Thursday, June 22, 2006

Trax Records - The 20th Anniversary Collection Part 3

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Adonis, "No Way Back" [Vocal mix]

Frankie Knuckles, "Baby Wants To Ride"

Frankie Knuckles, "You Got The Love" [long version with Rebe Jones vocals]

Z Factor feat. Screamin' Rachael, "Fantasy"

What better way to get back to business than to pick right up where we left off. This is gonna be the final installment of this look at the legendary Chicago house label, Trax Records. I wanted to take a closer look at the birth of the scene and its music, as it's such a cool story and provokes thoughts on music and clubs today. But, most of all, I think that this post should be seen as a reaffirmation of the thoughts and ideas behind this blog, a statement of purpose if you will.

First, though, a word about the music. The songs above come off of the third disc, an unmixed one of stone-cold classics and underappreciated gems. "No Way Back" is one such classic, a notch below Marshall Jefferson's "Move Your Body," the definitive house track. It's got a huge bassline, drum machine and almost-eerie male vocals. One of my personal favorites, topped only by the second track, the filthy, explicit "Baby Wants To Ride," Frankie Knuckles' fuck song. You have to listen to this one, an immediate Pound for Pound classic. The voice kinda reminds me of Prince, the lyrics are crazy, dirty as hell at times, other parts shouting out South Africans, it's all over the place. The other two are more in the post-disco vein, classic stuff that shows just how far this label's sound stretched.

Frankie Knuckles figures prominently in these tracks and the beginnings of the Chicago house sound and scene. He was the first DJ at The Warehouse, the epicenter of house. I wanted to discuss the beginnings finally, as it was the thing that has stuck with me since reading the liner notes.

Screamin' Rachael recounts the early days: "Our new wave party at Space Place got busted, and on the night of our closing, a black kid happened to be there who said" 'The party doesn't have to end. Go down the block, Frankie Knuckles has been mixing your song down at the Warehouse.' Disco was un-cool in Chicago; remember, we had blown up those records in the ballpark. When I wanted black bands at the Space Place, skinheads picketed. Suddenly I walked into a different scene, very seperate from my own, but once I heard and saw the crowd, it was an epiphany." As Brian Chin writes in the liner notes, "It [house music] was the alliance of punk/new wave influences with every variety of hardcore dance that created this off-the-wall fusion. Bare-boned, stripped-down, and raw""suggesting the far-flung influences of everyone from Prince to Madonna, Bobby Orlando, Arthur Baker and Newcleus."

I think that house music (and dance music) in general has lost this. Go to any club today and it's as homogenous and closed a scene as possible. I also think that music today has lost this openness to all people and all sounds. For real, can you think of the last time you were out in a mixed crowd of blacks and whites, gays and straights, hipsters and thugs and preppies and yuppies? Hell, the place that should have the most inclusive nightlife, New York City, might be the worst offender of all, with 2o places for each scene with little mixing. Besides The Rub in Brooklyn, I'm at a loss for a party that appeals across so many groups.

There's just something so quintissentailly urban about this story, throwing a party in an abandoned warehouse, allowing everyone and anyone in to have fun, mixing people and scenes. I'm not really trying to go anywhere specific with this, I just worry that we have lost this openness and willingness to experiment today. I fear that cities maybe gaining people, but that these people don't have an urban mindset. I worry that music suffers from the same closemindedness, stuck with influences from 20 years ago, acting like it's a revolutionary step to find a new influence from the past. I mean, can you imagine this sort of scene and music developing today? Is it still possible? Am I being too nostalgic or blind to the present?

I am going to go more into this in the near future, as I plan to stay with the late 70s/early 80s music scene- no wave, the downtown shit, disco-not-disco, more house, electro, early hip hop, hip house. I will also try to look at the present and what's going down that reflects the openness that I value so much. Please shout and let me know what you think about all of this and what you think of today, what's good and what's bad.


Dan said...

Been enjoying this series, cheers!

You may have already seen but if not go to and check the Ron Hardy mixes, sound quality isn't always great but some of the tunes are amazing... (the Latin Rascals mixes are also woth a look)

Sinro said...

Glad to know Chicago house has reached out to more than in my city.