In 1992 Stereo MC’s released their Connected album, a highlight for the band and (19)90s music. Still an album I love to listen to.
Nicholas Hallam (aka The Head) and Rob Charles Birch (aka Rob B.) have known each other since their early childhoods. They shared a love for music and quickly founded their first band. After their move to London in 1985, rock was replace by rap and soul. With the money they received to leave their apartment, they founded their own label, Gee Street Records, and bought their own studio, Gee Street Studio.
Using the moniker Stereo MC’s the singles Move It and What Is Soul? were released independently in 1987. The following year the singles were released to a broader audience when Gee Street signed a distribution deal with Island Records. Using the name Ultimatum Birch and Hallam (initially with DJ Cesare) started producing remixes, which started to catch on.
In 1989 Stereo MC’s released their debut album, 33-45-78, followed by second album, Supernatural, in 1990. Percussionist and drummer Owen If was added to the band for live shows. The band went on tour as a support act with Living Colour and The Happy Mondays. In 1990 the single Elevate My Mind made the American top 40. In the meantime Ultimatum was still producing remixes, for some of the bigger names as well, like U2.
Both Stereo MC’s and Ultimatum were successful, which translated into trust in their own abilities. The next album would reap the rewards. With drummer If and singer Cath Coffey swinging, catchy grooves were developed, grooves that would find a huge audience.
The grooves were compiled on the album Connected, a wonderful collection of inventive rhythms and original funky soul and hip-hop, which had one thing in common: swing. Date of release: October 5, 1992.
The music had a laid back feel and sounded ‘care free’, but the lyrics were far from that. Topics ranged from the riots in LA (following the Rodney King police brutality) to the influence of the press on the general feeling of happiness and security, karma, the consequences of drug abuse and human rights. Luckily, there was room for love and self-worth as well.
Stereo MC’s didn’t fit into one category. Rob B.:
We were kind of a hybrid at the time. Rap purists wouldn’t dig us as we weren’t straight-up rap. We weren’t an indie group, or a rock group. We were a bit of everything. Nobody could put their finger on us. What got us through was that we were realist music, saying something about where we were coming from. That helped us to make a record that was, at one point, commercial but was also conscious of the times.
Musically the album is a perfect mix of rap, hip-hop, funky soul and dance. It’s filled with irresistible grooves with beautiful melodies and vocals. The sound was familiar yet original, accessible yet particular. And, on top of that, it had a message as well. No wonder the album was a huge success and went on to gain platinum status in no less than 18 countries.
Op August 3, 1993, I saw Stereo MC’s perform as a support act for U2’s impressive Zoo TV tour. A truly great show, one that made me buy the album. I haven’t regretted it one single day.
I was already familiar with the Connected single, and the rest of the album was equally good. The entire album has a beautiful atmosphere, is funky, soulful, warm and relaxed. After all these years it’s still a party album and remains one of my favorites.
Four singles were culled from the Connected album.
(released on September 14, 1992)
- Step It Up
(released on November 23, 1992)
- Ground Level
(released on February 8, 1993)
(released on May 17, 1993)
All songs written by Robert Birch (Rob B.) en Nicholas Hallam (The Head).
- Ground Level
- Fade Away
- All Night Long
- Step It Up
- Playing With Fire
- Chicken Shake
- Don’t Let Up (feat. Mica Paris)
- The End
|Connected||Jimmy “Bo” Horne – Let Me (Let Me Be Your Lover)
Third World – Now That We Found Love
|Everything||Morning, Noon & Night – Bite Your Granny
Bob James – Farandole (L’Arlesienne Suite #2)
Jimmy Webb – Arnie’s Appeasement Signals (Samurai Sequence)
|Sketch||Gal Costa – Passarinho
Little Feat – Fool Yourself
|Playing With Fire||The Rolling Stones – Monkey Man
Pet Shop Boys – Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots Of Money)
|Chicken Shake||The Specials – Man At C&A|
|Creation||Ray Jay And The Eastsiders – Love Doll|
|The End||James Brown – The Payback
Ben E. King – Supernatural Thing
- Robert Charles “Rob B.” Birch – vocals
- Nicholas “The Head” Hallam – DJ
- Ian Frederick “Owen If” Rossiter – drums, percussion
- Cath Coffey, Verona Davis, Andrea Groves – background vocals
With help from:
- James Hallawell – keyboards, organ
- Paul O. Kane, Matthew Seligman – bass
- Chicu Modu – saxophone
- Ivan Hussey, Johnny T., Anya Ulman, Laura Cochrane – strings
- Kick Horns – horns
Following the release (and the success) of Connected the band was asked to be the support act for U2’s groundbreaking Zoo TV tour. The group won the Best Group and Best Album categories at the 1994 BRIT Awards.
Unfortunately, success came with a huge cost. Following an exhaustive tour the group stepped back, out of the limelight, due to burn-out. Promotion and traveling did the band in, unable to write new music. In 1998 the group temporarily re-emerged with the release of Flash, which was part of the The Avengers soundtrack.
During the time Stereo MC’s was on a break, Birch and Hallam continued as Ultimatum, and had success as remixers for songs like Aswad’s Warrior Re-Charge, Madonna’s Frozen, Disposible Heroes Of Hiphoprisy’s Television: The Drug Of The Nation, Electronic’s Idiot Country Two and U2’s Mysterious Ways.
But, in 2000 it began to itch, time for a new Stereo MC’s album. On May 28, 2001, Deep, Down And Dirty was released, an album that sounded out of date. Stereo MC’s were trendsetters no more. Three more Stereo MC’s albums were released: Paradise (2005), Double Bubble (2008) and Emperor’s Nightingale (2011).
The group still regularly performs with a changing line-up. Next to Rob B. and The Head, Cath Coffey is the only surviving member since Connected, following the death of drummer Owen If on July 10, 2022.
What’s your take on the Stereo MC’s and on Connected in particular? Let me know.
This story contains an accompanying video. Click on the following link to see it: Video: Stereo MC’s – Connected: irresistable and funky. The A Pop Life playlist on Spotify has been updated as well.
Stereo MC’s 1992 image: udiscovermusic.com
Stereo MC’s – Connected – The singles image: dutchcharts.nl/amazon.com
Other images: spotify.com