April 2nd, 2014
I had already planned to post this record in the next week or so as part of my I Have Twelve Inches series, but now, sadly, it will have to do as a tribute to the great Frankie Knuckles.
Of all the genres, subgenres, and microgenres of dance music over the years the classic Chicago House sound has been my favourite from the moment I first heard the massive pounding beat of “Love Can’t Turn Around” in 1986. Give me a big piano riff and drum machines over a 4/4 beat with soulful vocals and I’m in Dance Music Heaven. Frankie Knuckles practically invented that sound which not only revolutionized the club scene — giving us superstar DJs and Raves — but was also a huge influence on mainstream pop music.
Club music was changing and evolving so quickly back in the late 80s-early 90s that it could he hard keeping up with who was doing what or even know the names of records you’d been dancing to, but if I saw Frankie Knuckles name on a label, either as producer or remixer, I’d buy it.
“Tears” from 1989 is my pick for his best record. A slow-burning, hypnotic number, with a gliding sensual beat and an intensely soulful vocal by Robert Owens. Just sublime, and a contender for greatest House record ever made IMHO.
Download: Tears (Classic Vocal Mix) – Frankie Knuckles Presents Satoshi Tomiie (mp3)
November 6th, 2013
I’ve used up all the adjectives like “chilled-out” and “trippy” on the previous two records plucked from the 12″ single box but they could apply to this one as well. “Talking With Myself” was originally released in 1988 and this Frankie Knuckles remix from 1990 adds a Deep House undertow to the sublime electronic soul of the original.
Like the Soul Family Sensation record posted previously this was remixed and re-released a few times in an attempt to get it in the charts though, unlike SFS, it did became a minor hit. Electribe 101 didn’t last very long though and broke up in 1992 after just the one album.
Recorded from vinyl so excuse the snap, crackle, and pops at the beginning.
Download: Talking With Myself (Frankie Knuckles Mix) – Electribe 101 (mp3)
October 15th, 2013
Here’s another gem I dug out of the old box o’ 12″ singles. Like the Soul Family Sensation record this is from 1990 and has a trippy, blissed-out vibe but is driven by a euphoric House beat. With its ocean sound effects and the lovely spoken-word sample of actor Rod McKuen whispering “I put a seashell to my ear and it all comes back” it’s all very sunkissed and Balearic, perfect for dancing on a beach with a thousand other people on Ecstasy all waving their hands in the air.
I never went to Ibiza but did once go to an insane all-night club in a warehouse outside Alicante where everyone seemed to be out of their heads on something or other and the music was brain-meltingly loud — it was quite an intense experience that didn’t end until the next morning. Some Spanish kids I knew took me there and I don’t think they went to bed the entire weekend I spent with them. I was only in my late 20s but they made me feel old with my quaint notion of things like getting some sleep. Crazy kids, those Spaniards.
A Man Called Adam were a British duo who I think are still making music in one form or another. I used to have their debut album The Apple but couldn’t tell you if it was any good or not as I don’t have it anymore — which I guess means it probably wasn’t.
Recorded from the vinyl so forgive any imperfections, I haven’t done that for a while.
Download: Barefoot In The Head (12″ version) – A Man Called Adam (mp3)
October 2nd, 2013
The “Funky Drummer” drum break has been sampled more times than you and me have had hot dinners. Though it was more ubiquitous in hip-hop than a tracksuit and trainers its shuffling beat was also sampled to more mellow and trippy effect in records by George Michael, The Family Stand and, er, Candy Flip which were a reflection of the more chilled-out direction club music was going in post-Acid House.
My favourite such usage was on the gorgeous “I Don’t Even Know If I Should Call You Baby” by Soul Family Sensation from 1990. How such a sublime record was never a hit is beyond me but, despite several remixes (including one by Marshall Jefferson), it never made the charts and lead singer Jhelisa Anderson left the band for a solo career after their first album New Wave — which is well worth a listen too. I think maybe they were a little ahead of their time, making soulful Electronica before Trip-Hop was really a thing. Another few years and they could have been Morcheeba or something.
Download: I Don’t Even Know If I Should Call You Baby (Original 12″ version) – Soul Family Sensation (mp3)
May 28th, 2013
As a sequel to last weeks post here’s another great Neville Brody sleeve from the early 1980s, this one featuring his own illustration. Good though it is, the record is even better and I would have bought it even if the sleeve had been covered in sick.
In case you didn’t know, Defunkt were an underground jazz-funk combo from NYC whom the NME once said were “to funk as the Sex Pistols were to rock”, and this extended version of “The Razor’s Edge” from 1982 is a sweaty, funktastic, nine-minute workout for your hips.
Download: The Razor’s Edge (12″ version) – Defunkt (mp3)
November 9th, 2010
Don’t be surprised if you’ve never heard of the group Spelt Like This before, they were a male trio who released two singles back in the mid-80s neither of which troubled the charts with their presence and then they broke up never to be seen again. It wasn’t through lack of effort by their record company either, they were given a massive promo push with lots of big ads in all the music weeklies for their 1985 debut single “Contract of The Heart” which I noticed at the time because they were very “designery” with the same sophisticated and enigmatic minimalism used by Pet Shop Boys and New Order in their marketing.
The ads must have worked on me though because when I saw a copy of the 12″ going cheap in a sale at Our Price I bought it without having heard it before. Being a designer (or design student as I was at the time) makes me far more likely to buy a record (or book) if it has a good-looking sleeve and it almost physically pains me to buy one that looks ugly. Call me superficial but I’d walk a million miles for some good typography and nice paper stock and the sleeve of “Contract of The Heart” really lays on the designer effects with a trowel: yards of white space, obscure icons, trendily spaced-out lettering, a tiny duotone photo of the band on the back, and on the inner sleeve some arty photos of pubes, a man on one side and a woman on the other.
They must have spent quite a few bob on this (the 7″ had an even more expensive die-cut), and with such sophisticated packaging you might expect the record to be another “West End Girls” or “Temptation” but “Contract of The Heart” isn’t much more than half-decent Scritti-esque pop that probably should have done better that the lowly #91 it struggled to reach but doesn’t really live up to the promise of its sleeve and marketing. When I first listened to it I felt as if I had been lied to by the graphics, rather than being another Pet Shop Boys, Spelt Like This were in reality basically a boy band managed by pop svengali Tom Watkins (who was actually also managing PSB too at the time) who later gave the world Bros and East 17. So I’ve always seen this record as a 1980s “designer decade” triumph of style over substance and the belief (which was rampant back then) that trendy design could sell anything from a beer to a bank to a pop group no matter what the actual product was like.
The most interesting thing about “Contract of The Heart” now is that it’s an early Stock, Aitken and Waterman production done before they became the producers that ate the pop world and they do quite nice job with this, it’s a whole lot better and more inventive than the tinny Hi-NRG beats of their later work.
So, did it flop because the marketing was all wrong or because the record wasn’t good enough? You decide.
Download: Contract of The Heart (12″) – Spelt Like This
August 3rd, 2010
May 17th, 2010
You may have noticed that I’ve added tags to every post now, all 384 of them going back over three years which took bloody ages but was worth it as the site now has an index of sorts (which you’ll find at the bottom of the column at right) so it will be easier to find the good stuff from back when I actually posted new and interesting writing on this blog. Some of the tags, like Pauline Murray and Phwoooaaaarrr!, should be fairly obvious, but others like Nice Lungs! and The Discount of Our Winter Tents are a little more obscure but I’m sure clever people like you can figure out the theme.
Been wanting to post this track for a while and this seems as good a place as any, some blazingly funky Hip-Hop from 1989.
Download: Know How – Young MC (mp3)