1981 was a good year for DJs. Grandmaster Flash issued his “Adventures on the Wheels of Steel,” a live turntable exhibition that became the hip-hop DJ’s manifesto. Club jocks like Larry Levan were making waves as remixers (see Levan’s version of Taana Garnder’s “Heartbeat”). And at the 1981 Notting Hill Carnival, Norman Jay — who’d already made his name in London reggae sound-system circles with his set-up, Great Tribulation — unveiled his new Good Times Sound System, which expanded the Carnival’s palette with disco, funk, and electronic-dance sounds to complement the reggae at its base.
Norman Jay MBE Presents Good Times 30th Anniversary Edition is a 16-song primer on how he did it. The short version is that he likes smoothly aspirational stuff — not for nothing do two of these songs have “sunshine” in the title, not to mention Mark Capanni’s “I Believe In Miracles,” Little Anthony & the Imperials’ “I Don’t Have Time To Worry” and Curtis Mayfield’s “Victory” — with a hint of grit in it, primarily courtesy of hip-hop from the Basement Khemist and People Under the Stairs (remixing J Boogie’s Dubtronic Science). The result is a disco comp with generous outreach, introducing little-known nuggets like Ted Taylor’s “Ghetto Disco” and Dante’s mid ’80s new jack swing progenitor “Freak In Me” to an audience that doesn’t get to Jay’s dances in person.