Thursday, 17 October 2013

REVIEW: Various Artists - '12"/80's Club Classics' (Universal Records)

'12"/80's Club Classics' is the tenth instalment in the 12"/80's series, and puts together a collection of full length and extended versions of some of the songs that set the era's dancefloors on fire. Spanning 3 discs and on sale for the same price as a single CD, it's an eclectic mixture, visiting different genres and recalling the various scenes that emerged from a variety of places. 
Highlights from the early 80's include Grandmaster Flash's seminal 'Adventures Of Grandmaster Flash On The Wheels Of Steel', which still stands as probably the greatest "megamix" of all time, and was undoubtedly a pioneering piece of work that introduced a new type of craft into the musical mainstream. We are treated to groovy elegance of Carly Simon's Chic-penned 'Why', the delicious drum sounds on Bohannon's slightly Funkadelic-esque disco stomper 'Let's Start To Dance', and the irresistible Kurtis Blow classic 'The Breaks', one of early hip hop's true masterpieces.  

Many of these are also great pop songs, for example David Joseph's sleek electro funk floorfiller 'You Can't Hide Your Love From Me', the laid back groove of 'I Can't Wait' by Nu Shooz, Mantronix's infectious 'Got To Have Your Love', Soul II Soul's classy 'Back To Life', and with vibes that predated acid house by a number of years, 'Walking On Sunshine' by Rocker's Revenge. Aside from its piano, The S.O.S Band's 'Just Be Good To Me' genuinely sounds like it could have been made over the last few years, and ironically it's dated a lot less than the Beats International cover from the 1990's.

The middle part of the 80's is a pretty mixed bag in terms of the quality represented here: Skipworth And Turner's 'Thinking About Your Love' is a fine Stevie Wonder impression, Joyce Simms' 'All In All' is built from superb electro percussion and lovely analogue synth, while dated inclusions from Alexander O'Neal and Steve Arrington don't fare so well, neither do weak selections from Rochelle and Thelma Houston

Timeless hip hop cuts from N.W.A (the effortlessly magnificent 'Express Yourself') and the superb Eric B And Rakim (the Jackson 5-sampling 'I Know You Got Soul') borrowed elements from other records to help create classic works of their own, and sound utterly vital on this collection. Continuing the visionary use of sampling were the likes of Bomb The Bass, whose cut-and-paste puzzle of sounds and grooves 'Beat Dis' is featured on CD 3, which is undoubtedly the most essential of the three discs here. 

There are Chicago anthems including the relentless, thumping 'Love Can't Turn Around' by Farl
ey "Jackmaster" Funk, Steve 'Silk' Hurley's insistent 'Jack Your Body' (featuring some fantastic 808 drum machine sounds), and other house floorfillers like Magic Juan's mix of Inner City's unforgettable 'Good Life' and Marshall Jefferson's self explanatory 'House Music Anthem'. Towards the end of the decade we find an all too brief selection of tracks that soundtracked nights at the Hacienda, but considering the impact that acid house had during the late 80's, there's not very much evidence of it here, although the Spatial Expansion remix of S'Express's 'Hey Music Lover' closes the 3rd disc nicely. Overall the 3 disc set does cover a lot of styles and puts together an evolving picture of dancefloor trends in the 80's, however a few choices (particularly on disc 2) could have easily been substituted for stronger and more important tracks, and too much attention is given to the electro-soul of the decade's middle part. It gets credit for choosing more than a few excellent tracks that really do need to be heard in their full glory rather than the chopped single edits usually featured on Various Artist compilations. 7/10

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