Force

by: A Certain Ratio

A Certain Ratio's Force, even though it was released some years after their previous full-length, I'd Like to See You Again, was still something of a transitional effort, being simultaneously the studio debut of sax player Tony Quigley and the curtain call of keyboardist Andy Connell, the latter having started to gain mainstream success via Swing Out Sister. As a snapshot of where A Certain Ratio had ended up following their starker but still danceable earlier years, Force is definitely a slicker production all around -- Jeremy Kerr's vocals, if hardly smooth soul in a conventional sense, are clearer than ever, while the general feeling of songs like "Only Together" and "Mickey Way" is something that's far more Level 42 than Section 25. It's definitely a record of its time as a result -- the sometimes airless, compressed production often fights against more inspired individual elements song for song, like Quigley's layered brass break on "Bootsy," one of the album's highlights and clearly a bit of a nod to the legendary P-Funk bassist. But Donald Johnson's drumming and Martin Moscrop's multi-instrumental work remain hyperactive and sometimes subtly surprising, and at the album's best, such as "Fever 103" and "Anthem," both with beautifully moody verses set against a big soaring chorus, A Certain Ratio find the perfect balance between their understated impulses and their desire to take it large. LTM's 2010 reissue of the album adds a couple of bonus tracks: "The Runner," an extra cut (from an Italian EP released that year) that brings in a lot of scraggly feedback underneath a crisp arrangement; and Severed Heads member Robert Racic's echo-heavy reworking of "Bootsy," done for an Australian single release. ~ Ned Raggett

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