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Mix tapes are part of the essential fabric of house music. Back in the days when the internet was still a half-baked idea known only to IT boffins and vinyl was the only way you could buy the latest tunes (always providing they were actually released and your local record store could get a copy) mix tapes were highly prized currency. Most were bedroom-mixed by aspiring DJs of course, but the most sought after tapes were live mixes by top DJs, often surreptitiously recorded straight off the mixing desk; early house music sets by the likes of Ron Hardy and Frankie Knuckles are still highly prized today. Ever the innovator, Strictly Rhythm figured that if people were hungry for dull, hissy, third generation bootleg cassette mixes, they might like a properly recorded version of the same thing. The Strictly Rhythm Mix was born and launched in 1993 with two of the biggest house DJs of the day, Tony Humphries and Louie Vega, mixing straight from the vinyl without access to any of the software trickery that makes todays studio DJ mix such a breeze. Now, as part of our 20th Anniversary celebrations weve unearthed all the original mix sessions and for the first time in years are making these rare releases available once again, releases that include mixes by the likes of Armand Van Helden and Lil Louis as well as Messrs Humphries and Vega.

Chicago's Lil' Louis is one of the unsung godfathers of house music, a key mover from the original days whose influence is far deeper than his low profile might suggest. The risqué French Kiss, a top 2 chart hit in the UK and a huge dance hit globally in 1989 still wields enormous power today thanks to its seminal keyboard riffs. But Louis was much more than a few groans and a prototype electro-house groove; his two albums were streets ahead of most of the competition at the time and his skills encompassed brilliant vocal cuts like Club Lonely and of course, the Strictly Rhythm release Freedom by Black Magic.

Pride 95 is about much more than the DJ who mixed it, however. A celebration of Gay Pride, the album marked an important milestone in recognising not only the huge influence gay culture played (and still plays today) in club culture, but also how it interacted with the straight scene. The tracklisting reflects the diversity of a scene that by 1995 already covered numerous strands and sub-cultures; Erick Morillo's Club Ultimate and Armand Van Helden's Mole People bump up against post-disco divas Barbara Tucker and Moné and those products of the flamboyant and fierce gay New York scene of the mid 90s, Michael M and Franklin Fuentes. And Pride, of course, is still loud and proud today.


Strictly Rhythm - The Lost Tapes: Pride 95 Mixed By Lil' Louis

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