Dance Mania, a label renowned in the early Chicago house scene, has recently created a double album rich with tracks that heavily influenced acid house, deep house, and pioneered ghetto house. In their Hardcore Traxx: Dance Mania Records 1985-1995, you will find two albums of what younger listeners may consider dated house music but others more in tune with the nostalgia of early dance will find these tracks to be interesting, if not outstanding for the raw creativity of the early artists featured in this compilation.
With just the first three tracks of the compilation you can hear inspirational dance tracks from the late 80’s. In Hercules’s “7 Ways” you have a low tempo and simple beat that leads you onto a crude and sensual dance session. Next, Victor Romeo’s “Love Will Find A Way” plays with pop style vocals and slower pace. The piano riffs and chorus come together to make a smooth deep house track that feels a little jazz, and a little electro-funk. Right after you get The House Master Boyz’s experimental and vocal sample heavy, “House Nation”. It, and “J.B. Traxx” by Duane And Co are by far the most raw and experimental tracks from 86, that took advantage of a simple bass riff and beat bed for a more eccentric and hands on method to moving the crowd.
Before getting through the first album, you can clearly hear as the acid and deep house styles become more refined like in Da Posse’s funky and deep “Searchin’ Hard” that almost instantly feels like an iconic track for its lush piano chords, groovy mixed intro, and soulful vocals. 3 2 6’s “Falling” then takes acid house up a notch with a classic build up, layer by layer with a deep beat and wicked synth melodies that comes together to put you in a thumping trance.
By this point, being a younger listener myself, the first album started to feel a historical exploration of the early Chicago house scene. That isn’t to say that you won’t find tracks that truly hold up, but most have reached an almost classical status; something to admire for its heavy influence and innovation that would then be built upon by future artists to a higher complexity but with the lower fidelity and less polished production, it is not something that will stand up to contemporary house. It would take someone with an interest in early house to truly appreciate what you will listen to in this compilation.
With the second album you can hear the later early to mid 90’s as Chicago house gave rise to ghetto house and more explicit, over the top lyrics. “Feel My M.F. Bass” by Paul Johnson is a famous defining track for ghetto house which introduced a heavy bass and utilizing vocal samples played relentlessly over a simple four by four beat to mix together an exciting jam. You will also hear a few mania inducing DJ Funk tracks like “House The Groove” or Robert Armani’s “Ambulance” that showed how alive and well acid house was in the early 90’s. On the final track, “Work Out” by Top Cat, actually released in 1997, shows a beautiful mastery of the ghetto house trademark vocal sampling to make a upbeat ghetto house track.
It’s in the second album that you feel how well respected the Dance Mania label was for turning out a decade of crafted American house with a unique local style focused on a playful, spur of the moment approach to fill a night with euphoric dance tracks to keep the party rocking. While definitely dated by today’s high production standards of clear synths, and precisely timed elements, most of the tracks were fantastic and easy to hear how popular they would have been on the dance floors all over the early Chicago house scene.