FFRR Classics 1998 David Bennun
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FFRR Classics
[The Guardian, 1998]


THEY'RE not pissing about. At least half the tracks on this three-CD set are genuine, paid-up, certificated, stamped, tested-on-beagles classics. London were one of the first major labels to clock onto the commercial possibilities of the dance explosion over ten years ago. Along with Virgin's late lamented Ten label, their FFRR imprint set the pace for signing up white label wonders, often from the States, and springing them on those members of the public whose hobbies didn't include queuing outside tiny clubs or, later, medium-sized fields. Which was most of us.
 Time hasn't been kind to everything here. Lil Louis's French Kiss, for example, which was the massive club track of its era, now sounds like the overdub for a low-budget (and disappointingly soft) porno flick. It sounded that way back then too, I suppose, but we were all too happy to notice. And Barry K Sharpe and Diana Brown's too-smooth-to-move nouveau-rare-groove hit, The Masterplan, always annoyed me for some reason. I think it was the rollneck jumpers. Still, when you consider that the same disc contains such miraculous filth as Salt'n'Pepa's Push It, still the most salacious rap track ever recorded by horny midgets, and house pioneer Jamie Principal's Baby Wants To Ride, it seems churlish to even mention it. So forget I did.
 CD1 also features fantastic garage from Stirling Void, Frankie Knuckles when he was just the right side of the schmaltz barrier, and the magnificent DSK track What Would We Do, which sounds better with each passing year. And Orbital's debut single, Chime, is here to demonstrate that their excellence was audible from the very start.
 The next CD dips only briefly with the tat that was Tinman and the uninspired Give It Up from Goodmen. Two of the greatest rave anthems, What Can You Do For Me by the then peaking Utah Saints, and the sadly short-lived Together's Hardcore Uproar, are closely followed by the brilliant and still rarely surpassed jungle prototype The Burial from Leviticus. And what happened to Sagat, who's Fuk Dat I still fondly remember as a fabulous bit of ill-tempered hip-house?
 The Brand New Heavies, once sharp, now soporific, are on here, inevitably, followed by a quartet of masterpieces: Orbital again, raising the stakes for all concerned on Belfast; Underworld's staggering debut offering Mmm Skyscraper I Love You, reduced from the 20 minute original to a mere eight; and similarly truncated versions of White Love (probably as close as music will ever come to chocolate gateau) from One Dove, a great lost band if ever there was one, and Inner City Life by Goldie, about which little more needs to be said.
 CD3 contains the most recent stuff, a lot of which was frowned upon or downright despised by the more po-faced club tastemakers. And listening back to it, you start to suspect that they had a point. CJ Bolland's Prodigy rip-off Sugar Is Sweeter, to name but one particularly irritating example, should never have been stuck on here. But then the gleefully manic I'm Alive by Stretch'n'Vern kicks in and you think, sod the lot of them, this is brilliant. So is Mory Kante's Yeke Yeke (one of the few pieces of “world” music you could say you liked without lying), All Saints' Never Ever, The Beat Goes On by the self-consciously odd The All Seeing I, and Nightcrawlers' Push The Feeling On, which contains what I suspect to be extremely dirty lyrics muffled in South Park Kenny fashion.
 Worth a few bob, I reckon, if only to annoy young people, to whom most of these tracks will be as distant as Cab Calloway.

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