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Walter Gibbons – Jungle Music review

With the capabilities of modern technology allowing for the current deluge of disco ‘edits’, most of which do little beyond extending an intro for ease of mixing, it would have been an intriguing prospect to see what disco edit progenitor Walter Gibbons thought. Sadly because of Gibbon’s untimely death to an AIDS related illness we’ll never find out, however current edit profiteers could do worse than check out this retrospective of Walter Gibbons remixes compiled by Strut.

Nominally split between the 70s and 80s, the first CD documents the imaginative reworks of the Salsoul catalogue that helped cement Gibbon’s reputation whilst the second CD focuses on the mid Eighties period where he worked closely with Arthur Russell. Gibbons rose to fame during the height of disco’s popularity in Manhattan thanks to his expert DJing skills (a tighter variant on the proto hip-hop tablism of DJ Kool Herc) and it was a chance encounter at the Salsoul office which afforded the 22 year old an opportunity to remix Double Exposure’s “Ten Percent” which became the first commercially successful 12″ release, laying down the blueprint for a format that remains popular to this day. That 12” mix is one of seven tracks which aptly demonstrate the percussion heavy style Gibbon’s branded Jungle Music with the closing 11 minute mix of Betty LaVette perhaps the most impressive example.

The second disc provides more sonic intrigue however, starting off with a previously unreleased remix of Arthur Russell’s “See Through” which whilst short by Gibbons standard at 3 mins 40 secs delivers a sound approaching minimalist electronica, this is followed by Gibbons seminal extended prismatic take on Dinosaur L’s “Go Bang” and perhaps the masterpiece of Gibbon’s career – a nine minute remix of Strafe’s “Set It Off” which imbues the track with a deeply organic funk feel. Strut have delivered yet another superlative retrospective which will hopefully inspire people to read up on a truly compelling character from disco’s history – with Tim Lawrence’s excellent “Love Will Save The Day” a recommended starting point.

Tony Poland