1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die
As we learned from David Byrne and Brian Eno during "My Time In The Bush of Ghosts," sampling was going to be big. Between sampling and the synthesizer, electronic music was just begging to be made. And the formula remains largely the same. DJs and hip-hop producers, both make their livings by reaching into a grab bag of obscure samples, or tapping something catchy out on a keyboard (some better than others). Girl Talk has made an entire career out of mashups. Back in the day, a few artists had the bright idea that actual instruments could be used, and not just sampled!
As the '80s wound down, the prominent genre of electronica was house that for the most part sounds exactly like the decade it represented. Drum machines (often the 808 popularized by Afrika Bambaataa) produced simple, 4/4 beats en masse, and synthesizers provided the melody. This music was (and is) terrible. Fortunately, groups like Deee-Lite came around and made things all-right by adding an ounce of heart.
Deee-Lite had plenty of sampling and keyboards for "World Clique," coming from Japanese DJ Towa Tei and Russian DJ Dmitry. But the presence of a live vocalist, Kierin "Lady Miss Kier" Kirby, gave the tracks soul, literally and figuratively. Literally, in that a human voice gave life to the mostly-electronic music, and figuratively in that Kirby just has a very soulful voice. This made a difference when the group brought in its guest stars: Bootsy Collins, Maceo Parker and Fred Wesley, the bassist, saxophonist and trombonist, respectively, of Parliament-Funkadelic.
The three extra musicians make their appearances during four tracks that number among the best, fusing seamlessly with Kirby's vocals. Foremost is Deee-Lite's one-hit wonder: "Groove Is In The Heart." The live bass and horns, not to mention Collins's unmistakable vocal parts push this track to the top of the list. Everyone knows the hook (but if you don't: "I couldn't ask for another…Groove is in the hearrrrrrrrt"), but the twin disc jockeys make their presence known with one of the most clever samples I've heard. That sound of a cheering crowd you hear throughout the song? That wasn't just an addition for the "Jock Jams" compilation. That effect propels the song forward just as much as Collins's bass, adding energy and making it feel like an L.A. Lakers pre-game show.
The trio of funk musician's also make "Try Me On…I'm Very You" and "Smile On" some of the better tracks on "World Clique," and lend an air of credibility to the album's funky feel. Even when the group doesn't have guests in the studio, Tei adds life to songs like "Good Beat" by playing a real upright piano, not an electric or synthesized keyboard.
Deee-Lite doesn't seem too complex compared to many modern, whiz-bang producers, but in the face of '80s house music, "World Clique" is still fun without being embarrassing. In a way, it set the scene for progressive electric-heads like Moon Hooch, who 20 years later have adjusted the sounds of the house genre to be played on saxophones instead of keyboards.
INTERESTING FACT: The song "Groove Is In The Heart" peaked at no. 2 in the UK Singles Chart. Due to tie-breaking rules in the UK, if two songs are even for a spot, the track that had placed higher the previous week would retain the higher position. Therefore, the Steve Miller Band's "Joker" took the no. 1 spot. After complaints from Deee-Lite's record company, the rule was done away with, allowing for ties for the top spot, but lo, "Groove" never got back to no. 1.