A great selection of vocal gems from dance music's first golden era
Defected sub-label 4 To The Floor reaches the halfway point in its mission to revive the legacy of some of house music's most esteemed, but now defunct labels. Following similar collections honouring New Jersey imprint Movin' Records and the UK's own Fourth Floor stable, this time around label head Luke Solomon turns his attention to Sub-Urban, the label owned and run by Tommy Musto in the 90s. As with the first two installments, you've got a choice between a whopping great 26-track, unmixed digital collection, or an eight-track vinyl doublepack.
Sub-Urban made its debut with Musto's own Domything in 1992 (released under his Sub-Urban Soul alias), but it was SU2 - Cloud 9's Do You Want Me - that really put the label on the map. The work of Victor Simonelli, it's a record that's still regarded as a stone-cold classic in US garage/soulful house circles, and one that was also a key formative influence on the then-nascent UK garage scene. It's a little odd, then, that Do You Want Me isn't included here - we get "avoiding the obvious" but the track was Sub-Urban's most successful by some margin, so it seems strange to leave it out.
That's the only real criticism, though, of what is otherwise a very fine compilation indeed. Sub-Urban's sound was quite well-defined, and if you're allergic to vocals this collection won't be for you. But for younger buyers it's a near-perfect introduction to what the term "garage" originally meant, while for the oldies, Sub-Urban was always a fairly underground, in-the-know kinda label, so - unlike, say, a similar compilation of Strictly or Nervous material - it's unlikely that many people will know or own everything here already. Particularly not when those import 12"s used to set us back £8.99 a pop!
With tracks and mixes from the likes of Kerri Chandler, Mike Dunn, Basement Boys and Jazz N' Groove, plus a bunch more names you've either never heard of, or hadn't heard for a while (B.O.P! Key Of Life! Next Phase! etc), this is an essential purchase for disco dollies and dance music historians alike. And look out for three more 4 To The Floor volumes - honouring the work of Slip N' Slide, Faya Combo and Soulfuric - coming soon.
Words: Russell Deeks
Release date: Out now
Review Score: 9