House Hunting #17 - E.S.P.

Aiden discovers a new record shop in his own back yard...

House Hunting #17 - E.S.P.

Aiden discovers a new record shop in his own back yard...

So last month when I popped to the corner shop for a few essentials I had to do a double-take as a criminal solicitors business that has laid dormant for months suddenly had loads of records overflowing in there – a proper headf**k moment could a record shop really be opening next door to my flat?! So naturally I went in to check it out and got chattin’ to the vendor… His name’s David and he’s been dealing records for nearly a decade whether it’s with the store holders of Portobello Road, the dealers of his local environ of North London (he supplies vinyl to another one of my fave haunts Alan’s Records) and of course not forgetting the hardcore collectors and acetate anoraks. Though he collected records in his youth, it was a chance visit to the Notting Hill Music & Video Exchange nearly 20 years ago that rekindled his love affair with records... As is usually the case with vinyl the black crack became an obsession even side-lining his 25 year career as an actor despite being a thespian having been in many national theatre plays and even films as renowned as Notting Hill. He’s done lots of commercial work too so you never know you may have seen him in an advert! 

Anyway his collection has been gettin’ outta hand so the natural progression was to scope for a site in which he could house/sell all his records and this site presented the perfect opportunity – it’s all been an organic process… Though David has decided to name it ‘The Little Record Shop’ confusingly the shop has ‘Tuckers Criminal Solicitors’ branded on it so still currently a secret Aladdin’s cave with wax jewels waiting to be unearthed… He specialises in rock but also has vast quantities of jazz, reggae, blues and folk – no house on my first visit though he has got a copy of the new Aphex Twin in stock and I did clock a sealed copy of a Fast Eddie LP on DJ International so knew this shop had House Hunting potential... He previously passed on and sold house collections to Alan at Alan’s Records but I’ve schooled him in what house records to look out for in terms of labels, era, where they’re from i.e. New York or Chicago. Any dance collections enquiries I’ve told him to forward to me as I can confirm whether any house holy grails of any worth – I now have a house consultancy role! Watch out for a House Hunting rack…

So, the weekend before I popped in and David excitingly exclaimed that he bought a collection off one of the members of former Blue Note Jazz-Rap group Us3 and he thinks there were some house in there. So I got diggin’ and to my surprise I pulled out a mint copy of the lesser-known NY House’N Authority LP by the prolific Rheji Burrell of Nu Groove mainstays the Burrell Brothers. I highly recommend this LP if you’re a Burrell Brothers fan – all the joints on this LP synonymous with their inimitable flavour on Nu Groove and their Citi Records imprint with these tracks being prime examples…

David quoted a tenner for this which considering the vinyl and cover were in mint condition I was happy to oblige. On diggin’ deeper I pulled out another mint LP this time by Larry Heard and Harry Dennis under their ‘The It’ alias. Though half of my record collection is Larry Heard this is one the very few I have never come across in a shop despite it being one of Larry’s more obtainable records so offered a fiver for it which he was happy with. Coincidentally after a twenty year plus hiatus Larry’n’Harry have resurrected ‘The It’ with a brand new EP touchin’ down soon via Larry’s Alleviated imprint! As ever timeless productions with the ethereal acid and platonic poetry of ‘Somebody Somewhere’ my pick of the EP – make sure you buy on sight even I’m gonna go against my House Hunting rules and succumb to buying a new record check out the EP here…

Still, though these two LP’s I copped are ace the real jewel in the crown was a Chicago house Holy Grail that I couldn’t believe was in the rack… The record in question was an original pressing of ‘It’s You’ by E.S.P. – David said he’s had it laying around for years and didn’t know what it was. It was in mint condition so I didn’t mind getting’ another copy as my original press a bit scratched up – he propositioned twenty quid which I was happy to pay as I can sell my other copy. So a happy house hunting haul though I still couldn’t get my head around that I got an E.S.P. record in a shop that’s opened next door mental this could be dangerous…

However, this presents me the perfect opportunity to wax lyrical about one of my favourite Chicago House records… An abbreviation for ‘Essential Sound Productions’, E.S.P. was founded in ‘85 by Tom Adams – better known as ‘Tommy Thumbs’ with his club residencies on the southeast side. As with other basement producers of the era, the technological advances of music equipment such as Roland drum machines and synthesizers plus the emerging house scene influenced Tommy to start producing with childhood friend Daniel Ellington aka ‘Danny Kris’. As both musicians with live experience (Tommy was previously a drummer), this can be clearly heard in their debut ‘It’s You’ production which in contrast to the rawer, primitive house tracks of the era is a more song-based composition – Danny’s hushed tones and yearning vox capturing the essence of the 80s perfectly yet juxtaposing with the oozing analogue warmth, infectious bass and ethereal pads effortlessly. A proper mournful melter that don’t sound like anything else, I never tire of listening to this…

The track was signed up by Chicago house heavyweight Rocky Jones for his DJ International subsidiary ‘Underground’ in ’86. Though having the foundations in being a crossover hit, it never received the exposure it deserved and was overshadowed by the label pushing acts on the label with ‘an image’ and more commercial appeal like Joe Smooth and Tyree Cooper. Though a year later in ’87 they released my fave warm up weapon ‘Let’s Move’, like ‘It’s You’ it ignited chi-town clubs but yet again failed to get the recognition it deserved… Despite UK stable Radical Records rereleasing ‘It’s You’ a couple of years later it still didn’t connect with the masses, leading E.S.P falling into obscurity with their records consigned to the basement dollar bins littered with the long lost Chicago classics of the era…

Though their records have had the odd-bootleg released the original pressings have become house Holy Grails fetching serious £££’s – evening the aforementioned Radical Records reissue hard to find I’m still trying to hunt that one down! However, the E.S.P renaissance has begun… Earlier this year I had the TV on and an advert came on from supermarket behemoth Tesco promoting their new fashion collection. As we all do with adverts, I wasn’t really paying any attention until it dawned on me that I was singing along to the advert ‘It’s you, it’s you I want tonight, the heat is on, I want you here tonight, I feel the heat…’ – what the f**k was I doin’ signing to a Tesco advert?!. Christ it just clicked that this was a new version of ‘It’s You’ – where it came from and why it was on a Tesco advert I didn’t have a clue so had to take to Facebook to see what was goin’ on…

Thunder matriarch Miles gave me the lowdown venting some reissue vitriol (this is why I love Miles…) – unbeknownst to me Belgian duo San Soda and Red D under their FCL alias had been doing a live version for years and produced an accapella version featuring Belgian jazz singer Lady Linn that had a limited release and was then licensed to Defected. How I missed this I don’t know but then again I don’t really listen to new s**t or check out things on so called trendy mediums such as Resident Advisor or Boiler Room so I can be proper outta the loop… Though I was a fan of the early We Play House releases and San Soda & Red D are boss DJs (killer set at Electric Elephant in Croatia earlier this year) I gotta be honest this don’t do the original justice and even with the Larry Heard remixes plus additional mixes (MK remix anyone?) I just ain’t feelin’ it…

Still, I ain’t one to dwell on negatives… Hopefully E.S.P have received some deserved royalties and from the rerelease they have finally gained the recognition they deserved with their track exposed to a newer generation and wider audience. A big shout to my main man Tommy Thumbs I hope in the near future we’ll hear some more productions reminiscent of your hallowed house classics…

If you fancy visiting The Little Record Shop and goin’ deep about Pink Floyd acetates with David then check it out – he’s open 1pm-6pm every Friday, Saturday and Sunday with the shop located on 43 Tottenham Lane, Crouch End. You can catch him on 07946 412 766 or david@cash4records.co.uk – just don’t touch the house records…

Aiden d’Araujo

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