- The definitive Sade remix transports the beloved pop star to '90s Detroit.
- Rewind is a review series, published in partnership with Discogs, that dips into electronic music's archives to dust off music from decades past.
For his set at Movement 2007, the second-wave Detroit techno legend Kenny Larkin was accompanied by Medicine Man on congas. Larkin played Detroit classics and cuts like "French Kiss," cutting the faders for hand drum solos, the programmed and hand-played drums enmeshing in a fascinating rhythm.
This push-and-pull between techno kicks and hand-played drums is the rhythmic crux of Larkin's coveted 1995 remix of Sade's "Give It Up" (released as "Surrender Your Love (Kenny Larkin Remix).") Sade Adu is unquestionably deep house's favorite pop star. The Nigerian-born bandleader's haunting contralto, Paul S Denman's basslines and Andrew Hale's jazzy keyboards means her tunes beg for the extended mix. The 1988 album Stronger Than Pride, the album which includes "Give It Up," was accompanied by the Nothing Can Come Between Us 12-inch, which includes a B-side called "Make Some Room." That one's made it back into DJ bags as of late, with a Discogs commenter comparing its loping acid line and deep pads to Larry Heard.
Entering "Sade remix" on Discogs turns up 1,332 results. Everyone from David Morales to Masters At Work to Ben Watt has taken on the sphinx-like pop star. A white-label mix of Sade's "Pearls" that smashed New York clubs in 1994 set the stage for Todd Terry's remix of Everything But The Girl's "Missing." Still, Larkin's remix, issued unofficially with a Stacey Pullen version via Larkin's short-lived Illegal Detroit imprint, stands out from the pack, capturing the dance floor potential of Adu's original as well as the musical influences that powered his own mid-'90s hot streak.
"Everybody and their mother was trying to do their own version of a Sade remix," Larkin recalled in a chat with Red Bull Radio, "and that's basically what that was." The blog Parallax Moves points out that Larkin and Pullen were both working out of the former's studio in Detroit at the time. Larkin would release his landmark second album, Metaphor, on R&S the same year, while Pullen was working on what would become (The Theory Of) LP as Silent Phase. Larkin's stunning 11-minute remix hinges on a DX-1000 lead that bears a resemblance to a synth lead heard on Metaphor standout "Nocturnal." Just as that track integrates the Reese bass sound, Larkin works in a high-pitched shout reminiscent of the iconic Lyn Collins' "Think" sample. Denman's basslines on Stronger Than Pride, from the iconic "Paradise" to "Give It Up," look back to jazz-fusion artists like Jean-Luc Ponty, a childhood favorite of Larkin's. Perhaps not coincidentally, after Sade's elegant vocals drop out and the kick hits over the congas, Larkin takes an outrageous guitar/synth solo.
Unsurprisingly, the white-label release was an underground hit. Larkin says the 12-inch moved about 10,000 copies in a month before Mixmag blew up the spot. "They released this picture of Sade, a huge half-page picture and they put at the top,'"Kenny Larkin behind Sade bootleg,' and not too long after that came out Sade's people called me and told me to cease and desist." Larkin was meant to talk to me about the remix for this review, but proved unavailable last minute, taking a cue, perhaps, from Adu's take-it-or-leave-it relationship with the press. But what's there to say really? The remix is pure magic, a study in tension between Sade's voice, her brilliant band and the epic scale of Larkin's Detroit techno vision. Available officially for just one month, Larkin's remix, like Adu's music, is timeless.
A Surrender Your Love (Kenny Larkin Remix)
B Surrender Your Love (Stacey Pullen Remix)