To celebrate the release of his ‘Classic House Sample Pack’, we asked Davos to dig deep and unearth his Top 10 Ultimate Piano House Tracks! From some absolutely huge classic house anthems, to old school rave bangers, Davos has selected just some his personal favourites for us…
I was lucky enough to be at exactly the right age to be part of the acid house and illegal warehouse rave phenomenon in the late 80s and early 90s, my formative years so-to-speak, so my top ten is going to reflect that, heavily, with only one entry from this century. As someone who had spent many a lonely hour as a teenager trying to teach myself piano it was gratifying for me that by the late 80s, in amongst the Maurice Joshua, Stakker and DeWulf, there was also a breed of dance track where the piano took centre stage. A rave night wouldn’t be a rave night without a piano anthem or two (or many), and the following are my own personal top ten bangers, mostly old, some less old, some hands in the air, some a bit dated now perhaps, but all brilliant and truly groundbreaking in their time.
And, by the way, it’s incredibly difficult to narrow it down to just ten: as I write I’m looking at a shortlist of 20, but what follows are the ten that I think everyone should have danced to at least once in their life. Hurry up, I may have changed my mind by the time you read this.
In reverse order:
10. T-Coy – Cariño
This is said to be the first British house record, appearing in 1987 on an album called North: The Sound of the Underground, which we hammered back in the day. It’s an odd mixture of drum machine, live percussion (from Simon Topping of A Certain Ratio I believe) and salsa piano (Ritchie Close) which was like nothing we had ever heard before and which still, for me, seems to encapsulate something about the beginnings of UK house music. I think Mike Pickering was involved somehow as well, so if that’s true, well played Mike.
9. Gat Decor – Passion
I clearly remember (no small thing, that) the first time I heard this track on Stu Allan‘s show on Piccadilly Key 103 and knew instantly at first listen that it would be a hit. Released as an instrumental it has since been re-released or bootlegged with various acapellas, but for me the instrumental works perfectly as is. No point gilding the lily: the original smashed it everywhere it was played which might seem odd by modern standards as it’s quite a mellow track.
8. Tim Deluxe – Transformation
This track is from 2011, and so is the odd one out in this top ten of my distant youth. I know very little about it apart from that I love the rhythmic piano work in it and I wish I’d written it. It’s a brave/confident track with an irresistible groove. Did I mention I wish I’d written it?
7. Ralphi Rosario – An Instrumental Need & Shades of Rhythm – Everybody
I’ve included both these tracks in one slot because I can’t remember which came first, but both tracks live in the same piano riff, presented differently. There’s something about the riff itself that, for me, captures something essential about the musicality of early house music, though I’d be hard pushed to explain exactly what that is. It’s just something.
6. Electric Choc – Shock The Beat
There was a certain carefree euphoria about the early nineties, and this tune encapsulates it perfectly. Almost no lyrics, and such a simple track, but held together by exactly the right elements under an unavoidably cheerful piano riff. Even now, 30 something years later, when I hear the intro chords it makes me smile.
5. Bizarre Inc – Playing With Knives
Bizarre Inc had a number of massive-on-the-dancefloor tunes in their day. They had a knack for playing on the feel good vibe of the time, and though my favourite track of theirs is ‘I’m Gonna Get You Baby‘ it’s not overtly piano, so I’ve chosen this track simply for their genius of sampling the piano from Fidelfatti & Ronette’s ‘Just Wanna Touch Me‘ and making it the lead in a track which is, let’s face it, refined and distilled essence of rave – 100% proof. Still an exciting track to listen to after all these years.
Fidelfatti & Ronette’s ‘Just Wanna Touch Me‘
4. FPI Project – Everybody (All Over the World)
For me FPI Project are the masters of Italo-House, and also the masters of the iconic and unmistakable piano riff. I could have put all of their tracks in this top ten on the strength of their piano riffs alone, but I wanted to fit some other tracks in, so to represent them I’ve chosen this one because it took me the longest to figure out and master playing, and has always been the FPI track I most wanted to dance to.
3. Together – Hardcore Uproar
Everyone knows the intro to this track, even if they don’t know they know it. And people who do know this track probably think the vocal hook is something synthesised, but it’s actually the untreated voice of Together‘s Suddi Raval. There’s also a sample of a crowd and airhorn from a rave I actually attended, so there’s that. I can’t count the times I’ve seen a club or warehouse party erupt at the piano break, and the piano solo (by Mark Hall of Flip n Fill and 2ForJoy) remains one of the longest and most iconic of any piano solos in dance music, to the extent that I’d bet money any northern UK 90s raver could sing the piano solo to you note for note.
2. Double Dee & Danny – Found Love
This track for me is as close to perfection as you can get in dance music, though it’s essentially a pop song with house vibes. There’s some real artistry in the instrumentation, the riffs, the vocals and the arrangement & production. Great rolling breaks under the 4/4 make it hard not to dance to, and the funky bassline perfectly complements the organ and piano chordage, and there’s a tight vocal to sing along to. Look out for the incredible piano solo and jams towards the end of the track, and everybody loves a whipcrack sound in a tune. I will always be jealous of whoever wrote this.
1. Marshall Jefferson – The House Music Anthem (Move Your Body)
This is the grandaddy of all house tracks from the Godfather of house music Marshall Jefferson, and the first tune to really turn me on to house music over other forms. Once you’d heard this record for the first time, you understood house, what it was, what it felt like. The iconic blues intro is raw and unmistakably musical, dropping into a throbbing left hand bass note and a right hand jam which builds with the drums into a relentless three chord repeat that even now is unlike anything else ever released. Even now, thirty years later this groundbreaking track has the ability to rock a dancefloor full of people who weren’t even born when it came out. Timeless, seminal, iconic, original, all that good stuff. Well played MJ.