Review: Walter Gibbons

A disco pioneer gets his due with this double-disc retrospective.

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>5/5

The early- to mid-'70s was an explosive era in the history of deejaying, when slapping records onto turntables morphed from a casual act to an art form. Francis Grasso, Nicky Siano, Steve D'Aquisto—they and their contemporaries are rightly looked upon as trailblazers, but few of them could match Walter Gibbons. A resident at the Galaxy 21 disco, Gibbons pioneered the same kind of quick-fingered cut-and-paste skills that were also under development by uptown's proto-hip-hoppers—notably, lengthening drum breaks into percussive minisuites that became known as "jungle music." But Gibbons didn't stop there—he took his act to the studio. While he's not the inventor of the disco remix (that accolade goes to Tom Moulton), he was one of the best, and this double-disc compilation sees the late Gibbons getting his due.

The first set, focusing on Gibbons's cutting-edge early work, is a fascinating look at what could be done with a razor blade, a little tape (both reel-to-reel and Scotch) and lots of imagination. Primitive by today's standards but no doubt mind-blowing to '70s clubbers, Gibbons's mix of Double Exposure's "Ten Percent" is a good example: He transforms the heavily orchestrated tune into an unpredictable dance-floor trip, with tribal rhythms lacing their way around sweet strings and chikka-chikka guitar. The second CD of '80s work may not be not quite as fascinating from a studio-history standpoint, but you can't find fault with a set that includes the male and female versions of seminal postdisco cut "Set It Off," a dubbed-out take on Stetsasonic's loping "4 Ever My Beat" and a previously unreleased version of Arthur Russell's "See Through."

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Jungle Music (Strut)