Fresh, "Dum Dum Part 2"
Let's take an even deeper look at Chicago house music with this amazing 2CD compilation on Soul Jazz Records, Can You Jack?: Chicago Acid and Experimental House 1985-95. As I'm sure everyone knows, Soul Jazz is one of the most amazing labels going today, releasing older, harder to find music in wonderful, focused compilations. They have done a wonderful job archiving different scenes and genres that have come and gone in musical history, from early No Wave to Philly Soul to disco to reggae. It's not hard to imagine that I was awfully excited to see that they were putting out their look at the music coming out of Chicago in the mid 80s into the next decade.
Boy, did they live up to my expectations! Can You Jack? is fucking amazing, both as music and a history lesson. I mean, the Trax Records one was great, had a ton of music, gave me a chance to catch up on the foundation of the music through one label. Here, though, you get a longer vision of the music, the balance of having different labels and a better sense of how things developed over the course of the 10 years compiled here. It also presents the music in a new light, challenging preconceived notions and laying claim to a Chicago house that stands on its own. Perhaps most importantly for my inner geek, Soul Jazz has included amazing liner notes that profile the main artists, the music and the history.
Tim Lawrence's liner notes provide the best history I've read yet on Chicago house and its origin, arguing against the common tropes for an alternative history of the genre. Most appealing to me, he attempts to write a history from the perspective of Chicago, not New York City or Europe's take on the music. He makes a special point to highlight the influence of sounds other than disco and DJs other than Frankie Knuckles. Hell, he even relocates its epicenter from The Warehouse and Power Plant to Music Box, a straight, black club. In all of this, he helps distinguish Chicago house as a music, shedding it of the post-disco sound that dominates alot of the Trax Records aesthetic.
For real, there is so much to say about all of this that I may break it into three posts. The songs above are my favorites, not necessarily the best-known or most important. Listen for the much more futuristic, mechanical sound that dominates here. You can clearly hear the shift away from the studio-produced, live instrumentation of disco to this music created by drum machines, synths and bass. It is that shift that might be the main aesthetic of Pound for Pound. Wait, don't hold me to that, just thinking out loud. Go here and buy the album, which is as expensive as all Soul Jazz imports. Much more to come on all of this, lots of great stuff. Yeah!