Of the dozens of classic Chicago House labels that ran aground at the turn of the millennium, none was more lamented than Dance Mania. Lost during the Great Record Store Die-Off of the early ’00s (and the accompanying Near-Extinction Event for vinyl as well), the closure of Dance Mania left a void in the scene so big you could drive a Cadillac through it.
Everybody that paid for their records got their records and the artists got paid – which was something of a novelty.
I’m not just talking about just from the loss of the label itself with whatever records they might have pressed during the interim. I mean the institutional knowledge that died with it. Dance Mania was a proving ground for young talent, a gymnasium for sharpening the talent of established artists and a street university that passed on a wealth of knowledge about music and the business of it from one generation to the next. (You may have noticed that this last part is acutely lacking these days.)
Everybody that paid for their records got their records and the artists got paid – which was something of a novelty among Chicago House record labels of the era, and one of the reasons why so many Dance Mania alumni have jumped back on board.
And having given a demonstration of what a label run with integrity is like back in the day, the resuscitated Dance Mania is still presenting its peers (young and old alike) how you get things done in 2016.
Since the label was jolted out of hibernation two years ago, Dance Mania has been mixing in a few new records with some of the best classics from the back catalog, blending Ghetto House with the label’s quintessential beat tracks, “lost” records with the rare and most expensive on vinyl.
And that’s how it should be. Nearly all great revivals in the scene – I mean the “comebacks” that really seem worth shouting about – have utilized vinyl as their medium. This isn’t easy – vinyl is expensive, pressing is a hassle and as an American much of your product is going to be sent overseas – but Dance Mania godfather Ray Barney and Parris Mitchell have done a superb job. Dance Mania is now releasing new records and reissues at a pace that is practically unmatched among dance music labels right now.
Aside from some new remixes, the classics have been coming in a steady stream. A sampling from the last two months alone:
The Track Stars: Hardcore Traxx
Originally released in 1994, this Jammin’ Gerald/Parris Mitchell collaboration (with an assist from vocalist Reggie Hall on “Chronic Break”) is in so many ways Ground Zero for ghetto house, including the heavily sampled intro to the track the original sticker shyly dubbed as “S__k My M____ F_____ D___.” Interestingly, this EP provided the title for Strut’s superb Dance Mania compilation a couple of years back, though it contained none of the actual tracks from Hardcore Traxx.
Out: Forthcoming April 25
Parris Mitchell: Rubber Jazz Band
This is a Record Store Day special, featuring the Len Faki edit of Parris Mitchell’s “Rubber Jazz Band” (the original is from the 1994 Life In The Underground double 12″). Faki’s edit was originally released by Umbrella Records as a digital only cut; Annie Mac from Radio One BBC has been playing it, prompting the Dance Mania vinyl.
Out: April 16
Paul Johnson: Ride Me Girl/Now Suck It
It’s a big statement to say this is Paul Johnson “at his most raunchy” – he might just take that as a challenge. Of note here for me is Paul’s remix of the Lil Louis classic “Blackout.” While the original is more or less firmly situated in its time, Paul rips that riff right out of the body and transplants it into something for the sleazy loft party set.
Out: March 17
Paul Johnson: 11PM Music/2 AM Music
“The Speaker Buster” is an anthem for all of those who regarded getting the needle into the red as a challenge rather than a warning. I also love the fact that the original sticker published Paul Johnson’s home phone number on it (264-0856!)
Out: February 29
Parris Mitchell: Butter Fly
Another remastered gem, featuring four mixes or edits of the same track. The junkyard boogie of “Butter Fly” Part I is drowned in jazz, quartered and then made into a by-ear-alone classic for “House Fly.” A crazy record without parallel in Dance Mania’s history, built around three syllables and a dazzling array of tricks from the producer’s magic box.
Out: February 18
Paul Johnson: Sex Crazed/Track Happy
Case in point why you never assign limits to Paul Johnson: “Now Suck It” is matched by “Suck My Candy Cane” and “Ride Me Girl” meets “U Remind Me Of Some Sex.” But the real treat here is “Give Me Ecstasy,” which I’m convinced was born of the fortunate encounter when Paul Johnson discovered ravers and ravers discovered Paul Johnson.
Out: February 18
Unmentioned but worth noting here is “Climb The Walls,” the prototypical Dance Mania record by The Dance Kings, a collaboration between Parris Mitchell and the late Kevin Irving. New vocals were in the works but had to be abandoned after Kevin Irving’s tragic death a year ago.
The last I heard, “Climb The Walls” was mentioned as a likely candidate for a new set of remixes (a few names were attached to the project at the time), which Parris Mitchell has confirmed is coming soon.
“The idea is to release the records that people are having a hard time buying,” Parris says of Dance Mania’s current strategy. “And to release them at a reasonable price. It just appears that the mid-’90s era is most in demand.”
Also comes word that Dance Mania is accepting demos. “I’d like to mention that it does not have to be Ghetto House or juke,” Parris adds. So take your best effort, make it better, polish it up and get in touch via facebook.com/DanceManiaRecords.
Published first in 5 Mag Issue #130, featuring Kerri Chandler, Dance Mania, Spiritchaser, Fatback, Edward Fields and more. Become a member of 5 Magazine for First & Full access to everything House Music and save 60%!