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  Neil Aline On the Rocks
by Sterling McGarvey

cover artChez Records is hot this year. Remember that old commercial for one of those cheesy Soul album complilations that ends with one guy saying "No, no, my brotha; you gon' have to get your own"? To put it plainly, Neil Aline's "On the Rocks" is one of the best CDs you'll find in late 2001. If I lent this album out and someone didn't return it, I would terminate a friendship over it. Not that I dispose of comrades with such fickleness, but this caliber of House does not come in a neatly mixed compilation every day. Chez is hot this year. That is the simplest way to describe this almost three-year-old label headed by Neil Aline. Chez's biggest track this year, Joe Cutler & E-Man's "It's Yours" has graced sound systems everywhere. In Atlanta, world-class DJs from Mark Farina to Tony Humphries to Little Louie Vega have blessed dance floors with its warmth. Aline has held down residencies at such notable New York clubs as Twilo and Centro-Fly. As the year slowly begins to wind down, Aline has released a CD, "On the Rocks," for the masses with solidity to it that brings to mind "blunt object." The last label that made such a splash in the House scene with such a fantastic disc would have to have been Naked Music. But Chez is hot this year.

"On the Rocks" does a tremendous job introducing the casual listener to the label with a bang only recently seen in the Nude Dimensions series. If Nude Dimensions was designed as a good, all-purpose introduction into the lush, chill sounds of Naked Music (that plays well both at parties and in the bedroom), then "On the Rocks" is like a blast of warm, Soulful goodness that makes itself a soundtrack to preparing for a night out. I would play "Nude Dimensions" in the bedroom, but I'd be blasting "On the Rocks" in the shower and singing along with the tracks as I applied my deodorant. I'd be bobbing my head to "On the Rocks" on my way to the club going way over the speed limit down the interstate, a la "Night at the Roxbury." It's a whole 'nother level of intimate-sounding. The "intimate-sounding" as in you don't want people walking in on you as you sing along using a brush as the microphone, practice your dance moves in your underwear or play "air turntables."

Now, for all of my proselytizing, one may say, "Sterling, you seem to really like this CD. You'd kick me to the curb for permanently borrowing it from you. So, what's up with the tracks?" The album opens with the funky bassline and sleek sax work of Fish Go Deep's "Let's Go Back." It's all of the pre-club anticipation; the putting on your shoes, the "hurry up; it's almost 12!" and the "fumbling for the suddenly-lost car keys to get to the club feel" to it. It's what you would want to hear when you walk in, greet your friends and hit the bar. Martin Solveig's "Heart of Africa" (Matty's II Deep Mix) has a bouncy Salsa feel to it. It's a nice segue into Bibi's "Summer," a beautiful track accented with guitars and the sounds of beaches and play. It's the type of track that's not quite peak hour, but it stands extremely well as something to make a strong lead-in early on in a set. Jay-J & Chris Lum as SoulFranciscins step up next with "Give It Up (For Love)," which, with its flute and vocoder singing, takes us out of the slightly more lush sounds of "Summer" into Jon Cutler's mix of Club Session's "Don't Move." With "Don't Move," the tempo picks up a bit more. This is definitely a track that I'd like to hear out a bit more. I've definitely heard the next track, DJ Spen's "Craze at Midnight," played out. "Craze at Midnight" is a definite stomper. It's the type of track that is accompanied by drunken hands waving in the air. It's got that energy to it. BOC Productions "Fall in Love" is another good ol' peak hour scorcher. With its infectious bassline, solid filtered samples and bouncy tempo, it's yet another floor crowder.

"Froggy'z Congaz (Matty & JP's Keyz Mix)" by Romatt is very infused with a Latin jazz vibe. It's not as "up" as the prior tracks, but it's still got that Soulful warmth. Joeski's "Earth Song" is another dope n' dubby Conga-laden track that leads into The Track. "It's Yours" is one of those tunes that's up there with Eddie Amador's "House Music," Artquake's "HC," and certain Paul Johnson, Masters At Work and Cevin Fisher tracks as one of those songs that won't wear on me easily. Classic written all over it. The fact that Aline puts it toward the end of the CD makes it all the more enticing once that warm organ kicks in. This CD is impossible to play without listening to it at least once. Sometimes twice. The spoken word of E-Man, the uplifting vocals of Jillian Rivera, and Larry Rawson on sax make it a five minute and fifty-three second slice of Heaven. With a track of that calibur, the next song has a big act to follow. Aline's choice, The Shadow Kings' "Catch the Sun," is an excellent choice to transition into. It's a bit sparser and more minimal sounding, but it's truly a fantastic track, and I'd definitely like to hear it played out more often. Also, I can't seem to be the sample of the woman saying "together" out of my head. Finally, the CD closes out with a bang instead of a quiet fade. Club Session's unapologetically Disco-esque "Dance to Heaven" feels like a celebratory salute to the clubber in all of us. It's the type on song that feels just right as either a peak hour floor scorcher or as a goodnight gesture from the DJ to the crowd before everyone disperses to the streets.

All in all, Neil Aline takes everyone on a tour of the first two and a half years of Chez Music in twelve tracks. It's that New York House that you know you want, complete with organs and horns and hands waving in the air. Buy this CD. I wouldn't tell someone to buy a CD I wouldn't plunk down my hard-earned money to add to my collection. Chez is hot this year. I'm converted. You will be, too.

At Amazon.com

On the Rocks cover art On the Rocks
Compiled and mixed by Neil Aline
Record Label:
Wave Music
Track Listing:

  1. Let's Go Back - Fish Go Deep feat. Rebecca Meagher
  2. Heart Of Africa (Marty's II Deep Mix) - Martin Solveig
  3. Summer (bonus beats) - Bibi
  4. Give It Up (For Love) - Jay-J & Chris Lum as SoulFranciscins
  5. Don't Move (Jon Cutler's Distant Vocal Mix) - Club Session
  6. Craze At Midnight - DJ Spen
  7. Fall In Love - BOC Productions
  8. Froggy'z Congaz (Matty & Jp's Keyz Mix) - Romatt
  9. Earth Song - Joeski
  10. It's Yours - Jon Cutler feat. E-Man
  11. Catch The Sun - The Shadow Kings
  12. Dance To Heaven - Club Session

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