- Some of Kerri Chandler's best cuts are compiled on this label anniversary package.
- "I've always liked basslines, and I've always liked heavy rhythms," is how Kerri Chandler once described his unmistakeable sound. Through both his own productions and his long-running label, Madhouse Records, Chandler's used that elemental formula, enriched with dopamine-hit chords and soulful vocals, to arrive at a style that embodies the essence of house while remaining uniquely his own. That sound is what draws most into Chandler's world, and it's the focus of 25 Years Of Madhouse, a 25-track compilation of remastered originals and a handful of edits and remixes from contemporary house producers such as Will Saul, Jimpster and DJ Deep.
The compilation mostly chronicles Madhouse's classic years, from the label's founding through to the late '90s. Many of the best tracks come from Chandler, who released music under a vast array of pseudonyms for the label. The compilation's opening track, "I Loved You," sets the tone. It's an amalgam of joyous chords, thick bassline and raw beats with baritone vocals from Chandler's grandfather. "Where Is The Love," another Chandler classic, has an earworm chord pattern and spectral vocal snippets that were well-worn even then but ruthlessly effective to this day.
The Chandler-produced Madhouse tracks made in later years are more varied and ambitious, building on the gut-punch thwack that defined the label's style with new sounds and an increased reliance on famous guests. 2003's "Music Is My Friend," featuring the venerable house vocalist Arnold Jarvis, is the most buttery of the Chandler originals, with Jarvis's singing and a meandering organ lending emotional resonance to the track title's sentiment. "Good Vibrations," a 2003 collaboration between Chandler and the jazz-funk deity Roy Ayers, retains the thumping kick and blocky piano of a '90s-era Madhouse tune, but it's considerably more happy-go-lucky with the presence of Ayers' sunny vibraphone and vocals.
Those songs are right up there with Chandler's best. The compilation's late-era contributions from outside artists, however, don't measure up. The previously unreleased "I'm Searching," from the West Coast house artist CPEN, lays R&B overtones onto an old-school house vibe, but Bluey Robinson's slick vocal would feel more at home on a Ministry Of Sound collection. With its airy jazz-guitar lick looped and filtered amid billowing keys, the Voyeur duo's "Why" is a bit more successful. The lilting chords and reverb-heavy vocal samples imbue a re-edit of Sebb Junior's "Don't Stop" with a more lavish feel than the typical Madhouse track. They're decent house cuts, but don't compare to Chandler's originals here.
The same could be said for some of the new remixes. Rocco Rodamaal's smooth house version of Kamar's stomping "I Need You" is mundane. (The compilation would have been better served by Peggy Gou's dreamy, Italo house mix of that song instead.) Similarly, Josh Butler's mix of Dreamer G's Chandler-produced "I Got That Feelin'" largely keeps the tune's singular guttural vocals, but trades out its moody keys for a prosaic bass throb, losing the original's appealing oddness. The best of the remixes is Jimpster's rework of Chandler and Jerome Sydenham's "Powder." With its lighter drums and lush strings, the 1999 original was already an outlier for Madhouse. Jimpster's swooning take is even more immersive and hypnotic.
Over the course of the compilation's 25 cuts, the hits outweigh the misses. When a track like Will Saul's edit of Chandler's "Insomnia Again" kicks in, with its stomping kick and rush of piano chords, you can't help but feel it to your core. It's the kind of track that shows that, at his best, Chandler is a master at articulating what makes house music so effective. In the years since he first hit the scene, Chandler's music has come to define the tough yet soulful house that first propelled him and his contemporaries in New York and New Jersey to fame. 25 Years Of Madhouse encapsulates the joy that sound can bring, in the process reminding many of us of what lured us towards house music in the first place.
01. Grampa, Kerri Chandler - I Loved You (Kerri Chandler Remaster)
02. Kerri Chandler - Insomnia Again (Will Saul's 'Keeping It On' Edit)
03. Kamar, Kerri Chandler - I Need You (Rocco Rodamaal's 222 Mix)
04. Kerri Chandler - Up And Away (Kerri Chandler Remaster)
05. Isis - Hanging On
06. Sebb Junior - Don't Stop (25th Anniversary Re-Edit)
07. Lafayette, Kerri Chandler - Better Late Than Never (Kaoz 6:23 Mix) (Kerri Chandler Remaster)
08. Stratosphere, Kerri Chandler - Track 3 (Kevin Over's Acid Rework)
09. CPEN featuring Bluey Robinson - I'm Searching (Radio Edit)
10. 50% - Tight Up (Murk Miami Boys Mix) (Kerri Chandler Remaster)
11. Roy Ayers, Kerri Chandler - Good Vibrations (Mad Mix) (Kerri Chandler Remaster)
12. Kerri Chandler - I Feel It (DJ Deep’s 2018 Retouch)
13. Kerri Chandler, Jerome Sydenham - Powder (Jimpster Remix)
14. Voyeur – Why
15. Jill Riley, Kerri Chandler - I Can't Stand It (Media Mix) (Kerri Chandler Remaster)
16. Dreamer G - I Got That Feelin' (Josh Butler Remix)
17. Matrix (US), Kerri Chandler - Get Out (Demuja's 'It's Late' Remix)
18. Roog, Dennis Quin featuring Berget Lewis - Igohart (VIP Mix)
19. DJ Steaw - Bel Air
20. Kerri Chandler - Dat Da Da (Kerri Chandler Remaster)
21. Kerri Chandler - Something Wrong (Kerri Chandler Remaster)
22. Kerri Chandler – Where Is The Love (Kerri Chandler Remaster)
23. Kerri Chandler – The Boom Can (Adesse Versions Edit)
24. Christopher McCray – Get It Right (Mad Mix) (Kerri Chandler Remaster)
25. Arnold Jarvis, Kerri Chandler – Music Is My Friend (Kerri Chandler Remaster)