Record Review - 4 August 29 2001

There are a handful of things about American club music to appreciate — the origins of house and techno, the rise of Madonna, J.Lo's, um, assets. But in recent years, nothing particularly essential. Yet every week in the U.K., Radio 1's Pete Tong manages to present an Essential Selection of new tracks, hooj choons and guest Essential Mixes. There's a lot to appreciate about the U.K. club scene, and a lot of it essentially has to do with Tong.

The Dartford-born Tong has been rockin' parties across the U.K. since the late '70s — first as a soul DJ then, as the mid-'80s rolled around, as champion of underground and commercial artists (from "Buffalo Gals" to acid house, Salt 'N Pepa to Steve "Silk" Hurley). Working A&R at London Records and running his own imprint, FFRR, allowed Tong to expose new and upcoming artists, but it was — and continues to be — Tong's radio work for which he is most highly regarded.

Now, along with the "Essential Selection" radio show — available online at www.bbc.co.uk and syndicated in some American cities — Tong has established a series of American Essential mix-CD releases. A mix of big names and small labels — from Photek and Way Out West to Blaze and Futureshock — Tong's Essential Mix showcases his deft blend as progressive and populist. The CD follows a thumping 4/4 beat, but flows with synths and warm sensuality. It's essential progressive house from all over, but overall, it's essentially pure Tong.

Pete Tong spins at eleven50 Thurs., Aug. 30.??