House Hunting #8 – Liz Torres
So I heard on the grapevine that one of my choice house hunting haunts Haggle Vinyl is shutting down so yesterday I made a quick jaunt to the Essex Road in Islington to see shop owner Lynn and see if there was any truth to the tale. Sadly, he confirmed he will be closing the doors this year and according to him it will be before Christmas but could be as soon as next month! You can read in further detail here via the Islington Tribune.
If you’ve never been to Haggle Vinyl it’s a proper weathered Aladdin’s cave with thousands of records – a treasure trove of wax jewels waiting to be unearthed you’ll always find something if you dig deep enough… However, it’s one of those shops you’ll love or hate as it’s gained notoriety with Lynn goin’ beyond the stereotypical counter guy saying exactly what he thinks and managing to offend the majority of his clientele to quote ‘I think most of my customers are f**king idiots’ – so don’t expect gettin’ much help or warm service he really doesn’t give a s**t about you or records… To give you an idea of Lynn’s interpersonal skills check this short documentary out for the Haggle Vinyl experience:
Despite his reputation I’ve never been at the end of his acid tongue spittin’ vitriol… If you just engage with him and don’t talk about records that usually works though he’ll go off on a tangent about his love of tailoring, watches and flamenco guitar – you may even get a compliment he liked my black stain bomber I was styling the previous time I was in! Anyway back to this week’s visit and as ever I hunted the house racks – I thought I struck gold when I found the House Jam classic ‘Outer Limits’ by Tikkle but in typical fashion Lynn couldn’t find the record you gotta laugh… Undeterred I kept diggin’ and came across some obscure allure in the form of the Scamara 12” on Gherkin Records but the jewel in the crown was a near mint copy of Liz Torres’ ‘Can’t Get Enough’ LP licensed on Jack Trax complete with an original press release and photo of Liz Torres and Master C & J enclosed! On taking them to the till I didn’t even need to haggle as they let me have the records for half-price so both records for under a tenner nice one! Yeah some of the records in the shop are over-priced and you could probably get on Discogs for a couple of quid but Lynn hasn’t got a clue about house records so he’ll always cut you a deal – no better time than now with its impending closure… Despite many vinyl enthusiasts happy it’s closing due to his expletive-laden, non-existent service I’ll definitely miss the eccentrics of a visit to Haggle… Still it will always have a legacy after getting into the public’s consciousness via this Yellow Pages advert you may remember from a few years back riding the vinyl revival:
On to the record and this is one I’ve been meaning to pick up for time as I love Liz Torres aka ‘The Queen of House’. Initially appearing on Quest’s ‘No More Mind Games’ on Sound Pak back in ’85, her first record under her own name was the Kenny “Jammin” Jason produced ‘What You Make Me Feel’ on Rocky Jones’ DJ International Records subsidiary Underground – both tracks featuring on this LP. However, it was her collaborations with fellow Chicagoans Master C & J (Carl Bias, Edward Crosby and Jessie Jones) in the late 80s on classic Chi-town imprints such as State Street and Sidestreet Records that gained attention in the scene and I feel are her best works. Though her vocals were unpolished, what she lacked technically she made up in raw emotion with her fierce delivery complementing their haunting yet beguiling house productions. The driving Roland TR rhythms, sinister synths and her yearning, seductive vox were the basic fundamentals on tracks that feature on the LP like the eponymous ‘Can’t Get Enough’, ‘Face It’, and ‘In The City’ – resulting in timeless Chicago House classics that still send a shiver up my spine and are relevant today. Check ‘em out here:
After releasing ‘A Touch Of Love’ on UK imprint Black Market Records in ‘89, she was signed up by Jive Records which turned out to be an abortive episode with her ‘The Queen Is In The House’ not getting the support or exposure it deserved. She returned to her roots and a couple of years later reunited with her kindred spirits Master C & J releasing the ‘I Don’t Want You To Stop’ and ‘Queen B****’ EP’s with on spiritual home Streetside Records. Again utilising the same formula that was synonymous with their previous classic productions and sounding like they’d never been away (maybe tracks from the vaults?), the ‘Queen B****’ EP is actually one of my favourite records of hers with killer remixes of ‘Don’t Let Love Pass You By’ – whether it’s Master C & S delivering a mournful melter of a mix, the Get Down Productions adding a dope garage flavour complementing her diva vocals perfectly or the Master C & J interpretation sounding like a long lost Larry Heard jam from the Alleviated DATs, every mix is worth your attention tune in here:
Apart from a brief reappearance courtesy of a collaboration with Junior Vasquez on ‘Set Urself Free’ on Radikal Records in ’95, Liz went into obscurity for nearly two decades until last year when Luxor Records and Kevin Lemonnier presented a nice surprise gettin’ Liz outta her sabbatical to drop ‘Your Love Is All I Need’ – a killer house joint with her Puerto Rican roots all over it with some seductive Spanish vox. As well as the boss Toby Tobias remix be sure to check the flip as the dub version is a B-side bomb that Heidelberg house maestro Move D used in his recent ‘Fabric 74’ house mix – probably why the record so scarce now definitely one to seek out!
Though the Luxor 12” harder to find a lot of the older Liz Torres records with Master C & J are still accessible and not ridiculous £££’s whether through bargain bin specials or choice record stores – definitely pieces of Chicago House history… With Master C & J’s Carl Bias also making a welcome return with his ‘I Feel It’ track on Simoncino’s HotMix Records label a few years back hopefully this isn’t the last we’ve heard of Liz or any of the Master C & J posse. Chi-town forever…