Various | Tom Moulton: Spring Event - Silver Vinyl
Limited edition gatefold silver vinyl
It's June 2020 and I'm on a video call with Tom Moulton. We're in the middle of a worldwide pandemic but life for Tom Moulton hasn't particularly changed a great deal. He's effectively been in self-isolation for most of his life wedded to the two things he likes most in life, namely, music and cats.
I've known Tom for almost 50 years. The first 20 of those years were spent listening to Tom's mixes, and I listened to everything he did (including all the un-credited stuff) and quickly realised he was the master. I wore all those 70s Trammps albums out very quickly. The dynamic on all those mixes was really off the scale. I eventually met Tom when I did Salsoul Mastercuts in the early 90s. Little did I realise I'd be working with the guy forevermore.
Over the last 30 years I've been fortunate enough to work with him on a variety of projects and all of them were fantastic experiences. Tom's what I call an original creative and the whole art of mixing is a very emotional thing for him. It made for some long conversations. We fall out all the time but I'm always there for him and he's always there for me. It's one of those annoying Master-Servant relationships. Plus I always need access to his archives.
Anyway Tom got access to the Spring/Event vaults and then started working. This project started almost four years ago and, typically in this day and age, went through a number of mutations and delays. We're lucky it's finally here.
I still listen to everything that Tom does. These mixes bring out aspects of the songs that I never properly listened to before and, in a couple of cases, had never even heard. Thus is the art of the creative remixer.
It's been particularly poignant talking to Tom throughout this pandemic. Tom is really the last survivor of his type. A master-craftsman using 80 years of skill and knowledge and who is every bit as passionate today, surrounded by his cats and computers, as he was in the 60s, surrounded by a coterie of young and adoring music fans.
Nothing's changed. He's already looking at Volume 2. Enjoy!
Track By Track Guide:
Spanish Hustle -The Fatback Band 9.55 1975
Arms had to be twisted and credible threats made to include this amazing instrumental in this package. Since the vocal version was being readied for a 12" release along with "(Are You Ready) Do The Bus Stop", the instrumental which Tom ran off was considered surplus to requirements until the handful of people who heard it insisted that it be made available. People power. And is it any wonder why! "Spanish Hustle" was the biggest of the Fatback Band's run of mid 1970s hits, eventually reaching No.12 on the U.S. RnB charts in March of 1976. However, no one has ever heard this version. Quite simply the sheer scope of what can be achieved with the right multi-track and the right ears is staggering. Four minutes longer than the original 12" version, Tom's mix is quite simply a peak hour banger that will turn legs and co-ordination into putty if heard over a great system. Take a deep breath and a strong scotch before listening. You have been warned.
No One Else Will Do -Ronnie Walker 7.39 1974
In 1974 Event Records must have been watching their Philadelphia counterparts reap gold from the explosion of 'The Philly Sound'. Synonymous with that explosion was long-time veteran writer, producer and orchestra leader, Vincent Montana Jr. So Event swooped in and got Vincent's services before the emerging Salsoul Records would eventually monopolise him. "No One Else Will Do" is the stunning flip to the topside, "You've Got To Try Harder (Times Are Bad)". That "No One Will Do" has lain idle for the last 46 years is no surprise. The record only seemed to get traction in the UK at the time, with many people (myself included) completely ignoring the B side. Big mistake! Here Tom has all his favourite elements to work with - Ronnie and Vince's sterling song and production that he has now extended to a far more feasible 7.39. This track is one of the biggest surprises of the package and another example of what Tom can produce with gems he manages to find.
Tom The Peeper - Act One 5.14 1973
Act One's "Tom The Peeper" is actually one of the better-known tracks within this project, at least in the UK. "Tom The Peeper" became a surprise club hit in London and various Funk clubs throughout the UK in 1974. In fact it was even re-issued again in 1976. It's one of those infectious Raeford Gerald songs with a battleaxe of a Funk riff running right through it. This is now put in full effect by Tom’s pile-driving never-let-up remix, which extends the song to a dance-floor friendly 5.14. The original U.S. 7" copy of this calls the 2.16 version a 'Longer Version' without any sense of irony. It somewhat surprised me when Tom sent this over. The old boy can still groove on funk in his eighth decade. Once a funker, always a funker I guess.
Baby, You Got It All - Street People 5.33 1974
Most people would be aware of the Street People via their fantastic album on Vigor Records from 1976, which yielded several U.S. RnB Chart hits over 1976-77. However 2 years before that they released their debut 45 on Spring - the sprightly "I Wanna Get Over", backed with a slice of magic called "Baby, You Got It All", this great Ray Dahrouge song which benefits from a superb arrangement from 60s veteran Joe Renzetti. Naturally Tom took one listen to the strings and those gorgeous vocals and once again gave them room to work to best effect. It's lucky he did. This is not the kind of record that remixers generally head towards but once Tom gets on a mission, who can possibly stop him? Listen and learn.
Going Through These Changes - Joe Simon 8.01 1978
Another Joe Simon track rescued from the vaults by Tom is the incredible "Going Through These Changes". This great Phillip Mitchell song gets 'The Harris Machine' treatment with a great Leon Mitchell arrangement. Surprisingly the only 12" version released was promo-only and, despite a decent Joe Simon, Gerald Raeford and Michael Barbiero mix, the song got crowded out at the time. It was only ever released in the U.S. and Italy and is relatively unknown generally, all of which makes it ripe for the Tom Moulton remedy. As with everything else on this package, the song finally has a chance to breathe and exhale. There is simply no way that Moulton will allow any nuance of the full recording to escape his attention. And it doesn't. I can see this mix getting a lot of attention in Soul and Dance circles. It may as well be a new release 'cos no one has heard this 8.01 minutes of Soul perfection before.
Breakaway - Millie Jackson 9.09 1973
Millie Jackson's "Breakaway" was the fifth Top 20 U.S. RnB hit in a row for the estimable Ms Jackson, reaching No.16 in April 1973. Her run of great singles throughout the 1970s inevitably meant that some of her earlier works got forgotten or overlooked by us mere mortals. Typically this is the kind of stuff that Tom excels at. He likes to confound expectations by digging out tracks like "Breakaway" and then blowing people's minds when they listen to his version. Mind duly blown. Tom has virtually tripled the running time from the original 45 release time of 2.53 to a gargantuan 9.09. Such is the power of the main riff, that "Breakaway" could almost be a female version of Edwin Starr's "War" - it's that powerful. Should absolutely come with a health warning when experienced over a loud system. Quite simply a monster of a mix.
Love Vibration - Joe Simon 9.53 1978
Trust the eagle eyes and basic instinct of Tom Moulton to track down the multi-tracks to virtually anything in which Philly maestro Norman Harris was involved. In 1978 Spring had the thorny problem of trying to align veteran Soul man Joe Simon with Disco. Not an easy task. Mind you they'd done it before with Joe when they teamed him up with Gamble & Huff earlier in the decade, so they sent Joe to Philadelphia again and put him in the hands of ‘The Harris Machine’. Tom's remix stretches the original 5.05 version to almost double the length and finally allows the song to breathe and stretch comfortably. Exactly the right approach for a song called "Love Vibration".
Don't Send Nobody Else - Millie Jackson 7.08 1973
Many people will know this fantastic Ashford & Simpson song from Ace Spectrum’s 1974 version,, which became a hit on the UK’s Modern Soul scene in the early 1990s. However Millie Jackson's version from the year before lay dormant until the 2000s when some enterprising UK DJs started playing it. Timely as ever, Tom found the multi-track and has transformed this original Brad Shapiro produced 3.22 album track into a 7.08 length tour-de-force which is perfect for today's dance floors. Tom completely enhances Mike Lewis's string arrangements to new heights making this 1973 Southern U.S. production sound every bit as good as its better known rivals from later years. Ashford & Simpson would be proud.
You've Got To Try Harder (Time Are Bad) - Ronnie Walker 7.14 1974
The late great Ronnie Walker had a tight little fan base in the UK’s Northern Soul scene and his 1968 release, "You're The One", which was actually re-pressed by Phillips due to UK demand. So when "You've Got To Try Harder (Times Are Bad)" came into the UK on 7" import, lots of us jumped on it and the record became a staple of the newly emerging Modern Soul scene. Produced and written by Ronnie and Vincent Montana Jr, three minutes seemed incredibly short for a record with such great instrumentation and Vince's sublime arrangement. It's no wonder that Tom's heartbeat quickened when he got hold of the multi-track to this! The track has now been beautifully extended to a lush 7.14 and now has the space to incorporate all that incredible musicianship from most of M.F.S.B. at their finest. This track (along with "No One Else Will Do" featured above) should give a whole new lease of life to these vintage Philly Recordings. We've just been blessed.
Friends Or Lovers - Act One 4.34 1972
It may surprise a lot of people, especially in the UK, but Act One's "Tom The Peeper" was not a hit in the U.S. Their biggest hit was "Friends And Lovers", a gorgeous Gerald Raeford song and production which edged the song into the U.S. RnB Top 30 in February 1974. The fact that it's a ballad will have made little difference to Tom's motive for mixing it. He hears most records in a different way from the rest of us and has spent most of his life searching for those special nuances in a song that will generally go above most people's heads. Such is the case with "Friends And Lovers". Just one listen to the orchestration and production would have marked this song as a Tom Moulton target. To those of us who have been lucky enough to visit the master in his apartment, it's easy to envisage Tom working on this long into the night completely immersed in the sheer majesty of this song with only those cats of his to bear witness. A Moulton masterpiece. Should be savoured like fine wine. Enjoy!