VA: 20 Years Of Henry Street Music: The Definitive 7" Collection, Part 1
BBE Records

BBE's five-disc set of seven-inch vinyls offers something of a condensed version of the encompassing 20 Years Of Henry Street Music: The Definitive Collection, made available in its fullest form in 2015 as a five-CD box set (fifty-four tracks in total) and as a less-encompassing set featuring three twelve-inch vinyls; further to that, the cuts on the seven-inch release are edits that bring the original running times down to three-minute lengths, a move that gives the release a bit of a sampler feel. That said, the music's power is undeniable, even when presented in truncated form, and listeners longing for a reintroduction to the fiery house sounds of Johnny “D” De Mairo's Henry Street Music label could do a whole lot worse than treat it as an entry point.

De Mairo created the label (named after his Brooklyn neighbourhood) in 1994 and quickly followed its founding with releases by producers such as Armand Van Helden, Kenny Dope (Kenny Gonzalez), Ralphi Rosario, Mike Delgado, DJ Sneak (Carlos Sosa), Robbie Tronco, 95 North (Doug Smith and Ricard Payton), Scotti Deep (Scott Kinchen), and Johnick (De Mairo and Nicholas Palmero Jr.), all of who appear on the collection. The discs' eleven cuts center on the 1994-99 period and collectively capture the raw, unbridled energy so emblematic of NYC at the time.

Kenny Dope's “Whew” leads the pack with a muscular party jam whose trippy vibe's bolstered by a swirl of uproarious crowd noise and a lazer-beam synth motif, while his rambunctious “The Bomb!” swings with so much raw, horn-fueled energy the cut feels ready to explode. Van Helden's “The Funk Phenomena” derives its heft from an indomitable, bass-thudding groove, Johnick's “The Captain” turns the beat around more than a few times in a ferocious soul-funk workout, 95 North's “Check It Out” sneaks in a smattering of jazz into its house swing, and Delgado's “Byrdman's Revenge” kicks up some serious dust of its own. As era-defining as any cut here is Rosario's anthemic “You Used to Hold Me,” which blazes, especially with vocal diva Xavier Gold tearing it up. Many of these sample-heavy cuts loop so relentlessly the listener's left dizzied (Tronco's “Walk 4 Me” a prime example), especially when not a single moment's wasted getting each one up and moving.

February 2016