Monday, 26 May 2008

Modern Classics: #3. Street Sounds – Electro 1

The Street Sounds Electro series is a modern classic that has had huge effect on all sorts of music since its release in 1983, the year I was born. The tunes on Electro 1 may not be the best in the whole series but until I can get my hands on the Street Sounds Electro: The Ultimate Boxed Set, which has all twenty two volumes on two mp3 CD’s and one DVD featuring videos from the time, I will just have to stick with my trusty old 12” of Electro 1. I got this for a bargain price of about £1 in a record bin in some long lost shop, but records in this series can be so hard to track down and to get them all would be an absolute mission.

As it says on the sleeve, ‘Electro is aural sex’ and, ‘As seen on TV’ it has all the trappings of a classic dance collection. This is also the specially mixed full length versions and runs like a DJ mix of electro classics now, but at the time it was rare to hear such amazing sounds all in one place. I believe some one who imported and exported records and obviously liked what they heard put the Street Sounds series together. Lets drop the needle on the record baby…

With a crackle and pop side one fades in with some packman action. Slaming beats, fat bass and a vocoder voice saying, ‘I’m the packman, I eat everything I can’. This is a classic tune very much in keeping with the whole Electro series. This mixes into the absolute classic and well known Newcleus, Jam On Revenge (The Wikki Wikki Song) that surly everyone has heard at some point in their lives? I will give you a clue wikki wikki wikki, and it’s not about Wikipedia either, Newcleus where way ahead of their time with this one. The popping electronic percussion is a pure joy to hear. The main riff is just amazing on Jam On Revenge; the melody is perfect in my opinion. We get a little slap bass, pitched vocals, and electro crunches. These are pioneers using machines to make some funky ass beats and tunes to get down to. The mixing on the Street Sounds collection is damn good to we get scratches and cut’n’paste blends; they let the tunes play through too, enjoyable and unobtrusive. The next track is also an undisputed classic, The West Street Mob, Break Dancin’ Electro Boogie. What a tune this is the cut’n’paste sample technique used to full effect on the massive break from Apache by Michael Viner's Incredible Bongo Band, well their interpretation of The Shadows classic, which has been used so much in hip-hop ever since maybe as much as James Brown has. Side one ends with the lesser known yet still marvellous C-Bank, Get Wet. Maybe this is where the Electro is aural sex slogan comes from? This track has an almost R&B soul style vocal on it, not unlike something Funkadelic would have done, well with a modern twist and almost 90s feel to it. 808 or 909 clicks and thumps punctuate the tune as they do with all the others, true machine funk. Lets flip the 12”…

Crackle, pop, rock and don’t stop. Side two kicks off in old school hip-hop electro style with K-9 Cop Featuring Pretty C with Dog Talk, there is a classic flow on this track that I have heard several times on different records. Side two isn’t as full of classics as the first yet it still holds up well. Each tune you listen to you hear its legacy on later tracks in dance music, either they have been lovingly sampled or replicated. The first track reminds me of The Doggy Bounce on Flight of the Concords. G-Force Featuring Ronnie G & Captain Cee is up next and brings the funk with Feel The Force, which sounds like the theme tune to look Around You and The Soulsonic Force all at once. Project Future with the couldn’t be more electro if you tried named tune Ray-Gun-Omics mixes seamlessly from the last. More vocoders and more ace synth melodies pads all round for this future loving number. Maybe even the best use of a vocoder on the 12” well certainly up there with Newcleus. The final track on the 12” is The Return Of Capt. Rock by non-other than Captain Rock him self, he is rapping it just for you. Spooky raps and future beats combine to make for an atmospheric party rocker. Whooshes, raps and scratches bring the tune to a crescendo. So with the odd mention of space Captain rock sends us off into Electro oblivion.

The Street Sounds Electro collection managed to gather records up and make a whole scene that sporned whole movements and has had a massive influence on not just dance music today of the electronic persuasion but also your indie and rock genres too. Kruatrock and Kraftwerk where an obvious influence on these electro pioneers featured here, yet they managed to take that and run with it into new and far-flung places, encompassing hip-hop and soul, through to dance music’s younger cousin that eventually became house and techno. The playful bravado of these songs makes them true party music to get down to and forget your self in, the forward thinking nature of the music draws you in and you become part of it all. Electro may have moved on but the blueprints still sound refreshing and ahead of their time. Thank you to Herbie for his mastermind mix of the whole collection too. A mesmerizing collection and this is just number one in the series. 1983 must have been a good year. Remember kids Home Taping Is Killing Music.

Whatchu Gonna Play Now?…

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