Ben Watt and Jay Hannan: Lazy Dog: Deep House Music
Reviewing a DJ mix CD is tricky. There's not much music on the disc original to the DJ doing the mixing (Timo Maas' Music for the Maases is a notable exception), so what exactly are we supposed to review? The answer lies in why we buy mix records and compilations: the selection, and how they mix. The groove. It's all about the groove.
Lazy Dog has definitely got groove. Ben Watt (half of Everything But the Girl) and Jay Hannan (former resident DJ at Kiss FM in the UK) started their biweekly Lazy Dog Deep House nights at a basement club in Nottingham because they wanted a chance to play out some of the soulful house music they weren't hearing much in other clubs. This CD sums up their two years of spinning in that Nottingham basement.
Disc one is Ben Watt's show. He opens the set by mixing vocals from his Everything But the Girl (EBTG) partner, Tracey Thorn, with Julien Jabré's "That Day". From there, the set carries on with an old school soul disco feel without sinking in to the cheese that Dave Holmes' sets can have. The highlight is another track that takes advantage of Watt's roots in EBTG, now an underground classic thanks to the Lazy Dog club nights: EBTG v. Soul Vision "Tracey in My Room" (a smooth intermingling of Soul Vision's "Come into My Room" and EBTG's "Wrong"). Sound of Soul's "The Spiritual Groove" and Kerry Chandler's "Isis" are just about as memorable. The rest of the 11 tracks in the mix are more forgettable and just blend in as background.
But then again, this is not a bedroom mix, as some DJ mixes are. This is a dance mix. Sit in your office and listen to it, you'll get bored. Put Lazy Dog on at a party with lots of people and a big empty floor, and the sexy groove will do its work. Don't think about it, just let it move you.
This holds true for Jay Hannan's set on disc two as well. There's more variety to the sound and feel of the set, but the groove still rules. There is a more jazzy, international feel to it. While Watt set places more emphasis on soul diva vocals in his set, Hannan goes for the instrumentals, especially those featuring horns (Lego's "When I'm with You") and flutes (Jon Cutler on "Flut-ie Pebbles"). One of the few vocal pieces is "Cada Vez" from Negrocan, with a jazzy Latin groove reminiscent of Basia's '80s hits. The overall feel of Jay Hannan's set is funkier and easier to listen to sitting down than Watt's set. But it is also just as at home in the club, encouraging much shaking of the booty.
With trance and jungle and drum and bass dominating most club floors these days, it's easy to see why these more relaxed, less electronic house tracks get lost in the shuffle and don't get played out. A shame. Lazy Dog may not save deep house, but we can be glad that there's someone who cares enough to make sure we can hear it.