VOICES first ANNIVERSARY with performances by BYRON STINGILY , MARSHALL JEFFERSON , KENNY BOBIEN and DJs NICK HOLDER , TRINI , RAY PRASAD , JASON BARHAM and JOHN KUMAHARA at Roxy Blu (12 Brant), Friday (August 20). $15 before midnight. email@example.com. Rating: NNNNN
Junior Palmer's Voices party Friday is the first anniversary of the live-performance-focused house night. It also marks the start of a new chapter in Palmer's seven-year history as a promoter: the creation of a record label, Home, which, as you might imagine, is framed squarely around the role of the vocalist in house. "I started the party because in house music a lot of the vocalists and songwriters don't get the recognition they deserve," Palmer says. "They're usually kept in the background, while the DJs and producers have been in the forefront. I wanted to put the vocalists in front, showcase their talent, and put a face to dance music, because it's been so faceless for so long.
"That's probably why house hasn't had the success of R&B and hiphop. There hasn't been a face, and the artists haven't been in the forefront."
Seeing the same marketing problem in the way the labels were being run, Palmer decided, with a little encouragement from colleagues, to launch Home Records.
Promoter-turned-label-head isn't the usual progression. DJs and producers are usually the ones to start dance labels, generally to showcase their own work. Yet the contacts Palmer's made as a promoter have allowed him to amass the impressive roster of talent exemplified by the lineup for this week's celebration.
Byron Stingily is best known as the vocalist from Ten City and the voice behind some of the genre's more enduring anthems. Kenny Bobien is an icon in the world of gospel house, and Marshall Jefferson is one of the originators of house and hugely important to the history of underground dance music as a whole - quite a lot for one night.
The roster of artists involved with the label is equally impressive. The first single features Stephanie Cooke (Kenny Bobien's wife, an excellent vocalist in her own right), production by Toronto legends Peter and Tyrone with some help from Martino (Gemma Records); and a remix by Quentin Harris. This weekend will see Stingily lay down tracks on a song that Cooke wrote for him.
"She actually dreamed the song, with him singing it, and woke up and wrote it down," Palmer says excitedly. "When she was in town to do the first single, she asked if I could make the call and see if he'd sing it."
The coming year will also see contributions from heavyweights Karizma, Frankie Feliciano, Roland Clark and Barbara Tucker. It's an impressive list, but except for the close involvement of locals Peter, Tyrone and Martino, very heavy on NYC names.
Let's hope the attention the label gets because of those names will allow Palmer to showcase local talent as well.