Without music there can be no dancing

It falls to the DJs, alone on the stage, to decide what tracks to play for those of us determined to have a great night out. It’s no easy gig for the DJs, for amongst the dancers on the floor are people with their own favourite tracks, and a list of songs they wouldn’t mind if they never heard again. But somehow, in a four hour freestyle, they have to find in the region of eighty tracks that will provide everyone with some great dances and memorable musical highs.

No Same, Same Old please

They must take care not to play the same old – same old, and they need to differentiate themselves from their peers by playing something distinctive. They need to find something a little different, but something that will not fall flat. I thought it might be an idea then, from time to time, to focus entirely on the DJ and their choice of music and the way they mix it up, rather than the general attributes of the freestyle itself. My fifth review is of Chris Uren who provided the tracks at Ceroc Heaven’s Freestyle at Grange Hall, Radcliffe on Trent last Friday.

All set for a fantastic night

Grange Hall is filling up, the Ceroc Heaven faithful have turned out and they are joined by others from far flung places. The atmosphere is building and everyone is up for a great night. DJs must love spinning the tracks on nights like this, but that doesn’t mean that they can be complacent. On the floor are people who know their dance music, but they also know how good Chris Uren is. It’s all set up for a fantastic night.

Dance Floor Classic will always please

People love the classics tracks. Modern Jive classics come from every decade, but what I’m noticing is that there is a list of tracks from the last ten years that are particularly popular. Chris’ playlist was sprinkled with these fabulous tracks. Cake by the ocean by DNCE from 2016. Shut Up and Dance by Walk the Moon, Uptown Funk by Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars, and Wrapped up from Olly Murs all from 2014. Mr Saxobeat by Alexandra Stan (2011) and Black and Gold from Sam Sparro (2008).

ABC it’s easy as 123

My favourite from Chris’s recent classics list, and a very much loved track, is Sigala’s 2015 debut hit Easy Love. You’ll probably be more familiar with it as the track that sounds like The Jackson 5’s ABC. I originally thought that this was simply a remix of the Jackson’s hit, but that would not be doing this great piece of dance music justice. Foremost it has a thumping beat that I doubt many people can resist dancing to. Its instrumentation and overall production gives it an energy way beyond the Jackson’s original used at its core.

Putting your own stamp on the proceedings

I suppose any DJ can play those classics, but what makes them stand out from the crowd is what fills the rest of the night’s playlist. It’s these individual picks that have given Chris’ his enviable reputation amongst modern jive dancers. Chris, like a lot of great DJs, finds tracks no one else plays. But he goes one further. Having found them he doesn’t flog them to death. One of Chris’ greatest finds, for me at least, is The Supremes and Originals’ Back by popular demand. I danced to it perhaps twice and then it was gone again. All the best tracks he played on Friday were new to me. Pity they’ll not necessarily get played again, but that’s what makes Chris’ selection so exiting.

The first ‘What was that track?’

About an hour in, Chris played the aforementioned Mr Saxobeat. This is a track to really get you moving. It’s bursting with energy and, by the time it had finished everybody was ready for something just as full on. Chris knew exactly what to play next and, for my partner and I at least, he got it spot on. Out of the speakers came the energised sound of Clothes off (Glen Morrison mix) by Rea Mae. It was released in 2015, and must have been a massive club hit, but this was surprisingly the first time I’d danced to it. By the time it had finished I had to know what it was.

Knowing when to slow it down

Chris kept the pace going a little longer with Jessie J’s Domino, but three full on tracks are enough and knowing this Chris slowed it down. I sometimes think DJs don’t play enough slow tracks. When I say slow, I don’t mean Blues Room slow. I just want the DJ to take the pedal off the gas a little. Chris slowed it down time and time again, and that’s what made his energised tracks stand out even more.

Let me give you a few examples of Chris’s take-it-easy-for-a-bit tracks. Michael Jackson’s A place with no name, The Commitments fabulous version of Mustang Sally and The Beautiful South’s laid back Material Girl. The track I’ll feature is not exclusive to Chris, but what impressed me was that he played it at just after nine o’clock. As I said before, playing plenty of these more relaxed tracks enables the dancers to preserve some energy for when it’s really needed. Here then is Michael Buble’s Everything. Its a great pick. Though it has a relaxed feel, it still has a lot to offer, and gives plenty of opportunity for individual expressions of musicality.  

The Southport Blues Man

Chris is also renowned for his knowledge of blues music, and he is a regular DJ in the Southport Weekender Blues Room. Each time I review Chris’s music he treats us all to a slab of blues you can modern jive to. Friday night was no exception, but I’m going to pass on revealing the great track he played, on the basis that it’s perhaps not right that I reveal all Chris exclusive finds.

The variety kept coming

By visiting different decades and musical genres for the tracks to spin, a DJ ensures that everyone will get a chance to dance to something they love. Chris always takes you on a journey. A bit of rock ‘n’ roll from Elvis, with Return to sender, some Swing in the form of Summer wind (The Michael Buble version I think), and always good to throw in some Zuchhuro – not sure what genre this is, but his Baila (Sexy thing) stood out from the tracks around it.

Something different from the ’60s

There was some cracking music in The ’60s but, apart from the obvious Motown offerings, we sadly get to dance to very little of it. On Friday night Chris played one of the best – Shocking Blue’s Venus. Its simple rhythm makes it so easy to dance to, and that’s never a bad thing. It’s got a great sing-a-long lyric and I love the country style guitar solo.

Atmosphere and Vibe

I’ve been reviewing DJs’ music for almost six months now, and its easy to fall into the trap of giving only my own subjective opinion. I realise that the enthusiasm for the tracks I pick out might not be shared by everyone. On Friday I took time to try to assess the atmosphere in the room, and more particularly the vibe on the dance floor. Grange Hall freestyles always have a great atmosphere and Friday was no exception. Was the music contributing to this? I’m sure it was, but one thing was obvious to anyone looking on. They would see that as many people as possible, wanted to dance to as much music as possible. It was gone eleven before the floor thinned out, even slightly.

Our Different Dance Histories

I know that we all have difference dance histories, so when I describe this next dance I’ll understand if some people don’t share my enthusiasm. My Soul Boy roots will always mean that I connect with certain songs in a way that means little to those whose dance history started after the heyday of Northern Soul.

Chris shows his own Soul Boy roots

Chris played The Isley Brothers This old heart of mine. Its a much loved track amongst dancers of all ages and, as always, it went down very well. My connection to it is a little deeper, as it takes me back to a time and place when dance music meant everything. Chris followed it up with a track that cleverly morphed from Motown to Northern Soul. I had no idea what the track was, but I could feel its Northern Soul groove instantly. It soon took full control of the part of my brain that controls my dancing. I was lucky, my dance partner was one of the best in the room and she was able to share my determination to do the track justice.

A bit of escapism is OK now and again

Northern Soul developed in the seventies as a dance culture that provided working class youth with some escapism from their dreary industrial jobs. On Friday and Saturday Nights, kids danced into the early hours to forget about the drudgery that awaited them on Monday mornings.

The world has changed, but for many of us dance still remains a pleasurable release from the pressures of our daily lives. We don’t need every track to have the power and uplifting feel of Billy Paul’s Only the strong survive, but now and again it’s worth giving yourself up to the great-to-be-alive vibe tracks like this one. My partner and I absolutely smashed this track, having possibly our best dance of the year so far.

Clicking the play button on this track while you’re taking a quick break at work, or sitting on the bus on your way home, is never going to be the same as if you were dancing to it. Even with the volume turned up, its not going to sound anything like it sounded on Friday night. It needs a crowded dance floor, and a whole bunch of like-minded people dancing around you. It needs a DJ picking the perfect time to play it. It needs the song before it to be This old heart of mine, or something very like it, to set you up. It needs a DJ as good as Chris Uren on the decks to get all of this spot on.

A great way to end a fantastic night

Ever since the school disco, DJs have been slowing it down at the end of the night. None of us are at school any more, but it would be a poor show not to allow for a little smooching at the end of the night. Chris’s last track was straight out of the last-dance-at-the school-disco drawer, but it was the one before that really pleased me. Slow, but not too slow. Slow enough to get close – yes, but still with enough life to modern jive to – smooth moves of course, or maybe some SILC. The track Chris played is one of the best, and one that a still busy dance floor loved. I think Tone Damli’s 40 years was a perfect way to end what had been a wonderful night of dancing.

Chris played a wonderful set of dance music, but we should not forget the whole Ceroc Heaven Crew, who work so hard throughout the evening to ensure we all have a terrific night out. As we all walk back to the car park exchanging memories of our great night out, The Crew still have to pack everything into the van. On behalf of the near two hundred people who had such a great night, I’d like to extend a big thank you to all the Ceroc Heaven team.