It was a time of plenty: from post-disco era boogie grooves to heavy hip-hop jams, hypnotic house music beats and New Jack Swing, the 1980s was unequivocally a rich and fertile period for black urban music. This new 33-track/3-CD set provides a vivid snapshot of that period and features some of the era’s most potent club grooves, all presented in their extended 12-inch glory.
The first CD opens with the sonic revolution that was represented by Grand Master Flash & The Furious Five’s ‘The Adventures Of Grandmaster Flash On The Wheels Of Steel,’ a groundbreaking mash-up of music, turntable scratches and dialogue that utilised the groove from Chic’s ‘Good Times.’ More classic hip-hop comes courtesy of Kurtis Blow (‘The Breaks’), N.W.A. (‘Express Yourself’) and the dynamic duo that was Eric B & Rakim (‘I Know You Got Soul’). The influence of hip-hop can also be felt on Chaka Khan’s glorious chart-topping revamp of Prince’s ‘I Feel For You,’ featuring a rap from Melle Mel, Rockers Revenge’s ‘Walking On Sunshine,’ and Mantronix’s ‘Got To Have Your Love.’
Mainstream ’80s soul is represented by classic extended cuts from the late Teena Marie (‘Behind The Groove’), the S.O.S. Band (‘Just Be Good To Me’), Gwen Guthrie (her debut Island single, ‘It Should Have Been You’), Alexander O’Neal (‘Criticize’), Thelma Houston (‘You Used To Hold Me So Tight’), and Cameo (‘She’s Strange’). The ’80s was also the decade in which British R&B acts made international breakthroughs – among them were London trio, Loose Ends (their brilliant ‘Hangin’ On A String’) and the Jazzie B-led Soul II Soul (‘Back To Life’) featuring Caron Wheeler’s sensuous vocals.
The rise in computer technology and the advent of samplers, drum machines and synthesisers changed the sonic landscape of urban music in the ’80s. Reliant on the new techonology was Chicago-born house music, which made its impact felt in the latter half of the decade. Cuts by Ten City (the ‘Acieed Mix’ of ‘That’s The Way Love Is’), Farley ‘Jackmaster’ Funk (‘Love Can’t Turn Around’ featuring Daryl Pandy’s volcanic vocals), Marshall Jefferson (‘Move Your Body’), and Inner City (‘Good Life’) all reflect the impact of house as an influential new form of dance music back in the day when big drum sounds, huge shoulder pads and even bigger hair were de rigueur.
For listeners who recall (and lived in) the ’80s, this collection offers an enjoyable and nostalgic trip down memory lane – and for those that don’t, then this retrospective represents a sonic rollercoaster ride through an array of sounds and styles from what was a hugely significant time in the history of black urban music. It’s a trip worth taking.