Celebrating 15 years of putting out supreme slabs of black gold, Running Back have recently released a retrospective of cuts from their tremendous catalogue - mixed by the masterful hand of Tony Humphries. With a heritage and influence as far reaching as his, it's not hard to understand why he was selected over a more recent big name, say, well, Running Back founder, Gerd Janson for one. Humphries is no nostalgia machine or 'Vegas Act' as he himself likes to refer to it, though.
When it comes to mixes, across his career, there's been a cool balance between looking back and looking forward, that few others would have been able to navigate without winding up in a musical cul-de-sac. The odd crate digging career review over the years has reminded the faithful and exposed the uninitiated. The ridiculously good 'Choice' collection released on Azuli is a great place to start but over the years he's continually checked in as a contemporary. From kick starting Ministry Of Sound's successful 'Sessions' series during the 90's, dropping one of Fabric's fledging mix albums and compiling the recent mix for cult New York party 'Mangiami,' he's left a body of mixes that form something of a family tree of disco-soaked House.
Running Back Records began during what Janson tells me was something of a love affair with US House, “but the main impetus was to put out the music that my friends were producing at the time” he notes. “They share a similar love and I wanted them to have an outlet that gave them the best possible base to release their music.”
That love is evident across this mix too. Humphries isn’t punching the air, slamming track into track, cutting, splicing or filtering to death. We get some slight of hand eq’ing and a wonderfully sequenced set that reacquaints you with records that were gathering dust, while sending you off to discogs for the rest.
Opening with instant Todd Terje classic ‘Ragysh,’ the floor is filled from the off and keeps everyone there for the duration, playing about with the energies as only those as skilled as Tony can. We get the teasing tension builds of Tiger & Woods, who feature no less than 3 times. The previously limited release of Dixon’s mix of Precious System’s ‘The Voice From Plant Love’ smooths the groove, before personal favourite, ‘Work It,’ Shan’s Hip-Rave-Discothon pushes things into the final straight with Mr G, Paul Woolford and the First Choice sample love-in of ‘Prescription Every Night.’
Janson, who's described his interest in the Club Zanzibar legend in the past as often bordering on the obsessive, confirms that it’s Humphries legendary reputation for curation and programming which meant that asking him to compile the set was a total no-brainer.
"With his long history as a master mixer and compiler of label showcases like Strictly Rhythm, Irma, Basement Boys, I thought it's a good idea to have an outsider taking a look at it. Like a controller, if you will."
He add's "I hope it worked" and while the selections are certainly focussed towards the most 'discofied' parts of the Running Back roster, it's fair to say that it has.
Running Back Mastermix by Tony Humphries is available NOW in mixed CD/Digital form alongside a 2LP unmixed vinyl set.