Mass Production ‘In A City Groove’ / ’83’ 2CD (SoulMusic) 3/5

mass-productionThis is in effect part two of a double package of Mass Production releases, and on this occasion two early 1980s albums. Previously, Soul Music re-issued arguably the strongest and most commercially successful of the group’s albums, ‘In The Purest Form’, from 1979 that included the single ‘Firecracker’ that became a favourite on the dancefloors alongside the follow-up album, ‘Masterpiece’ from 1980.
The new double bill begins with ‘In A City Groove’ and, although in general melodic, this is not as compelling a listen as the previous two recordings. Typical of the sound was, ‘Never ever’, that was percussion driven with fender and strings and joint lead vocals. Perhaps with the success attained from ‘Firecracker’, the group made a deliberate decision to soften their sound and this is by no means a heavy funk outfit in the mould of say Slave, nor one with the dancefloor potential of a group such as Skyy on Salsoul. That said, ‘Inner City’ was a catchy rhythmic affair with guitar riff and soulful male lead vocal. As a bonus the 12″ version of that track is included along with a slew on shorter 7″ versions. An attempt to reach across to the pop charts was made with, ‘Rock’. that now comes across as a bubble gum take on the funk idiom, while ‘Weird’ was mid-tempo soul.At this point Mass Production were experiencing a minor identity crisis, where the gentle vocals contrasted with the uptempo funk inspired instrumentation.

By contrast, the second album, ’83, had a harder more experimental edge, but took on the then in-vogue synthesizer craze and thus the group sound changed to something akin to that of System. The influence of Kraftwerk with the emerging hip-hop beats seems to be at work on ‘Victory ’83’ that ended up as a B-side. Interestingly, an instrumental, ‘Sun Dancer’, invited jazzer Herbie Mann on flute, and it should be remembered that Mann was still much in demand on the dancefloor after his jazz-tinged disco excursion on ‘Hijack’. In general, the early 1980s were something of a lost era when group identities got lost amidst the technological revolution in music.Mass Production did their best to impose their identity while at the same time moving with the times. is their earlier offerings that stand the test of time best of all, but fans of their music will still find something to admire here.

Tim Stenhouse