Already established as one of the world’s most respected house DJs, Roger Sanchez is now shaping his work for radio. Remixes of “Lost,” the first single from his new Come with Me (Ultra), have already hit dance clubs. But the emphasis is on melody, lyrics, and even a story line. Much of the disc features dance diva Katherine Ellis, the most powerful female voice to emerge in UK dance music since Heather Small debuted with M People.
Sanchez might have used Ellis in a club-music context, as have DJs Mark Knight, Dylan Rhymes, and Lee Coombs. But he was looking for a new challenge. Speaking from Amsterdam, he explains, “I want people to get a little closer to me. These are stories that occurred in my life, for instance the intro of ‘Again,’ where I tell about the alarm clock going off late and missing work three times in one week, having to park my car in the no-parking zone, it’s towed, etc. This is a personal album, not just a club set. It is different from what you know from me.”
He’s been DJing since 1980. “Around NYC. I used to play at the Tunnel. And then came my first underground record. Then I met Gladys Pizarro, who was doing the A&R at Strictly Rhythm.” Pizarro signed Sanchez, who was known at the time as Roger S, and the track “Luv Dancin’ ” resulted. Credited to “underground Solution featuring Jasmine,” it had a rapturous melody, dreamy orchestration, and a salacious rhythm that made it a must during house’s early-’90s rebirth.
Sanchez took his turntable work to the next level when he started his high-energy Release Yourself series of live-mix two-CD sets, the fifth of which appeared earlier this year. But on Come with Me, many of the songs sound relaxed, conforming largely to the down-tempo style that fans call “chill out.” “Free” is a jazz-fusion, vibraphone lullaby similar to the work of lounge DJ Roy Davis.” Soledad” is even quieter, but also catchier, with a moody piano and synthesizer sonata, lush and sexy, with Spanish-language pillow talk, a kind of barrio bedroom soul. “Reason” has a soulful Omar crooning and rapping over a gentle, lounge-ish rhythm — a touch of the club but hardly more. “I’m Yours” offers Alejandro Sanz in a Dominican bachata vein; it’s useful as Miami-style “pre-party” music. And “Don’t Tell Me That It’s Over” is a goodbye song reminiscent of Whitney Houston or Toni Braxton, softer in tone and steamy rather than brash.
But the album has three irresistible upbeat tracks: “Lost,” a lush, deep-beat “Hot 4 U,” and “Again,” which opens with Sanchez doing his real-world monologue about the alarm clock. It’s dance-floor comedy, supported by a bouncy, wiggly rhythm that feels as if you were being laughed at. “Take a Chance” is at once bouncy and steamy, with a sultry female vocal; “Turn on the Music,” the opening track, is full of noise effects, loud electronics, and sultry diva vocals reminiscent of the dramatics of a Frankie Goes to Hollywood.