only that they don’t have to cater for all the different dance genres.  There is a SILC Zone playing smooth tracks seemingly none stop over the weekend, and for Blues junkies Marc & Rachel will indulge you until the early hours in The Cyclone Room.

That said I don’t want to take anything away from Tony, for he still had to decide which tracks to play to create an atmosphere that wouldn’t disappoint the dancers on the floor.  I know I started this tribute to DJs with the statement that you can’t please all the people all of the time, but I sensed that everybody was happy to be carried away as Tony created a frenzied club vibe out on the dance floor.

What was impressive to me was that Tony did it, by and large, with a series of tracks that were not that well known, well certainly not to me.  Apart from a gentle mid set interlude when Tony slowed it down slightly with two well known soul tracks (more of that later) the majority of his set was thumping club style tracks that I was hearing for the first time.

It often takes time to become familiar with tracks before you can truly enjoy them, but I instantly warmed to Tony’s picks, if only because they had a well defined beat that I could easily connect with.  Tony started his set with Don’t Worry by Madcon Feat Ray Dalton.  I couldn’t remember ever dancing to it before, but it’s thumping beat and catchy chorus had me instantly hooked.  I was up for the ride and every one of Tony’s picks took me that little bit higher.

That’s the mark of a great playlist, as the DJ slowly builds the atmosphere out on the dance floor to a peak.  Twenty minutes in Tony played Cameo’s Word up.  Now I remember this track from when it hit the charts in 1986. It was good, but I don’t ever remember thinking it was a great dance track.  I was probably judging the track in isolation.  Now it was different.  Tony had been building up the temperature with his previous tracks and now Word up with the drum and bass turned to the max, was a completely different track to the one I remembered seeing on Top of The Pops.

Now I realised that the track had the funkiest of beats and I was soon hypnotised by the thumping drum and bass.  When it finished I was begging Tony not go slow the tempo down.  I needn’t have worried for Tony wasn’t finished and he played the perfect track to take me even higher.  I love the club style tracks that build to an intensive climax and Tony played one of the best – Living by Bakermat.

I thought Tony would ease up, but he was determined to set the floor on fire – and he did with a track that had more power in its drum and bass than two Word ups and then some – Confident by Demi Lovato.  The series of tracks that Tony pieced together, as I climbed to the summit of dance joy with Living, and finally set the floor on fire with Confident, is the mark of a great playlist.

After a brief gentler interlude, Tony did it all over again as he played the track I voted the best of the year

Thankfully we all got a break, and Tony showed his Soul Boy credentials, as he slowed it down a little by playing Ain’t no mountain high enough from Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, and one of the greatest dance tracks to come out of the legendary Stax recording studio in Memphis – Soul Man by Sam & Dave.

After this brief interlude it was time for Tony to set the floor on fire all over again.  Here’s an extract from my full review of Tony’s set.

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.

In fact I consider this track to be the best of the past twelve months (see link below).  You’ll remember that I ranked DJ Sue Astle’s set at St Neots as my No 2.  One of the reasons was because Sue introduced me to so many great new tracks, including the track that Tony now chose to play next, and set the dance floor on fire yet again.

I’m not sure whether I’d danced to this track before Sue played it, but it certainly registered at St Neots.  I found myself listening to it over and over again and wondered how long it would be before I got the chance to dance to it again.  Not long as it happened, as just four weeks later, Tony used it towards the end of his Thunderball set to create another great climax on the dance floor.

The track is Dizzy created by French jazzy house producer DIMMI.  On it’s own this is just another good club infused dance track, but position it in a series of high energy tracks and its takes on a whole new life.  Play it in the Thunderball Room at nearly half past one in the morning as the climax to a run of full on tracks, and it will literally set the dance floor on fire.

Read my full review of Tony Riccardi’s Thunderball Room set at The Ceroc Southport Weekender

Let’s hear it for the craft of the DJ

I’m perhaps a little guilty of over using the phrase ‘the DJ set the floor on fire’, but it’s hard to know how best to describe in words the way a playlist can generate a sense of euphoria on the dance floor.  The other thing readers should remember is that I’m a bit of a dance music junkie and I know that not everybody loses themselves in the music in the same way as I do.

However, Tony Riccardi’s Southport set was a wondrous thing, and so were the other playlists I’ve included in my list, and they surely deserve some form of recognition.  Perhaps my style of writing is a little over the top sometimes, but I’ve only ever wanted to give appreciation to the guys and gals who work so hard to bring us great nights of dancing.  I’d like to think that this article has given some recognition to the craft of the DJ.  Sometimes it is a true work of art, and its wonderful to know that we can all experience it for ourselves every single week of the year.

To read the full set of articles covering the year, from the beginning of September 2016 to the end of August 2017, please follow the links below.

My Top 5 Dance Classes

My Top 5 Freestyles 

My Top 10 Dance Tracks