ZeddCD0XX / ZeddLP0XX
Z Records are back in the funk hot-seat, but this time Joey Negro presents a snapshot of the edgier, robotic sounds of the emerging early 80s electro scene. From stone-cold classics such as Hashim’s Al Naafiysh (The Soul), Tyrone Brunson’s ‘The Smurf’ and Key-Matic’s ‘Breakin' In Space’ to revered party anthem’s such as Aleem’s ‘Release Yourself (Dub)’, Two Sisters ‘High Noon (Part 2)’ and Dwayne Omarr’s ‘This Party's Jam Packed’ to electro oddities like Paul Hardcastle’s ‘Rain Forest’ and The Packman’s ‘I’m The Packman’ we get a genuine labour of love and a timely reminder of the raw drum machine sounds that were soon to define the beginning of the house and techno scenes we have today.
As early electro pioneer and DJ Greg Wilson puts it. “During the early-mid ‘80s electro-funk became the dominant force on the UK’s black music scene. With the previous era’s jazz-funk movement running out of steam the way was clear for this new technological direction to sweep out the old and announce a new wave of dance music with a distinctive futuristic edge. The computer age was upon us and electro heralded its arrival. Electro was the EDM from way back when - the catalyst from which all subsequent forms of electronic dance music would flourish, not least house and techno. Its impact in the UK was huge, arriving via import twelves on NY labels including Streetwise, Tommy Boy, Nia and Cutting, which initially broke via specialist DJs, myself included. The music would cross over to a wider audience thanks to Morgan Khan’s seminal ‘Street Sounds Electro’ series, launched in October 1983 – the UKs first series of mixed albums. With breakdancing first exploding on the streets and in the shopping centres during the summer of ‘83, ‘Street Sounds Electro’ became the soundtrack for this burgeoning British movement – the cassette format ideal for the indispensible street crew sound source, the ghettoblaster.
Electro has, however, been far too conveniently brushed under the hip-hop carpet. Yes, it did play a crucial role in igniting hip-hop’s emergence, but it also facilitated a great leap forward for dance music in general. In the wake of disco’s enforced demise as the previous decade came to a close, New York’s recording studios were packed full of visionary producers, arrangers and remixers, including Arthur Baker, Afrika Bambaataa, John ‘Jellybean’ Benitez, Michael Jonzun, François Kevorkian, Larry Levan, Man Parrish, Shep Pettibone, John Robie, Raul A. Rodriguez, and so many more. Between them, these sonic innovators not only revolutionized black music but initiated a whole new approach to popular music in general.
As I’ve often said, the early ‘80s provides dance music’s missing link. All roads lead back to New York and the sheer diversity of records released there. Its influences lay not only with German technopop wizards Kraftwerk, the forefathers of pure electro, plus British futurist acts like the Human League and Gary Numan, but also with numerous pioneering black musicians, Miles Davis, Sly Stone, Herbie Hancock, Stevie Wonder, legendary producer Norman Whitfield and, of course, George Clinton and his P Funk brigade included. Once the next generation of black musicians finally got their hands on the available technology it was bound to lead to a musical revolution as they ripped up the rule book with their twisted funk.
Electro-funk’s legacy is vast. It seduced a generation with its drum machines, synthesizers and its sequencers, its rap, cut and scratch, its breaking and popping, its dub mixes, its bonus beats and its innovative use of samples. It was the prototype, and hip-hop, techno, house, jungle, trip-hop, drum & bass, UK garage, dubstep, grime, plus countless other dance derivatives, all owe it a deep debt of gratitude. Without electro’s direct influence on them, it’s unlikely that British dance acts such as Coldcut, 808 State, A Guy Called Gerald, Soul To Soul, Massive Attack, The Prodigy, William Orbit, Goldie, the Chemical Brothers, Underworld and Fatboy Slim would have emerged. The dance music scene here could never have exploded as it did without electro sparking the touchpaper earlier in the decade – it was the kids who were already versed in electro who were quickest out of the blocks when house and techno began to make inroads. Electro was the instigator of so much.
This is a compilation of personal favourites selected by Joey Negro, some of which I used to play myself, others which came along after my time, having stopped DJing in 1984. These were amongst the records he was buying in the run up to when he began his career in the music business, just as house was beginning to bubble and rise, leading him on, to date, a 3-decade DJ odyssey.
It features some tracks I know intimately, Legend tunes as I personally regard them – Tyrone Brunson’s jazz tinged ‘The Smurf’, Flash & The Five’s jagged ‘Scorpio’ jam, the aural assault of Two Sisters with ‘High Noon’, the Russell Brothers who released a stone cold cult-classic ‘The Party Scene’, mysteriously their only recording, and the mighty Hashim, whose ‘Al-Naafiysh (The Soul)’ was a track I introduced to The Haçienda during my 1983 residency, which was still being dropped there at the height of the rave era. All of these, as well as a few other inclusions, packed the floor at Legend and Wigan Pier, whilst tracks like the Imperial Brothers ‘We Came To Rock’, Key-Matic ‘Breakin’ In Space’, Hi-Fidelity Three ‘B Boys Breakdance’ and Aleem ‘Release Yourself’ were huge in the following phase – the type of tunes Mike Allen would be have been transmitting over the London airwaves in ‘84. There are a few curios, such as ‘Rainforest’, by the UK’s Paul Hardcastle, which merged an earlier British jazz-funk vibe to score big on the underground a year ahead of his worldwide hit ‘19’. Electro’s durability is also highlighted, via 1987’s ‘Just Give The DJ A Break’ by Dynamix II, which instigated Miami’s electro bass direction.”
People maybe associate Dave Lee (Joey Negro) with disco, funk and boogie more than electro but the truth is, he is a music fan first and foremost. Back in 82/83/84 Dave was fanatical about this futuristic new style of dance music called electro. Although at the time this new sound remained very divisive within the soul and jazz-funk scenes, he liked both Lonnie Liston Smith and Man Parrish. As Dave recalls: “I can see why the soul boys hated electro as it lacked the soaring vocals, intricate orchestration and polished organic production of jazz funk. Unfortunately for the purists by the mid 80s all dance music had become more electronic with the likes of Roland introducing powerful drum machines and affordable synthesizers, not to mention the onset of early samplers. Many straight up soul boogie records got electro-fied, complete with rapped sections and scratching - not to say it was an improvement, just stating a fact. Though whilst the soul dance acts stuck with the traditional designer evening attire, the imagery that went with electro was a little more fun, avant-garde and Sci Fi influenced, before things got more macho when it mutated into hip hop. Though I do wonder if the “Planet Rock”/“Egyptian Lover” type electro would have happened had there been no Kraftwerk, tracks like “Numbers”, “Trans Europe Express” and later “Tour de France” were massively influential in the evolution of the genre.”
Anyway this isn't THE definitive electro album, it's some of Joey Negro’s favourites, plus a few lesser-known and collectable cuts. However that being said we do think it's one of the best electro comps ever released!
‘ELECTRO’ PROMO CD TRACKLIST
Hashim – Al Naafiysh (The Soul)
Aleem – Release Yourself (Dub)
Dynamix II feat. Too Tough Tee – Just Give The DJ A Break (Dub Mix)
Two Sisters – High Noon (Part 2)
Newcleus – Computer Age (Push The Button)
Tyrone Brunson – The Smurf
Midnight Star – Freak-A-Zoid
Paul Hardcastle – Rain Forest
Key-Matic – Breakin' In Space
Dwayne Omarr – This Party's Jam Packed
The Russell Brothers – The Party Scene
EXTRA TRACKS on full version
X-Ray Vision – Video Control
High Fidelity Three – B-Boys Breakdance (Instrumental)
Imperial Brothers – We Come To Rock (Club Version)
Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five – Scorpio
Kosmic Light Force – Mysterious Waves
Divine Sounds – What People Do For Money
G-Force feat. Ronnie Gee & Captain Cee – Feel The Force
The Packman – I’m The Packman
The Beat Box Boys – Give Me My Money