Various ‘Mad Mats Presents Digging Beyond The Crates’ 2LP/CD/DIG (BBE Music) 3/5

For over 20 years, London’s BBE has used the services of many DJs, producers and taste makers in compiling their large catalogue of specialist compilation albums. And for this set Swedish DJ Mad Mats hand-picks a variety of music styles and flavours from jazz, soul, house and electronica for quite a full-bodied release. For the uninitiated, Mats setup Raw Fusion Recordings in 2002, which was home to releases by Freddie Cruger, Simbad and Povo, in addition to the still productive G.A.M.M. label – home to a series of re-edits and remix releases including eternal DJ favourite Red Astaire’s ‘Follow Me’. More recently, Mat’s Local Talk label has been one of the few decent house labels around, even offering vinyl 12” pressings of their releases.

This 16-track compilation avoids the trendy approach of having very expensive and rare vintage records that many similar products deliver, but rather it focuses on lesser-known titles both old and new that may have slipped through the net, so to speak. These include Bobby Hebb (the original composer of ‘Sunny’) and ‘Evil Woman’, a brilliantly addictive jazz vocal 45 piece, Intimate Disco and ‘Animations’ with its ‎library disco production style from the not often talked about Ebonite label. Psalms ‘Take A Stand’ is a boogie-ish gospel release from 1984, although it sounds much older, but its use of Moog synth bass rather than electric bass and recorded live drums is a nice touch for the era.

Other worthy mentions include Skatalite saxophonist Johnny Moore and the rock steady instrumental ‘Big Big Boss’. This has been a favourite on the reggae scene for a while and is a firm DJ staple. Yvonne Gray ‘Keep The Music Alive’ from 1975 is a tight funky soul piece from California, by the writer who crafted Lou Rawls popular ‘Lady Love’ in ’77. And as mentioned, ‘Digging Beyond The Crates’ also unusually adds newer electronic releases, such as bumpy house single Ossie ‘I Hurt Yoo’ with its Singers Unlimited via Slum Village ‘Claire’ sample, the Dilla influenced hip hop instrumental ‘Badly’ by German beat maker Cuthead from 2015 and BSTC ‎’Jazz In Outer Space’ a disco fused house 12” from 2006.

Compilation albums of this type are always a valuable inroad into music that the listener may not be aware of and although a couple of the straighter house inclusions are rather weak and wouldn’t have been missed if omitted, the others are relatively solid additions. I also particularly enjoyed Bill Laurance (the second most famous keyboard player in Snarky Puppy after Cory Henry) and ‘The Pines’ from his 2016 solo LP ‘Aftersun’. I just wish more compilers would move into a more contemporary focus when creating their compilations. New releases will some day be old. So overall this a quite a strong release, with even the cover art which offers a nod to the design of Ernie Hines 1972 album ‘Electrified’ being well thought of.

Damian Wilkes