Already well documented as a decade of self-serving hedonism, extravagance and outlandishness, the 1980s hasn't always been regarded as a bastion of taste. Which is a shame as it also paved the way for numerous groundbreaking excursions in music. Several of those materialised on the dance floors of clubland, where hip hop, techno, electro, acid house and rave all made the steady transition from underground sensations to mainstream phenomena.
12"/80s Club Classics is the tenth in the series of Universal's twelve-inch single compilations. Collecting thirty-three songs of varying sub-genres, each one charting the progressive states of dance music from the outset to the culmination of the decade. It is not entirely perfect but there's more than enough here to satisfy even the most casual observer while converting those inherently cynical of all things connected to the eighties.
Spread across three CDs, the first disc opens with Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five's 'The Adventures Of Grandmaster Flash On The Wheels Of Steel', which showcases its creator's unique turntable mixing skills. Fusing pieces of Blondie's 'Rapture', Chic's 'Good Times', The Incredible Bongo Band's cover of 'Apache', Queen's 'Another One Bites The Dust' and the Furious Five's 'Freedom' over the course of seven incessantly wayward minutes, it still sounds like nothing else that's been set to tape either before or since some thirty-two years after its initial release.
Moving onto Chaka Khan's cover of Prince's 'I Feel For You', a number one hit single on both sides of the Atlantic when release in 1984 and Carly Simon's 'Why', eight minutes of pristine, reggae tinged pop written by Chic's Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards, 12"/80s Club Classics sets out its mission statement from the off. Rockers Revenge and their Arthur Baker produced 1982 hit 'Walking On Sunshine' coupled with S.O.S. Band's original take on 'Just Be Good To Me' - later reinterpreted by Norman Cook as 'Dub Be Good To Me' as Beats International - are just two selected highlights from a cast of many on the opening disc.
The second CD offers up more of a mixed bunch, Alexander O'Neal's 1987 hit 'Criticize' sharing groove space with Neneh Cherry's 'Buffalo Stance' and Soul II Soul's 'Back To Life'. However, it's some of the lesser feted tracks here that rise to the fore here. One hit wonders Nu Shooz and their 1986 electro pop smash 'I Can't Wait' still sounds as breathtakingly wondrous as it did back in the day, preempting electroclash and its many spin-off genres by at least a decade-and-a-half. Joyce Sims debut single from the same year 'All And All' may have only just crept inside the UK top twenty first time around, but its lilting melody complimented by Sims' haunting vocal makes it one of the compilation's standout moments.
The third and final CD combines old skool hip hop courtesy of N.W.A.'s 'Express Yourself' and Eric B & Rakim's 'I Know You Got Soul' alongside some of house music's earliest cuts such as Steve 'Silk' Hurley's 'Jack Your Body' and 'Beat Dis' by Bomb The Bass, both of which hit the coveted number one singles slot upon release. Inner City's techno pop crossover smash from 1989 'Good Life' brings up the rear along with 'Hey Music Lover' by 'S'Express and Sydney Youngblood's 'If Only I Could', again both top ten gatecrashers from the same year. While it would be easy to wallow in nostalgia at the contents of 12"/80s Club Classics, its purpose is better served as a step-by-step history lesson towards the development of dance music. And for that reason alone, there are far worse ways to spend one's hard earned cash.
8Dom Gourlay's Score