TX125 Fat Albert – ‘Beat Me Till I Jack’
Fat Albert was a nom de house for producer Sidney Winters, who whispers and commands the title over mournful deep strings, basic drums and synth stabs, joined by unidentified female. For some reason, house producers got a kick out of bringing in fake British accents. The flip’s ‘Go Go’ takes it down to basic riff, drums and strategically placed keyboard-plonked vocal samples.
TX126 Santos – ‘Work Me Trax’
This is a Ron Hardy tune I didn’t know about as it’s credited to co-creator Adonis. ‘Space The Box’ is a malevolent bass-driven, snare-crashing primal blast variation on the ‘Mind Games’ groove, while ‘Beat The Knuckles’ (mixed by Frankie) messes with the cowbell and hammers the hypnotic bassline.
TX127 Mr Fingers – ‘Washing Machine’
What an EP Trax 127 was! In 1984, Larry Heard gave up life as a drummer and bought a Juno 6 synth and TR-707 drum machine. He then commenced releasing one of the most luminescent, bottomless bodies of work in house music, coming up with the idea for the gloopy vamp of ‘Washing Machine’ on his first day of dabbling. The Music Box regulars named it because that’s what they said it reminded them of. The second track was ‘Can You Feel It’, for many the ultimate warm glow ecstasy anthem with its undulating bass riff and heart-breaking strings. It never fails to stop time sounding gorgeous. The b-side’s ‘Beyond the Clouds’ was yet another track, a quintessential example of Larry’s glacial acid glide. Three major examples of Chicago house music’s uniquely alien beauty.
TX128 Sampson ‘Butch’ Moore – ‘House Beat Box’
Starting with human beat box loop and future classic house chords, the track created by Steve ‘Silk’ Hurley and studio partner Larry Sturm is topped by Butch’s ringing vocal. Wonder what happened to him…
TX129 Jungle Wonz – ‘The Jungle’
Another deep house classic, featuring whispery vocals and intoning from Harry Dennis over Marshall Jefferson’s exotic backdrop. The Jungle Mix coasts along bathed in its own hallucinogenic sheen, haunted strings and resonating riffs joined by human animal noises and mucho reverb.
TX130 Boris Badenough – ‘Hey Rocky’
One of the Trax novelty records, the Rocky in question being Bullwinkle the moose’s cartoon squirrel mate in the 60s cartoon series (maybe having a playful pop at DJ International‘s Rocky Jones), while the Boris refers to Mussorgsky‘s Boris Godunov in Russian opera. Dean ‘Farm Boy’ Anderson throws up a booming mutation of a popular early 80s synth-pop riff and Frankie remixes the flip.
TX131 Lidell Townsell – ‘Party People Jack Your Body’
The future ‘Nu Nu’ man makes his Trax debut with a well-constructed party starter boasting vocal hooks and chants over suitably synth riff-laden turbo-groove. Comes in four variations.
TX132 Robert Owens – ‘Break Down The Walls’
Where do I start on Robert? In my opinion, up there with Otis Redding as one of the greatest soul singers to come out of America in the last century. Every syllable is wracked with drama and emotion, like some immense inner tragedy is unfolding as he unleashes his gamut of sobs, wails and quavering confessionals. His Trax debut here is a plea to trample barriers of all kind, over basic acid from Larry Heard, who he joined on some of the great Fingers Inc/Mr Fingers classics, such as ‘Mystery Of Love’.
Bill Brewster tells Ashley Beedle’s story of playing the track at Clink Street in the late 80s and rumours flying that two clubbers had done just that with a screwdriver, hitting daylight the other side.
TX133 Terry Baldwin – ‘Housemaster’
Another familiar riff (sometimes mating with the Sinister one) is recast with sparse drumming, piping riffs and eerie string stabs over which Mr Baldwin announces himself as the Housemaster (although he also indulged his porn-house inclinations as the Twat Sisters and Muff Man on his Future Sound label, which put out most of his stuff).
TX135 2 House People Ft. Cynthia M – ‘Move My Body’
The 2 House People are Chip E. and Danny Wilson, mixed by Farley with vocals by none other than Cynthia M, who would make the epic ‘Love Storm’ with DJ Pierre for Strictly Rhythm in 1992. Comparatively subtle for around then, the track is built around the insidious title chant and metronomic keyboard riff. There’s also two dubs, including a master class in how to achieve groove heaven with just lo-fi drum machine and some deft micro-surgery.
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TX135 JUNGLE WONZ – ‘Time Marches On’
Marshall’s second outing as Jungle Wonz resulted in another Chicago deep house landmark, with Harry Dennis’ haunting, sometimes semi-spoken vocal swelling out of the lustrous, melancholy backdrop and its poignant refrain. Predates the Nu Groove sound due to arrive the following year. “Marshall Jefferson is probably the best house producer of all time for this period,” says Felix da Housecat and here’s further proof. The track, which comes with Dub, was licensed to Vendetta in New York and Breakout in the UK, making for Trax’s highest profile release to date.
TX136 On The House – ‘Give Me Back The Love’
Marshall again, displaying how his production was tightening up and now accommodating fully-formed songs as Curtis McClain supplies soulful vocals over Rudyard Forbes’ driving piano riffs and icy strings. Another standout.
TX137 Mr Lee – ‘I Can’t Forget’
Mr Lee’s prolific Trax career started with this bass-driven rattler laced with deep house keys and deft percussion programming, as further explored on the Dub. His vocal is softer than the rapping style he would soon adopt, bursts of singing adding to the desolate mood. He would later be in on the ground floor with R. Kelly after signing to Jive.
TX138 Mystery – ‘Mystery Girl’
One of those intriguing Trax one-offs, marking the sole appearance on the label of future hardcore producer Dane Roewade. Main focus is the semi-spoken male expounding and title intoned by suitably enigmatic female over percolating riff topped with high end electro glow-worms and ‘Planet Rock’ strings. Also comes in Club and Dub mixes.
TX139 Eric Bell – ‘Your Love’
Another one-off sees Eric pouring his heart out over dense, bass-propelled groove mixed by Dean Anderson (with Frankie Knuckles toughening up the main riff on the flip and deepening the mystery strings elements). One of the extreme Trax rarities, commanding £250 when it appears.
TX140 Mr Lee – ‘Come To House’
Mr Lee continues his roll, in cahoots with production partner Robert Smith, on a similar outing to his debut (moody club dub a bonus on the flip).
TX141 William S – ‘I’ll Never Let You Go’
Lidell Townsell collaborator William Stover sings over the kind of ethereal string sound, sparkling keyboard clusters and ecstatic piano (as emphasised on the dub with African percussion) which would characterise the deep European techno of the early 90s. Produced by Danny ‘Sweet D’ Wilson, it’s another personal fave, showing how swiftly the label’s releases were gaining their own classy sound and vision.
TX142 Phuture – ‘Acid Tracks’
The bomb that started it all, kickstarting a movement and giving it a name. The story of this monstrous near 12 minute 303 squelch juggernaut is inextricably linked with Ron Hardy as, when Earl ‘Spanky’ Smith, Herb Jackson and DJ Pierre started messing with a second-hand 303 in 1985, it was with Music Box mayhem in mind. They took a cassette of their basic track, then called ‘In Your Mind’, to the DJ, who played it four times until the crowd screamed their newly-blown brains out. Amidst the growing buzz, the track became known as ‘Ron Hardy’s Acid Tracks’ as that was the condition most of the crowd were in. Marshall Jefferson slowed it from 126bpm to 120bpm so New York DJs would play it and Phuture’s ‘Acids Tracks’ was finally released in 1987. Living in New York at the time, I bought an extra copy at Vinyl Mania to place in the Chicago house bin I’d inaugurated at the record shop I worked at, complete with sign. Luckily it didn’t sell so I’ve still got that original copy, sitting over there.
The flip’s demonically lysergic ‘Phuture Jacks’ and chilling anti-drug snarl ‘Your Only Friend’ are also here. “This is cocaine speaking…”
TX144 [Doesn’t seem to be a 143] Dalis – ‘Rock Steady’
Feisty electro-house cover of the Aretha Franklin tune, produced by Derek Brand and Rick Barnes from the Nicolas Tremulis Band, with help from Dean Anderson. Nice sax-plastered dub too.
TX145 Kevin Irving – ‘Children Of The Night’
Former member of Californian R&B outfit Club Nouveau sends out dramatic 80s pop-flavoured vocals over sublime mix of piano, strings and bison flatulence bass action. Written by Dwayne ‘Willie Wonka’ Grant with dynamic Dub mixed by Knuckles. Irresistible.
TX146 Two Of A Kind ft. James Earl – ‘Somewhere In West Hell’
Above all, it’s brilliant to be able to hear this corker from Lidell Townsell and William Stover on something other than my dodgy old twelve which, after over 25 years, now has a nest of country voles ensconced in the traditional Trax detritus. Apart from some sonorous chanting along the ‘we refuse to die’ lines and eerie keys, this is little more than speeded up P-Funk bassline and sparse drums but still cooks up a deliciously ominous atmosphere.
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