Disc One – Put It All Together and What Do You Get
British DJs have always prided themselves on their ability to dig deeper, find tunes that have been discarded, or more likely were not previously known. The most obvious example of this is the northern soul scene, but London of the 1980s was a hot bed of discoveries. The jazz scene which had sprung up in the early part of the decade had a no boundaries attitude to where it found the records that filled its dancefloors, whilst rare groove was all about digging out old funk and soul records. When both sets of collectors came together in the early acid jazz scene, it was a vibrant collision that unearthed many classics, and gave the bands that developed from those clubs the essential DNA to create their own recordings.
Our opening disc looks at a series of the old records that were played in the clubs from those pre the invention of the phrase, through to tunes that were popularised as acid jazz became a worldwide phenomenom. The first thing that should be obvious is that there isn’t a lot of pure jazz. In fact the purists were pretty quick to complain about the ‘modifiacation’ of their scene as the Duffer Of St George wearing refugees from the 80s mod scene found a love for funky grooves from the like of Charles Earland, Clarence Wheeler & The Enforcers, or Boogaloo Joe Jones, and recognition for Jimmy Smith, whilst forcing their own sounds into the mix be it a Small Faces instrumental or the monsterous groove of the Quik.
From the suburban soul boys and the black inner city two step scene came a certain style of soul central to any night. Be it the modern soul of Sydney Joe Quails, the gospel good groove of The Voices Of East Harlem or a Chicago soul classic from Tyrone Davis. It’s worth noting that from Acid Jazz Records point of view the most important discoveries we made were Alice Clark’s inspirational ‘Don’t You Care’ and Terry Callier who Eddie Piller tracked down to license ‘I Don’t Want To See Myself (With You)’.
Funk was always important to the label and Spanky Wilson’s ‘You’ would always be in the DJ box, but something that was first championed by the scene was the use of funky rock. With this in mind Sylvester and the Hot Band or even Chicago could find themselves rubbing shoulders with the conscious jazz soul of Gil Scott-Heron or Jose Feliciano’s blissed out version of Stevie’s ‘Golden Lady’. The Isley Brothers versions of hippy rock ideals also are held with affection by anyone who heard them at the time.
Disc Two – Something Happening At The Dance
For all those who liked playing old records, or records that sounded like old record, the musical policy at Dingwalls could be a surprise. Certainly a vast majority of the records played were old, but increasingly new records were appearing that didn’t just ape old sounds, but still fitted right in. The earliest examples were probably 808 State’s ‘Pacific State’ or a slew of hip hop instrumentals that were around in 1988 and 1989. The biggest of these was Public Enemy’s Powersax Mix of ‘Fight The Power’ which had Brandford Marsalis blowing over the dense Bomb Squad produced rhythm track. It was breathtaking.
Hip hop provided more moments of joy, but if truth be told the reality was that the new records that were coming through arrived from many different genres. Sure the Dream Warriors or Young MC were hip hop, but what on earth was Galliano and his retelling of ‘Freddie’s Dead’? In fact the best records defied definition. British recordings by the likes of Ashley and Jackson or the Balistic Brothers took elements of hip hop production, dub, house music and funk and came up with something unique. The strenge hybrid of Dread Flimstone’s ‘From The Ghetto’ was a US equivelant. Swedish house genius Stonebridge cutting up Grover Washington, or a faceless sax led Italian house records by the likes of LTJ Sound System were just as welcome.
The veterans of the UK rare groove clubs came into their own at this point. They seemed to understand exactly how all the elements needed to sound on the dancefloor. The first night you heard A Man Called Adam’s ‘Earthly Powers’ or Diana Brown & Barrie K Sharpe’s ‘Masterplan’ coming out over a large system was always going to be special – and they became instant classics. The Brand New Heavies would go on to have international fame, but their early instrumentals such as ‘BNH’ – which fuelled international hit ‘Tennesse’ by Arested Development – are raw and funky, with a touch of the power of a reggae sound system about the mix.
Disc Three – How’d We Get Us Here
If acid jazz has a classic sound, it would be the tracks on disc three. Acts such as the James Taylor Quartet and the Brand New Heavies were not just successful, but because of the type of record that they made – live musicians in a studio – they influenced hundreds of others to think that they could make records too. Just because the ingredients were simple, getting to the finished product wasn’t neccesarily so. The JTQ were a phenomenal band and even at the time of ‘The Theme from Starsky and Hutch’ they could play incredibly well. By the time they added songs and a slew of great vocalists they were unbeatable. The Heavies were perhaps more influential in that our mail bag at Acid Jazz was often full of tapes from bands who sounded not like an old funk band but them. The problem was that none of them could match the songs, ‘Never Stop’ is a classic soul song.
Other acts that made it big were less easy to copy, no one for instance was going to easily match the star power of Jay Kay and the Young Disciples were blessed with the incredible voice of Carleen Anderson and the studio trickery that created their album was tough to get right. Elsewhere something like Gang Starr’s tribute to jazz history ‘Jazz Thing’ was treated as if it was personally recorded for our scene, as Guru name-checks the history of jazz over one of Premier’s most accomplished soundscapes. Whilst the Gang Starr track was actually made for Spike Lee’s film ‘Mo’ Better Blues’, it was no time at all before the scene was throwing up records of its own; Germany’s A Forest Mighty Black with ‘Fresh In My Mind’ or UFO from Japan whose ‘Loud Minority’ sampled Frank Foster. Meanwhile Brit-funk greats Icognito joined the party and crashed the charts with their take on Ronnie Laws ‘Always There’.
Disc Four – Smokers Delight
If youth culture has always been associated with drugs of various types, then it is no surprise to find out that acid jazz was a smokers scene. As much as the clubs and gigs were the main focus, back room and after hours sessions reflected a more spaced out and relaxed aspect to everyone’s lives, while Cypress Hill’s tribute to the powers of marijuana ‘I Wanna Get High’ became a scene anthem. The musical manifestation of this could be seen in bags full of dub, spaced out rock and the application of this to our own music. It can be no surprise that the Acid Jazz catalogue is full of little dubbed up surprises, it is after all the label that recorded Gregory Isaacs and that around the same time made the amazing ‘Render Your Heart’ by Dread Flimstone, reggae soul of the very highest quality.
Our final disc mixes in some amazing old sounds; Max Romeo’s ‘Chase The Devil’ will be the best known, produced by Lee Perry and sampled by the Prodigy. Delroy Wilson’s ‘Got To Get Away’, should be better known, and features an incredible dub, whilst the Roots Radics and Scientist get together at King Tubby’s to work out an incredible dub on Dawn Penn’s ‘No No No’ rhythm. Manasseh’s ‘Rassellas’ was given an early remix by Mr Scruff and is a brilliant example as to what can be done with a dance sensibility and a love of dub techniques. Mother Earth provide us with a rock/ dub fusion, and is a record that really does benefit from being heard on very big speakers.
Elsewhere we have the spacey jazz of Snowboy’s ‘Astralisation’ – a record that looked to the seventies analogue warmth of the Mizell brothers’ productions for Blue Note. Galliano return with the Andy Weatherall dub of ‘Skunk Funk’ – a track whose title could have been an alternate name for the whole scene. Paul Weller’s solo comeback was all about the track ‘Kosmos’, but a series of dubs by Brendan Lynch that appeared initially as limited edition promos were very sought after. The SX2000 was slightly overlooked in favour of the bonus beats, but is in fact a aural monument to the powers of a talented producer with a mixing desk.
2. Love The One You’re With The Isley Brothers Original Album Version 3.39 3. Lady Day & John Coltrane Gil Scott Heron Original Album Version 3.34
4. Is It Something You Got Tyrone Davis Original 7” Single Version 2.34
5. Don’t You Care Alice Clark Original Album Version 2.48
6. You Spanky Wilson Original 7” Version 2.10
7. Light My Fire Erma Franklin Original Album Version 2.39
8. Right On Clarence Wheeler & The Enforcers Original Album Version 4.39 9. Bert’s Apple Crumble The Quik Original 7” Version 2.11
12. Smokey Joe’s La La Googie Rene Original 7” Version 2.53
13. Black Whip Boogaloo Joe Jones Original Album Version 6.46
15. Expansions Lonnie Liston-Smith Original Album Version 6.05
16. Go Bang # 5 Dinosaur L Original Francois K 12” Mix 7.33
17. I’m A Man Chicago Original Album Version 7.38
18. I Can’t Dance With You Small Faces Original 7” Version 3.11
19. I Don’t Do This (To Every Girl I Meet) Sydney Joe Qualls Original Album Version 3.12
2. The Masterplan Diana Brown & Barry Sharpe Original 12” Version 7.05 3. Hot Music S.O.H.O. Original 12” Jazz Version 5.06
4. Know How Young MC Original 12” Mix 4.01
5. Don’t Scandalize Mine Sugar Bear Original 12” Version 4.13
6. The Nervous Track Nuyorican Soul Original 12” Ballsy Mix 6.28
7. Earthly Powers A Man Called Adam Original 7” Mix 4.55
8. I’m Gonna Love You Jestofunk Original MC Turbo 12” Sax Mix 4.20
9. Super Strut The Apostles Original Album Version 4.20
12. From The Ghetto Dread Flimstone Original 7” Version 4.35 13. Bonita Manana Espiritu Original 12” Mix 4.06
16. Frederick Lies Still Galliano Original 7” Version 4.59
2. Get Yourself Together Young Disciples Original 12” Mix 5.23
3. Dream Come True Brand New Heavies Original 12” Mix 3.45
4. Love Will Keep Us Together The James Taylor Quartet Original Ian Green 7” Mix 3.41 5. The New Avengers Snowboy Original 12” Mix 4.32
6. Fresh In My Mind A Forest Mighty Black Original 12” Mix 4.38
7. Oh Shit Pharcyde Original Album Version 4.29
8. Black Whip Chapter & Verse Original 12” Mix 3.59
9. Back By Dope Demand King Bee Original 12” Mix 3.35
12. Too Young To Die Jamiroquai Original Album Version 6.03
13. Apple Green Mother Earth Original Album Version 4.24
15. Beads Things & Flowers Humble Souls Original 12” Mix 4.05 16. The Ladder One Creed Original Album Version 5.03
17. Funky Jam Primal Scream Original 12” Mix 5.25
2. Non Corporealness Mother Earth Original Album Version 6.04 3. Rassellas Mr Scruff V Manasseh Original Album Version 5.55 4. Movements In Dub (Roots) Roots Radics meets the Scientist
5. Render Your Heart Dread Flimstone Original 12” Mix 5.02
6. Chase The Devil Max Romeo Original 7” Version 3.27
7. You Never Get Away Delroy Wilson Original 12” Dub Mix 7.22
8. Leaders & Believers Emperors New Clothes Original UNKLE Album Mix 5.14 9. Astralisation Snowboy Original 12” Mix 6.10
12. Galactica Rush Jhelisa Original 12” Instrumental Mix 6.01 13. Nothing Sandals Original 12” Dub Version 8.02
Conceived & Compiled With Love By Eddie Piller & Dean Rudland