(5 / 5)
Hands up who has danced around their white handbag to the timeless 1990 Deee-Lite gem, “Groove Is In The Heart”? A smash hit around the world, charting in a dozen countries, reaching number two in the UK and number one in the US. Hands up those who have misheard the title and sung the wrong lyrics? I can admit to the second, but I deny ever owning a white handbag, your Honour!
The band began in 1986 as a duo in New York, with Lady Miss Kier (born Kierin Magenta Kirby) primarily on vocals and Supa DJ Dmitry (born in the Ukraine as Dmitry Brill) as the DJ, but became a trio when Jungle DJ Towa Towa (Japanese-born Towa Tei) joined the group in 1988, having moved to the U.S. a year before. He had intended to study graphic design, but found being a musician better, injecting techno music into their old-school style of dance music. Dmitry had previously emigrated to the U.S. from the USSR.
Deee-Lite emerged from the melting pot of late 1980s New York club culture. Fusing elements of funk, soul and hip-hop with the emerging sounds of the acid house movement to produce an inspired, multi-cultural debut. A collage of knowledgeably selected samples, guest appearances and hook-laden song writing, their debut album “World Clique,” produced hit singles – most notably the afore mentioned “Groove Is In The Heart”, which still gets spins in clubs around the globe today, some 27 years after it was first released.
It dropped the band’s colourful, hallucinogenic imagery on a scene hungry for dancefloor fillers and musical cross-pollination. The song features vocals from Q-Tip of A Tribe Called Quest, as well as bass guitar and additional vocals by funk musician Bootsy Collins, a fan of the group.
Remixes formed a huge part of that club-land culture, and apart from the original 12 track Gold-certified album, this set also includes fourteen varied takes on both singles and album tracks. Including three re-mixes of the ‘Groovers’ hit. From extended radio versions to deep house and funky breaks, disc two provides a fabulous snapshot of global nightlife in the early 1990s.
After the huge success of “World Clique,” the second album, the politically charged “Infinity Within” dropped in 1992. The album failed to chart as high as their debut, but they still scored two Top 40 dance hits with “Runaway” and “Pussycat Meow.” Their album third album, “Dewdrops in the Garden”, was released after Tei left the group, and appeared on only one cut. This album sold better than their second release. Tei was replaced by DJ Ani.
After their break-up in 1996, the individual members have worked independently as DJs. Kier is still primarily a DJ, has travelled all over the world and performed on many albums with many artists. Her fashion style is often regarded as iconic by publications such as Vogue. Dmitry continued DJing, from Hong Kong to Jerusalem and from Berlin’s Love Parade to Brazil’s Rock In Rio.
He was given a DJ of the year award in Ibiza, and has remixed for many artists including Arthur Russell, Jungle Brothers, Sinead O’Connor, Ziggy Marley, Nina Hagen, Ultra Naté and others. He collaborated with Julee Cruise (of Twin Peaks/David Lynch fame) to release the album “My Secret Life”. Dmitry is currently based in Berlin where he continues to DJ, compose, produce and re-mix. Towa Tei has recorded several albums as a solo artist, and is currently featured in Japanese supergroup, Metafive.
Iconic, familiar and innovative, this is vital listening for pop fanatics, clubbers and everybody in-between. Guest stars include Bootsy Collins, Q-Tip from A Tribe Called Quest, Fred Wesley and Maceo Parker from James Brown’s band. The hits “Power Of Love” and “Good Beat” which are included here, are over shadowed by the long-term success of the infectious “Groovers In The Heart,” but just as worthy of being heard again; superb slices of pop-funk-soul delight from Deee-Lite. See what I did there? Time for a Deee-Lite reunion tour/album? You betcha.
By Simon Redley
(2 / 5) ‘OK Zone’
(3 / 5) ‘Decent Zone’
(4 / 5) ‘Super Zone’
(5 / 5) ‘Awesome Zone’