Classics: Cloud Nine (DJ Spinna Remix)(Giant Step/Motown)
Don’t ask me why… Each time getting to the first bars of Donnie‘s ‘Cloud Nine’ as remixed by Spinna brings me back to the souvenir of T. Ski Valley‘s ‘Catch The Beat’. Even though the latter may be on a slightly quicker tip as a matter of fact. Then how not to make the connection with the great Stevie Wonder as well vocally speakin’?!? Or with Detroit Neo-Soul singer Dwele to a certain extend with the memorable ‘Find A Way’…
What I always loved about this version is the absolute mellowness of its swingalong. Thus get us in the mood to start bumpin’ our heads and clickin’ our fingers. As an appetizer for more to come on the floor. Meanwhile beautifully displaying another facet of Spinna‘s undeniable versatility…
– A native of Lexington, KY, Donnie Johnson brew up in Atlanta, GA. Singin’ in a Hebrew Pentecostal church where he regularly attended services until his early 20’s. With thanks to Bishop Embry who pretty much encouraged him to join the local choir. But also to artists like Stevie Wonder and Donnie Hathaway (something you can tell) for the obvious inspiration. If not Marvin (Gaye), who happened to be his cousin, for the lyrical influence.
Therefore, no wonder how Donnie appeared as the new great one back in 2002. This when releasing his debut-album by the likes of ‘The Colored Section’ along with Scottish producer Steve Harvey (the one responsible for ‘Something Special’ nineteen years before). An effort itself resulting in gems such as ‘Cloud 9’ with remixes courtesy of DJ Spinna and Quentin Harris. But also the memorable ‘Rocketship’ which Harris reworked as well. Then You Got A Friend’. The whole in an effort that appeared as a powerful and spiritual look at black life, history, and race relations with personal perspective.
“I wrote ‘The Colored Section’ and its follow-up – ‘The Daily News’ – based on what was going on at the time”, explained Donnie at the time. “I think people are paying attention now, but the world’s been messed up…”
Strangely enough, not only ‘The Daily News’, which saw the light five years later, flopped, to be honest. But it remains Donnie‘s last album to date despite an undeniable talent. The man eventually resurfacing back in 2015 with a new CD though – ‘The Seventh Sign’ – as The American Anthology. Even though further research on the net only lead to a handful of mentions. Like on Soultracks for instance. Or on Daz-I-Kue‘s Soundcloud page. This with a firing track called ‘Protester’.
– A quick look at Spinna‘s biography on Wikipedia unfortunately shows a blatant lack of knowledge by the likes of its writer. The latter rating him as a Hip-Hop producer from Brooklyn. Obviously neglecting by that our brother’s impressive contribution to other genres such as R&B and/or House Music…
Just like Kenny Dope, Spinna has an impressive Hip-Hop background. But he’s first and foremost a New Yorker. Meaning by that that he kept an ear open to everything. And I would tend to think everything as long as it was groovy. This explaining why and how he came to embrace different genres, as a producer but also a remixer. With his impressive legacy pretty much speakin’ for itself as a matter of fact.
The Hip-Hop crowd will most likely remember him for his contribution as a member of The Jigmastas. If not for his remix of ‘Stakes Is High’ for De La Soulby the seond half of the 90’s. Meanwhile those who happen to have both their feet into House Music should have Shaun Escoffery‘s 2001 ‘Days Like This’ first comin’ to their mind while thinkin’ of him.
To be honest, I’ve always found kinda difficult to put a name on Spinna‘s works, unless speakin’ of a classy and updated version of R&B or Soul Music with a groove if not Dance Music edge. Unsurprisingly, he gave an infectious Hip-Hop feel to Cooly’s Hot Box‘s ‘Make Me Happy’ that same year. Then he came to share the bill with Tortured Soul on the classic ‘Fall In Love’ back in 2002.
2003 seeing him givin’ a smooth swingin’ feel to Donnie‘s ‘memorable ‘Cloud 9’, but also reworking ‘You’ for Soulstation on West End Records. With Goapele‘s ‘Closer’, Tamia‘s ‘Still’ and Elements Of Life‘s ‘Better Day’ standing as his 2004’s highlights in addition to Alison Crockett‘s ‘Crossroads’.
Another year on and Spinna would cross the path of Roy Ayers while retouching ‘Holiday’. This before doin’ the same two years later on ‘Electric Vibes’. A masterpiece courtesy of Down To The Bone featuring Roy Ayers. Meanwhile, he would get back with Tortured Soul while remixing ‘Always In Heaven When I’m With You’ back in 2006. Then ‘Why’ in 2007 and ‘Dirty’ in 2013.
Launching his Wonderwax label back in 2003, he shared the bill with Rich Medina on the spoken words led ‘Reality’. Eventually producing the stellar ‘Unconditional Love” for Selan the year after. Then welcoming Gordon Chambers with ‘Never Fall In Love’ in 2007. And he also happened to craft the soothing ‘You Should Be Loving Me’ with Ovasoul7 in 2008. This before producing ‘In My Fantasy’ for Tortured Soul a few months later.
More recently, he infectiously boosted Neal Conway and Dana Weaver‘s ‘Fading Away’. But also ‘You Got This’ for Real Deep with the sultry Jaidene Veda and MdCL. Then we welcomed his rework of Hallex M featuring Darien‘s ‘Feeling’ as our Single Of The Week at the time. This in addition to LeMel Humes‘ ‘Ain’t Nobody Like You’ which received the same treatment from us a few weeks later. Not to mention The Foreign Exchange‘s ‘Body’ which got into our Top 10 back then.
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