Elevate Difference

Franchise Player 01

Dance music, by definition, is meant for dance floors, but it would be mistake to assume that dance artists are lazy or unskilled. JT Donaldson is known as an important house music producer and remixer who not only creates music that is enjoyable to dance to, but also is compelling and aesthetically intriguing. The work of dance music producers often is undervalued because they are lumped in with disposable genres, like disco or dance-pop, but Donaldson deserves the acclaim he’s garnered for his work. Like luminaries such as Junior Vasquez, Frankie Knuckles and DJ Irene, Donaldson has amassed an impressive oeuvre of intelligent and original dance music.

Franchise Player 01 is an excellent collection of seemingly conflicting and clashing sounds that manage to mesh, united under the thumping bass of the tracks. Those expecting wailing divas will be sorely disappointed, as this collection of dance music is definitely more underground than the radio-friendly mixes of Deborah Cox or Kim English. This music is more akin to Massive Attack or Fatboy Slim. The opening track is a Yoruba Soul remix of UK artist Ben Westbeech’s “So Good Today.” The song expertly blends Westbeech’s soul-inflected vocals (think a more credible Justin Timberlake) with gurgling synths. Rhythm & Sound’s “Freedom for All (Soundstream Remix)” is reminiscent of the more mainstream drum ‘n bass outfit Faithless, with its understated, muted vocals. The most accessible and closest pop song on the radio is the head rush of a club stomper, “Space Cadillac (Derrick Carter Club Vocal),” which uses the sexual double entendre imagery of a car similar to Grace Jones’ dance staple “Pull Up to the Bumper.” The vocals are more energetic than most of the other songs on the record.

The album closes with a trio of songs credited to Donaldson. “Just Bounce” starts off with a classy, jazz introduction before the sounds melt into a thumping dance beat with voices chanting over the drums, telling the listeners to “just bounce,” while horns accent the song. “Stop,” a collaboration with Fred Everything is a rushing club number, appropriate for catwalks with its stately and strident beat and chiming keyboard and samples of voices. The album closes with “Gone,” a song credited to Donaldson and Four Feet; it is a high energy throw down that’s sprinkled with snare drums, squealing synths and disembodied voices droning in sampled snatches.

Written by: Peter Piatkowski, March 27th 2007