Gibbons, known as "the DJ's DJ" for his bass- and drum-heavy re-edits on New York's club scene, was given Jakki's "Sun...Sun...Sun" 7-inch release for early remix treatment. In his hands, three-and-a-half minutes of quirky disco cheeriness became almost ten of dramatic peaks and valleys, crudely scotch-taped together with a child-like lack of modesty or inhibition.
Tim Lawrence's liner notes for a Gibbons retrospective released on Salsoul in 2004 made a convincing argument that—despite everything that followed being nowhere near as brilliantly shambolic as "Sun...Sun...Sun"—the uncredited mix is riddled with Gibbons' handiwork. Within that context, it's hard to imagine anyone but Gibbons hearing the wholesome and uplifting "Ten Percent" and envisioning an excitable treatment that would build to a crescendo at the 4:50 mark with consecutive stabs of organs, guitars, keys and strings, tense with pure anticipation.
Gibbons mirrored Kool Herc's progression, purchasing two copies of the same record to flawlessly beat-juggle short intros on belt-drive turntables. He recorded and razored reel-to-reel breaks, and played edits so seamless they felt like natural progressions of the original tracks. He was welcomed into the Salsoul family with the success of the gold-certified "Ten Percent," but turned his back, found God and obsessed over gospel music. Even so, his instincts were never dulled, and he was responsible for recording the original version of the Joubert Singers' "Stand on the Word" in 1982, before it was popularized by Tony Humphries and mistakenly credited as a Larry Levan remix, due to its regular appearance in his legendary Paradise Garage mixes.
The first half of Jungle Music witnesses Gibbons pushing the envelope within the confines of Salsoul requirements, while accidentally laying down the foundations for genre offshoots. The dense arrangement of "Get Up On Your Feet" by TC James & The Fist O'Funk Orchestra is splayed out, providing wormholes for a shape-shifting synths, cosmic guitar noodling and a proto-house kick drum, all forming a flawless arrangement that surely left an impression on his sometime live drummer, Francois Kevorkian.
The second disc marks Gibbons' deterioration, physically (moving to Seattle, seeking sets at celebrity haunts like Studio 54), mentally (becoming a fervent born again Christian, rejecting the music he loved on grounds of morality), and personally (wrestling with his sexuality and contracting AIDS). He returned to New York, but abandoned his partially completed remix of Instant Funk's "I Got My Mind Made Up," leaving Levan to pick up the slack and find his greatest-ever anthem.
Even so, Gibbons still managed to find his ground, making the latter half of this collection the richer of the two. Arthur Russell sought him out for collaboration, resulting in his seminal take on "Go Bang" and, what will be the pearl here for many, an unreleased mix of Russell's "See Though Love," which turns a haunting elegy of cello, voice and reverb, into a stunning early example of chilly minimalistic electronics.
Both the Luv You Madly Orchestra and Arts & Crafts achieve deep space disco nirvana via Gibbons' interpretations, while his masterful manipulation of breaks allowed for an easy transition into the burgeoning sounds of electro and hip-hop. His 12-inch mix of Strafe's "Set It Off" is nothing short of a masterpiece: Gibbons's preoccupation with rhythm is focused into a pared back, sleek and slow-burning production that combines early hip-hop with a pulsing guitar line and deep electro funk.
This excellent collection should go some way towards rightfully restoring Gibbons to the ranks of his contemporaries Levan, Moulton and Mancuso, and will hopefully introduce the new wave of disco fans to the man whose music was always a valentine to the most pure moment of dance floor abandon.
Fri / 23 Jul 2010
01. Jakki - Sun... Sun... Sun... (Walter Gibbons Original 12-inch Edit)
02. Double Exposure - Ten Percent (Walter Gibbons 12-inch Mix)
03. TC James & the Fist O'Funk Orchestra - Get Up On Your Feet (Keep On Dancin')(Walter Gibbons Mix)
04. Gladys Knight - It's a Better Than Good Time (Walter Gibbons 12-inch Mix)
05. Salsoul Orchestra - Magic Bird of Fire (Fire Bird Suite)
06. Sandy Mercer - Your Are My Love (12-inch Version)
07. Bettye Lavette - Doin' the Best That I Can (Walter Gibbons 12-inch Mix)
01. Arthur Russell - See Through (Walter Gibbons Mix)
02. Dinosaur L - Go Bang (Walter Gibbons Unreleased Mix)
03. Strafe - Set It Off (Walter Gibbons 12-inch Mix)
04. Arts & Craft - I've Been Searching (Walter Gibbons 12-inch Mix)
05. Luv You Madly Orchestra - Moon Maiden (12-inch Mix)
06. Stetsasonic - 4 Ever My Beat (Beat Bongo Mix)
07. Harlequin Fours - Set It Off (US 12-inch Version)