House Hunting #34 - Jack Frost & The Circle Jerks

Aiden takes a look at "one of the coldest jackerz of all time"...

House Hunting #34 - Jack Frost & The Circle Jerks

Aiden takes a look at "one of the coldest jackerz of all time"...

So a few days after my House Hunting haul at Love Vinyl I scoped on my Twitter feed that co-owner Jake Holloway had just received a new collection with some hallowed house touching down in the racks. For those of you not acquainted with Jake well, if your local environ is E17 (the Victoria Line wilderness of Walthamstow) then you may have checked out his Village Vinyl shop which was the beating heart of Wood Street – stocking rare and collectable records encompassing jazz, funk, soul and disco. As well as being a prime purveyor, Jake is also an affiliate of choice comp curators BBE as he designs many of the label’s sleeves and artwork (check out his portfolio here) plus along with all the superior selectors of Love Vinyl is a resident at Shoreditch hotspot Shutterbug.

Anyway back to the records… Naturally I asked what he got and he sent me an image of two of the rare ‘Acid Trax’ EP’s on Trax Records in practically near mint condition complete in their original Acid Trax sleeves – palpitations were kickin’ in and I was gettin’ proper Trax tremors! They were the collectable volumes 1 and 2 and, though I’m tryin’ to save some serious $$$s as I'm jettin’ to NYC next week, I had to double-drop these tabs of acid as you don’t come across a batch like this every day… I did an earlier shift on the Friday so jetted to the Hoxton wax haunt after work to meet my dealer for that deep dose of acid. Upon entering Jake presented me with the records and, on closer inspection, these Acid Trax EPs were the purest I’d ever seen – the photos didn’t lie as they looked mint with clean labels and in original sleeves so: House Hunting quota = met. You don’t see ‘em like this anymore… Here’s some Instagram spam where I’ve taken pics of the records – if like me you get off on old house records then follow me and we can slaver together yeah? So, with the deal done, I jetted outta that joint quick before the allure of the house rack got me hooked on some more of that black crack… As I was leaving a Nu Groove 12” did catch my eye but thankfully it was ‘The Theory Of Housativity’ EP by Equation, aka Burrell Brother Ron, which I already got – just get outta there! Still, another excuse to listen to this. You never know, this hallowed house 12” may still be adorning the racks…

Anyway, I was super stoked to cop these EPs as they feature acid auteurs such as Armando, DJ Pierre, Hula (of Da Posse fame), Kool Rock Steady (RIP), Lidell Townsell, Mr Lee and Maurice Joshua – not forgetting Doctor Derelict, aka Wayne Williams, who featured in House Hunting #28. As well as featuring some Chicago classics there’s quite a few exclusives on the EPs that aren’t on any other Trax releases. Here are some of my choice cuts over the two EPs proper acid overdose…

However, if you got both these Acid Trax EPs you’ll notice there is one artist that features more prominently than the others – in fact taking up the whole of the B-side on the first volume. The artist in question is the intriguingly-named Jack Frost & The Circle Jerks which is one of the many aliases of a God of Chicago House. Yeah that’s right, with that biblical link we’re talking about house forefather Adonis...

Though best known for his ubiquitous house anthem ‘No Way Back’, prior to laying down this Chicago classic Adonis’ roots were in soul and jazz. Hailing from the west side of Chicago, Adonis (or Michael A. Smith to his parents) attended the prestigious American Conservatory of Music where he studied the musical art form of jazz in tandem with theory and composition – which naturally developed his dexterity in music production. In his teens he played in various funk and R&B bands (even rehearsing with heads like Larry Heard and Mr Lee who also went on to become Chicago house hierarchy) and recorded demos with Roz Baker and Jesus Wayne as ‘Clockwork’ – their joints on a post-boogie tip, check out the synth styling and neon haze of ‘Night Life’ which even includes a remix by Farley “Funkin” Keith on the flip! 

However, it was the emergence of house that was his true calling… Adonis’ friends introduced him to Jesse Saunders’ ‘On And On’ as they thought he could compose a better production and, though not initially interested due to rehearsing R&B, he finally came around to the idea and was confident he could produce something better. This joint was none-other than ‘No Way Back’ which, with a phat 303 bassline at its core complete with the stuttering claps, snares and hi-hats of the 808, showcased Adonis’ deftness with the Roland TBs. Add to this the ice-cold dystopian delivery of Gary B and his debut production was destined to get heads jackin’: "Release my soul, I've lost control… Release my soul, I've lost control… Too far gone, too far gone, too far gone… Ain't No Way Back.

Upon hearing it, fellow house visionary Marshall Jefferson wanted to include it on one of his EPs under his early Virgo guise and to entitle the EP ‘Virgo and Adonis’ with both of them laying down two tracks each. Subsequently, however, Adonis attended a party in which Larry Thompson (of House Jam Records fame) was playing and he handed him a tape which had ‘No Way Back’ on it. When Larry dropped the track the crowd lost their minds with everyone including the DJs wanting to know what the f**k that hot house joint was! Also in attendance was the infamous Larry Sherman of Trax Records who introduced himself to Adonis, gave him his business card and invited him to his pressing plant down on the South Side. Sensing he had further potential with the instantaneous reaction to the track and newfound attention, Adonis pulled ‘No Way Back’ and ‘The Final Groove’ (which ultimately never got released) from the Virgo EP. One of the last-minute replacements for the EP was ‘My Space’ which was co-produced by Adonis and has that dystopian feel akin to ‘No Way Back’ with the ominous bass and sinister synths – definitely from another planet. Lose yourself here…

So Adonis went to the Precision Records pressing plant (Precision was the earlier incarnation of Trax) and left Larry the tape recording of ‘No Way Back’ so he could listen and consider whether he would sign it. When he came back he was surprised that Larry was handing him test presses of the record – Larry loved the tape and recorded it from that straight to press. As well as ‘No Way Back’ also on the tape was ‘We’re Rocking Down The House’ which was released the same year - ’86. On behalf of Adonis, Marshall Jefferson gave the tape of this to Ron Hardy and, with Ronnie droppin’ it at the Music Box, naturally it became an instant classic with its infectious bassline and catchy hook synonymous with the winning formula of ‘No Way Back’.

Half a dozen releases later and under his ‘Santos’ alias, Adonis produced ‘Work The Box’ with Ron Hardy which no doubt had been inspired by his formative years in the Music Box. On the flip Frankie Knuckles (Rest In Paradise…) turns out a couple of mixes – all about the ‘Beat The Knuckles’ mix which with its menacing bass and ominous synths takes you into a cavernous chasm that is deep for daze… 

After these few releases, Adonis was another victim of Larry Sherman’s shady dealings that he became notorious for and were synonymous with releasing a record on Trax – sure he’ll press up your record, but contracts and payment? You were lucky if you got a dime… Even though Adonis had his LP ready (‘Lost In The Sound’), disillusioned with Larry he left Trax and went over to arch-nemesis Rocky Jones and his DJ International stable. His contributions to the label over ‘87/’88 include the acid-induced ‘!The Poke!’ under his The Endless Poker’s pseudonym, co-producing ‘Freedom’ with The Children (all about the ‘Crucial Mix’ proper sweat on the walls…) and remixing Mario Reyes’ ‘Lost Love (I Want You Back)’. Check ‘em all out here…



However, two of my favourite joints of his aren’t actually on Chicago kingpins Trax or DJ International. In '88 he released a 12” on Jack Trax (the UK’s ode to Chicago ran by Damon D’Cruz) which features ‘Do You Wanna Jack’ as Gentry Ice which is as the title implies is a jackin’ workout laced with acid. On the flip, however, is the B-Side bomb ‘Lost In Sound’ in which the twinkling keys and soaring strings entwine effortlessly with the rawer elements of the bass and percussion – resulting in a more melancholic production with an ethereal touch pure bliss… He also co-produced ‘Only Wanted To Be’ on the house Holy Grail ‘There Are Dreams And There Is Escape’ by James “Jack Rabbit” Martin (RIP). This one has been on the House Hunting hitlist for years – good luck in unearthing one, though if you've got a spare £600 you can cop one off Discogs… 

Other notable mentions include his joint on West Madison Street Records as The Sweat Boyz (all about ‘Do You Want To Perculate?’, ridiculous records…) and is his acid house classic ‘Lack Of Love’ in which he collaborated with Charles B (RIP) on Desire Records outta the UK. In ’89 he signed to Jive as the label’s ‘First House Artist’ but, come the '90s, fatherhood naturally took priority… His legacy still lives on with his pioneering productions licensed to countless compilations and his hallowed house records still devastating dancefloors. Jamal Moss of Mathematics brought him back to the fore over the last decade, releasing a few records from him, but to me it's all about his defining Chicago and acid house records back in the '80s. To conclude I’ll leave you in an acid haze with his contributions to the Acid Trax series as Jack Frost & The Circle Jerks – just remember that Adonis is one of the Gods of Chicago House and Jack Frost is one of the COLDEST JACKERZ OF ALL TIME!





Aiden d’Araujo

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