Being a fan of Detroit techno and Detroit house wasn’t so easy in the ’90s as it is now. Basically most current house pretty much sounds like techno lite at this point, so the genres are interchangeable. Isn’t it amazing what you can do with a veterinary anesthetic? However, back in the ninenees, a lot of Detroit house was very soulful, had more in common with vocal, NY garage than Chicago house and, therefore, it wasn’t so easy to just slap a vocal cut next to something by Robert Hood.

Actually, it was really easy if you didn’t care about genres, which I didn’t then and don’t now. In reality, the separation of house from techno was mainly because the chin stroking techno milieu of the time was quite adverse to r&b overtures, or so it seemed. And there were house people who would ask you why you were playing trance if you dropped a classic Rhythim is Rhythim cut in the middle of a house set. Anything that didn’t have a vibraphone, sax or wind chimes noodling over it was considered trance at that point in the ‘authentic’ house scene of the mid-to-late nineties. This always baffled me as house music was probably the most electronic genre that I had ever discovered, but by the mid-to-late nineties it had been broken into so many dumb sub-genres that I used to jokingly wonder to myself “Was Trax Records a tech house label?”

I was always game for a bit of robot music sitting next to some soul music, so I was never perturbed when a vocal would sit next to some techno. Neither were Underground Resistance, Kenny Larkin, Juan Atkins, Kevin Saunderson or Eddie Fowlkes, among others. Since these people pretty much created techno and they all worked with vocalists — or used their own vocals on tracks — I used this fact to ease the pain of my self-exclusion from the chin strokers and wind chime enthusiasts.

Perhaps the best known ’90s motor city vocal cut is “Don’t You Want It” by Davina, which appeared on the Underground Resistance side label Happy Records and was eventually reissued on the Soul City label on which this Donnie Mark release appeared. In the review below, Happy Soul is the label because I received it as a Happy Soul promo. It was also credited to Members Of The House, but when the record finally came out the artist was The Joyful Sounds Of Soul Ft. Donnie Mark. However, it was exactly the same song.

Regardless of who receives the credit, it is a marvelous slice of gospel-inflected house and will sit nicely next to your Terrence Parker bangers, the cosmic, melodic techno of UR and the chordy, elevating dub and track work of Kerri Chandler and his NY/NJ peers. To me, tech house was never a prefabricated genre, it was a style of playing, a style that I heard during the acid house era when there wasn’t enough material in any sub-genre to play a whole night of it and so you had to mix it up.

Donnie Mark
Hold On
Happy Soul/US/12
Detroit might well wax surreal in the techno stakes, but when it comes to vocal house, straight up anthems are the order of the day. It’s been quite a while since we heard from Donnie who gave us the brilliant “Stand Up For The Soul.” Now he returns with another soul stirring tune, which, like Members of The House numbers, attempts to spread a positive vibe.

Of course cynical bastards will knock the sentiments on these records as being hackneyed and redundant, but on the dancefloor these sound pretty bloody good and will lift the crowd very nicely (what uplifting records are designed for). A strong, skippy dub is provided for those who don’t want to chance the vocals. A word of advice, chance the vocals and play the dub as well. CO