A Certain Ratio
Soul Jazz Records
A Certain Ratio was one of the first groups to sign to the legendary Factory Records in Manchester. Whilst many people credit New Order and The Happy Mondays as the groups who brought Dance music into the sound of Manchester (later Madchester!), it is in fact ACR who were there in the beginning. Formed in 1978, the initial line-up comprised Simon Topping (vocals), Martin Moscrop (guitar and trumpet), Peter Terrell (tape loops) and Jeremy Kerr (bass). Their debut seven-inch "All Night Party" was Factory Records fifth release. Soon after this Donald Johnson joined on drums. Then followed a cassette only release "The Graveyard and The Ballroom" containing early versions of future ACR classic tracks like "Do The Du" and "Flight". After this came "Shack Up". This single originally came out in Belgium, on a new Belgium subsiduary, Factory Benelux, and consequently was only available on import. This release became an underground dance record in New York (Billboard chart position 52!). This would lead to their first gigs in New York at places like Danceteria and The Roxy. On their first gig in New York they were supported by a young Madonna !
"Shack Up" had originally been recorded by Banbarra in the US and had been a Northern Soul/Funk favourite in the UK. Unlike many bands of this period, ACR were happy to mix the two traditions of their collective Manchester upbringing (Punk and Northern Soul). "Shack Up" manages to be one of Punk's funkiest ever products dancefloor material, sly humour, and Northern post-industrial alienation all in one go!
ACR were the first UK band after Punk to record in America. This signified a shift in focus of many UK bands as they started to look towards American music and culture for inspiration. The album "To Each" was recorded in New Jersey in 1980. Produced by Martin Hannett, the sound was a mix of urban US Funk/Dance music rhythms with a cold, isolated Northern sound that made it sound unique. It was here that ACR came into closer contact with their influences. After completing the LP they invited New York group ESG (who they had recently played with) to use their remaining free studio time to record some material. This resulted in the first ESG release, which came out on Factory in the UK and 99 Records in the US. These tracks were the revolutionary "Moody", "UFO" and "You're No Good". It was while in New York that ACR first came across new musical styles. ACR first heard Nu Yorican Latin percussion Street music in Central Park. The following day ACR brought Bongos, Whistles, Congas and a Cuica and didn't look back! By the time of their next album "Sextet", ACR had all the ingredients of their sound in place. "Gum", "Knife Slits Water" "Skipscada" are from this album. At this time ACR would end their live sets with a ten-minute percussion workout (that would become Si Firmo O Grido) and had also taken to wearing Brazilian Football gear on stage! By the time their next album "I'd like To See You Again" was released, Factory Records had in a sense come round to ACR's musical philosophy. Rather than ACR falling in line with Factory's grey-trenchcoat set, the opposite was true. The front cover of "I'd Like To See You Again" showed the band standing in Factory's new pride and joy, the Hacienda night-club. Factory was re-inventing itself as purveyors of Dance culture, with Joy Division changed into the more dance-orientated New Order (after the death of singer Ian Curtis) and The Happy Mondays, Madchester and rave culture still to come. At this time ACR were still moving into new areas such as the arch Disco/Funk of tracks like "Touch". Shortly after this Simon Topping decided to leave the group to study Congas in New York. Tony Quigley was brought in on Saxophone and Andy Connell on keyboards. Tony was also a member of Manchester Jazz/Funk group Kalima, and this led to many ACR members also moonlighting in Kalima. Many new Manchester dance bands sprang up at this time. Simon Topping went on to form T-Coy with Mike Pickering who would later find fame in M-People. Andy Connell would also later find worldwide success with his pop group Swing Out Sister! At this period the once mighty Factory Records was beginning to fall apart. After ACR recording one more record for Factory (Force), Factory closed under the weight of crippling costs from The Hacienda and New Order and Happy Mondays recording costs (The Mondays ran up a bill of a quarter of a million pounds in the Bahamas!). This CD covers this period of their career (from 1978-1985). At this point ACR entered the next phase of their career, signing to a major (A&M) to try and find some of the mainstream success that many of their imitators would achieve. But ACR were always too unique and musically ahead of their time to fit into the mainstream and it was not to be. ACR would leave A&M two years later. Hopefully this CD is a testament to one of the most influential groups that the UK has ever produced in the last 25 years!