One year before Saturday Night Fever pushed disco into the mainstream, New York City-based West End Records was born.
One year before Saturday Night Fever pushed disco into the mainstream, New York City-based West End Records was born. Founded by Mel Cheren and Ed Kushins—who befriended each other while working together at the Florence Greenberg-helmed Scepter Records in the early '70s—West End christened itself with the release of "Sessomatto" by Sessomatto, a track culled from the soundtrack to an Italian film, How Funny Can Sex Be? Remixed by New York club DJ Jimmy Stuard, "Sessomatto" was one of the first tracks to include "scratching" as an integral part of the disco mix. Many pioneering rappers, including Grandmaster Flash, credit "Sessomatto" as the first record ever used for rapping. One year later, in 1977, West End came into its own with such releases as Philly U.S.A.'s classy "Speak Well" and Michele's glorious Magic Love (featuring dancefloor hits like "Can't You Feel It" and "Disco Dance"), which were reconstructed by remix pioneer Tom Moulton. Until 1985, when it stopped releasing new material (Cheren resuscitated the label in '98), West End churned out an equal share of hits and misses. In the process, the little label "changed the landscape of dance for years afterward," writes former Billboard dance music editor Brian Chin in the wonderfully informative liner notes of this essential two-disc collection. Without question, the musically adventurous West End formed an integral part of the musical foundation of numerous clubs around the world, particularly New York's revered Paradise Garage (1976-1987). The massive club's DJ, the late Larry Levan, championed numerous West End tracks, including now-classic jams like Taana Gardner's "Heartbeat," N.Y.C. Peech Boys' "Don't Make Me Wait," Loose Joints' "Is It All Over My Face," and Sparque's "Let's Go Dancin'," which are all included here. Seamlessly mixed by clubland's Masters at Work (aka DJ/producers "Little" Louie Vega & Kenny "Dope" Gonzalez) and meticulously remastered by Herb Powers Jr., Masters at Work Presents West End Records: The 25th Anniversary Edition Mastermix is akin to finding a buried treasure, one overflowing with classic (and not-so-classic) West End recordings, several of which have been re-equalized, re-edited, and remixed by Masters at Work. The set closes with a new Masters at Work production, "All Night (I Can Do It Right)," which brings the aforementioned Loose Joints and Peech Boys tracks into the here and now. As Vega told Billboard late last year (Beat Box, Dec. 8, 2001), "This track is intended to give everyone a taste of what DJs are doing today with the classics. It brings the set full-circle." Sadly, it's also a firm reminder that originality isn't what it used to be—and that they just don't make 'em like they used to.—MP