Joey Longo has been a part of the dance music soundscape for those in the know from way back when, his first records surfacing in 1990 under a variety of monikers and on a slew of labels, some (Cabaret, Loop d’Loop, Foot Stompin’) his own, others (Underworld, Maxi, Minimal) not, but the label copy always bearing the credit ‘produced by Pal Joey’.
Queens, NYC born-and-bred Italian-American Joey took his alias from the Broadway musical of the same name, the titular character of which was memorably played on the big screen by the most famous of Italian-Americans, Frank Sinatra. Joey’s father was naturally into Sinatra and junior liked ‘the image, the feel and the elegance’ that went with the movie and the star. The illustrations on Joey’s labels typically featured line drawing figures that look like they had stepped straight out of Pal Joey or any number of New York-based films of the ‘30s,’ 40s and ‘50s. Joey’s music had a similar jazziness and urban feel, firmly rooted in the exciting musical culture of NYC through the ‘80s, when Joey had come up.
Joey hit paydirt early on, as one of his earliest records, Dance (as Earth People), hit big in dance music terms. If you were raving in the early ‘90s chance are you will be getting flashbacks from Dance, as it was played across a number of scenes and was licensed several times. It’s a bone-fide classic, an early example of the disco-house cut-up but with a raw energy that would not often be duplicated when disco-house became a formula.
Records like Hot Music and Drum Major Instinct were entirely studio-based, and, too raw to qualify as acid-jazz proper, but their stuttering off-kilter rhythms made them stand out from the house/garage mainstream. Joey was clearly a producer with an idiosyncratic vision.
Tracks like Party Time and Raw Love were low-slung house masterpieces, from a deep musical tradition, with phat, swingy beats that only a few contemporaries would match (Masters at Work would achieve the greatest commercial success with this looser sound). If anyone wants to know what deep house is, play them Spend The Night, it belongs with work by some of Joey’s contemporaries such as Bobby Konders, Fred Jorio, Wayne Gardiner and the Burrell Brothers, as the very deepest of the deep.
At this time, Joey had a residency at Nell’s, the club that had revived the Sinatra-era supper club tradition after the excesses of the disco era, and he made a name for himself with his selection of contemporary dance music, party classics, hip-hop and even reggae, all cut and mixed with the skills of a hip-hop DJ. The club’s chic elitism made it popular with the most fashionable and with some of the hipper movers and shakers of the music industry.