Our writer Marco takes control of this #IntoTheVaults and looks at the talent of Larry Heard aka Mr Fingers. Unfortunately the talents of the Chicago house producer have been over shadowed (to an extent) by other more well known names from the scene. But that said when you can lay claim to producing classics like Can You Feel It (1986) it’s clear that under appreciation is no indicator of sublime creativity.
I still vividly remember it like it was yesterday. It was a winter’s evening in 1991, in a tiny Italian village sandwiched between desperation and isolation. A geographical void where nothing good ever happened. After dinner, I often spent my teenage years seeking solace in the radio: I did not belong to the world outside, but I belonged to the music.
On this night, while contemplating my own insignificance, I stumbled upon one of the few music stations not obsessed with something dreary like Italian folk or worse still, U2. Like a siren’s call, I was suddenly pulled in by this unrelenting bass line, followed by a few bars on by some incredibly lush synth pads which sounded inexorably maudlin and startlingly modern. It was Larry Heard aka Mr Fingers’ seminal deep house classic Can You Feel It. For a few minutes I felt healed. It had such a transcendental quality. I no longer cared about people calling me ‘faggot’. I no longer cared about the oppression of the Catholic Church or the several layers of baggage and bullshit which every teenager must contend with.
One could say a DJ, or rather House music saved my life.
Mr Fingers, might not be the first name you consider when thinking of music heroes of the Chicago House scene or healers of teens’ angst, for that matter. He is perhaps a less obvious pioneer, compared to people like Frankie Knuckles or Marshall Jefferson. He has always made a conscious decision (it seems) to play by his own rules. Refusing restricting titles like ‘DJ’ or stepping out of the limiting 4/4 rhythmic patterns. A highly prolific artist, he released 13 albums under different guises; Fingers Inc, Loosefingers, Trio Zero, Gherkin Jerks to name but a few. If there is one good thing about the often-polluted internet is that you can now rediscover many of these master works, which would be otherwise relegated to the dusty shelves of House music history. That’s how I came to discover Introduction (1992).
his second album relinquished that power, taking me on a cosmic journey shaded with jazz influences
In a shocking turn of events, it appears that solitude and melancholy still linger later in life. Regardless of our achievements, we are still chased by feelings of insecurity which sometimes can only be warded off by the power of a good record.
Introduction, his second album relinquished that power, taking me on a cosmic journey shaded with jazz influences miles away from Heard’s previous proto-acid explorations. Larry’s soft and soulful vocals punctuate the otherwise instrumental tracks. Mostly laid out to a 120bpm rhythm lyrics delve into themes of yearning and redemption. ‘I need you, but still can’t show you. I can’t fight it off, it’s critical’ he croons on the opening track Closer, while the chorus’ pulsating bass leaves you with no choice but to surrender. The melodic depths of tracks like Empty and On A Corner Called Jazz are elevated by an interspersed sax while Survivor’s piano keys assume a woeful resonance with lyrics like: ‘Should I cry out loud? Should I be real strong? Somebody help me’.
All good stories need a happy ending and if life doesn’t always quite follow this narrative arc, it still delivers potential respite. The dance floor was my salvation and Introduction seems to mirror this. In the record’s second half, Larry Heard serves more straight-up house cuts, with hypnotic rhythms, optimistic lyrics and gospel-influenced vocal arrangements like the anthemic What About This Love and Alright. ‘Follow your heart and you’ll be satisfied, everything’s gonna be alright’. Perhaps a cliché verse to live your life by, but in these days of personal confusion and social disarray the simplicity of a banal thought can perhaps provide the answer I am looking for.