The legendary New York DJ John Morales has released the fourth installment in his M&M mixes series, dropping over 5 hours of classic M&M magic.
John Morales: TFSR hero
When it comes to disco and house, there’s one DJ who’s been at the forefront for over 40 years. Born in the Bronx, Morales developed a taste for music emerging from the radio of the rock and roll era and, aged just 12, got a job at a local record store. Paid in vinyl rather than money, Morales quickly assembled a huge record collection, which he used to DJ at a bar his father had owned, before landing a gig at the Stardust Ballroom in the Bronx.
As Morales’s reputation as a DJ increased, he began to DJ other nightclubs in and around New York, but he grew frustrated that the records he wanted to play weren’t long enough to mix. Pragmatically, Morales started to create his own extended mixes of songs by cutting tapes and taught himself the art of editing. A painful process, but one that would provide Morales with the skills for the future.
One of his first successes came with Inner Life’s ‘I’m Caught Up (In A One Night Love Affair‘ featuring the vocals of Joceyln Brown. Fate would then introduce Morales to Sergio Munzibai, a music director of the New York radio station WBLS. Striking up a friendship based on their shared love of music, the two would form a highly successful partnership, remixing over 650 songs together in their own unique ‘M&M’ style. Together the remixed tracks by The Temptations, Aretha Franklin, Candi Staton, The Commodores, Jocelyn Brown and many, many more.
Sadly, Munzibai passed away in 1991 and Morales himself was ill in the early nineties and retired from the music scene. Instead, he worked testing new musical software for nearly a decade, before being tempted back into the music business. Since then Morales has re-emerged as one of the best DJs on the disco/dance/house scene, and has put out several excellent albums of his work, including three series of M&M mixes, the last of which came out in 2013. In 2015 he released the excellent album Club Motown, showcasing the best Motown dance tracks from the seventies and eighties, featuring some older M&M mixes (such as The Commodores ‘Nightshift’ and DeBarge’s ‘Rhythm of the Night’) and 5 new M&M mixes of Motown divas, including his epic remix of Teena Marie’s ‘I Need Your Lovin’‘. A year later, he released a vinyl-only collection of additional Motown remixes, including The Temptations ‘Standing on the Top‘ (we patiently await MP3 downloads of these…).
M&M Mixes Volume IV
Now, Morales has returned to his M&M Mixes series. This is the fourth compilation in the series, and comes either in 4CDs (totally a massive 5 hours 3 minutes of music) or two-double LP vinyl (although the CD still contains more tracks – 32 in fact).
In what will come as no surprise to fans of John Morales, his new collection of M&M mixes is fantastic. Morales has, yet again, sprinked his magic remix dust over some classic and some lesser known tracks to create another masterpiece of a compilation. The track selection is inspired and impressive, from classic disco jams such as Cheryl Lynn’s ‘Got To Be Real’, to the Brit-Funk anthem ‘Hi Tension’, and to smooth soul-grooves of Frankie Beverly and Maze. This eclectic mix of tunes has Morales mixing across genres and tempos, giving each of them a makeover with his trademark blend of vocal-drops, percussive riffs and pounding basslines.
Just like the previous collection in the series, M&M Mixes Volume 4 opens with an absolute joy of a Barry White remix. This time Morales has selected the sultry ‘I’m Gonna Love You Just A Little Bit More’. Similar to Marvin Gaye, White would overdub layers of his own vocals, sometimes not much more than groans and grunts, or repetitions of single words or phrases. Here, Morales delicatley re-layers these from the original master tapes on a stripped back, extended introduction that lasts for nearly 4 minutes. The result is magical: it’s classic Barry White given a delicate re-touching, making White even more seductive and enchanting than on the original track.
White is once again given the M&M treatment later on with ‘Let The Music Play’, a new version of an older M&M mix that Morales has struggled to release on previous CDs. White’s catolgue is tightly controlled by his Estate, and only Morales (so far we know) has been allowed to remix the Walrus of Love officially.
What is most impressive about listening to a John Morales mix is his ability to transform familiar songs into new musical odysseys. On Volume 4, Morales remixes Atlantic Starr’s ‘Circles’ and lifts the bass higher up in the mix, revealing one of the funkiest basslines I’ve ever heard. Stripped back but with more percussion, the song is transformed and, for me, is better than the original single mix. Again, Teena Marie’s ‘Lovergirl’ is given similar treatment: the bass is elevated, an additional vocal is added to the beginning, and the song is transformed into something far more funky and more danceable than the original.
One of the most impressive and most unexpected track on the album is the delicious rework of David Ruffin’s ‘Walk Away From Love’. Not an obvious choice to be given the M&M treatment as the song’s tempo is slower than you might expect, and it’s perhaps more soul than dance or disco, but Morales has created an outstanding mix of the Ruffin classic, providing us with a new listening experience, emphasising Ruffin’s yearning and growling much more than the original mix. And, if one ex-Temptation isn’t enough, Morales also drops one of Eddie Kendrick’s biggest solo hits with ‘Girl You Need A Change of Mind’. The song was one of the earliest disco tracks, and with with Morales at the mixing desk, the legacies and music of these soul legends are in safe hands.
Perhaps my favourite remixes on the album are Tom Browne’s ‘Funkin’ For Jamaica’ and Cheryl Lynn’s ‘Got To Be Real’. As far as I know, the longest versions of these songs prior to the Morales mixes come in at around the 5 minute mark, and quite frankly, that has never been another. Morales almost doubles their running length, stretching out these classic grooves, splicing in additional tracks from the recording sessions cut out of the original mixes. These two are definitley well worth seeking out.
Other highlights on the compilation include two Diana Ross tracks, ‘Tenderness’ (originally produced by Nile Rodgers ansd Bernard Edwards of Chic) and ‘No One Takes The Prize’ (from the Ashford & Simpson produced album The Boss), as well as Donna Summer’s ‘Heaven Knows’, and two stunning remixes of Frankie Beverly and Maze’s biggest hits.
5 hours later…
Now, as tempting as it is to review every track on the album, you’d be here reading it for as long as you could be listening to it. But, once again, John Morales has presented us with a gift we do not truly deserve – a compilation that is truly outstanding, and well worth investing in. The track selection is excellent, a real balance between well-loved songs and artists as well as some perhaps more unfamiliar ones.
There’s nothing more satisying than picking up a record and seeing the words “John Morales” or “M&M Mix” inscribed on it, for you know that it’s going to be excellent. Morales remains one of the best DJs around, and this compilation once again proves why he is so reverred in the business. His ability to completely transform classic tracks is mesmorising, and serves as a reminder than remixing is more than just taking a song you like and sticking a load of noise behind it. Morales proves on The M&M Mixes Volume IV that, while many attempt it, remixing is an art form that few truly perfect.
John Morales Presents The M&M Mixes Volume IV is out on BBE Records now. Limited edition vinyl is available, as is the mammoth 32 track/4CD collection.