A CERTAIN RATIO: EARLY
Soul Jazz SJR CD60 2002
Since when were ACR cool? Two answers, I suppose - always (hmmm. not quite) or beginning sometime maybe about a year ago as the disco/not disco no-wave electroclash revival brought back dance music from the nether regions of the late seventies. (Hello ESG, Liquid/Liquid, Slits, Cabaret Voltaire, This Heat......)
Not exactly fair to A Certain Ratio, perhaps the most misunderstood of the Factory Records bands that followed Joy Division. Sadly lumped with stablemates Crispy Ambulance and Section 25 as JD clones, ACR are better understood (like fellow musical miscreants 23 Skidoo) as the vanguard of a stripped down urban post-funk. This comp is an ideal re-introduction to the band, concentrating primarily on the early singles, ignoring most of their post-'82 output (which in all honesty devolves into a pretty lame jazz-funk). This edge is shown to fab effect on the first singles, "Du the Du", "All Night Party" and their lean,abject cover of Banberra's "Shack Up"-pure icy sweat!! "Flight" remains one of the moodiest, darkest, and grooviest singles of the early Factory era. Also included are more abstract tracks from the early eighties - "Knife Slits Water" from their second lp 'Sextet' is one of my all-time faves - perfectly disembodied vocals suspended over a throbbing wash of funk. The last few tracks on disc one hint at the latter half of the decade, and while they actually fit in pretty well these days in Gilles Peterson-style set, are a little jazz-lite for my taste.
Better to move on to disc 2, which offers a treasure-trove of outtakes and John Peel sessions from 1979, as well as a terrific little video (from 8mm film) of ACR performing in New York, ca. 1980.
By the way, ACR were always cool! We don't often get seconds chances like this, so snap it up while you can.