BBH: Joe Louis, Back To The Beginning

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[Relief Records]


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When I bought this 12″ back in 1996, I had no reason to believe it was anything other than a release by early Chicago house producer Joe Lewis. He had already released under that surname variation on his own Target label a decade earlier and had accumulated three releases on Relief. What I didn’t know was that Lewis had come into possession of these four tracks by way of a trip to the UK, during which Jaime Read gave him two DATs of music with the understanding they would be handed to Relief on his behalf. The truth of which was never widely recognized, allowing further releases of more of that music on Basement 282 and a retrospective album on Peace Frog years later. I had heard rumors of this fact for several years but never got full confirmation until researching for this review. In addition to a thorough telling of its history on Discogs, Read has made his regrets and frustration known publicly: “I gave Joe Lewis my DATs when I was young and naïve, so there is an expensive lesson learnt. Shame there’s no music journos with any bollocks.” But if you can put this release’s ignominious underbelly aside, there is music contained within that deserves celebrating.

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“Touch Me” starts this release off with a Rhodes chord seesaw before dropping a shuffle beat and punchy bass line that sounds like it should have been offered with 3-D glasses. From there a mysterious atmosphere goes to work as echoing voices and a spectral vocal harmony emerge, making a fitting companion to the melancholy keyboard melody. Read’s DNA is all over “Flyin’ High,” as a layers of keyboard sweeps unfurl like a new day’s sun, giving forth to cascading synth melodies. But it’s done at a swift pace with firing snares and 808 kicks, reminiscent of his “Who’s Listening” release as Wookey two years earlier. The B-side lead in “Candle Light” wastes no time, diving into a thick chord progression and a galloping rhythm comprised of frantic 909 percussion elements. But amid the rhythm strata Read builds an equally engaging arrangement of piano lines and jazzy synth runs that bring a buoyancy and warmth to the track. The 12″ ends covering similar ground with the introspective house turn of “Snoopy Dancin’.” Where this differs though is through Read’s willingness to let his influences speak loud and clear. The kinetic piano refrain and sub bass crawl are at the central core of the house swing, and with the sparkling keyboard strains and lilting synth trumpet the track takes on characteristics of an era in house past but not forgotten.

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From the beginning Read wore his passion for Chicago house music on his sleeve. He has continued to release under the L.H.A.S. moniker (short for Larry Heard Appreciation Society) and even today his Myspace music player features tunes that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on Jack Trax, DJ International or Trax back in the day. But with output coming sporadically and nothing the last three years, it’s hard to tell if the “Joe Louis” releases haven’t soured Read’s outlook on music production. With any luck he’ll read these words and realize that his music has been missed and we won’t be fooled again.

ryan  on October 14, 2009 at 12:15 PM

great stuff. in my opinion, it’s in the same house/techno vein as jeff mills’ “every dog has it’s day,” and “late night driving” by duplex. i love the upbeat, yet subdued, vibe.

now to find it on vinyl…

tom/pipecock  on October 14, 2009 at 2:28 PM

you know, this story has been floating around the internet for years. but what proof is there that this is the truth? i mean, peacefrog obviously re-released the tracks after this story had been out in the world for a number of years. i’m not saying that it isn’t true, or that it is true. i’m just wondering if there is anything other than 2 guys’ words as proof either way.

for my money, no matter who did these, they ain’t a patch on the ass of the 80s joe lewis records on target.

Brophy  on October 14, 2009 at 6:01 PM

It’s an amazing coincidence that you reviewed this record because I have just finished writing a piece for Resident Advisor and the Joe Lewis/Jaime Read spat features heavily!

Kuri Kondrak  on October 14, 2009 at 10:17 PM

@Brophy: nice, can’t wait to read the piece.

@Tom: I recently heard directly from Jaime on this release. Jaime said that in speaking to Larry Heard, Larry told him that he had given Joe his early stuff. Which if you think about the quality level of that music it sort of makes sense. He also said that Armando was trying to get back Jaime’s DATs before he passed away. Chicago house music history is full of shady shit though so I wouldn’t be surprised by anything.

Donald  on October 16, 2009 at 4:37 PM

Sad but true, this music isn’t the work of Joe Lewis, it is the work of Jaime Read & UK techno originator, Lee Purkis (In-Sync) I’ve heard this right from the source and heard the originals, out-takes and alternate versions right from their UK studio. Their music was stolen and they weren’t given credit. Lets face it, this is underground music and in the world of underground music no one has money to hire attorneys and go after an artist across the ocean. Sad but true, maybe one day they can rectify this issue but for now Joe Lewis will go on to get credit for work he didn’t produce. Its clearly obvious though if you listen to actual Joe Lewis production and then listen to this, many moons apart. There was a reason he stole these songs, they are timeless and aged perfectly, still sound as fresh today as they did back then.

Kuri Kondrak  on October 18, 2009 at 6:11 PM

Thanks for chiming in on this Donald. Love the website name.

Mick Welch  on November 5, 2009 at 11:40 AM

Well you will be glad to know that I will be releasing a brand new EP from Jaime in the next couple of months.
Its criminal that Joe Lewis got away with this, but its good that peeps now know. I have had a few arguments with peeps who would not believe this to be true …

@Tom – Yes mate it is true, Jaime is a good friend of mine, maybe you think Joe is not capable of such a terrible crime ? Trust me, it is the truth !!

kuri  on November 5, 2009 at 3:54 PM

@Mick. Jaime mentioned that he may have something coming out on Elektrosoul soon. Glad to hear it’s coming to fruition.

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