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Early: A Definitive Anthology Of ACR Recordings From 1978-85

Certain Ratio Audio CD
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
Price: £43.78
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Product details

  • Audio CD (30 Jun 2008)
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Label: Soul Jazz
  • ASIN: B0000631RR
  • Other Editions: Vinyl
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 60,399 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Disc: 1
1. Do The Du
2. Flight
3. Waterline
4. Shack Up
5. The Fox
6. Blown Away
7. Gum
8. Life’s A Scream
9. Skipscada
10. Knife Slits Water
See all 13 tracks on this disc
Disc: 2
1. All Night Party (original 7”)
2. Faceless (from Graveyard and Ballroom)
3. Do the Du (John Peel session)
4. All Night Party (John Peel session)
5. Flight (John Peel session)
6. Choir (John Peel session)
7. Skipscada (John Peel session)
8. Felch (original NY mix)
9. Abracababra (12” released as Sir Horatio)
10. Tumba Rumba (7” B-Side)
See all 11 tracks on this disc

Product Description


In 1978, A Certain Ratio's idea of a new funk must have seemed like anathema to most British punks. Imagine: sublimating that righteous grumpiness, those defiant angles into a groove, of all things. But the first wave of post-punk bands, lead by ACR, proved this most unlikely of hybrids wasn't just possible, but utterly desirable. Early is compelling evidence of ACR's peculiar genius. Birthed in Manchester and signed to the nascent Factory label alongside Joy Division, they went on to become darlings of New York clubland (Madonna once supported them) and, eventually, make some rather dull records. Thankfully, this two-CD set rarely strays from the good stuff, collecting tracks from the peak 1978-85 period with plenty of obscure singles and Peel session versions to satisfy completists. For neophytes, however, much here will sound pretty startling. The likes of "Blown Away"--intense percussive jams, monkish chanting, squawks and squeaks coming from the undergrowth--are still both exciting and unnerving. A music that provokes discomfort as well as dancing, that has a jittery rather than slick momentum, remains ACR's powerful legacy. Contemporaries like 23 Skidoo and The Pop Group made some great records, not to mention American fellow travellers like ESG and Liquid Liquid. But nothing sums up the time and sound as effectively as ACR's "Shack Up": parched rhythms, jagged guitars, doom-laden vocals, and some very confusing carnival whistles. It's the point where Northern miserabilism and dancefloor culture collided, and even now it sounds fantastic.--John Mulvey

BBC Review

Soul Jazz Records seem to be spearheading a revival of interest in the arty punk funk of the late seventies and eighties. Their recent compilation In the Beginning There Was Rhythm showed off the talents of 23 Skidoo, The Pop group, Cabaret Voltaire etc. They now present us with a collection of tracks from the masters of the genre - Manchester's A Certain Ratio.

Formed in 1977 the band were, along with Joy Division, the first signings to Tony Wilson's Factory Records. (All these tracks are culled from their time with the label) On early tracks like 'Flight' you can hear the similarities. This didn't last long. While Joy division were of a more Teutonic bent, A Certain Ratio were irresistibly drawn to the Samba and funk of the Americas. Where else could a punk band with a trumpeter go?

Their first (and probably biggest) hit was a hilarious cover of Banbarra's anti-marriage classic "Shack up". It became something of a cult track in New York dance clubs and even made it into the lower reaches of the US billboard charts. While visiting New York to promote the track they saw a Samba band playing in Central Park - overcome with "latin spirit" they went out the next day and bought congas, bongos and whistles. British music would never quite be the same again.

Well...that might be a bit of an exaggeration. But on listening to these tracks you can see why house music, as the 80s progressed, found a spiritual home in Manchester (it's not for nothing that Andy Wetherall cites ACR as his favourite band). Tracks like "Knife Slits Water" kick in a way that makes you think Joey Beltram might have spent his school holidays visiting a trendy uncle in Manchester. That's not to say the band were lacking in chart topping aspirations; 'The Fox' is reminiscent of Japan and "Life's a Scream" is pure pop fun.

So if the much heralded sounds of "synth core" don't rock your boat, but you fancy a bit of nostalgia for the days before Mrs. Thatcher lost her voice, you could do a lot worse than heading down the disco (not disco) to listen to the industrial future-pop featured here. Fire Engines revival, anyone? --Matt Harvey

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
49 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Looking for A Certain Ratio? 2 April 2002
By A Customer
Format:Audio CD
Upon being shown a photo of ACR by Factory Records boss Tony Wilson, 80s style-pundit Peter York commented "My God, They look so early......", "early what?" says Wilson...."They just look Early!"
Photos of a 'Early' Ratio adorn the chunky sleeve booklet.All Military shirts, khaki shorts, whistles and Trumpets. Looks kinda cool now.
There is also one snap of Jez Kerr, with telltale signs of Tan-Tastic running down his armpit. If you've seen the Steve Coogan film '24 Hour Party People' you'll know why.
Anyway onto the music. If you don't have any ACR records, this is definitely the one to get.
Guitarist Martin Moscrop says in the sleeve notes "..we were listening to stuff like Eno and Wire at the same time as Parliament".
The Wire influence is felt most strongly on the earliest stuff. Their first two-chord alt-funk masterpiece, 'All Night Party' (here in its drumless 7" version and Peel Session version with drums) has more than enough tension and drama to fit in on Wire's classic 'Chairs Missing'. Elsewhere, 'Flight', 'Waterline', 'Choir' etc. all evoke the unsettling atmosphere of Joy Division combined with a large helping of their fascination for electro and 70s funk that drove the sound of the later ACR material.
When Tony Wilson and New Order's late, great manager Rob Gretton discovered ACR they thought they'd found the new Velvet Underground. Listening to the first version 'All Night Party' its clear why. Wison didn't 'get' the later ACR stuff... but Gretton did.
Captured here are the moments where they got it just right, by combining dark, edgy Joy Division/Wire style "New Wave" noises with their shared passion for all things Funkadelic. At this stage they really sound like no other band on earth.
Read more ›
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5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant but (slightly) incomplete 18 Aug 2010
Format:Audio CD
The previous review needs little adding, except the tracks missing for me (and worse because not album tracks) were Wild Party (which I have) and There's Only This (which I don't). Soul Jazz is a very important imprint right now.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Great at the time 18 Sep 2011
By EwanP
Format:Audio CD
Back in the early 1980's I loved all things Factory Records, among them the LPs of ACR. Unfortunately either I've changed or the music has dated. A little disappointing.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.8 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Fine Introduction To Their Best Work 5 Aug 2003
By Thomas Horan - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
It's a shame that this two-disc set is all the ACR that remains in print. Between 1978 and 1982 they recorded three unique and intriguing albums (The Graveyard and The Ballroom, To Each, and Sextet) plus a slew of fantastic singles all under the direction of vocalist Simon Topping. Topping was often unjustly maligned for sounding too much like Ian Curtis. Yet his departure brought the magic to an abrupt end, and ACR lingered on for years playing increasingly tame, insipid dance music to ever diminishing audiences.
Fortunately, this collection is largely culled from their Topping era stuff, which could best be described as a wonderfully weird amalgamation of funk, salsa, electro, krautrock, and African percussion. ACR daringly emphasized rhythm over melody with brilliantly original results.
Despite its length, "Early" isn't as cohesive or interesting as the shorter and rarer Factory compilation "The Old and The New," which covers the same time period. But there's plenty here to whet your appetite.
Since most longtime fans will already have all of the songs from disc one on CD or vinyl, it's a pity disc two isn't available separately. It's a short but fascinating collection of live broadcasts recorded for John Peel's legendary radio show with a few b-sides tacked on at the end.
Fans of Liquid Liquid, Bush Tetras, ESG, and Talking Heads will really like this.
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars History changes everything . . . 18 Jun 2002
By aliled - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Reading the (actually quite excellent) liner notes, you'd think that A Certain Ratio were on the leading lights in postpunk England, rather than the minor figures they actually were. That said, their music has dated pretty well, and their instincts about funk, dance, dub and cross-Atlantic musical hybridization were right on the money. This is a pretty generous package - 13 'hits' on one CD, and 11 obscurities on another, as well as a short film. Sound, presentation, track selection and appropriate liner note contextualization add up to a nifty set - you definitely don't need any more ACR than this, but you sort of do need at least this. If you're on the edge, Soul Jazz (same label that released this) also has a package called "In The Beginning There Was Rhythm" that features two of the tracks contained herein, as well as fine sounds from This Heat, the Slits and others...
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars All respect due 27 Aug 2004
By P. Dunkley - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Factory Records are the only label where I bought anything they produced without listening first - at least for the first few releases. A Certain Ratio were for me their star band, much though I loved Joy Division. This compilation is worth buying for their version of Shack Up. Or for Flight. Or - especially - for Knife Slits Water. I don't think there has ever been such a dangerous, compelling slice of raw funk/punk as Knife Slits Water. They became a bit more funk mainstream as they went on, but the quality was always there. A great band. Where the hell is Simon Topping now???
4.0 out of 5 stars National treasure 13 Feb 2012
By Mons - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Long derided as Factory also-rans, ACR nevertheless occupy a unique place in musical history. What other band would think about taking disco and funk and passing it through the dour post-punk Manchester filter - or was it the other way around? The results may not always be to everybody's taste - I think we can safely assume that ACR will never be inducted into the Rock n roll Hall of fame - but you have to admire the sheer gall of these five young Mancunians for ploughing their own peculiar musical furrow. While ACR never enjoyed the success of their labelmates New Order and Happy Mondays their contribution to the music is too valuable to ignore, both as a document of Thatcher's Britain in the early 80s and as music in its own right.
1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A disappointing piece that offers little beyond what one expects from the 1980s 14 Feb 2010
By mianfei - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
I was introduced to A Certain Ratio after I had gorged the childlike innocence of ESG and the spontaneous, intense post-funk of Liquid Liquid. A Certain Ratio were reissued on the same label as ESG and I had strong hopes that they would provide another angle to the post-funk sound that was a generally-overlooked but very interesting part of the underground of the 1980s.

Unfortunately, in comparison to the two great groups mentioned above, A Certain Ratio have none of the passion or charm needed to make their sound hold up and be interesting for the music listener. Instead of relying on simple, sparse bass-and-drum rhythms as ESG did or tight, densely locked grooves as Liquid Liquid did, A Certain Ratio took far too many of the worst clichés of more mainstream 1980s music. Although their music does not sound in any way like the pompous sound of commercial music of the eighties, it still does possess a synthesised sound that can best be described as dated - and at times, as on "Sounds Like Something Dirty", the band does indeed move into territory which is really at the worst end of 1980s bad taste. Even when they stya free of these influences, they never have the emotion or beauty of ESG or Liquid Liquid's spontaneity.

Another bad problem for A Certain Ratio is Simon Topping's annoying voice. He might wish to sound very much like a soul singer - far from an unknown trait among white musicians of the period - but he never pulls it up and ends up sounding like the worst kind of pop singer from the modern age. Never does his voice possess the solidity necessary to make the low pitches he uses sound at all touching or compelling. With a more deeply emotional singer the material on "Early" would definitely have potential, but with the echo-y singing it feels very annoying.

All in all, it is best to stick with ESG or Liquid Liquid of you want really good post-funk.
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