Theo Parrish’s Ugly Edits series has always divided opinion. Released on vinyl in stupidly limited quantities (with sky-high prices to match), the ongoing series has achieved cult status. That many of the releases have been bootlegged countless times tells its own story. Frequently, these bootlegs sell three or four times the number of copies as the original releases, despite sound quality that veers from poor to unlistenable. These are in-demand records – and Parrish knows it. Perhaps it’s because of this slavish devotion that the eccentric Detroit producer has finally bowed to pressure and put the best of his Ugly Edits on a two-disc compilation.
He clearly understands his worth, though, because this first Ugly Edits CD weighs in at a whopping £27.99. Ouch. Few producers could get away with charging such high prices, but such is the near religious fervour surrounding Parrish that it will almost certainly sell-out fast. The edits themselves – and there are 17 full-length reworks spread across the two discs here – have proved equally divisive over the years. Critics frequently state that they’re too long, locked and loopy; fans shrug this off with a simple “you don’t understand Theo”. There is an argument to suggest that the Ugly Edits invariably work best for Parrish because they fit his inimitable DJ style.
Yet a quick trawl through these two discs should win over the doubters. Put simply, there are some great re-edits here – and usually of the sort of dusty disco gems that you’re average crate-digger would love to get his or her hands on. The first disc begins at the very start of the series, with Parrish’s deep, loopy take on Jill Scott’s “Slowly Surely”, a kind of voodoo ritual stretched out over 12 hypnotic minutes. Then there’s that infamous, horn-toting re-boot of Made In America’s “Never Let You Go”, as perfect a dancefloor disco edit as you’re ever likely to find. The version of Harold Melvin’s “The Love I Lost”, which immediately follows, is similarly incendiary, working the groove hard for five minutes before exploding into life. Then there’s “Little Sunflower”, a gorgeously dubbed-out Freddie Hubbard rub that derives its beauty from the simple use of string and blissful electric piano keys.
Of course, it’s not all this good, but there’s little throwaway, cheap or unusable. Even the collection’s lesser moments – the needlessly long, string-drenched jazzer “Stay Together”, the seemingly endless looped Sylvester grooves of “Got A Match” and the equally epic “No Way Back” – have an authentic charm. In truth, the second disc – which mostly boasts tweaks of disco-funk, crackly soul and syrupy disco cuts – lacks some of the raw dancefloor power of the first CD, but it’s a relatively minor quibble. £27.99 is certainly a high price to pay, but original vinyl copies of the individual singles would set you back much, much more.