Thursday, July 11, 2013

P040: Cabeza de Vaca – Classic house 2.

Another program of classic house tracks this week on Cabeza de Vaca and Scanner FM . It is perhaps a telling sign that there is still a lot of compilations appearing focusing on early house sounds and not early Detroit techno, for example. Indeed, I make a comment in the show about a line in a recent review of a Rick Wilhite single on Resident Advisor in which Will Lynch opens with the line:

“Detroit house carries a lot more weight than Detroit techno these days”

Most of the focus has been on Chicago, but that is also not to say that there hasn’t been plenty of interest in Detroit house either. There is certainly a lot of older compilations focussed on this subject, but maybe it is only a matter of time before something specific sees the light of day again?

This week we play something from Walt J who I know almost nothing out and my research before the show didn’t find anything substantial on him to present either. Another artist who remains unknown is Choo-Ables who had only this single on the Miami E-SA Records label. Another man who you might have thought would release more is DJ International boss Rocky Jones who only released two or three 12”s although he did have a hand in producing Fingers Inc.’s classic “Mysteries of love”.

One of the highlights of the show is clearly the chance to listen to Jesse Saunders “On and on” again. You can hear all the main house tropes in there somewhere, but there are times when it feels very New Wave, just like some of Jesse Saunders other pre-“On and on” tracks that came out on last year’s Still Music compilation “122 BPM: The Birth of House Music”. “Fantasy” has the same bass line and even some gnarly guitars, whereas the kick drum is more resistant to dropping into a straight 4-4 pattern.

“(I like to do it in) fast cars” is more New Wave even, sounding like a lo-fi Blondie or any other synth pop group from the early 80s. There is very little trace of house in this track relatively and is clearly the last departure point.

Marshall Jefferson’s “House music anthem” is another essential piece of the puzzle, whether its claim to be the first piano-led house track is true or not. An anthem it certainly is, with the said piano bringing a jazz sophistication to it that was and still is hard to pull off to such as level as achieved in the psychedelic coda. My old vinyl copy could use a little bit more depth to the sound, but it is getting pretty old now! There are many different versions of this track, with slightly different variations of the same including this “Move your body” version which jumps straight in with the piano and adds a lot of width to the hi hats.

There is also the epic 20 track remix project released on Ultra Records last year if you reall cant get enough.

One feature that I have wanted to explore more is also the term “jack” and where it has gone from the modern electronic music vocabulary. Early house music history is full of albums called “The house that jack built” or calls to “jack your body” like in the Marshall Jefferson track. What does it really mean and where did it go?

In this instructional dance video the teacher defines it as such (start around 2:45):

“The Jack is the way your body gets the rhythm of the music”

A second video gives almost the same definition:

“Jacking is just moving your body basically.”

The technique here is a little different, using the same knees-bent push up while rolling the body, but after a lean forward, meaning that unless you are really fast, the down beat move will be every second beat and not every beat like in the first video.

This pretty essential dance vocabulary video also has a variation “Jack-in-the-box” that seems like a variation of the jack shown in the previous videos, but with more upper body movement (Check around 2:40).

Although most people aren’t dancing like this in clubs, it is still a mystery of why it disappeared as a term. Is it something to do with its over use in early house culture? Did it lose a sexual meaning that was fundamental to its power? Perhaps it is still active in sub-cultures?

In any case a curiosity.

Parris Mitchell
The Underground feat. DJ Funk
Dance Mania / Ghetto House Classics
1994 / 2012
Jesse Saunders
On and on (Original 12" vocal mix)
Jes Say Records / Rush Hour Recordings
1984 / 2013
Frankie Knuckles featuring Jamie Principle
Baby wants to ride
Trax Records / Soul Jazz
1987 / 2005 + 2013
Rocky Jones
Choice of the underground
DJ International / Soul Jazz
1987 / 2013
Hard To Get (Bt's Massive Groove)
E-SA Records / Mule Musiq
1993 / 2013
Walt J
Love is on my side
Professional Records / Fit
1996 / 2012
Chez Damier and Stacey Pullen
Forever Monna (Mix 1)
1995 / 2011
Marshall Jefferson
Move Your Body (The House Music Anthem)
Trax Records / DJ International Records

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