Starring…XXVIII sees Vega directing a huge cast of musicians, vocalists and songwriters. The sheer number of tracks and artists involved gives the album an extraordinary sense of ambition. Vega has long coordinated these kinds of projects. His Nuyorican Soul album, widely considered a creative high point for house music, featured more than 70 artists. This collaborative approach delivers fantastic results on Starring...'s best track, "You Are Everything." Here, Jocelyn Brown harmonises with former Blaze frontman Josh Milan and disco mainstay James "D-Train" Williams. Throw in bass player Gene Perez, who anchored much of MAW's best work, and you have a soulful house super-group. "You Are Everything" is unadulterated gospel house, but secular listeners should not be put off—this track has an instantly loveable energy. It's as good as devotional dance music gets, and it's not an exaggeration to say it holds up to Vega's very best records.
Vega's remix of Funkadelic's "Ain't That Funkin' Kinda Hard On You" is another highlight. The mix surpasses George Clinton's original by upping the energy levels and focussing on easy-to-overlook hooks. Vega has a history flipping records this way. His knack for transforming pop songs into New York club anthems was almost peerless. His biggest Masters At Work hit, "To Be In Love," was in fact a rework of a little known Tito Puente song.
There are plenty of other great moments. "I Deserve To Breath," "Gift Of Love" and "Angels Are Watching Me" are all fine examples of Vega's style. Still, getting through all 28 tracks in one sitting can be a struggle. None of the tracks are bad, but three hours of non-stop vocal house just isn't everyone's cup of tea. And some tracks feel like missed opportunities. On "Dance," Vega collaborates with 3 Winans Brothers & The Clark Sisters, some of the most loved voices in American gospel music. Strangely, we get the "Louie Vega Remix" instead of the far superior "Dance Ritual Mix," which appeared on last year's single. Likewise, the three tracks with Josh Milan on vocals feel weak compared to 2012's "Thinking About Your Body," for my money one of the best soulful house cuts of the last ten years. I would also liked to have seen Vega's "Sunset Ritual Mix" of "Never Stop" included here. Vega's been playing that killer track in DJ sets, but has never given it an official release. The covers of Roy Ayers, James Mason and Rufus & Chaka Khan are enjoyable, but fail to reach the lofty heights of the originals. Better is the track with Leroy Burgess that puts a house spin on Convertion's boogie classic, "Let's Do It."
Vega said in a recent interview that he hoped Starring…XXVIII would "inspire other producers in our genre to record songs." There's certainly a lot here to inspire house producers, but in truth, the album mostly preaches to the converted. Starring... is primarily aimed at existing Vega fans, and, on those terms, it delivers. At his best, Vega's still the boss of soulful house.
Tue / 8 Mar 2016
01. Funkadelic - Ain't That Funkin' Kinda Hard On You? (Louie Vega Remix)
02. 3 Winans Brothers & The Clark Sisters - Dance (Louie Vega Remix)
03. Louie Vega - Elevator (Going Up) feat. Monique Bingham
04. Louie Vega - Angels Are Watching Me feat. Bucie
05. Louie Vega - A New Day feat. Caron Wheeler
06. Louie Vega - Magical Ride (Wave of Love) feat. N’Dea Davenport
07. Louie Vega - Gift of Love feat. Tony Momrelle
08. Louie Vega - Heaven Knows feat. Anané Vega
09. Louie Vega - Can We Keep This Going feat. Kaylow
10. Louie Vega - Gimme Some Love feat. Vikter Duplaix
11. Louie Vega - Just The Way I Like It feat. Cassio Ware
12. Louie Vega - See Some Light feat. Nick Monaco & Soul Clap
13. Louie Vega - I Deserve to Breath feat. Adeva
14. Louie Vega - Let's Do It (Dance Ritual Mix) feat. Convertion & Leroy Burgess
01. Louie Vega - You Are Everything feat. Jocelyn Brown
02. Louie Vega - Together We Can feat. Kenny Bobien
03. Louie Vega - Joy Inside My Tears feat. Josh Milan
04. Louie Vega - Because We Love It feat. Zara McFarlane
05. Louie Vega - Turned Onto You feat. Lisa Fischer & Anané Vega
06. Louie Vega - Do What You Gotta Do feat. Lisa Fischer
07. Louie Vega - Stop On By feat. Lisa Fischer & Cindy Mizelle
08. Louie Vega - Slick City feat. Cindy Mizelle & Lisa Fischer
09. Louie Vega - You’ve Got It Bad Girl feat. Josh Milan
10. Louie Vega - In The Morning feat. Adeva
11. Louie Vega - Been Such A Long Time Gone feat. Josh Milan
12. Louie Vega - Es Vedra feat. Luis Salinas
13. Louie Vega - Everlasting Love feat. Diviniti
14. Louie Vega - Ain’t No Stoppin’ Love feat. Byron Stingily