House Hunting #26 - Kevin Irving

Aiden pays tribute to the late Chicago vocal legend...

House Hunting #26 - Kevin Irving

Aiden pays tribute to the late Chicago vocal legend...

So first off here’s to a HAPPY “HOUSE HUNTING” NEW YEAR! After a hectic few weeks with Xmas party Xtravaganza’s including the R$N Christmas session in Camden (Christ major scenes…) and drowning in sale shoppers at work (forget retail therapy more like retail recovery!) normal service resumes with House Hunting outta hiatus. I’ve been that jam-hot hectic these last few weeks I’ve barely had a chance to jet to a record shop let alone dig for records. However, the day after the Ransom Note shindig I was DJing with my House Hunting other half Tomi at London Fields so late afternoon I spontaneously jetted to Hoxton wax haunt Love Vinyl for some last-minute vinyl vault raiding…

Now you know the score with the House Hunting nights strictly vinyl and vintage house (original pressings no reissues standard) so forget the Juno charts and DJ playlists as the latest fresh batch of wax ain’t of any interest to me… Instead it’s all about my pastime paradise of unearthing long lost house records and this particular House Hunting session wasn’t gonna be any different as I knew Love Vinyl would have some house Holy Grails deep in the racks. At the controls on this occasion was the always welcoming Stu Patterson and Jake Holloway – as I was scoping the house racks Jake said I could ascend to the hallowed heights of the Love Vinyl loft for some House Hunting heaven…

Though dark’n’dank the loft is a proper Aladdin’s cave with a cache of wax jewels waiting to be unearthed… I won’t reveal what’s in the dark depths but if you love some obscure allure and vintage house then definitely worth diggin’ deep – just make sure you’re armed with a torch! One gem I did unearth was ‘House Whop’ by Fred Brown which was the debut release on Rodney Bakerr’s legendary Chicago imprint ‘Rockin’ House’ as featured in House Hunting #11. This Chi-joint is a typical primitive production of the early house era and commands serious dollars as a proper Chicago collectors special – copies easily go for over £50 on Discogs and eBay! I recommended to Jake he should get this one on the shop floor as a hardcore Chicago House enthusiast will be out there hunting this one down…

Time was ticking as I was DJing in a few hours so I returned to the racks determined to dig out some house obscurities that were my flavour. Furiously flickin’ through I stopped at a distinctive green jacket. I pulled it out thinking was gonna be a Dance Mania 12” but to my surprise was Kym Mazelle’s lusting serenade ‘Taste My Love’ as House To House with Chicago virtuoso Marshall Jefferson on Bright Star Records subsidiary Police – I’ll never forget about 10-odd years ago when Theo Parrish dropped this at Plastic People (RIP) on THAT SYSTEM and MELTING the dancefloor proper scenes… The record itself was in mint condition so though serious £££’s it had to be copped – if you’re not an original pressing freak like me you can also cop it on Dutch imprint Clone via their ‘Clone Classic Cuts’ series. Will never tire of this mournful melter… 

Though a house hero of mine I eulogised enough about Marshall in the last instalment of House Hunting with the Jungle Wonz edition so will leave that one for now. Just as I was thinking there was only gonna be the sole record rinsed, within the armada of Trax sleeves at the back of the rack I pulled out a classic 12” on the infamous imprint. This particular Trax joint was ‘Children Of The Night’ by Kevin Irving In practically pristine condition and with original Trax sleeve – anoraks anonymous! That’s what I love about Love Vinyl the majority of their vintage vinyl in excellent condition even the Trax releases they got in stock not the stereotypical beat-up, damp’n’distorted dollar bin disappointments only useful as an ashtray… Anyway I coincidentally heard that day the unfortunate news that Kevin had been hospitalised and was in a critical condition on life-support. So without hesitation I copped this managing to barter a fiver off in the process so £15 for a mint copy I can’t complain – playing it that night would be a House Hunting dedication to this Chicago legend…

On emerging from my NYE haze I was met with the sad and shocking news that Kevin had passed away… He was a well-loved figure who proved to be an influential forefather in helping build the foundations of the burgeoning Chicago House scene that heads probably only remember now due to his untimely passing. So time for a House Hunting tribute – let’s delve deeper into his lasting legacy…

Kevin “Kirv” Irving initially came to prominence on Rocky Jones’ DJ International as “Jack N. House” on the early DJ International release ‘If You Only Knew’ with fellow forefather and kindred spirit Chip E. A typically primitive house groove, Kevin’s yearning larynx adds another dimension giving it star quality and more commercial appeal – a sign of things to come… The same year he collaborated with Windy City house hierarchy including Farley Jackmaster Funk (on ‘Give Your House To Me’ where Kevin’s diva vox juxtaposes effortlessly against the dark, sinister rhythm) and with Marshall Jefferson on ‘Ride The Rhythm’ (he sung on the later remix as the earlier incarnation was by ‘On The House’ featuring Curtis McClain on vocal duties). Sticking with ’86 he also featured on ‘Body Groove’ by Rocky Jones as Nipestar (or ‘Nite Star’/’Nightstar’ if you got the promo or have it on a Chicago comp warning trainspotter alert…) which was released on DJ International sub-label Underground and featured the crème of Chicago House including Chip E, Joe Smooth and Hula & K.Fingers of Da Posse fame. Check ‘em all out here…




A year later he returned to his spiritual home DJ International and teamed up with Mark Belcher and Kelly Wright (aka M K II) on the house anthem ‘D.S.T.M. (Don’t Stop The Music)’. This is a personal favourite and guilty pleasure as with its catchy chorus has more pop sensibilities yet retains that jackin’ flavour that was ubiquitous of era. Also in ’87 he co-produced Antonio Ceville’s ‘The Music Do It (All Night Long)’ on Ray Barney’s emerging ‘Dance Mania’ stable. The ‘House Edit’ by future collaborator Victor Romeo (aka Parris Mitchell) the one – all about when THAT BASSLINE kicks in it even gets a credit on the record strong! That year he also jetted to the UK joining Marshall Jefferson, Frankie Knuckles, Fingers Inc. and Adonis for the ‘Chicago House Party’ at The Hacienda in Manchester as part of their European tour – I’m sure a life-affirming event… Anyway here’s those ’87 releases:


In ’88 Kevin showcased his versatility as a singer songwriter and commercial credentials joining Californian R&B group Club Nouveau – who won a Grammy for their cover version of Bill Wither’s ‘Lean On Me’. Though this pop excursion into New Jack Swing territory may have raised a few eyebrows he didn’t forget his roots, collaborating with Mark Imperial under his Jack N. House alias on ‘The Love I Lost’ for House Nation Records – Kevin’s soaring vox elevating the track over the usual Chicago House fare. Check both out here – Kevin even features in Club Nouveau’s ‘ For The Love Of Francis’ video!


On the release front things laid dormant for a couple of years bar featuring on a few Club Nouveau releases and collaborating with DJ Pierre on the acid-tinged ‘Let The Music Pump You Up’ which was released via the ‘Acid Trax Volume 3’ compilation on Trax Records proper obscure allure! Fast-forward to the early 90s and he collaborated with Victor Romeo again on ‘Brighter Day’ (those keys!) and under their ‘Dance Kings’ guise they released the tracky basement joint ‘Climb The Walls’ – a precursor to the lo-fi Dance Mania ‘sound’ that was synonymous with future releases on the label in the mid to late nineties and is now enjoying a renaissance. Check out Strut’s ‘Hardcore Traxx’ compilation that came out last year – a perfect introduction to the label featuring both the earlier, more melodic releases and the later harder trax. Anyway here’s Kevin and DJ Pierre’s Trax joint plus those Dance Mania releases…



After the Chicago House wave was over Kevin relocated to Los Angeles and as “Kirv” forged a career as an R&B/Hip Hop producer – did you know he was involved in Truth Hurts and Rakim’s club and commercial smash ‘Addictive’?! However, it’s his early house productions and vocals that he’ll remembered most for… A talented pioneer that was revered by the Chicago House circle for his ability and influence, his unexpected death caused an outpouring of emotion with many Chicago legends laying tribute including his DJ International alumni Rocky Jones, Chip E. and Sweet D plus house hierarchy in the form of Larry Heard, Marshall Jefferson and Farley Jackmaster Funk. So along with Frankie Knuckles and Andre Harris last year another Chicago House hero taken away from us…

Back to the record and this is one I’ve been after for years – love the otherworldly production and haunting synths on this 12” that’s reminiscent of the more obscure Trax releases like the Sweet D produced ‘I’ll Never Let You Go’ by William S and ‘Your Love’ by Jesse’s Gang alumni Eric Bell. I’ll opt for the Frankie Knuckles Dub Mix as a fitting tribute to Kevin’s legacy. Rest In Paradise Kevin Irving…

Aiden d’Araujo

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