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Walter Gibbons:Jungle Music-Mixed With Love:Essential & Unreleased Remixes  1976-1986
Artist: Various Artists
Strut/K7!
 
The Lord did a number on Walter Gibbons. but  doesn't He on everyone He makes His? In Gibbons' case, however, it was one that left his musical legacy obscured in good part because of his evangelistic fervor.
 
Let's not get too far ahead in his story, though. Around the dawning of what would become to be known as disco, Gibbons was a club DJ with an ear for how to extend and rearrange the rhythmic elements of songs to keep dancers on the floor. His methodically precise  live editing of tunes between two turntables impressed the brass at one of disco's earliest specialty labels, Salsoul Records, to employ him to concoct the first commercially available 12-inch remix. Gibbons' mania for walls of percussion, an ability to reconfigure vocals to make songs tell wholly new stories from their original iterations and hearing melodic motifs in the same way sampling keyboards would convert them into portable segments of sonic data made him the most influential and  admired remixer of the pre-"disco sucks" '70s.
 
But, speaking of conversion, his personal one to Christianity at the commercial pinnacle of disco's U.S acceptance-and not long before the forces of untold misunderstanding and prejudice drove the music a far way back underground whence it came-led to a minimizing of Gibbons' career. A mid-80s comeback found him sonically innovating again, reconciling his love for soul gospel and the sexually transgressive milieu which nurtured his aural experimentation. Succumbing to AIDS in the mid-1990s, he wasn't anywhere nearly so lionized as were other  DJ/remixers to have died of the same disease who didn't renounce their homosexuality as Gibbons had. 
 
Jungle Music fairly restores Gibbons' artistic honor as it takes the listener on an increasingly strange journey, one that only got weirder after Gibbons came to Christ.
 
The first CD of this two-fer focuses on his '70s work transforming sweet pop disco (Jakki's "Sun...Sun..."Sun")  and singles by soulful divas such as Gladys Knight and Bettye Lavette into nearly meandering sonic epics. amid those treatments are that first-ever disco 12-inch remix to be made for sale, male vocal group Double Exposure's "Ten Percent," and a more adventurous instrumental for the same label, Salsoul Orchestra's "Magic Bird of Fire."
 
The second disc enters the '80s with a couple of collaborations with late cellist/composer Arthur Russell. The previously unreleased "See Through" under Russell's own name and, especially, "Go Bang" contain enough perceivable textual inference of Russell's gayness to make one wonder how the two came together as musical partners. Gibbons, after all, was the guy who recused himself from completing a remix for Instant Funk's salacious "Got My Mind Made Up" not long after making his Christian commitment. The Russell co-efforts aren't nearly so explicit as that classic, but music can still make strange bedfellows (so to speak). From there, comes the first of  two versions of the slow-growing, seminal party-starting anthem, "Set It Off." The original by Strafe is one of Gibbons most minimal treatments, bristling with an energy that took from New York City's fecund electronic dance music scene of the time, wherein hip-hop, Latin freestyle, post-punk and plenty more came into jaggedly seamless play.
 
One of Gibbon's last significant records, a remake of "Set It Off" under the moniker of Harlequibs Four and featuring gospel gal Barbara Tucker (who would go on to a string of gospel-ish house music club hits in the '90s) concludes this foray into Jungle, but not before a crazed, vocal-less Afro-Latin dub mix for rap group Stetsasonic and workouts in texture, release and varying degrees of lyrical oddity under the ad hoc aliases of Luv You Madly Orchestra and Arts & Craft.   
 
Contemporary Christendom's 1990s most prominent ambassador of electronic dance music Scott Blackwell  turned me on to Gibbons being a brother in the Almighty, but his failing health and desire to shine the Light among those in the darkness out of which he came-possibly alongside a lack of interest in navigating the radio & retail evangelighetto-kept him from much participation in what websites such as Tastyfresh.com tout as sanctified dance music. Yet, as a saint responsible for sharing new ways for us to hear music that moves our souls and bodies, Jungle Music  testifies to how fiercely he may now be holding down a couple of Technics 1200 turntables in heaven.
 
Jamie Lee Rake 
 
 
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