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.
I’ve used up all the adjectives like “chilled-out” and “trippy” on the previoustwo 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.
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.
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.
I first heard this at the Lyceum soul nights I used to go to. I think Steve Walsh played it, and it was one of those very rare moments when a record literally makes you stop and think “What the fuck is this?” because I wasn’t sure what the hell I was hearing — some guys rapping/chanting over an electronic beat (Kraftwerk it turned out) — but whatever it was it sounded brilliant.
It was also the first time I saw anyone body-popping as there were two kids dancing near me like herky-jerky robots (this was before Jeffrey Daniels appeared on TOTP). When it was over I asked one of them what the record was called and he said “Planet something”, so the next day I went to my local Our Price and asked if they had some funky electronic record called “Planet something” and the man handed me the 12″ of “Planet Rock” — which I still have and it still sounds bloody amazing today.
The differences between the scenes in the North (thumping beats, practical clothes) and the South (slick Jazz-Funk, fashionable gear) seem like cultural cliches of Hard Northerners vs Soft Southern Pooftahs but are actually mostly true in this instance.
The soul scene in the South hasn’t been written about nearly as much as the one oop North — a reversal of the usual media prejudice — but it was just as vital and more modern in outlook so it’s nice to see it given some proper respect in this movie. My earliest clubbing experiences were at the Lyceum in London in the late 70s with soul-scene legends Steve Walsh and Greg Edwards DJ-ing. The place was packed with Soul Boys (and girls) wearing t-shirts emblazoned with the name of their local posses like Streatham Funk Patrol and blowing the whistles that hung around their necks. While the clothes were important — this was the era of Pringle jumpers and Lois jeans — there was no posing going on, everyone was too busy dancing.
Here’s a Brit-Funk classic from those days featuring the amazing bass-slapping fingers of Mr. Mark King.
br> Disclosure have been getting rave reviews for their terrific debut album Settle and it’s mix of slinky electronic R&B and pumping dance beats. It’s quite the feat considering they’re two white English brothers from Reigate barely out of short trousers.
This track is a Garage/House number of the kind I used to dance to back in the days when I could make it through a whole extended 12″ single on a dancefloor without my knees and lungs begging for mercy. I believe the club kids nowadays call this sort of thing a “banger”.