After the Disco Demolition Night in 1979, dance music was consumed by a malevolent surge of racism and homophobia. Chicago House emerged in its wake, endorsing an inclusive and democratic form of self-expression. The iconography of Chicago House is well documented: The Warehouse club; Importes Etc. record shop; the Roland 303 synthesiser; a staggering trend of concocting mixtures of MDMA, LSD, Cocaine; and ardent homosexuality on the dance floor. Nevertheless it was Trax Records that played host to Chicago’s luminary stars: Frankie Knuckles, Marshall Jeffson, Jamie Principle and Adonis, are just a handful of their astonishing roster. They arguably even now act as a predominant stimuli for Acid House, Jungle, Breakbeat, Drum n’ Bass, French Electro, Footwork/Juke and, thanks to the rise of superstar DJs like Guetta and RedOne, even the current singles chart. Thus to dismiss Trax Records as passé is foolish, they are quite conceivably one of the most influential record labels of our epoch.
Larry Heard aka Fingers Inc. aka Mr. Fingers – Can You Feel It (1986)
Larry Heard’s masterpiece embodies Frankie Knuckles’ notorious claim that House was “church for people who had fallen from grace”. Chuck Roberts’ vocal is like a sermon, brimming with religious fervour before an enlightened congregation. Many cite the euphoric proclamation “Let there be House” as the origin of the genre’s very namesake.
Phuture – Your Only Friend (1987)
Phuture’s sinister examination of the hedonistic and narcissistic nature of addiction is unnervingly underpinned by an unrelenting bass and ethereal vocals. Produced by Chicago House legend Marshall Jefferson, Your Only Friend unearthed perhaps Dance music’s greatest irony: the paradox of melancholia and euphoria – “this is cocaine speaking”.
Frankie Knuckles – Your Love (1987)
Your Love is almost certainly Trax Records’ greatest achievement. Little new can be written of a record so firmly enshrined in Dance culture. Yet its innovative production, elated lust and sublime melodies should never be trivialised. The track’s individual components have been separately sampled for decades, a glowing testament to one of the finest dance records of all time.
Joe Smooth – Promised Land (1987)
Smooth’s work may not have aged as well as the other selections, but its impact on publication makes it one of Trax’s most significant releases. In 1987, Chicago House began a British invasion with the DJ International Tour and chart topping singles like Pump Up The Volume and Joe Smooth’s Promised Land. But more importantly, Smooth’s work was covered and released by Paul Weller’s The Style Council in the same week, effectively ending Smooth’s commercial success in Britain.
Virgo Four – It’s A Crime (2011)
The enigmatic Virgo Four infamously disappeared after releasing their self-titled and seminal debut album of ‘89, cementing their position as Underground idols. Luckily for us however, they re-emerged this year with Resurrection, an album of previously unreleased and predominantly unheard material dating from around 1984-1990, of which It’s A Crime is a personal highlight.