The debut Peacefrog album from Kenny Dixon Jr. aka Moodymann originally released in 1998 is an album of truly epic proportions, a must have for any and all collectors and lovers of house music. Utilising soul, funk, gospel, and even hip-hop production techniques and alternating from mellowed-out disco dubs like “Mahogany Brown” and “Stoneodenjoe” to more raw and dirty tech-house tracks like “Me and My People’s Eyes.” Mahogany Brown delivers a slice of Black American music that affirms Kenny’s reputation as a major influence on house music today.
Few producers in Detroit (or anywhere else in the world) can rival the pure levels of soul that genius Kenny Dixon, Jr. has committed to vinyl. This might make Silence in the Secret Garden somewhat of a surprise or letdown for fans of his earlier works. Most obsessive fans of the KDJ gospel will already have many of these songs on vinyl, either from his own imprints or other labels. The first thing immediately noticeable is the lack of trademark banter that opens a Moodymann record — no insults to anyone from the Detroit suburbs, no answering-machine message from a destitute relative, and no seven-minute searches through the Detroit radio dial. Instead it’s replaced by an intro jam session that leads into a rework of his Innerzone Orchestra remix of the classic “People Make the World Go Round,” originally issued on Planet E. The album tends to drift and meander for a bit until it hits a bit of a stride with a beautiful hi-tech funk track allegedly from a live recording back in 1998. The shuffle-laden and polyrhythmic “Yesterday’s Party” also makes for a bright moment in the Dixon catalog, sounding a bit like “Shades of Jae” had it been reworked by Akufen. The rest of the album drives to a climax with the minimal tech/acid house title track and the brief Detroit electro-techno “On My Way Home” and ends curiously with Pitch Black City’s soulful “Sweet Yesterday,” which could have easily been on any of his earlier full-length projects, and the trademark field recordings of conversation. The album’s not as groundbreaking as Silent Introduction or Mahogany Brown, but to hold anyone to accomplish that feat consistently is a bit unfair. Silence in the Secret Garden may show more versatility in songwriting style, but that doesn’t necessarily result in startling work, and levels of enjoyment will vary from listener to listener, depending on what your reasons are for liking Moodymann in the first place.
Kenny Dixon Jr’s ‘Forevernevermore’ was his third album and is perhaps his definitive opus – a pure, deep, late night Detroit classic that has birthed countless immitations since its release in 2000. It really is pretty definitive – and it holds up beautifully almost 20 years later, from his take on Chic’s ‘Don’t you want my love’ to ‘The thief that stole my sad days’ – there are just too many certified classics here to mention. Quite apart from anything else, Forevernevermore manages to sound experimental, sophisticated, fucked and joyous all at once – making reference to classic Piano House one moment, and deepest Techno the next, his vocal narrative offsetting pure euphoria with a sharp dose of Motor City realism. In terms of classic House music, few have come close to anything you’ll find on this album – a perfect distillation of light and shade from one of Detroit’s greatest ever.