If you had to pick a “most anthologized” record label for disco material, Salsoul Records would probably take the cake. They have consistently been one of the most influential disco labels since the original rise/fall/rebirth of the genre and their material consistently remains in demand amongst aficionados. However, it’s rare that one of the countless Salsoul compilations manages to hit all the bases: no matter how comprehensive, the sets are either missing key cuts, using inferior sources/mixes or rely on the usual collection of safe staple choices.
Thus, Mixology – The Definitive Salsoul Mixes actually manages to surprise by living up to its name. Compiler and veteran Salsoul fanatic Ian Dewhirst made a few key choices in his programming of this set that make it so successful. The first is to focus primarily on 12-inch mixes, which are usually the best versions of Salsoul material (album versions are used when superior period-specific 12-inch versions weren’t available). The other wise choice here was to make it a triple-CD set in one package, thus allowing it to span the often-unsung breadth and depth of this classic label’s output.
The set is arranged chronologically (another smart decision). The first disc concentrates on the label’s watershed releases of its first two years, 1975 and 1976. Joe Bataan’s Latin-tinged funk instro gem “Salsoul” kicks things off nicely, setting the stage for a string of epic cuts that blend Philly soul lushness with driving Latin rhythms. Obvious standouts include Salsoul Orchestra’s “Nice N’ Nasty” and Double Exposure’s “Ten Percent,” both included in their Walter Gibbons remix versions. The latter remains one of the most rhythmically propulsive disco mixes you’ll ever hear. A nice surprise here is Eddie Holman’s “This Will Be A Night To Remember,” a sometimes forgotten cut included in a nice, extended Tom Moulton mix that stretches out its Philly-sweet flavor.
Disc two segues into the label’s eventful 1977-1979 era, capturing the commercial glory years of disco. One of the label’s biggest hits pops up here, “I Got My Mind Made Up” by Instant Funk. This classic shows off the more band-oriented side of disco, with a solid groove deftly manipulated in an ebb-and-flow style by young mixer Larry Levan (it’s the mix that made him an in-demand remixer). Elsewhere, Tom Moulton brings the Philly Soul with his 12-inch mix of First Choice’s “Doctor Love” and Richie Rivera injects some jazz into the proceedings with his mix of Gaz’s big band-styled oddity “Sing Sing.” A nice surprise on this disc is the inclusion of “Crying,” the b-side to Instant Funk’s more popular “I Got My Mind Made Up”: this fast paced blend of Latin horns and relentless funk-grooving is addictive stuff.
The third disc covers the final era of Salsoul, dishing up a cross-section of material covering 1979 to 1983. The big classic on this disc is Larry Levan’s epic 12-inch revamp of Inner Life’s “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” another killer ‘peaks and valleys’-style disco mix. This is easily the most stylistically diverse disc of the set, the one that reflects the changes in dance music that came with the end of the disco era: most notably, there is a great electro-boogie cut in Leroy Burgess’s “Heartbreaker” and a stripped-down, synth-dominated Frankie Knuckles remix of First Choice’s “Let No Man Put Asunder” that predicts the rise of house music. There are also a couple of killer tribal-Latin disco cuts from Candido, both in epic David Rodriguez mixes. The unexpected gem on this disc is Skip Mahoney’s “Janice,” a surprising-for-1981 throwback to vintage Philly Soul, right down to the smooth backing vocals.
In short, Mixology: The Definitive Salsoul Mixes is the rare Salsoul comp that actually gives you a feeling for the full extent of this label’s output. It’s also one hell of a deal – over three hours worth of classic remixes, in new transfers, for a budget-compilation price. Even if you’re a Salsoul vet with several comps, it is worth making some room on the shelf to accommodate this set.