- Tony Humphries may not be the first DJ you'd think of as the guy to mix Running Back's 15th anniversary compilation—label head Gerd Janson would be the easy, obvious option. But, for a host of reasons, it makes a lot of sense to tap the New York DJ for the task. He helped popularize house outside of Chicago, largely via his '80s-era mix shows for Kiss FM and his long stint at Newark, New Jersey's Club Zanzibar. Running Back's classic-leaning style of house, which has plenty of flourishes from dance music's past, fits well with Humphries' tastes. And he's done label-mix CDs for other storied labels, including West End, Strictly Rhythm, Nervous Records and King Street Sounds. But most importantly, Running Back's Gerd Janson is simply a massive fan. As he admits in the compilation's liner notes, "My own unhealthy obsession with all things Tony Humphries is nothing short of notorious."
Humphries is an unfussy and patient DJ, with a style that allows the songs plenty of room to breathe. He favors long blends that are precise yet always have a human feel. He also avoids obvious peaks and valleys, preferring a more linear path with just a few undulations. That restraint is evident from the get-go, as he lets the slow-burn, Roland CR-78–led intro of Todd Terje's "Ragysh" chug along uninterrupted before that celestial breakdown brings everything into focus. Similarly, he lets the percussive synth and tom patterns of Roy Comanchero's electro-esque oddity "The Delete Of Society" play out at length. Even cuts that are little more than DJ tools, like Redshape's "Dogz," are given time to stretch out.
Unsurprisingly, given the label and the DJ, there's a healthy dose of disco flavor in the mix. The late-night pulse of Mr. G's "Ben & Gerd (Killin It M Day)" livens up its percussion-led pulse with the "aw shucks" from First Choice's "Let No Man Put Asunder." Heaven & Earth's "Prescription Every Night"—originally released on Prescription in '95—borrows from the same group's "Doctor Love." Matthew Style's "Hot!" lifts its vocal snippets from Karen Young's "Hot For You." The mix's three Tiger & Woods tracks slot in well here, too. Like the mix itself, their appeal lies in their disciplined grooves and understated moments of release. Humphries's strength has long been a style that's in service of the groove rather than adrenaline-rush thrills, and a sound that merges glitterball élan with house music's emotional potency. Running Back's discography is largely cut from the same cloth. Humphries is more than just a logical choice to helm Running Back Mastermix—he's an inspired one, too.
01. Todd Terje - Ragysh
02. Roy Comanchero - The Delete Of Society
03. Tiger & Woods - Don't Hesitate
04. Tiger & Woods - Time
05. JEX - La Casa
06. Tiger & Woods - No More Talking
07. Precious System - The Voice From Planet Love
08. Precious System - The Voice From Planet Love (Beat-A-Pella)
09. Leon Vynehall - Beau Sovereign
10. Shan - Work It (Piano Mix)
11. Redshape - Dogz
12. Mr. G - Ben & Gerd (Killin It M Day)
13. Heaven & Earth - Prescription Every Night
14. Paul Woolford - Forevermore (Edit)
15. Matthew Styles - Hot!
16. Shan - Bassline Party