DJ International 1986. LON LP 22
House music was pretty exciting when it first appeared. The problem though was buying it – there were few “names” to follow and the record shops which stocked it were very intimidating for a geeky indie kid trailing around record shops in a cheap suit in his lunch hour. I did brave those shops from time to time asking for something I’d heard on the radio, but most of the time it was compilations like this one which made the genre accessible. This is a very early example and it includes most of the important early movers. It sounds primitive and not all the tracks work so well nearly 30 years after the event, but the best of them are superb. Steve “Silk” Hurley’s monumental Jack Your Body charted as I recall, but it’s the thumping bass line which really makes it work. Mr Fingers has appeared here before. As as for the rest, Marshall Jefferson’s contribution is a monster and more-or-less defines the genre, while JM Silk and Farley Jackmaster Funk aren’t too shabby either.
Mercury 1989. Mercury 876 231-1
Electribe 101 were a short-lived project championed by Peel, as was so much on this blog, but which folded due to an unjust lack of commercial success and stupid arguments with their label.
They were, in theory a house music band, composed of 4 electronics geeks from Birmingham and a rather wonderful but improbably named German singer; Billie Ray Martin. The result was a slick but soulful sound which sounded rather incongruous when Peel played it, but he was spot on about how good they were.
Billie Ray Martin, as befits someone with such a great voice has had a long and interesting career since, but I’m not at all certain what happened top the rest of the band. By an odd co-incidence this track was written by Larry Heard, aka Mr Fingers.
Desire Records 1988. WANTX 6
Fingers Inc, Mr Fingers or any number of other aliases involving Fingers was a nom de groove of Larry Heard, house music pioneer. This is the best known version of his best known track; an absolute classic slab of deep house. Heard himself didn’t approve of this version because he didn’t like sampling without permission – but it didn’t stop it becoming huge. This track though goes beyond sampling. It takes Heard’s original track with it’s monster bassline and superimposes a spoken word piece by Chuck Roberts where he’s talking about the significance of house music in an almost biblical way. The combination is much more than the sum of its parts. What works less well are the samples from a live Jacksons album, but they’re no more than occasional embellishments.
The B side is a bit odd. Chuck Roberts’ words stripped of backing just sound absurd. Better to ignore the words and concentrate on the mood. When Chuck stops talking and the music kicks in it works rather better but doesn’t bear much relation to the A side.
I’ve got quite a few singles on this label and I’m a particular fan of the covers. It’s not just the design, which to me is an icon of late 80s house music, it’s because of how they’re made. It’s an old record cover turned inside out and re-glued. I guess it was done to save cash, but printing on the wrong side of the card gives them a weird matt finish which works really well with the art work.