Most Wanted! Frankie Knuckles presents Satoshi Tomiie feat. Robert Owens – Tears (Classic Vocal) (FFRR)
The mythic ‘Tears’ stands among those one of a kind pieces of music that made me consider FFRR among my favorite labels at the time. This along with ‘And I Loved You’ featuring Arnold Jarvis which Frankie Knuckles and Satoshi Tomiie also happened to produce the year after.
Now (almost) thirty years have gone, but the emotion pretty much remains the same. Apart from the fact that it shows their contemporaries how older they’ve become inbetween. And, in the meantime, the emptiness Frankie Knuckles‘ sad passing has left.
I’ve recently seen a post on Facebook with its author asking about a track that could make us cry. Well, here we have what one might consider as a manifesto for so many different reasons at the end. As a matter of fact, ‘Tears’, but also ‘And I Loved You’, stand among the foundations of Deep House. This with Ce Ce Rogers‘ ‘Someday’ and Ten City‘s ‘Devotion’. Not to mention Mr Fingers‘ ‘Closer’ or The It‘s ‘Rainforest Serenade’.
‘Tears’ brilliantly shows as to how Knuckles perfectly managed to… “reframe” Robert Owens. Thus getting him to deliver a one of a kind performance. And I’m not ashamed sayin’ ‘Tears’ stand among those pieces of music that keeps on bringin’ me into a high state of emotion. Even though the latter has slightly changed. From the very first time I happened to give it a listen back in the day. Until now after (almost) 30 years…
“I’ve always been into Gospel voices. Robert had a religious background, although his sound was an exception to the rule for me. It didn’t come instantly though. As a matter of fact, Robert is like a wild horse. Unless you put up margins for him, he never can sing the same line the same way twice. I had to constantly sort of reframe him…” (Frankie Knuckles)
Here we have a statement that pretty much speaks for itself. And this by no one else but the one remembered as the Godfather Of House. Quite evocative of the inner strength/voice which had led Robert Owens to deliver some of the most vibrant vocal performances one can think of. Among those very rare to have stood the test of time. Being to the Chicago (House) scene what Arnold Jarvis happened to be to its NYC alter ego. And more widely being to House what Omar has become to the contemporary groove. With thanks to their unique voices and an undeniable eclectism…
A quick look at Robert Owens‘ discography (on Discogs) says it all. Or almost, as chances are great they may not have listed his entire repertoire. What we can read though is an inventory of 5 albums and 100+ singles. And, in the meantime, the fact that he’s been collaborating with some of the most talented producers since the second half of the 80’s.
As you may guess, Robert Owens grew up singin’ in church before exploring the facets of DJing. Eventually meeting Larry Heard by the middle of the 80’s. This resulting in the twosome givin’ birth to Fingers Inc. along with Ronnie Wilson. And subsequently releasing ‘Another Side’ back in 1988 on Jack Trax. A mythic album featuring timeless jewels such as ‘Mystery Of Love’, ‘Bring Down The Walls’ and ‘Mystery Friend’ to name a few.
Owens eventually engaged the upper gear the year after. This when joinin’ forces with Frankie Knuckles and a then unknown Satoshi Tomiie on the seminal ‘Tears’ (FFRR). Then makin’ his debut on Fourth & Broadway in 1990 with the abyssal ‘Visions’ co-produced by Frankie Knuckles and David Morales. The latter crafting on his own this time the syncopated ‘I’ll Be Your Friend’ which got released the year after on RCA.
He contributed to the recording of Larry Heard (Mr. Fingers)’s ‘Introduction’ album in 1992 on MCA. That same year seeing the release of the insanely vibrant ‘Too Much For Me’ without his consent. Launching his Musical Directions imprint while relocating in London, he delivered ‘Ordinary People’ with remixes courtesy of Booker T two years later. Eventually sharin’ the bill the year after with Michael Watford on the Marshall Jefferson produced ‘Come Together’…
In 2000, he landed his voice on Photek‘s blowing ‘Mine To Give’ with remix work by the likes of David Morales. Eventually colloaborating with other junglists – London Elektricity – with whom he released ‘My Dreams’ and ‘Different Drum’.
With Quentin Harris, he did ‘Always’ and soon after he came along with Coldcut on the abyssal ‘Walk A Mile In My Shoes’. He contributed to Atjazz‘s syncopated ‘Love Someone’ in 2007. Then he teamed up with Ron Trent on ‘Movin’ On’ then ‘Deep Down’. Meanwhile 2007 saw him sharing the bill with Gene Hunt on ‘Twilite People’. Then 2010 with DJ Spen on the deeply heartfelt ‘A Greater Love’.
He contributed more recently to Ralf GUM‘s ‘Fly Free’ (2013). And he also joined US NU-Disco gurus Soul Clap on ‘Misty’ the year after. Not to mention Kenny Dope with whom he shared the bill that same year on ‘Bricks Down’. Or Compost Allstars (Beanfield, Christian Prommer, Roland Appel and Michael Reinboth) on ‘Good Day’. This in addition to Martello‘s ‘In The Beginning There Was House’ and Oscar P‘s ‘Thank You’ which we both welcomed as our Single Of The Week at the time.
– A quick typing – ‘Frankie Knuckles’ – in the search box of our site should give you a certain idea of his legacy. And, by that, of the consideration we have for him. Standing among the most prolific but first and foremost talented producers/remixers of his generation. With his name firmly associated to a signature – the Def Mix Sound – and an alter ego – David Morales. Themselves synonyms with some of the most brilliant episodes in the maturation of the contemporary groove.
A native New Yorker, Frankie Knuckles arrived right on time to witness the early stages of the nightclubbing and its music – Disco – in the Big Apple. Eventually hangin’ out with his friend, Larry Levan, before comin’ to play Disco, Soul and R&B jams at The Continental Baths and The Gallery.
Knuckles relocated to Chicago, IL by the second half of the 70’s. This after a friend of his by the likes of Robert Williams had opened a space that was to become The Warehouse. Eventually inviting him to play on a regular basis. There, he came with a blend of everything, from Disco classics to European electronic fueled sounds and Rock. The whole setting up the foundations as what was to become House Music by the middle of the 80’s. This along with the use of drum machines and samplers.
Knuckles made his thing in Chicago, eventually collaborating with Jamie Principle. But he also happened to join forces with David Morales and For The Record DJ Pool founder Judy Weinstein under the Def Mix Productions banner to help manage remix requests and handle artist business affairs.
All in all, on his own or along with either David Morales or Eric Kupper, Frankie Knuckles has remixed and produced over 600 releases. With the list of those he happened to rework the music of givin’ a better idea of the impact he generated. And this way above the strict spheres of House Music. Beginning with blasts from the past such as My Mine‘s ‘Hypnotic Tango’ which he came to rework. But also Jago‘s quite sought after ‘I’m Going To Go’. Then Double Exposure‘s ‘My Love Is Free’ and Diana Ross (‘Love Hangover’). Eventually bringin’ fragments of his universe on Swing Out Sister‘s ‘Notgonnachange’. The latter being an example of the demand he generated in the UK. From Tongue’N’Cheek‘s ‘Tomorrow’ to L.A. Mix‘s ‘Live Together’ and D*Note (‘D*Votion 99’). Not to mention Lisa Stansfield‘s ‘Change’ or Loose Ends‘ ‘Hangin’ On A String’).
Of course, Frankie Knuckles made some noise in the House scene. Responsible for seminal tracks such as ‘Tears’ along with Satoshi Tomiie and Robert Owens. But also ‘And I Loved You’ featuring the same Tomiie and Arnold Jarvis. Both of them on FFRR. And how to not think of the burning ‘One Man’ by the likes of Chanelle back in 1989? Or Lil Louis feat. ChinahBlac‘s ‘Fable’??? With the same applying to Hercules & Love Affair‘s ‘Blind’. Then Sybil‘s ‘Let’s Yourself Go’. With the list to be incomplete without a mention to the Director’s Cut signature which he put together along with long time friend Eric Kupper.
And, just like David Morales, he also created serious bridges with R&B names. Beginning with Michael Jackson (‘Rock With You’). But also Chaka Khan (‘Ain’t Nobody’) and David Peaston (‘We’re All In This Together’). This in addition to The Gap Band (‘I’m Gonna Git You Sucka’) and Chanté Moore (‘This Time’). Then Toni Braxton (‘Un-Break My Heart’) and Womack & Womack (‘MPB’). Not to mention En Vogue‘s ‘You Don’t Have To Worry’ or Will Downing‘s ‘A Love Supreme’…
Meanwhile, under his own banner, Knuckles also made quite an impression. Delivering his debut-album – ‘Beyond The Mix’ – back in 1991. And in the meantime one of his biggest classics ever by the likes of ‘The Whistle Song’. Eventually sharing the bill four years later with Jersey songstress Adeva on the ‘ Welcome To The Real World’ album. With his final album – ‘A New Reality’ – seeing the light back in 2004.
Frankie Knuckles sadly died on March 31, 2014 in Chicago, IL, of complications from diabetes. He was 59…