2016 Jan 18     
2 Bit Thugs

The compilation gathers together the best of their own productions and the cream of their remixes for other artists

Their name may not be quite as familiar to today's young club-goers and music-buyers as those of some of their contemporaries, but Mood II Swing – AKA John Ciafone and Lem Springsteen – were among the founding fathers of the New York house scene. And now here comes the three-disc Strictly retrospective to prove it!

Mood II Swing are perhaps most readily associated with the smoother, jazzier end of the garage/soulful house spectrum, not least thanks to their 1994 smash Closer, which came out on originally on King Street Sounds and which featured Carol Sylvan on vocals. That's included here, of course - in two different mixes, in fact - and yes, there are plenty more smooth, soulful grooves where that came from, such as 1996's All Night Long or 2003's Can't Get Away From You, as well as rawer, Jersey-style garage cuts like 1993's Critical, recorded under their Wall Of Sound alias.

But what's more notable, listening to this collection as a whole, is just how often Springsteen and Ciafone have actually ventured outside of their soulful house comfort zone. Chicago Blues, for instance, taken from 1994's The Scenic Route EP, veers into lounge/nu-jazz territory, while Nafara from the same EP is an eyes-down, small hours workout consisting simply of tribal drums and a nagging M1 hook. And then there's the deep house gem that is Do It Your Way: with its surging bassline and spoken, sampled vocal, Do It Your Way could have been released last week. But no, 1996!

All this, and we haven't even mentioned the remixes, with this collection also taking in their mixes of tracks by Nu Yorican Soul, Ultra Nate (it was their rub of Free that really propelled it up the charts, though it's their Dub you get here), Lucy Pearl, Stephanie Cooke, Kim English, Fonda Rae, Leee John, Everything But The Girl (a delightfully sparse and delicate Dub of Wrong), BT and more, as well as several tracks from Loni Clarke, with whom the duo worked extensively in the 90s.

For househeads of 'a certain age', this is a no-brainer, while for younger buyers it's a perfect opportunity to get acquainted with the back catalogue of a seminal duo who perhaps don't get quite the props they deserve these days. Well, nearly perfect - there's no Helpless (recorded as Urbanized in 1992, and in this reviewer's eyes their finest hour). But you can't have everything.


Release date: 15 January


Review Score: 8




Tags: Nu Yorican Soul, Ultra Nate, Lucy Pearl, Stephanie Cooke, Kim English, Fonda Rae, Leee John, Everything But The Girl, BT, John Ciafone, Lem Springsteen, Mood II Swing, Strictly Rhythm, US garage, vocal house, soulful house, New York house