03 October 2007

EARLY HOUSE COMPS

Of course it would be far more impressive to showcase a bunch of original 12" imports, but I have hardly any. As an impoverished teenager in the late eighties with a busy social life and a clapped-out Ford Cortina to run, it made good financial sense to invest in the myriad deluge of compilations produced during that initial rush of House-mania (87-88). For an interested observer, rather than a committed scenster, they offered a good navigational aid through the mysterious and exciting world of Chicago House, even though the quality of mastering and material could be a bit sketchy (mind you, some of those imports were a bit rough on the manufacturing side too!). Still, I'd take these contemporaneous collections over any recent retrospectives any day. There's no revisionism or sense of reverence - you get a more truthful account of what was happening in the UK marketplace at that time, the good and the bad. House was Big Business and for every great collection there was a cheap, exploitative alternative, with both major labels and rogue independents rushing to make a few bucks from this new dance craze. You can't beat those sleeve designs for a pungent visual evocation of the era, either. Here's a few examples...

THE HOUSE SOUND OF CHICAGO Volume 2 (TRAX/FFRR 2xLP, 1987)
Starting with one from the original, cream of the crop series. I think this was the first one I ever bought, offering extraordinary value for money with it's an impeccable selection from the Trax catalogue spread over two platters - Mr. Fingers' "Washing Machine" and "Can You Feel It" (thankfully in its original pure instrumental form), Adonis' "No Way Back", Marshall Jefferson's "Move Your Body" etc etc...rendering every other collection on display here second rate by comparison. Not forgetting such gems as Virgo's "R U Hot Enough", which is a really special deep, soulful cut. Sleeve notes by NME's Stuart Cosgrove too!


THE HOUSE SOUND OF CHICAGO Volume 2 (D.J. International LP, 1987)
Here's another collection with exactly the same title and a suspiciously similar sleeve design to the above, except this is D.J.International's version of the "House Sound..." series. I'm sure a few punters must've been confused by such flagrant plagiarism, but still this is a solid selection of vocal-based House anthems, featuring the talents of Loleatta Holloway, Daryl Pandy and Chip E. among others.


JACKMASTER Volume 1 (Westside 2xLP, 1987)
At this time the phrase 'Jack Trax' was almost as widespread as 'House' as a term for the Chicago sound. This is one of many collections to feature 'Jack' in the title and it's got a fair few gems hidden away. Volume 2's pretty good too. Reading Morgan Khan's sleeve notes you really get a sense of community, as the nation's youth embraced this new sound: "I dedicate this album to the House posses in Birmingham, Bristol, Hull, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Sheffield, and all of Scotland...long live the beat". Amen, brother.


ROB OLSON'S CHICAGO JACK BEAT (Rhythm King/Mute LP, 1986)
This is actually the oldest example on display here, from '86, although I came across it much later. I have no idea who Rob Olson was, other than his 'Executive Producer' credit, and the sleeve doesn't have much to say about this selection of second division and nearly all forgotten producers. But it's quite listenable.


JACK TRAX - The Second Album (Indigo LP, 1987)
Another no-nonsense collection of undistinguished, long-forgotten trax, including a nice Frankie Knuckles number. But Thomas Davis' "Don't Hold Back" is weirdly lo-fi, like it was made in a bedroom and then dubbed onto cassette about twenty times. Mad tune, though!


HOUSE TRAX 2 (Streetsounds/Westside LP, 1988)
Another from Morgan Kahn's Westside empire. The ones that really leap out are those Todd Terry productions - Black Riot's "A Day In The Life Of" especially, with that huge riff that sends an instant reflexive spasm of pleasure through the cortex of anyone of a certain age. 'Proto-Rave', I'd say. Again, Kahn's impassioned sleeve notes give some sense of the momentum of change, as he describes being "overwhelmed with demo tapes from bands and artists from all over (the UK)". In an age before everyone was connected via the internet, Kahn was using the record sleeve medium to communicate and inspire a groundswell of pro-activity; his sermons read almost like blog posts.


HOUSE HITS (Needle Records 2xLP, 1988)
The 'As Seen On TV' slogan in the top right corner gives an indication of how omnipresent House had become in the UK mainstream. This is basically a cash-in collection, but actually pretty good, with a solid selection of top-drawer hits like "This Brutal House", "Jack The Groove", "House Nation", "Rok Da House" (featuring The Cookie Crew) and, er, Bomb The Bass' "Beat Dis", which just shows how vague the lines between 'pure' House and more sampledelic hip-house could be for the average British punter back then. They didn't need fucking micro-genres back in them days! Side 4 is a 'House Megamix' - remember those things? Nice gatefold packaging, with 'History Of House' sleeve notes by Blues & Soul's Malu Halasa for the uninitiated.


HOUSE HALLUCINATES - PUMP UP LONDON Volume One (Breakout/A&M 2xLP, 1988)
Of course, by 1988 'Jack Trax' were already old news - it was all about the Acid sound now. Such was the media furor over of those Ecstacy-feuled illegal raves that even my grandad had heard of Acid House. But I've yet to come across a contemporaneous compilation that truly represents the best, most lysergic, of those early Acid tunes. This one comes closest - at least it features genuine Chicago artists and includes Phuture's original full-length "Acid Tracks". Not sure about the sleeve design though, especially the migraine-inducing gatefold spread.

ACID HOUSE Volume 1 (BPM LP, 1988)



ACID BEATS 1 (Warrior LP, 1988)
The downside of the Acid explosion was the wave of cheap, nasty cash-in compilations, on tiny labels, produced by UK copyists with only the vaguest notion of what they were doing. The above two examples are at least sort-of legitimatised by being overseen by Tony 'Moody Boys' Thorpe, one of the early pioneers of the UK scene. All the tracks on these records are by artists you've never heard of, in fact I wouldn't be surprised if they were all knocked-out by Thorpe himself for a quick buck (one track at least is credited to The Moody Boys). There's some amusing stuff, like "Acid Bitch" with it's put-on Americanised twang, trying sound all erotic like Jamie Principal on "Baby Wants To Ride", but just ending up sounding awkward, gangly and a little bit seedy. I like the 'liquid dope' lyrics, and it's a fairly authentic sounding backing track, but compare this with that 'Newbuild' material that Gerald Simpson was doing with 808 State in Manchester at the same time and there's really no comparison.


URBAN ACID (GRC/Polydor LP, 1988)
On a similar tip to the above, but this one features early productions by Pozitiv Noise aka Martin Freeland, who was responsible for many releases under various guises over the following years. It's quite a polished collection...perhaps too polished, lacking the enforced simplicity of the impoverished Chicago sound. I don't think he was using the right tools - there's that bland sheen of FM synthesis and slick studio mastering pervading the whole thing. It's too bloody professional! "Funkacidic" is fun though, featuring a big Moog-like synth solo, cocktail-jazz piano flourishes and vocoder vocals. You do at least get one slice of genuine rough Chicago 303-led acid, care of Bam Bam's "The Twighlight Zone".

16 comments:

  1. Acid Beats was great....

    Me and my 'band' were on Warrior's "House beats" Vol. 1 - think I might still have a copy of it floating around here somewhere...

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  2. I notice 'House Beats 1' advertised on the rear sleeve of the Acid Beats comp, but never came across it. So you were on it??!! I shall have to look out for that one then. You really should spill the beans on that episide of your life Kek...I don't recall ever reading anything about your days in a house act!

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  3. i've got this one which has some nice artwork and some nice tracks to go with it:

    http://www.discogs.com/release/39662

    but i picked it up just recently, unplayed in pittsburgh for $5. strange.

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  4. that looks like a good one! wish i had it. as you say, its strange that a Uk comp like that turns up in the States...i assumed there wasn't a market for such things over there...

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  5. oh mannnn amazing, im on trying to find as many 12" singles from this era as possible at the moment especially from the ghetto side of trax

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  6. There were some singles too, I seem to remember, all around '88/'89 - pretty crap, mostly, but it was cool to be making Acid House and early Techno in yeovil and Ilminster...We flirted with New Beat too...

    "You really should spill the beans on that episode of your life Kek...I don't recall ever reading anything about your days in a house act!"

    Ah, well, didn't want to peak too early with the blog LOL! I will write about it some time and post some of our cringey efforts - still, was a good laugh at the time...

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  7. You must've been one of those groups I was accusing of being "UK copyists with only the vaguest notion of what they were doing". Sorry about that. Heh..

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  8. "UK copyists with only the vaguest notion of what they were doing"

    LOL! Yep, that's exactly what we were...

    I was buying all the Chicago stuff and the UK rip-offs, then I started hearing rumours of a sort of psychedlic variant of House that was kicking off over there and that people were calling it Acid. I heard about Phuture and Mr. Finger's "Washing Machine" and a group called The It...(remember this was pre-Internet and I lived in deepest South Somerset, so import records were hard to get hold of, even if you went on a shopping trip to London, what shop would you go to?? - remember, london was still in the grips of Rare Groove fever, The Wag Club, Hip-Hop, etc - House didn't catch on very quickly in london in the mid-80s...and this was pre-Shroom, Spectrum, etc)...yeah, I just loved the idea of this Acid music, whatever it was...it wasn't until I started hearing some of the actual tracks on some of the comps you've posted above that me and my friends went: 'oh, so that's what it actually sounds like...' LOL! - we were making wonky. wrong-sounding House records - Chicago-influenced and commercial stuff with 'weird' samples in them....didn't have a 303 so we used a 101 and an OsCar to do modulations and stuff...had to record it all on my old trusty Teac 4-track....all v. amateurish,,,but a lot of fun...we got signed by a couple of small labels and played live and got to do some stuff in local studios and studios in London, but it was always the best fun when we did stuff over the old video shop in Ilminster...

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  9. I think i bought all those on first release also...

    ...that funkacidic one, was that a tune called 'hydrochloric' ???

    loved that tune to bits and haven't heard it for 15 yrs or so as an ex good friend of mine borrowed most of my records without asking and sold them...

    ...if you have it could you please up it for download

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  10. i think hydrochloric was on another comp called 'Urban House'. i don't think i have that one, but if i come across it i'll let you know....

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  11. sweet...

    ...BTW I'm thinking of doing a bootleg t-shirt run of a couple of those house album covers

    If i do i'll hook you up as a swap yeah ???

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  12. dominic11:44 PM

    nice post!!

    sometime in past few years i picked up this UK comp at A-1 records in New York = "house factor" -- http://www.discogs.com/release/80956 -- i especially like "witch trials" by zeco, not at all like anything a chicago producer would have made, but quite good

    and i had the "house hallucinates" on cassette, which i bought in st louis way back in 1990

    also had "Jive Presents Acid House," which came out in 89, but ended up trading with a friend for something else -- http://www.discogs.com/release/3965 -- lots of cheesy, lightweight UK product on this, but also "beyond the dance" by derrick may

    last, i had this one -- "North: Sound of the Dance Underground" -- http://www.discogs.com/release/45007 -- subpar save for "carino" and "voodoo ray" -- basically all mike pickering productions, for the most part -- and i ended up giving this to a friend of mine from manchester

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  13. tacotom4:34 AM

    TacoTom
    I grew up in Milwaukee just noth of Chicago. In the mid to late 80's. We hit all the great clubs in Chi-town like Medusa's and the Shelter. I used to have all the albums listed but some I lost or people never returned them. When I traveled to London in 1988 Acid House was everywhere. My favorite club was the Wag. I noticed the last listing of Urban Acid, I can't find it anymore. Can someone please give me some info on how to get this album again?

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  14. Whoddawhadda10:16 PM

    Every time I click on the imgaes, it downloads sesame street. Where are they?

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  15. Anonymous3:10 AM

    CHICAGO HOUSE Sound forever !!! (douzi28.05.70 -

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  16. Anonymous3:46 PM

    GREAT MUSIC. ¿can i download it?

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