Early: A Definitive Anthology Of ACR Recordings From 1978-85
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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
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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Top Customer Reviews
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 ›
have most of the original stuff on vinyl so nice to have a digital version.
definitely worth it for those new to ACR.