A Certain Ratio

Live America 1985

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AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett

First released on cassette and then re-released in various guises since then, Live America 1985 captures the mid-'80s incarnation of A Certain Ratio in compelling form. Those who felt that the band's studio work tended towards the formal rather than the funky could easily find themselves changing their minds based on the ten-song selection here, showcasing the group both at their most murky and their most nervously tense. The extended, doom-laden introduction to "Sounds Like Something Dirty" definitely meets the first description but when the song itself kicks in everything's far more active. Full-on upbeatness (or near enough) occurs elsewhere on songs like "Wild Party," where the seeming cool of the sung verses contrasts against one hell of a jam, with Donald Johnson's drumming and electronic beats blending perfectly. The explorations in everything from electro to samba and salsa and back again are readily heard throughout (sometimes in the course of the same song -- check out the effortless breakdowns and shifts in "The Fox" and the simultaneously soothing melody and frenetic beats and riffs on "Flight"). Meanwhile, the occasional restrained, low-pitched singing of Jeremy Kerr provides a darker anchor without dragging the arrangements down; "And Then Again" is downright easy-going, an almost diffident delivery matched by some good horn work even as Johnson goes to town on drums. "Shack Up," as befits one of the band's cornerstone numbers, gets a blistering rendition, a call to arms in all but name where whistles have the impact of air-raid sirens, while the almost-penultimate "Touch" makes for an equally powerful blast. The 2005 version on Melodic includes an appreciative essay by Bill Brewster on this most underrated band.

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