House Hunting #19 - Joe Lewis

Aiden haggles his way to another record for the collection...

House Hunting #19 - Joe Lewis

Aiden haggles his way to another record for the collection...

So prior to the House Hunting debut at London Fields last week I went on a diggin’ session with my House Hunting other half Tomi to see if we could score some last-minute belters. We first jetted to the vinyl labyrinth of Soho to check out the various record joints with Tomi wanting to check out Phonica for some fresh wax platter. I’ll be honest I rarely venture in there as they stock just the latest releases and you know me I’m strictly vintage house but shock horror I bought a new 12” – controversial, what’s goin’ on?! It was the new Alleviated 12” though by Larry Heard under his ‘The It’ alias with Harry Dennis and it’s not every day Larry Heard releases a new record so give me a chance on that one… Tomi also copped that along with a killer Kelli Hand and Claude Young reissue on Acacia Records though my rules state original pressings no reissues – he’ll get there he’s still learning…



However, vintage wax withdrawal was kickin’ in and it wasn’t long before I was seeking a dose of second-hand solace… So we headed to Berwick Street to see if we could cop any bargain basement belters in reliable Soho joints Reckless Records and the Music & Video Exchange. Surprisingly on this occasion despite some furious diggin’ our quest to unearth some house Holy Grails proved futile – I’ll hold out for James at Reckless to tag me in some Chicago house rarities posts that he’ll know will be my flavour and burn a hole in my wallet… Undeterred, we went for a cheeky pint, regrouped and agreed that our best option would be to head east to Hoxton wax haunt Love Vinyl… 



This time I didn’t have access to Zaf’s vinyl vaults in the hallowed turf of the Love Vinyl loft as featured in last week’s House Hunting. However, I could see the racks were rammed with a fresh batch of jam hot wax since we visited a couple of weeks back… I picked up the Dionne classic ‘Come Get Your Lovin’ on Nick Fiorucci and the late Andrew Komis’ influential Toronto imprint ‘Bigshot Records’ – though it’s usually the Transatlantic triptych of Chicago, New York and Detroit that are more synonymous with house make sure you add Toronto to that map as the city gave birth to some killer labels including DNH, Hi-Bias and Strobe. I’ll give you a few pointers – all face-melters…







Anyway, Tomi was rifling through a pile behind the counter and thrust in my hand a Gherkin 12” which was Mondee Oliver’s ‘Stay Close’. As ever with the Love Vinyl stock it was in mint condition and though at a fair price of £15 I offered a tenner and a deal was struck so another gherkin added to the jar. So though I only got a few records a decent house hunting session – however this week’s choice pick isn’t a shop find but another bargain on the bay…



So I noticed a few weeks ago there was a rare Target Records 12” by Joe Lewis on eBay at a ‘Buy It Now’ price of £24 – before you feverishly start salivating no it wasn’t any of the pink Target releases so don’t get too excited… The release in question was his later ‘The Beginning And The Ending’ EP which features one of my fave warm up weapons ‘Midnight Dancin’. To my surprise last week the record was still listed and reduced to £20 – I offered £16 so £20 all in with postage and the seller agreed nice one! Though it’s not one of the Target house Holy Grails the record still averagely sells for £30+ so managed to get it for half the usual goin’ rate not bad… It’s a contentious release for more reasons than one but I’ll get on to that soon – first let’s delve a little deeper in the history of Joe Lewis and Target Records…

Joe’s introduction to house was via his renowned parties at ‘The Loop Machine’ skating rink where he hosted the cream of Chicago House hierarchy including Frankie Knuckles (RIP), Steve “Silk” Hurley and Farley “Jackmaster” Funk. This influence lead him into production and forming his now hallowed house imprint ‘Target Records’ – with his first release in ’86 being a collaboration with Larry Heard on ‘The Love Of My Own’. Though he wasn’t credited on the initial first press you can hear Larry’s influence all over this record and allegedly the original version was to be titled ‘The Love Of Jamie’ featuring vocals from Byron Walton aka Chicago’s answer to Prince, Jamie Principle – who wouldn’t like to hear that version?! Anyway here’s the original…

A year later he released THAT pink label Target ‘Love Of My Own’ EP – this time crediting Larry Heard for his contribution to the title track. On the flip all the tracks (‘9 Lives’, ‘Confused House’ and ‘Love Mystery’) are all B-side bombs that have contributed in this 12” becoming a long lost mythical slice of Chicago wax. Love Mystery is my favourite and again, you can hear that Larry Heard influence as it sounds like his earlier ‘Mystery Of Love’ prototype. According to Joe himself, he and Armando went to WBMX radio HQ to visit Farley “Jackmaster” Funk with the ‘Love Mystery’ track in hand. Though he hadn’t finished the vocals and the copy wasn’t crystal clear, Farley influenced Joe in releasing straight away as he played it on his show with the ubiquitous ‘I Have A Dream’ speech accapella by Martin Luther King and it was an instant hit on the airwaves – check that and the rest of the EP here…



In ’88 he released the equally rare ‘Change Reaction’ EP (the blue label one) with more of his unique proto house stylings and the 303-laden ‘Lost In Tracks’ EP which is drenched in acid… All these Target records easily go for three-figure sums so good luck in scoring a copy for under £100 all these are proper Discogs wantlist weapons – maybe fly stateside and raid the dollar bins and yard sales you never know… For his next 12” he released the Target anthem ‘Midnight Dancin’ – I have an original pressing of this so one old-school Target I do own. This is a less celebrated Joe Lewis record compared to the aforementioned house Holy Grails ‘Love Of My Own’ and ‘Change Reaction’. This track under his ‘Survival’ alias with Darryl Goodlett has a more soulful flavour, with its diva vox by Darryl perfectly complementing the simplicity of the primitive proto groove… It even includes vocals from Joe (the initial male vox) – check it out here…



After the Survival and Paul Johnson releases in the early 90s Target laid dormant for years with Joe falling into obscurity… However, the mid-nineties saw Joe rise from his sabbatical and undergo a resurgence releasing a series of records on Cajual’s harder cousin Relief Records with a definite Relief/Paul Johnson influence. Of these releases it’s the super-rare and collectable orange vinyl release featuring ‘Separate Ways’ and ‘Change Reaction’ off the earlier ‘Change Reaction’ EP on Target that is the choice pick – it also features ‘Life Immoreal’ which Joe has stated is his personal favourite from his discography – have a listen…

Anyway, let’s bring it back to this week’s record. This later Target pressing as per the Youtube video with ‘Midnight Dancin’ solely credits Joe Lewis on the record and for more reasons than one, this is a contentious release – has there ever been a Chicago House record that hasn’t come with excess baggage or without a degree of controversy?! So as we know, ‘Midnight Dancing’ was released five odd years prior under his ‘Survival’ alias, and ‘Electric Love’ was according to Joe mixed by the late Armando in his studio. 



However, with the rest of the tracks on the EP things start to get a little murkier… I’m sure most of you have heard this improbable parable of production plagiarism but I’ll give a quick recap... In ’95 Joe Lewis was in the UK and a young Jaime Read gave him a DAT requesting could he pass on to Relief Records. For those of you not aware who Jaime Read is under his ‘LHAS’ guise he released some killer records on Push II Shove in the mid-nineties – not to mention his hard to find classic LP ‘The End And The Beginning’ (you’ll understand in a minute why his LP the same name as this EP I copped) on Fragmented Records. He has undergone a renaissance of late as he’s resurrected his ‘Push II Shove’ imprint plus got back in the studio with Felix Dickinson under their ‘L.H.A.S. Inc.’ pseudonym.

Anyway, a year later after giving his DAT to Joe unbelievably four of the tracks from the DAT had appeared on this Target EP along with an EP on Relief (‘Back To The Beginning’) and an EP on Basement 282 (‘Netherlands EP’). I was first made aware of this years ago when there were some dodgy Target bootlegs released via ‘Booton Records’ and Aidy @ Vinyl Underground educated me on this unsavoury tale. Of course in those days with Joe’s legendary status many wouldn’t question that it wasn’t him as without the influence of social media who would believe it’d be a young unknown from Brighton if Joe has credited as himself? For a more detailed history lesson you can check here via the Discogs page. To me the giveaway that they’re Jaime’s tracks is the distinct drum programming that is synonymous with his production style – you have a listen and decide for yourself…



Even more unbelievable is that in 2005 Peacefrog released a retrospective of Joe Lewis’ releases that consisting mainly of Jaime’s productions! According to Jaime, Peacefrog knew this but pressed ahead anyway – why they released records that were allegedly not Joe’s when instead they could have raided the Target vaults and compile the long lost Target classics is beyond me…


Hopefully Jaime is now getting the props and recognition he deserves with his recent resurgence… Though to some it’s tarnished Joe’s reputation, his Target releases of the 80’s still retain mythical status and a lasting legacy – let’s be honest we’d all still buy on sight if we were lucky enough to come across one. For the majority who can’t track down the original Targets or unwilling to part with serious £££’s to the Discogs speculators, word is from Joe that an LP with potential re-releases of his classic tracks is on the horizon… Anyway, though this tale may leave a sour taste there’s no denying that this EP from Chicago via Brighton is a piece of house history albeit controversial with Joe still neither confirming or denying that he used Jaime’s productions under his own name – just another wild Midwest tale from the Windy City…

Aiden d’Araujo

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