Classics: Blaze feat. Alexander Hope – How Deep Is Your Love (Shelter Vocal) (Shelter Records)
I guess I’ll never thank enough Shelter label head Freddy Sanon for havin’ welcomed me the way he did whenever comin’ to visit him in the Big Apple. ‘How Deep Is Your Love’ has a special taste for me. Not only because it involved some of my fav peeps by the likes of Blaze and Timmy Regisford. But also because it brings me back to a unique souvenir. Freddy and I going to the very last vinyl factory in Jersey to pick up the first pressings of this release. Run by totally dedicated people, that place smelt like so much passion all over. In what, to many of you, would seem like the Middle Age nowadays, it was a definitive slice of history to me, as a forever vinyl junkie. ‘How deep is your love’ is something you didn’t need to ask speakin’ of these people at work.
‘How Deep Is Your Love’ pretty much smells the same. From the unique Jerzee accents that were a part of Blaze‘s DNA. To its overall energy quite illustrative as to what one could hear at the NYC Shelter Club at the time. Not to mention Alexander Hope‘s (in other words Josh Milan) vocal performance over a bumpin’ jazzy driven joint.
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– Blaze saw the light during the mid 80’s when Chris Herbert introduced Josh Milan to Kevin Hedge. The release of their debut-single – ‘ Yearnin’ For Love’ back in 1985 on Ace Beat Records markin’ the opening of one of the most impressive accounts in the history of House Music. Under their own guise or in terms of remixes. A long time Black Music fan, I naturally found the substance in the Jersey Sound. With props due to Joey Negro who got me into it via his ‘The Garage Sound of Deepest New York’ compilations at the time.
From then on, it would only be a matter of time before we meet. Via the late Peter Harris at Slip’N Slide where we both happened to be signed (with me as a compiler). Via the late Mel Cheren with whom they shared an office in NYC. In Miami, during the WMC. Or at the Sunslice Festival in the early 2000’s where we both happened to be spinnin’…
The first singles I got from them bring me back to the souvenir of Abigail Adams‘s Movin’ Records label. A quick listen to Phase II‘s ‘Reachin” and LaChandra‘s ‘Just Started’ which they produced got me as a definitive follower of their sound from then. But also into what Tony Humphries was championing at the time – the Jersey Sound (also known as Garage for some reason) – at the Zanzibar. They soon after would be followed by Phase II‘s second single (‘It’s A Mystery’) and Blaze‘s own ‘Can’t Win For Loosin’). Meanwhile ‘So Special’ and the subtly Reggae influenced ‘We All Must Live Together’ highlighted their debut-album. An album titled ’25 Years Later’ which Timmy Regisford who was A&Ring for Motown back then signed on the label. Chris Herbert deciding to go his own way the year after.
It would take 7 years before the arrival of its follow up – ‘Basic Blaze’ – on Slip’N Slide. The latter featuring the classic ‘My Beat’ which Swag managed to brilliantly remix, and also ‘Wishin’ You Were Here’.
Blaze released their third opus – ‘Natural Blaze’ featuring James Tooney, Jr. – 4 years after on Japanese label Life Line. This time delivering gems such as ‘How Deep Is Your Love’ and ‘Better Days’. Not to mention the Latinesque ‘Elevation’ and the abyssal ‘Lovely Ones’. They eventually shared once more the duties with James Tooney, Jr. the following year on ‘Wonderland’ (BAAS Records).
In the interval, they would also make quite a sensation with ‘Lovelee Dae’. One of their biggest classics, from their 1996 ‘Trans-Jazz’ EP on Simplex Records.
Blaze delivered ‘Spiritually Speakin” that same year (in 2002) on Slip’N Slide. An album which is mostly remembered for ‘Do You Remember House’ and ‘Breathe’ which Ashley Beedle eventually reedited on its single releease. I gotta say I never understood why the label didn’t release the outstanding ‘Sweeter Than Before’ though.
In the meantime, the twosome had started collaborating with NYC Nitegrooves label. Venturing in Afrobeat territories on ‘Seasons Of Love’. But also enlightening us with the soothing ‘Shine’ along with Palmer Brown. The early 2000’s seeing them jamming along with ‘Little’ Louie Vega on ‘Elements Of Life’. A track which would mark the start of regular collaborations between them. With ‘Brand New Day’ comin’ up in 2002. But also ‘Love Is On The Way’ and ‘Sunshine’ along with Raúl Midón. Then ‘Love Remains The Same’ with Luisito Quintero in 2007 on Vega Records. Kevin Hedge sharing the duties with Vega at their Roots NYC weekly party. And Josh Milan becoming a member of Louie‘s Elements Of Life band after Blaze decided to split in the second half of the 2000’s.
The list would be incomplete without a mention to Blaze‘s UDAUFL concept album. A project which they’d put together in order to raise finds against the AIDS. It saw them collaborating with a plethora of artists. From Ultra Naté to Byron Stingily. Not to mention Kenny Bobien or Arnold Jarvis to name but a very few. Therefore givin’ birth to gems such as ‘We Are One’, ‘Wonderful Place’ and ‘Hiya Love’ among others. This in addition to ‘Most Precious Love’, ‘Keep Hope Alive’ and ‘Be Yourself’ which Peppe Citarella brilliantly remixed in early 2018. Meanwhile, they would also venture into Bossa Jazz territories, eventually releasing ‘Found Love’ on West End.
Blaze also happened to be quite active on the remix front. Delivering outstanding reworks such as ‘People Hold On’ for Coldcut featuring Lisa Stansfield or ‘Take A Stand For Love’ for Gerideau. But also ‘Rose Rouge’ for St Germain, ‘Changin” for Linda Clifford or ‘Star Suite’ for Mondo Grosso. Not to mention ‘Love’s Been Right Here’ for Stephanie Cooke & Kenny Bobien, ‘Resurrect Me’ for Marty Thomas and ‘Wish I Didn’t Miss You’ for Angie Stone. In addition to ‘Only You’ for DJ Jorj and Gary Pinto and ‘Can’t Get Away’ for Mood II Swing. And the list goes on with Dawn Tallman‘s ‘Save A Place On The Dance Floor For Me’ to name a few.
Last but not least, let’s not forget their collab with Tee Alford, Allen Jeffrey and Cassio Ware under the Funky People guise. The latter givin’ birth to a bunch of gems including the memorable… ‘Funky People’ back in 1995.
Josh Milan runs his Honeycomb Music label nowadays along with Adam Cruz. He has recently released a solo album titled ‘6.9.69’.