Monday, October 23, 2017

30 Years of House Music – Ten City

September 1987. Back to Paris after a few months in other climes, I got myself lookin’ for a radio on everyone’s lips back then. Its name: La Voix du Lézard which, in the meantime, had become Skyrock! There, a presenter by the likes of Robert Lévy-Provencal (RLP) litteraly stood out. Playing some of the most oustanding jams one can think of. From Ce Ce Rogers‘s ‘Someday’ to Ten City‘s ‘Devotion’. Two gems released the same day on Atlantic (as explained to me later on by Billy Prest). Both of them givin’ me the feeling I’d just discovered another door leading to the Holy Grail…

Ten CityOctober 1988. Not even a month since installed in London. And I was already stuck to the memorable bi-weekly reviews of the late Guy Hamilton on the defunct Record Mirror. As on Jeff Young‘s Friday ‘Big Beat’ show on Radio 1. With the heros from back in that time being Lisa Stansfield, Dr Robert & Kym Mazelle and Inner City. Not to mention Erick B & Rakim and Adeva. Or Ten City with ‘Right Back To You. The latter with a remix courtesy of Steve ‘Silk’ Hurley. A cut which, along with ‘Devotion’ and ‘That’s The Way Love Is’, heavily contributed to the Gold certification of their ‘Foundation’ album in 1989…

The year after saw the release of their follow up, ‘State of Mind’. Including extra gems such as ‘Whatever Makes You Happy’, ‘Nothing’s Changed’ and ‘Superficial People’. Meanwhile their 1992 ‘No House Big Enough’ album which included ‘Only Time Will Tell’, ‘Superficial Love’ and ‘All Loved Out’ would not only mark their separation from producer Marshall Jefferson. But also the end of their recording liaison with Atlantic. Then the prelude to the disbanding of the threesome, soon after the release of their last album – ‘That Was Then, This Is Now’ – back in 1994. An album which included ‘Fantasy’ (delivered with a notorious remix by the likes of Masters At Work). And also ‘The Way You Make Me Feel’ and the premonitory titled ‘Goin’ Up In Smoke’. Lead falsetto singer Byron Stingily embarking on a solo career from then…

“We jumped on the House wagon since the very beginning”, he said to me. “Back then, there were just Jamie Principle and Jessie Saunders who’s been the very first one to release a House record. He got the support of the local radio stations in Chicago. With all the DJ’s willing to do the same soon after. I suppose I can say we made the difference because of all of us being musicians” (with Herb Lawson on guitar and Byron Burke on Keyboards). The threesome partnering with in demand producer Marshall Jefferson (Kym Mazelle, Ce Ce Rogers). Two albums later, and Ten City would break their working relation with him though…

“We joined Marshall coz’ he had a sequencer. He helped us developing our ideas. This until the moment we ended up havin’ the feeling it became somemething like Marshall Jefferson presents Ten City. He eventually booked a big band on our second album. And we found that the production was like too rich.” Jefferson explaining on his side that the guys probably wanted to prove they could do as well without him. Something they did when Stingily came to New York and called David Morales to offer him to be working together. “He said to me he had to fly to Italy the day after. So we wrote the song before he left and recorded the vocals in the living room of his flat.” The exact ones one can hear on ‘My Piece Of Heaven’…

Alas, and for reasons which to me remain quite irrational, the mid-90’s would see one by one the major companies parting way with their House artists. From Larry Heard (Mr. Fingers on MCA) to Lil’ Louis (Epic). But also Inner City (Virgin) and other Steve ‘Silk’ Hurley (Atlantic). With Ten City releasing their last album on Columbia – ‘That Was Then, This Is Now’ – amidst almost general indifference…

“Ten City reached the level that we remember of them because of their members being authors”, explained Ce Ce Rogers. “They’ve spread a rare emotion. A natural one as opposed to most of what we can hear nowadays.
House Music has lost a lot of its essence back then. Because of being based on short view term as opposed to significant investment into artist development. House Music started to appear on Billboard. And it was eventually thought about decerning Grammies to its actors. Then came the black out all of a sudden. We’ve been left with nothing more than most likely dubbed tracks, speaking of which the DJ’s are highly responsible for…”

Further to the publication of this article, Ten City founding member and long time friend Byron Burke specified: “I started DJing in 1981 and began to pursue my music career in 1986. I signed my first record deal on DJ International Records under the House group called B Rude Inc. The members were Tony Nash, Shawn Robinson and Tommy Williams. Shortly after signing with DJ International, I met Byron Stingily who just left a band called Dezz 7 (Traxx Records). The latter being a spin off band of Prince & The Revolution. Stingily came onboard as the lead vocalist. And hat started the first phase in what was to come in the months ahead.

He and I began to forge a musical bond with his background in working with live bands. This, combined with my experience as a trumpet player, drum programmer, keyboardist, DJ & street dancer. Stingily introduced me to Marshall Jefferson (they were label mates on Traxx / Precision Records). And we started working together with Marshall on ‘Open Our Eyes’ by the Truth (Big Beat Records).

The next project birth the group Ragtyme (‘I Can’t Stay Away’ & ‘Fix It Man’ feat. T.C. Roper). Guitarist Herb Lawson provided his talents in several recording sessions that brought the perfect music production element which the world knows today as Ten City.”

Chosen few
Ten City – Foundation (Atlantic)
Ten City – State Of Mind (Atlantic)
Ten City – No House Big Enough (EastWest)
Ten City – That Was Then, This Is Now (Columbia)

Interview: Ten City

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