Louie Devito is purported to be the top DJ in the New York City area at the moment. Indeed, Devito possesses a resume that includes, among other things, mixing at the lavish party for GQ's Man of the Year. Being the most popular and being among the best, however, are two entirely different things. This is never more apparent than on Devito's entry to the phenomenally successful Ultra Dance series from Ultra Records.
The Ultra Dance series exemplifies the art of the DJ-mix at its most sly and predictable. These collections, with their obvious commercial ambitions, are pure cheese, from the predictable nature of the tracks they utilize to their cheesy cover art.
Louie Devito's entry, Ultra Dance 04, is slightly better than the average Ultra Records fare. Devito's adeptness at the turntable is indeed mind-boggling, his command at the DJ booth undeniable. These attributes are somewhat overshadowed by the predictable nature of the tracks and the less-than appealing image of some of the artists included on Ultra Dance 04. Devito constructs a truly infectious groove and in the process manages to invoke every tried and played cliché in modern dance music.
As with the previous releases in this series, Ultra Dance 04 is a two-disc set. The first disc, dubbed "04/1", is the more vocal and commercial of the two; this disc mixes tracks from Jason Nevins, BT, Deborah Cox, and Dannii Minogue (Kylie's younger sister). Disco two, "04/2", brings together the likes of Josh Wink (a.k.a. Winx), Mac Quayle, Robbie Rivera, Albert Cabrera, and Eddie Lock.
For all its crossover ambitions, Ultra Dance 04 does have its moments. Devito does throw some good tracks into the mix by some great artists. Galleon's "So I Begin", which opens 04/1, is an excellent floor-filler, as is "Into the Sun" by Weekend Players. "I'm in Heaven", recorded by fellow DJ Jason Nevins and featuring Holly James, is now classic. "Play Your Part" by Deborah Cox, which is remixed by Gabriel & Dresden, was one of the best vocal dance tracks of 2003; its inclusion on this collection is definitely a bright spot in an otherwise standard dance release.
04/2 is replete with dubs and is somewhat more underground in its musical selections. Tracks like "Don't Laugh" by Winx, "Satisfaction" by Benny Benassi presents the Biz, and "Shake It" by Lee-Cabrera lay down a rich after-hours atmosphere. Also included on 04/2 are the beat-heavy "A Better Day" by Luna Mora and "Be Free" by Lock and Burns. The venerable Mousse T even makes an appearance as the remixer for the track "At Night" by Shakedown, featuring the effervescent Terra Diva on vocals.
Despite the inclusion of some really good tracks on both discs, the inclusion of some not-so good tracks on these discs tends to diminish the overall appeal of Ultra Dance 04 as a compilation. On 04/1 for instance, Louie Devito has to balance really good tracks like Dannii Minogue's "I Begin to Wonder" with cheesy ones like Stacie Orrico's "Stuck". While Orrico's "Stuck" is given an excellent remix by the now defunct Thunderpuss, her Christina Aguilera-esque image makes the addition of this track quite disorienting. 04/2 suffers its fair share of shoddiness as well. Mac Quayle's "The Hurting", which features Madonna's former backup singer Donna De Lory on lead vocals, is an unpleasant moment in an otherwise listenable beat-mix, and Motorcycle's "As the Rush Comes" is the type of vinyl a DJ reaches for when he or she is trying to decide on what to play next; it's standard at best.
In all honesty, the Ultra Dance series is more geared to the tastes of casual partygoers than that of avid dance music fans. These collections lack the depth and spontaneity enjoyed by dedicated club goers. This one, in particular, plays like the background music at an extremely energetic college frat party. More serious dance music fans would be better served to try one of the mixed compilations from the Naked Music or Defected labels. More, Louie Devito is an outstanding DJ, but he has been better enjoyed on the NYC Underground Partycompilations than on this one from Ultra Records.