Nothing shallow or superficial about this superior Britfunk.
Daryl Easlea 2009
Although there may have been a dearth of great R&B in the middle of the 80s, Loose Ends was successfully able to challenge the notion that Britfunk was shallow and superficial. Formed in the late 70s as Loose End, their initial recordings were overseen by Chris and Eddie Amoo from Liverpudlian soul combo, The Real Thing.
By 1983, Jane Eugene, Carl McIntosh and Steve Nichol (who had played in The Jam’s horn section) had added the ‘s’ to their name and were signed by Virgin. Their accomplished debut album, A Little Spice, features a group who had spent time honing their sound. Whereas you were always aware that Linx or Light of the World could only have come from the UK, Loose Ends had a perfect transatlantic groove. This was due in no small part to the involvement of Philadelphia-based DJ and remixer Nick Martinelli, who’d recently moved into production with Fat Larry’s Band. Their Zoom had been a huge hit for Virgin.
A Little Spice is consistently strong. Three singles were taken from it: Tell Me What You Want, Choose Me and Dial 999, the latter titled Emergency (Dial 999) in the US. Eugene’s Evelyn King-influenced vocal on 999 stands side by side with anything that was coming out of New York at this juncture. Let’s Rock is a fantastic, accomplished piece of urban soul, albeit with all the requisite in-era machines. Music Takes Me Higher is the best here, though; a sultry swagger, with a breathtaking chorus vocal arrangement.
The original UK version of A Little Spice was released in late 1983, but was modified for the US market with the addition of their later mega hit Hangin’ on a String (Contemplating) (at the expense of the sweet yet fairly generic Feels So Right Now). It took the early Jam and Lewis sound back to US radio with a considerable degree of élan, and enjoyed recent exposure after it featured in the video game Grand Theft Auto IV.
America took the group to its heart, elevating the album to the R&B chart top five, while Hangin’ on a String (Contemplating) topped the R&B singles chart. By which time the group were ready with their follow up, So Where Are You, to capitalise on this success.