Ministry of Sound: Live and Remastered

The club releases an NYC--centric collection of classic sets.

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5

Let's go back—way back—to those halcyon, pre-Giuliani days when New York's niteries, DJs and music ruled the clubbing world. Little did we know our hegemony was about to abruptly end, due to rising real-estate prices, the aforementioned rabidly antinightlife mayor and a host of other factors conspiring against Gotham's rule—and little did we care, as New York's after-dark aficionados were busy basking in the limelight (not to mention the Limelight, as well as other renowned niteries like the World, Sound Factory and the Tunnel). Hard as it is to fathom in this era of Dutch DJ superstars and Berlin techno titans, other cities—most especially, London—once looked our way for inspiration. This was the environment, two decades ago, in which the Ministry of Sound opened within a disused bus garage in South London's Elephant and Castle neighborhood. Basing itself in part on NYC's hugely influential (and, by '91, defunct) Paradise Garage—"sound system first, lights second and design third, the reverse of everyone else's idea," as partner and resident DJ Justin Berkmann put the Ministry's ethos)—the club also focused on securing the cream of New York's house-music DJs, including David Morales, Todd Terry, Kenny Carpenter and the Garage's own Larry Levan.

The Ministry celebrated it's 20th anniversary on September 21, and as you might expect, the nightspot—which by now is more of an international lifestyle brand than a mere dance club—is releasomg a multidisc mix-CD box set to mark the occasion. But this is no run-of-the-mill collection; instead, it's five lovingly restored mixes recorded during the venue's early days, from the aforementioned NYC heroes and from Berkmann himself. That fact alone makes Live and Remastered something of a DJ-festishist's dream, as these sets—from the time when house was morphing from an underground cult genre to the sound of the dance floor—haven't been publicly aired since the time of their creation. But a question remains—are they any good?

The short answer, of course, is yes; they're great, both as time capsules and as collections of beautiful dance music. There is one caveat, though: In 1991, smooth segues between tracks weren't quite the ne plus ultra of deejaying that they are today. In particular, the mix from Levan—who, as brilliant as he was as a selector, was never the world's best mixer—is a bit choppy, with songs banging up against each other (not to mention a few occasions when he doesn't bother to mix at all). But what songs they are, culled from the best that the era's house scene had to offer. Levan's mix features such killer tunes as the spare and sensuous dub of Pleasure Pump's "Fantasize Me," the glorious piano-led "What You Need" from Italy's Soft House Company, and Crystal Waters's bumping "Makin' Happy"; Morales's contribution ranges from the lush disco rhythms of Shafty's "Deep Inside of You" to the spook-house groove of Phuture's "Rise from Your Grave" (a ketamine anthem if there ever was one); Carpenter opts for deep-house beauties along the lines of MK's "You Brought Me Love" and Underground Solution's "Luv Dancin'," with time out for a disco break via "Let's Start a Dance" from Bohannon. Terry, as is his wont to this day, leans heavily on his own productions—though with cuts like "Hear the Music" (credited to Gypsymen) and "When You Hold Me," who can blame him? And Berkmann's set might be the best of all, featuring absolutely classic songs from Pal Joey (Earth People's "Reach Up to Mars"), Murk (the duo's thumping little mix of Deee-Lite's "Pussycat Meow"), Bobby Konders, and Coco Steel & Lovebomb. How the club managed to license all these beloved numbers is anyone's guess—such is the reach of the modern-day Ministry, we suppose. But the world's nightlife historians, nostalgia freaks, dance-floor denizens and plain old music lovers will be extremely glad that it did.