ACR: Set

by: A Certain Ratio

From the mid-'90s through the mid-2010s, A Certain Ratio's 1979-1986 output for Factory was reissued to varying and sometimes confusing extents by Rev-Ola/Creation, Soul Jazz, LTM, and Factory Benelux. In 2017, ACR connected with Mute for their widest-scoped archival series yet, beginning with straightforward reissues of all their studio albums through 2008's Mind Made Up. Next was the similarly career-spanning ACR: Set, a fine introduction viewed by the band as a best-of, and also a representation of what they've continued to play live. Two-thirds of the previously released selections rightfully date from the Factory era, when the band was at its creative peak and most productive. "Waterline" perversely is missing, but the essential majority of ACR's six other Top Ten U.K. indie hits are here. Crucially, there's the superior 12" version of the sensational "Flight," along with other 7" and 12" edits and versions, choice album cuts, and the B-side percussion workout "Si Firmir O Grido." The other one-third judiciously covers 1989-1992, highlighted by "Good Together" (with Bernard Sumner and Shaun Ryder in the background) and the Denise Johnson showcase "Be What You Wanna Be" (released before Primal Scream, powered by Johnson and Andrew Weatherall, scored with the stylistically similar "Don't Fight It, Feel It"). Also featured are the band's first studio recordings in a decade. "Dirty Boy," fronted by fellow Manchester post-punk veteran Barry Adamson, sounds like it could have been written around the same time as the included "Wild Party" (1985) but craftily incorporates elements from across the band's history -- a tough, funk-derived rhythm, a battery of hand percussion, whistle, acid squiggle, even a pre-gig pep talk from manager Anthony H. Wilson -- without being overloaded. The comparatively smooth and fluid "Make It Happen," with Jez Kerr providing an optimistic lead, similarly draws from the band's history and translates to the present. ~ Andy Kellman

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