Sunday, 11 October 2009

1989 Soul II Soul: Back To Life

By the time 1989 rolled around, I still wasn't much of a dance music fan. I'd mellowed a bit since my hardcore days of hating the genre, but any dance music that tickled my fancy was still the exception rather than the rule and I was always sure to keep such a tickled fancy to myself.

'Back To Life' was one such exception - I don't know if it was because the almost standard rock verse-chorus-verse set up felt unthreatening to my conservative ears, or if it was due to the fact that the piped in radio station that the factory I was working in at the time seemed to play this on auto repeat, but it caught those same ears the way that the standard jack and break beat rhythms of most of the tunes that fell under the House umbrella could never hope to.

Remixed from the pure acapella vocal that Caron Wheeler provided for the version on the 'Club Classics Volume One' album, 'Back To Life' holds something of a Sly Stone vibe that always seems to bring the sun as soon as the needle hits the groove. Certainly the clipped bass on this is typical enough of House music and has enough thump to crack plaster, but Jazzy B and Nellee Hooper's sumptuous production ensures it doesn't lazily dominate the landscape or the barrelhouse piano motif that darts in between the spaces of Wheeler's gospel tinged vocal praying to the god of good times.

Live string interjections add a rare groove flavour to the pot, but there's no muddiness here - 'Back To Life''s tracks sound like they were carved out with a razor and provide a clear path for Wheeler's persistent questioning 'How ever do you want me, How ever do you need me' hook, itself responded to by a swooping violin and Greek chorus that repeats rather than providing the answer.

The answer, of course, is provided by the feet that will still pack a dancefloor as soon as this starts up - a lot of eighties dance music now sounds more chintzy and brash like cheap bling than down to earth, honest to goodness funky, but by keeping one foot in the past instead of sacrificing all to career headlong into the dead end of the supposed 'future', 'Back To Life' has kept its vitality intact.

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