ACID JAZZ: THE 25TH ANNIVERSARY BOX SET.

ACID JAZZ: THE 25TH ANNIVERSARY BOX SET.

Over the last twenty-five years, record companies have come and gone. New labels have been set up, released innovative music, and then, they’re gone. Many of these people found that running a label wasn’t as easy as they thought. Often, the business-side got in the way of what they really loved, making music. Sometimes, people setup labels releasing music which was too specialist, too niche, and as a result, they weren’t commercial successfully. Occasionally, luck conspired against new labels. They released the wrong music, at the wrong time. Maybe they were ahead of the curve, and months or a year later, a musical scene or genre would explode. Then there was what could called the unacceptable side of music. 

These were labels that fail have been set up by people who are only in it for the short-term. For them, they see the chance to exploit a scene or musical genre that’s growing in popularity. Anyone who survived the early and heady days of Acid House, will remember labels being setup, releasing a few releases that sold well and then disappeared, in some cases with bills unpaid and angry creditors keen to catchup with them. Those behind the label cashed-in and exploited the popularity of Acid House. The same can be said of people organising raves, selling T-shirts, printing flyers or any number of things. To these people, back when a generation were being drip-fed the “greed is good” philosophy, they made a quick buck and “retired” from music. They neither loved, nor believed in the music. While numerous labels failed, and everyone will be able to remember a series of labels that sadly, are no longer around, for a variety of reasons, some labels have survived. Not only have they survived, but they’ve thrived and continued to release innovative and cutting-edge music. 

Often, they’re setup by people immersed in music, people whose love of music runs through their veins. Music is their lifeblood, their passion, providing meaning to their lives. For these people, music means much more than money. Music is art, not a commodity. It’s a journey of exploration, one that continues throughout life. This seems the perfect description of Eddie Piller and Giles Peterson, who founded Acid Jazz Records in 1987. So, to commemorate their twenty-fifth anniversary, is a fantastic achievement. Acid Jazz-The 25th Anniversary Box Set was recently released by Harmless Records celebrates and commemorates twenty-five years of Acid Jazz Records.  It seems almost fitting that this is no ordinary box set. Quite the opposite, as you’ll soon realize, when I tell you about Acid Jazz-The 25th Anniversary Box Set.

Towards the end of 1987, Eddie Piller was a twenty-three year old mod, who despite his age, was almost a veteran of London’s music scene. Previously, he’d run a mod fanzine Extraordinary Sensations and formed his own label Countdown, which was distributed by Stiff Records. Then Eddie’s life and luck changed. Stiff became insolvent, Countdown was caught up if fall out and Eddie was without his label. Worse was to come, The Prisoners, one of Countdown’s signings split-up and Eddie started to feel disillusioned by the mod scene he so loved. Soon, he took to spending time at jazz and soul clubs, where he’d meet a like-minded music lover.

Back in 1987, Giles Peterson was a soul boy, but unlike many people who loved soul music, also loved jazz and Latin music. This set Giles apart and still does. He’s not and never has been, narrow-minded in his musical tastes. Quite the opposite, eclectic best describes Giles’ tastes. He was just as busy as Eddie, compiling the Jazz Juice compilations and compilations for the Street Sounds’ label, plus hosting his Mad On Jazz radio show on BBC London. So when Giles met Eddie, it was a meeting of musical minds. 

The pair met at Nicky Holloway’s Special Branch Nights and soon, were working together. This included the nascent Talkin’ Loud and Saying Something on Sundays at Dingwalls. It was almost logical, that the pair should start a label. Eddie released a cover of a Herbie Hancock track, Theme From Blow Up, by The James Taylor Quartet, which featured The Prisoners’ organist. Quickly, a scene was developing at Dingwalls and Eddie and Giles became tastemakers, spinning old jazz, soul, funk and Latin music. Eclectic was their playlist, with everything from Jimmy Smith, Charles Earland, Public Enemy, Dinosaur Jr, and Alice Clark sitting side-by-side. As their house-band, Giles and Eddie had The James Taylor Quartet. Something was stirring, a new scene was organically growing and developing.

By 1987, music was changing and Giles and Eddie would be at the vanguard of a new musical movement. Thankfully, the old guard were toast. Gone was the selective door policies of certain soul and funk nights. Acid House was King and house music was the future. Not for Giles and his DJ partner Chris Bangs. They declared they were playing Acid Jazz. New and old music became one, with the music having a message. Whether it was hip hop, soulful house, vintage jazz, including classic labels like Blue Note and Prestige, or soul or Latin music, this was what the spun. Giles and Eddie Piller used this nascent scene as their inspiration for their new label, Acid Jazz Records.

Acid Jazz Records’ debut release saw Giles’ flatmate Rob Gallagher recite poetry over a version of the Curtis Mayfield penned Freddie’s Dead, cut by Pucho and The Latin Soul Brothers. Released by Galliano as Fredrick Lies Still, this set the ball rolling. Then came three mini albums from UK jazzers, including Bukky Leo’s Rejoice In Righteousness. Soon singles were released, including by Chris Banga, under a number of aliases and even, a single by Paul Weller’s Style Council as King Truman. One of Acid Jazz’s most important releases were by A Man Called Adam.

Like Acid Jazz Records, A Man Called Adam enjoyed longevity and proved to be one of the nascent label’s earliest signings. They featured on the two volumes of the Totally Wired compilations, which brought together the elite of the UK’s Acid Jazz scene. This included The Brand New Heavies, who made their appearance on Volume Two. They’d prove to be one of Acid Jazz’s best and most successful signings.

With the Acid Jazz scene blossoming, major labels took notice. This included Phonogram Records, who in 1988, signed The James Taylor Quartet. Their next signing was a bigger one…Giles Peterson. Phonogram Records offered Giles the bait of his own label Talkin’ Loud. Leaving with Giles were Galliano and another band, The You Disciples. At least Eddie still had The Brand New Heavies.

1990 saw the release of The Brand New Heavies debut album, which garnered radio airplay, but wasn’t a huge success in the UK. When the album was released, The Brand New Heavies found themselves without a lead singer. Touring wasn’t possible. US label Delicious Vinyl, who licensed the album, solved the problem. They added  N’Dea Davenport’s vocal to backing tracks and released the track as Never Stop, which reached number three in the US R&B Charts. Meanwhile, times were tough at Acid Jazz. House music’s popularity meant the label’s finances suffered. Eddie tried to sell Acid Jazz to Island Records for £30,000. Their A&R rep said no. Oops. This would later prove to have been the deal of the century.

While Talkin’ Loud, Giles Peterson’s new label seemingly lead the way in the UK Acid Jazz scene, it was The Brand New Heavies that saved Acid Jazz Records. Their relaunched debut album sold over 300,000 copies, when licensed to London Records. Then when Jamiroquai signed to Acid Jazz Records the label had another huge success on their hands. Starting with their debut single When You Gonna Learn. Jamiroquai helped secure Acid Jazz’s future. With the label secure, an old face rejoined the label, and oh, they bought a club.

Rejoining Acid Jazz Records were The James Taylor Quartet, in late 1993. Then in 1994, Acid Jazz Records bought the Blue Note night club. It became one of the hottest and most influential clubs in London. All went well for Acid Jazz, with Mother Earth becoming another of the label’s success stories. Other artists Jamiroquai and The James Taylor Quartet sold well, especially Jamiroquai, who sold millions of albums. Later, Gregory Isaacs, the legendary reggae artist was signed but by 1997, Acid Jazz hit a problem, ironically, with the Blue Note, which was by then, a hugely influential and successful club.

In 1997 problems arose with the Blue Note. Purchasing the property had proved problematic, but eventually, its cash flow covered the costs. Then the local council revoked the Blue Note’s license. What had become a profitable club had to shut. The area was redesignated as a residential area. No longer was there the money to service its debts. Rather than just enter insolvency and walk away from the Blue Note’s debts, Eddie Piller courageously and determinedly, spent the next decade paying off the club’s debts. He undertook a managed exit and eventually, and with his head held high, and reputation in tact, managed to do so. With the future resolved Eddie got back to running his beloved label.

Since then, Acid Jazz Records, albeit on a smaller scale, has continued to release music. This has included records by Jinrai, Andy Lewis’ Are You Trying To Be Lonely, featuring vocals from Paul Weller plus releases by Jasmine Kara and Janice Graham. These releases are the next step in the Acid Jazz Records’ story. The previous twenty-five years can be found on . Acid Jazz-The 25th Anniversary Box Set, which I’ll now tell you about.

DISC ONE.

Disc One of Acid Jazz-The 25th Anniversary Box Set, is entitled: Put it All Together and What Do You Get. It features nineteen tracks that are a typical playlist of an Acid Jazz night. This means tracks that range from jazz, soul, funk, Latin, hip hop and rock sit comfortably side-by-side.

Hammond organ heroes are well represented, including Ivan “Boogaloo Joe” Jones’ Black Whip, Charles Earland’s Murriley and  Jimmy Smith’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolfe Part 2. They sit comfortably aside the Small Faces’ I Can’t Dance With You, Dinosaur L’s Go Bang No. 5, Spanky WIlson’s You and The Isley Brothers’ Love The One You’re With. There’s also Erma Franklin’s Light My Fire, Gil Scott Heron’s epic Lady Day and John Coltrane and the beautiful Golden Lady by Jose Feliciano. A welcome addition is Alice Clark’s Don’t You Care, Lonnie Liston Smith’s Expansions one of my favorite cosmic jazz track’s and the deliciously funky, Right On from Clarence Wheeler and The Enforcers. These nineteen wonderfully eclectic tracks, are a magical, sometimes mystical musical journey, that’s not unlike a trip back in time, to the early days of Acid Jazz at Dingwalls on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

DISC TWO.

Something Happening At the Dance is the description given to Disc Two of Acid Jazz-The 25th Anniversary Box Set. This includes the new music played at Dingwalls, with hip hop instrumentals providing many of the highlights. Added to the hip hop sounds, were elements of other musical genres. Soul, funk, jazz and house music are all added to the mix. 

Among the highlights are A Man Called Adam’s Earthly Powers, Young MC’s Know How, Sugar Bear’s Don’t Scandalize Me and  Stonebridge’s  Jazzy John’s Freestyle. A Tribe Called Quest, Nu Yorican Soul and The Brand New Heavies all contribute tracks and Dread Flimstone’s From the Ghetto. Another track that’s included, is the one that launched Acid Jazz Records, Galliano’s Fredrick Lies Still. These sixteen tracks are from a variety of labels. They’re not just a reminder of the sounds of many an Acid Jazz club night, but demonstrate groups like The Brand New Heavies and Nu Yorican Soul’s music evolving and growing. Later, not only would The Brand New Heavies would play a huge part in the Acid Jazz Records’ success story, but saved the label from near-disaster. 

DISC THREE.

Disc Three of Acid Jazz-The 25th Anniversary Box Set, is entitled How’d We Get Us Here, and features seventeen slices of classic Acid Jazz. So that means tracks from The Brand New Heavies, Incognito, Snowboy, Jamiroquai and The James Taylor Quartet. It’s a collection of track’s that if you analyzed their musical DNA says Acid Jazz. Not only that, but it brings back the memories.

Indeed, from the opening bars memories come flooding back. This includes seeing The James Taylor Quartet play a storming set in Glasgow, many years ago. Then there’s Snowboy’s New Avengers, Incognito’s delicious and deeply soulful Always There and the delights of the Young Disciples Get Yourself Together. Add to this Snowboy’s brilliant The New Avengers, which is a very welcome addition. Closing Disc Three is Funky Jam, from the UK’s only true rock ‘n’ band Primal Scream. When I looked down the credits to Disc Three, I couldn’t believe that some of the tracks are very nearly, twenty-five years old. Many of them have a timeless sound and many people, will wish they’d aged as well.

DISC FOUR.

Not only is Smokers Delight the title of Disc Four of Acid Jazz-The 25th Anniversary Box Set, but the perfect description of this chilled out, laid-back and late-night selection of thirteen tracks. New and old sit side by side. Vintage reggae from Max Romeo joins hip hop from Cypress Hill, Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince. Among the other delights are Snowboy’s Astralisation, Mr. Scruff v Manasseh’s Rassellas, Dread Flimstone’s Render Your Heart and an eight-minute dub version of Sandals Nothing which brings not just Disc Four, but Acid Jazz-The 25th Anniversary Box Set to a deliciously chilled out close. It’s the perfect smokey selection of tracks to close this lovingly compiled box set.

Dig deeper into the depths of Acid Jazz-The 25th Anniversary Box Set, and you’ll find a DVD featuring an interview with Acid Jazz founder, supremo and survivor Eddie Piller. This includes twelve-tracks, which opens with Snowboy covering The Sex Pistols Anarchy In the UK. What a way to open the DVD. After that, tracks from The Brand New Heavies, The James Taylor Quartet, The Third Degree, Matt Berry and Twisted Tongue follow. Then as if that’s not enough Acid Jazz goodness, there’s a seven-inch vinyl single with previously unreleased tracks from The Brand New Heavies. Never Stop is the A-Side, featuring Jan Kincaid, and the B-Side is an instrumental of Rock Steady. For me the real icing on the Acid Jazz cake is a book entitled, The Cover Art of Acid Jazz. It’s like a journey back in time. You remember Acid Jazz Records’ releases over the last twenty-five years. It’s a demonstration of just how innovative and creative the covers were. They provoke not just musical memories, but memories of where you were, and what you were doing. That’s just the perfect finishing touch to Acid Jazz-The 25th Anniversary Box Set. 

Of all the box sets I’ve come across during 2012, Acid Jazz-The 25th Anniversary Box Set is one of the best. It’s best described as lovingly and carefully compiled. There’s more to Acid Jazz-The 25th Anniversary Box Set than you first think. From small acorns, the label grew into a label whose sales were in the millions. Then after the Blue Note nightclub lost its license, Eddie Piller nearly lost everything. Courageously and determinedly, Eddie paid back the label’s debts. Rather than walk away, he spent ten years repaying the debts. It’s as if this was a matter of honor. How many other label owners would’ve gone to such lengths? That says a lot about Eddie Piller. 

Acid Jazz-The 25th Anniversary Box Set begins with an eclectic selection of music that made Dingwalls on a Sunday such a popular destination for a sprinkling of DJs and like-minded music lovers. This included Acid Jazz Records‘ founders Eddie Piller and Giles Peterson. After this, Acid Jazz Records became one of the most innovative, influential and important British record labels. The Brand New Heavies, Incognito, Jamiroquai, Snowboy and The James Taylor Quartet were some of Acid Jazz’s most successful signings. There’s much, much more to Acid Jazz Records than a quintet of artists. Many, many more artists released singles and albums for Acid Jazz Records. In many cases, this included some of the most innovative and cutting-edge music of the time. Much of this can be found on this lovingly and carefully compiled collection of eclectic and innovative tracks. For anyone wanting a reminder of the heady, glory days of Acid Jazz, then Acid Jazz-The 25th Anniversary Box Set will provoke memories, musical and otherwise, aplenty. However, the music on Acid Jazz-The 25th Anniversary Box Set documents not just a record label but a musical genre and scene. One man founded both that scene and Acid Jazz Records and Acid Jazz-The 25th Anniversary Box Set is a celebration of both, and also one of its founding father’s…Eddie Piller.

ACID JAZZ: THE 25TH ANNIVERSARY BOX SET.

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