Stones Throw will release the Tony Cook anthology Back to Reality in 2010. The 12-inch “What's On Your Mind” featuring Dam-Funk is available now.
I first discovered Tony Cook’s music around 5 years ago while on one of my routine trips to New York as a DJ. The song “On The Floor” was one of those songs that really hit me when I first heard it. I missed it first time around (it was released in 1984) and was surprised that throughout the 90’s and early 2000’s, I had never known about it. It seemed like it would’ve been one of those Larry Levan/ Loft classics that every DJ would play, had they known about it. I was glad they didn’t though cuz it gave me the edge when I started playing it. Looking at the record, I noticed that Timmy Regisford and Boyd Jarvis, DJs for New York’s WBLS in the early 80s, got a “special DJ master mix” credit on the 12”, which probably helped the record become Tony’s biggest club/party hit back when it was made. Looking back, many now call “On The Floor” the first house music record. I later discovered Tony’s “Do What You Wanna Do” and it sounded like a lost Peter Brown/Patrick Adams production. More on the disco/ funk tip than “On The Floor”, but both seemed like New York records. I was wrong though. Tony was from the Augusta, Georgia and had gone back and forth between there and Europe.
Tony got his start as James Brown’s drummer (while still a teenager) as soon as he graduated from school. He drummed off and on for James as well as Etta James, all the while recording his own music that sounded nothing like neither artist. My personal favorite stuff he did was throughout the mid 80’s. I found a bunch of his 7” singles he produced featuring different artists (Tavell, Venessa Jean, and Vernon Cheely) and eventually the idea came to me to try to contact him to release an album of all his stuff.
It was easier than I thought it would be to find Tony, and we quickly agreed on releasing the album. He told me he still had his reel to reel multi-track tapes from that era and that there might be some unreleased songs on the tapes, so I found a place in Los Angeles to transfer them and he came out and we made it official. I figured I might find an extra song or two, but we were both surprised at what we found. Lots of unreleased songs (some better than the released ones) and lots of longer versions of songs that had been previously released only on 45. There was one song called “What’s On Your Mind” that Tony and I both thought was great, but didn’t have vocals so I had Dam-Funk come in and sing over it. Tony was totally cool with every single idea I had. It’s rare that I deal with such an easy going artist. While he was in Los Angeles, I asked him if he’d be down to have me, Dam-Funk, Mayer Hawthorne, and J Rocc interview him on video about how it was making this music throughout the 80’s and he obliged. I grabbed Hank and Ross to film him and cracked open a bottle of Hennessy and we all went to work. After doing the video interview and transferring the multi-track tapes, he had to go back home to Florida, but he let me mix all the songs without him in the studio. He seemed to trust my judgment and said I was a DJ and hear things a different way then him.
So here we are. Two and a half months later, or two and a half decades later if you ask Tony, and he’s “Back To Reality”. He told me he wanted that to be the name of his album because this music was always his reality and he had to put it on the back burner for many years while he performed in other people’s bands and did various other “non-music” jobs. Even though he’s released many 7” singles through his own label, none of these songs have ever been on a full album before, They’ve never been performed live either. We’ve talked about getting a band together to play this material in front of a live audience for the first time. I’m ready for Tony to finally, after all these years, get back to his reality.