When successful property dealer Mark Rodol gave up his day job in 1991 to start a dance music club in a disused South London bus shelter, most of his friends thought he had gone insane. At the time the dance market was only just beginning to show its potential, with many people dismissing it as a fad. Within ten years Ministry of Sound (MOS) had reached an almost legendary status as the world's coolest dance club. Never one to rest of his laurels, Rodol channelled the power of his new brand into producing and marketing dance albums and compilations. Since then the MOS label has pushed out dozens of releases and sold millions of copies worldwide.
Although Rodol has since stepped down as Ministry of Sound's CEO, he is widely considered an authority on how to keep a brand "cool" for a long period of time. It's no wonder - 14 years is a century in the music business and a millennium in the fickle world of dance. So what keeps MOS cool? Part of the secret has to be their unrelenting dedication to quality. And their latest compilation, Clubbers Guide 05, is yet another great example of that dedication.
Mixed as a continuous set (with tracks bleeding into one anther) - the Clubber's Guide CDs are intended to mimic the effect of listening to a live DJ set. This is a tricky task, since live DJs can gauge the crowd's mood and adapt their set accordingly and a CD obviously cannot, but Clubbers Guide 05 manages very well. The mixes are uniformly flawless and the pacing and placement of the tracks is very effective, even if the choice of the tracks themselves is sometimes a little suspect (Rocco's "Generation of Love" for instance gets annoying after about 30 seconds).
This enormous 40 track compilation is divided across two CDs with the first disc (predictably) emphasising softer, funkier beats and the second moving into progressively harder territory. Again this is intended to mimic the ebb and flow of an evening at a club, and give listeners a disc for the early evening to get the party started and another to turn up the tempo as the evening progresses.
But, no matter how well groomed and carefully mixed, a dance compilation still stands or falls on the quality of individual tracks. Too many obscure mixes and you lose the majority of the punters - too many familiar tracks and you sound like everyone else and their dog. Clubbers Guide 05 navigates this rocky terrain quite well - blending original treatments of big club anthems with some adventurous lesser-known gems.
It's always hard to pick highlights out of the excellent 40 track line-up, but Sex On Monday's funk-tastic original mix of "Hold me Down" is an absolutely joy to listen to. Maylo's manic "Drop the Pressure" is another gem, even if it has been slightly overplayed lately and Narcotic Thrust's multi-layered and mesmeric "When the Dawn Breaks" has that rare ability to raise goosebumps. Of the harder mixes DT8 Project's "Winter" is the stand-out track and is well paired with Andrea Britton's expressive vocals.
Not surprisingly there are also a few weaker tracks like Michael Gray's "The Weekend" which is now well past its prime. In general though the choices are bread-and-butter dance floor pleasers.
Clubbers Guide 05 is hardly revolutionary - it sticks to a tried and tested formula and concentrates on pleasing as many people as possible. This attitude may disgust dance purists, but they shouldn't be buying this compilation anyway. What separates Clubbers Guide 05 from their throng of imitators is their attention to detail and quality. - Alistair Fairweather
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