User:Tannersf/A Certain Ratio
Formed Manchester, England, 1977.
Starting out as a punk/thrash outfit, A Certain Ratio have become elder statesmen of Manchester dance music, on the strength of fifteen years of merging an eclectic and colorful mix of sounds and styles. Combining the ‘do-it-yourself’ attitudes of punk with music of a more industrial nature, Jeremy Kerr (bass), Martin Moscrop (guitar), Peter Terrell (keyboards/tape loops) and Simon Topping (vocals) quickly came to the attention of two of the senior figures of the Manchester music industry. Anthony Wilson (founder of Factory Records) became the band’s manager after Rob Gretton - his business partner and original manager of New Order - tipped him off. Factory released ACR’s debut single, “All Night Party”, pressing 5,000 copies in May 1979, which soon sold out.
The band quickly fixed on dance music as the direction they would take, and released the legendary single “Shack Up”, which made the Billboard R&B chart in America. Years ahead of the Manchester dance explosion, ACR built a catalogue of experimental dance releases that in the early 80s stood at odds with the dominant goth and new wave scenes. Joined by drummer Donald Johnson, the band released the well-reviewed THE GRAVEYARD AND THE BALLROOM, put out their first 12” single, “Flight” , and embarked on a US tour that led to another experimental album, TO EACH. Inspired by the sound of Nu Yorican street percussion music the band’s sound was evolving into an almost South American blend of jazz-funk, aided in part by the addition of trumpet and the move of Simon Topping from vocals to percussion. Typified by the 1982 album SEXTET, this style continued to win good press though almost all ACR releases were overlooked by the public.
Late 1982 saw the exit of two founder members, Peter Terrell and Simon Topping – who left to study congas in New York – and a transitional third album I’D LIKE TO SEE YOU AGAIN, featuring new recruit Carol McKenzie on vocals. Another new addition, saxophonist Tony Quigley, made 1985’s farewell Factory single, “Wild Party”, their biggest underground hit yet. Leaving on the high note of the Force album, the band then signed to A&M records and set up their own SoundStation studio in their home town.
ACR’s short dalliance with A&M produced just two criminally ignored albums, GOOD TOGETHER and ACR:MCR. Including the dance hit “Won’t Stop Loving You” (aka “The Big E”), ACR:MCR was released as the Manchester dance explosion of 1989 was in full swing and was in part an attempt to stake a claim on the genre they had pioneered. This paved the way for a move to robsrecords, the label set up by Rob Gretton after he left Factory. By the end of 1992 ACR had built a new following through five single releases and the album UP IN DOWNSVILLE (which contained vocals from Primal Scream’s Denise Johnson). The band went into another period of hiatus, only surfacing for LOOKING FOR A CERTAIN RATIO, a remix album from Creation Records that accompanied the label’s reissues of the ACR back catalogue. LOOKING FOR… featuring mixes by the likes of Electronic, Sub Sub and The Other Two, created a certain amount of interest, but was sadly lost in a sea of similar remix projects emerging at the time. In 1997, however, CHANGE THE STATION (robsrecords) brought the elder statesmen of gritty northern English dance music back into the public eye with a fine blend of silken vocals courtesy of Denise Johnson and Lorna Bailey, ambient pieces and clean-cut hard-edged rhythm.
The band have been lying low ever since, though Moscrop now DJs under the ACR banner and Soul Jazz Records have done their bit for the band’s cause with their 2002 release EARLY.
Featured Albums edit
- Sextet – 1982 – Factory
The epitome of their 80s output, this album mixes jazz with ambient influences. Sleeve design by Ben Kelly, who went on to design Factory’s renowned Hacienda nighclub in Manchester.
- Acr:Mcr – 1989 – A&M
ACR live, featuring the dance-floor classic “Won’t Sop Loving You”.
- Up In Downsville – 1992 – robsrecords
ACR’s only album for Rob Gretton includes a brace of dance-floor singles.
- Early – 2002 – Soul Jazz Records
The definitive two-disc collection showcases the best of the band’s early recordings, featuring both classic cuts and a selection of B-sides, alternate mixes and Peel session recordings. Listening to these tracks now, it’s easy to trace the trajectory of ACR’s influence through the sound of electronic 80s pop, through techno, through house, electronica, and beyond.