The original vote was conducted on faithfanzine in 2008 and ran through a series of knock out stages over four weeks. The fact that there’s over 200 records submitted for the original vote testifies to how many great house records there’s been released. Miles Simpson instigated the original vote and the votes were cast. You can read his blog piece on the vote below or via Beyond The Stars. We could argue all day on each records merit and i’m sure that the vote would be different if it was conducted on faith today or elsewhere.
Earlier this year, the good folk at Radio 2 ran a poll to decide the GREATEST DANCE RECORD of all time. 20 records were nominated by a panel of ‘expert’ DJs and then the masses had an opportunity to vote for the nominated record they thought was the greatest tune to ever rock the dance floor.
In the end, rather predictably, Michael Jackson’s ‘Billy Jean’ came out on top, even though it isn’t the greatest record Jacko ever made (everyone knows that was ‘Ben‘) let alone the greatest dance record of all time. Radio 2 announced it, Zoe Ball trotted out a tired anecdote about how it took the roof off rubbish Brighton big beat club, the Boutique (which isn’t a surprise seeing as it must have been welcome relief for all the dancers not to have to listen to watered down hip hop made by white students for a few minutes), and everybody went about their business.
Whilst the result didn’t cause that much of a stir, the nominations had internet forums across the land buzzing with discussions about whether they merited inclusion on the short list or not. Over on faithfanzine.com, being a house music forum, we were particularly interested in the house records that made the cut and given that house luminaries Danny Rampling, Nicky Holloway, Mike Pickering and Trevor Fung were on the nominating panel, we all expected some choice selections.
But a lot of people were not happy about all the records they picked.
Some argued Alison Limerick’s ‘Where Love Lives’ was more annoying than great or that Inner City’s ‘Big Fun’ wasn’t even the best Inner City record, let alone Kevin Saunderson production. Others felt that Rhythim Is Rhythim’s ‘Strings of Life’ was a populist choice or that it was impossible to pick one track from the body of work produced by Larry Heard. While others still, said that ‘Pump up the Volume’ and ‘The Theme from S-Express’ were just no very good records. And of course there was almost endless debate about the artists and tracks that had been omitted.
So, I decided to try and put these arguments to bed once and for all, by organising a poll to find the GREATEST HOUSE RECORD OF ALL TIME.
A few weeks later, after more than 50 pages of debate, during which almost 150 forum members nominated 226 records, we finally whittled it down to what we believe are the top 10 house records of all time and then from those, voted for the GREATEST HOUSE RECORD OF ALL TIME. Here are the results (in reverse order):
10 – Kings of Tomorrow – Finally (Distance, 2001) Bit of a funny one to start with because, if we’re honest, it shouldn’t be in the top 10. Yes, it’s a great record, yes there were some great mixes, notably on the original French double pack and then later from Danny Tenaglia, but do they make it one of the greatest of all time? Probably not. But maybe that’s a little unfair, because this is also the youngest record in the chart, and most accurate measure of the greatness of a record is how it stands the test of time. Maybe 10 years from now, if it still stands up, I’ll have to revise my opinion.
9 – X-press 2 – London Xpress (Junior Boys Own, 1993) It’s easy to forget the impact the early Xpress 2 records had at the time they came out, not just in Britain where they were understandably big club a records, but also across the Atlantic in New York. Sometimes people talk about Xpress 2 aping American house but at the time, it felt more like they took elements from the US and fused them with tougher British sounds, before exporting their new hybrid back to the States, where they ruled on the dance floor at places like the Sound Factory. In fact, Xpress 2 records were getting played there before the Sound Factory sound (Tribal, Sex mania, Wildpitch, etc) actually came into being. So were Xpress 2 influenced or did they influence? Draw your own conclusions. Oh and ‘London Xpress’ is the best record they ever made!
7 = Lil Louis – French Kiss (Diamond, 1989) Lil Louis is the frikkin’ daddy. Maybe not a lauded as Ron Hardy or Frankie Knuckles over here but in Chicago his Bismark Hotel parties are legendary. That said, he did have more individual records nominated in the poll then any other artist, so we must like him a bit! ‘French Kiss’ is slightly overplayed and not as completely out there as something like ’Video Clash’, but it is definitely a great record. It originally appeared on Louis’ own Diamond Records, before being licensed to FFRR, who despite commissioning the worst video in the history of music (wind up toys?!!) managed to take it number 2 in the British charts. Which for what is essentially a tracky underground house tune from Chicago, is amazing. And to this day, that hand clap still does me in.
7 = Rhythim is Rhythim – Nude Photo (Transmat, 1987) During the poll, I’m not sure any records gave rise to more debate then Derrick May’s, mainly because quite a lot of people thought they were techno records and shouldn’t be in the poll at all. Well Derrick himself said that the Belleville 3 were just trying to make house records in the beginning and this record is from the beginning. Maybe not as well known as ‘String of Life’ but this is perfect machine music and as raw an acid house record as you could ever hope to imagine. Even the artwork by Alan Oldham is spot on. And more than 20 years on, it still sounds like music from another planet. On the flipside of this record you will find the almost as good ‘The Dance’, so how it ended up as low at #7 in this list, I will never know!
6 – Frankie Knuckles pres. Satoshi Tomie – Tears (FFRR, 1989) I love Frankie Knuckles, I love Satoshi Tomie and I really, really love Robert Owens, who provided the vocal on this record, but I have a confession to make – I can’t stand this record. This may single me out as the equivalent of a witch in houseland, but I really can’t bear it. I’m not quite sure why, but it might have something to do with the “I’m dripping ’n’ dropping ‘n‘ dripping ’n’ dropping” vocals, which, let’s face it, are bloody dreadful. And to think this got in ahead of ‘I’ll Be Your Friend’, HAS THE WORLD GONE MAD?! This is the only record in the 10 I don’t own. In fact, I even passed on a two quid copy a few weeks ago and gave the money to a Big Issue seller instead… but pretty much everyone else I know loves it though, so maybe I have got cloth ears after all. Oh and there are some questions about how much Knuckles had to do with the production, but more of that later.
5 – Ten City – That’s The Way Love Is (Atlantic, 1989) Now this is a house record. The vocal talents of Byron Stingly teamed with the production talents of Marshell Jefferson, what more could you ask for? Well I tell you what more, a remix from Steve ‘Silk’ Hurley that absolutely kills it. Just the right side of tough, it’s one of those ‘go to’ records you have in your bag when all else fails, because it never does. Still getting plays all over the shop, my favourite memory of this is hearing Laurent Garnier drop it at a tiny private party in Ibiza, and the 100 hundred mainly Spanish dancers in the room going mad. That acidic bassline is the sound of 1989 to me, yet it still sounds as relevant as ever today. An awesome record.
4 – Guy Called Gerald – Voodoo Ray (Rham, 1988) This is the highest polling British produced house record in the list, and I think that’s right, because it probably is the greatest British acid house record ever. Again, this is an ever popular internet debate, but inevitably the consensus is always that Gerald Simpson’s timeless masterpiece is indeed the best house record ever produced on these isles. Like most of the other records in this list, despite being 20 years old it has stood the test of time well and sits comfortably within the context of a modern house set. Personally, it reminds me of driving around the deserted parts of south London in the early hours of a 1989 morning, in search of the rave. It seemed a fitting sound track to the lamp lit grey urban landscape of concrete council blocks, disused industrial spaces and derelict buildings that seemed to make up that part of London at the end of Thatcher‘s 80s, and few pieces of music epitomise feeling of that time more than ‘Voodoo Ray’. A bona fide house classic. And it didn’t even make the Radio 2 short list. Go figure.
3 – Jamie Principle/Frankie Knuckles – Your Love (Trax, 1987) Not a controversial entry in this list, as this one of the most recognisable house records of all time, but this record most definitely has a controversial history. Originally released by Jamie Principle on the small Chicago independent label, Persona, the basis of this track is actually appropriated from the Italo disco classic, ‘Feels Good’ by Electra. Trax records re-released it a year later, cashing in on Frankie Knuckles’ name by crediting at ‘Frankie Knuckles Presents’, although they failed to mention that it was Jamie Principle he was presenting. They also failed to credit Jamie’s vocals, although they were kind enough to give him a writing credit. By the time it hit these shores, Frankie wasn’t even presenting anymore, it was just credited as his tune, so unsurprisingly, most people know this a Knuckles production rather than one of Principle’s. Well, maybe. The truth is most people probably recognise it more readily as the backing track to Candi Staton’s ‘You Got the Love’ mash-up, that originally appeared in 1990 and has charted several times since. From the Chicago underground to the soundtrack of a million wedding receptions in a few short years! That, however, should not detract from the power of the original, which was truly astounding record – Jamie’s haunting vocals, superbly complimented by moody, atmospheric, yet uplifting melody. Truly great house music in its purist form.
2 – The Nightwriters – Let the Music Use You (Danica, 1987) Now we’re at the business end of the list and for me, this entry is the biggest bone of contention, because IT SHOULD BE NUMBER 1! Originally released on Chicago label Danica Records (named after the owner’s daughter, and home to Gallifre’s first release and Knuckles mix of Hypnotic Tango, fact fans) before being signed to Jack Trax in the UK, it’s the third Frankie Knuckles production in the top ten (possibly the only one he actually did!), and a masterpiece of understated house music. Rather than smashing you in the face with a big piano line or something, it slowly builds, hypnotically, working the cow bell, that killer bassline, the swirling synths and piano hook, all held together by the glue of Ricky Dillard’s stunning vocal performance, and then just when you think you’ve heard all you’re going to get, it rises and takes you to another euphoric level, as Ricky implores you to let “Music take control, of mind body and soul, everybody, get on your feet and use your body to the beat” literally just before the record ends. Listening to it still sends electric shivers through my body, gooseflesh, hairs standing up all over, and I’ve heard it a thousand times before. It was played at Rampling’s (non)retirement party and was the record of the night, 20 years after it’s release. It’s music you can never tire of. It’s music that made us think we could change the world. As Ricky’s sings, “this song is from my heart”, and it will always have special place in mine. House music perfection.
1 – Mr Fingers – Can You Feel It (Trax, 1986) So here we have it, the GREATEST HOUSE RECORD OF ALL TIME . Produced by Larry Heard and released on Trax under his Mr Fingers moniker in 1986, I think this was his second ever release, so a fairly decent way to get your career off the ground! The whole EP was really strong, with the other tracks being ‘Beyond the Clouds’ and the acid classic ‘Washing Machine’. ’Can You Feel It’ is a wonderfully emotive piece of music – simple yet enthralling. Much as I have deep feelings for The Nightwriters, I guess this is still a pretty worthy winner. Unfortunately, by the time a UK record company got hold of it, they decided to stick a vocal on top of it and you are probably familiar with all “In the beginning, there was Jack, Jack had a Groove, Jack gives you the key to the wriggly worm” nonsense that vocal contained. It might have seemed like a good idea at the time but unlike the backing track, it sounds horribly dated now. Minus 10 house points. And good as ‘Can You Feel It’ is, the other slight problem I have with it being at number one, is I believe Larry Heard produced better records that just aren’t as well known. ‘Distant Planet’ for a start, along with the more experimental sounds of his Gherkin Jerks releases, and pretty much all of his Alleviated output. The man is undoubtedly a genius, and I really mean IS, because he is one of the few original Chicago legends who is still making fantastic house music today, as his massive club hit from 2007/08, ‘The Sun Can’t Compare’ and his recent ‘25 Years From Alpha’ release bear testament. Going back to ‘Can You Feel It’ for a moment, as well as being our number 1, it’s also the only track from our top 10 to also feature in the Radio 2 top 10, where it reached the giddy heights of number 7, just behind… wait for it… Alison Limerick! Which kind of proves what we knew all along – Radio 2 listeners need their ears syringing.
The 12 runners-up:
– Adonis – No Way Back (Trax)
– Aztec Mystic – Knights Of The Jaguar (Underground Resistance)
– Bobby Konders – The Poem/ Nervous Acid (Nu-Groove)
– Ce Ce Rogers – Someday (Atlantic)
– Choice – Acid Eiffel (FNAC)
– Don Carlos – Alone (Calypso)
– Future Sound of London – Papua New Guinea (Jumpin’ & Pumpin’)
– Photon Inc – Generate Power (Strictly Rhythm)
– Phuture – Acid Trax (Trax)
– Robert Owens – I’ll Be Your Friend (RCA)
– Ron Trent – Altered States (Warehouse)
– Round Two – New Day (Main Street)
And 200+ honourable mentions…
51 Days-Paper Moon/808 State-Pacific State/Age Of Love-The Age Of Love/Alison Limerick -Where Love Lives/Andre Harris-I Can’t Take It/Angel Moraes-Welcome to the Factory/Angel Moraes-The Cure/Armando-Land of Confusion/Arnold Jarvis-Take Some Time Out/Arnold Jarvis & Kerri Chandler-Inspiration/Baaba Maal-Gorel/Bang the Party-Bang Bang You’re Mine/Bang the Party-Release Your Body/Basic Channel-Phlyps Trak/Beth Orton-Central Reservation (Joe Clausell mix)/Black Science Orchestra-New Jersey Deep/Black Science Orchestra-Where Were You/Blaze -Breathe/Blaze-Fantasy/Blaze-How deep Is Your Love (Shelter vocal)/Blaze-Wishing You Were Here/Braxton Holmes & Ron Trent-12 Inches of pleasure/Cajmere feat. Dajae-Brighter Days (mixes)/Carl Craig -Sandstorms/Cassio Ware -Makin’ Love/Cesaria Evora-Angola (c2 Mix)/Charles B-Lack of Love/Chez Damier-Can You Feel It/Chris Cuevez-Hip Hop (MAW Dub)/Coco Steel and Lovebomb-Feel It/Corporation of One-Real Life/Dannell Dixon-Dance Dance/Danny Tenaglia-Bottom Heavy/Davina-Don’t You Want It/Dionne-Come get My Lovin’/DJ Gregory-Attend 1/DJ Gregory-Elle/DJ Oji and Una-We Lift Our Hands In The Sanctuary/Dr Mouthquake-Love on Love/DSK-What Would We Do (Steve Silk Hurley mix)/DSK-What Would We Do (8 Minutes of Madness mix)/Dubtribe Sound System-Equitoreal/Dubtribe Soundsystem -Do It Now/Earth People-Reach Up to Mars/Elastic Reality-Cassa De X/ESP -It’s You/Fast Eddie-Let’s Go/Ferrer and Sydenham Inc-Sandcastles/Fingers Inc-Never No More Lonely/Fingers Inc-Bring Down The Walls/Fingers Inc-Mystery of Love/FPI project-Rich in Paradise/Francois K -Hypnodelic/Frankie Knuckles-Only The Strong Survive/Future Sound Of London-1 in 8/Galaxy 2 Galaxy -Hi Tech Jazz/Galaxy 2 Galaxy-Journey Of The Dragons/Global Communications-The Way The Deep/Happyhead -Digital Love Thing (MK mix)/Hardfloor-Hardtrance Acperience/Hardrive-Deep Inside/Herbert-Thinking of You/Ian Pooley-Chord Memory (daft punk mix)/Inner City-Good Life/Inner City-Pennies from Heaven/Iz and Diz-Mouth/Jack Frost-Shout/Jamie Principle-Baby Wants to Ride/Jaydee-Plastic Dreams/Jeff Mills-Now Is The Time/Jimi Polo-Better Days/Joe Clausell-Je Ka Jo/Joe Smooth-Promised Land/Joey Beltram-Energy Flash/Josh One-Contemplation/K Hand-Come on Now Baby/Kariya-Let Me Love You For Tonight/KC Flight-Voices/Kechia Jenkins-I Need Somebody/Kem-Love calls/Kerri Chandler-Atmosphere/Kevin Irving-Ride the Rhythm/Kim English-Learn To Luv (Mood II Swing)/Land of Plenty-Kids Aura/Laurent Garnier-The Man With The Red Face/Laurent X-Machines/LB Bad-New Age House/Leftfield-Song For Life/Lil Louis-Video Clash/Lil Louis-Blackout/Lil Louis-How I Feel/Lil Louis & The World-Do U Luv Me/Lil Louis & The World-I Called You/Loni Clark-Searchin (Mood II Swing Dub)/Luna Project-I Wanna Be Free/Maritian, The-Search Your Feelings/Marshall Jefferson-House Music Anthem/Marshall Jefferson-Open Your Eyes/Martian, The-Sex in Zero Gravity/Masters at Work-Odyssey/Masters at Work-The Bounce/MD X-Spress-God Made Me Phunky/Me’Shell NdegeOcello-Who Is He And What Is He To You? (DT’s NYDC Mix)/Michael Proctor-Deliver Me/Michael Watford -Holdin On/Mike Dunn-Magic Feet/Mindreaders-Living My Life Underground/Mixmasters-In the Mix/Mondo Grosso -Star Suite (Shelter Mix)/Mood II Swing-Do it Your Way/Mood II Swing-When the Funk Hits the Fan/Moody Man-Shades of Jae/Mr Fingers-What About This Love/Mr Fingers-Stars/Mr Fingers-Washing Machine/Mr Lee-I Can’t Forget/New Blakk Society-Just Another Lonely Day/New Order-Fine Time (Steve Hurley Mix)/Noni-Be My/Nu Colors-Desire (MAW mix)/Nu Yorican Soul-Nervous Track/Octave One-Blackwater/On The House-Pleasure Control/Osunlade-Beloved/Osunlade-Pride/Outta Limits-Mission Control/Paperclip People-Throw/Paul Rutherford-Get Real/Pepe Braddock-Deep Burnt/Pepe Braddock-Life/Phase II-Reachin’/Phortune-String Free/Phuture-Rise From Your Grave/Phuture-We Are Phuture/Phuturescope-What is House Muzik/Pierres Phantasy Club-Phantasy Girl/PM Dawn-A Watchers Point Of View (Todd Terry Mix)/Presence-Better Day/Primal Scream-Don’t fight it, Feel it (Scat mix)/Quentin Harris-Let’s Be Young/R-Tyme -R-Theme/R-Tyme-Use Me (c2 R Tyme Groove)/Ragtyme-I Can’t Stay Away/Raze-Break for Love/Rhythim is Rhythim-It Is What It Is/Rhythim is Rhythim-The Dance/Rhythim Is Rhythim-Icon/Rhythim is Rhythim-Strings of Life/Richie Rich-Salsa House/Rickster-Night Moves/Risque III-Essence Of A Dream/Roberta Flack-Uh-Oh Ooh-Ooh Look Out/Romanthony-Let Me Show You Love/Round One -I’m your Brother/Round Three-Acting Crazy/Roy Davis Jnr-House Inferno/Roy Davis Jnr -People from Mars (Original Earth Mix)/Royal House-Can You Party?/Sabres Of Paradise-Smokebelch II/Safire -Taste The Bass/Saint Germain-What’s New/Scott Grooves-The Journey/Seduction-True Love/Sha-lor -I’m in Love/Shirley Murdock-Let There Be Love (Frankie Knuckles remix)/Simon-Free at Last/Slow Supreme-Granada/South Street Players-Who Keeps Changing Your Mind?/St Etienne-Only Love Can Break Your Heart (MAW Dub)/Stardust-Music Sounds Better with You/Sterling Void-It’s Alright/Steve Poindexter-Computer Madness/Steve Silk Hurley-Jack Your Body/Steve Silk Hurley-The Word is Love/Subculture feat Marcus-The Voyage E.P./Sueno Latino-Sueno Latino (original & Derrick May mix)/T-Coy-Carino/Tammy Banks-My Life/Ten City-My Piece of Heaven/Ten City-Right Back to You/The Believers-Who Dares To Believe In Me/The Fog-Been a Long Time/The Source feat Candi Staton-You Got the Love (Eren’s bootleg mix)/Theo Parrish-Capritarious No.7/Todd Terry Project-Bango/Trent/Josua/Abacus/Damier-Abacus EP/Turntable Orchestra-You’re Gonna Miss Me/Two Lone Swordsmen-Glide By ShootingUBQ Project-When I Fell in Love/Umoja-Unity/Underground Inc-Black Magic/Urban Soul-Alright/Urban Soul-He’s Always/Victor Romero -Love Will Find a Way/Virgo-R U Hot Enough/Virgo-In a Vision/Virgo 4-Do You Know Who You Are/Virgo 4-Take Me Higher/West Bam-Hold Me Back/X-press 2-Muzik Express/Yellow Sox-Flim Flam.