VARIOUS ARTISTS Viva Hacienda - Fifteen Years Of Hacienda Nights (Deconstruction)

After the disappointing "Cream Separates" mix CD reviewed in the last issue, at last a dance compilation worthy of your attention. (Alright then, being realistic, mine!) Designed, as the title suggests, to celebrate fifteen years of the original superclub, Manchester’s Hacienda (originally designed so that New Order’s manager Rob Gretton had somewhere to go to ogle women), "Viva Hacienda" acts as a pretty compelling, if necessarily selective, introduction to a decade and a half of the many-headed and often misunderstood beast that is dance music.

The first CD spans the years 1982 to 1986, chock full of what today sounds like incredibly primitive and edgy electronic music, as well as definitive evidence that the elimination of lyrics was the best thing that ever happened to dance music - one listen to Sharon Redd fighting a losing battle with the terrible trivialities and inanities of "Beat The Street" (whatever that means) is convincing enough. Elsewhere New Order’s Arthur Baker-produced confusion rubs up against Rockers Revenge’s "Walking On Sunshine", as well as Mr Fingers’ classic hands in the air moment "Can U Feel It".

CD two, covering 1987 to 1991, is the real deal, though. There’s Mr Lee’s sinister and thumptastic "Pump Up Chicago", a too brief ninety second excerpt from Phuture’s unbelievably acidic "Slam", one of the more palatable examples of screaming woman music in Alison Limerick’s "Where Love Lives" and Young MC’s "Know How", which sounds like an unholy alliance between "Shaft" and "Fools Gold". Leaving the best until last however, the last twenty-five minutes of the CD are occupied by the audacious coupling of L’il Louis’ "French Kiss", Loletta Holloway’s "Love Sensation" (the source material for Black Box’s "Ride On Time"), and Rhythim

Is Rhythim’s wonderful, incredible, fantastic, words-fail-me "Strings Of Life". In all honesty, in twenty or thirty years time, when rock ‘n’ roll halls of fame the world over finally come to their senses and accord dance music and its pioneers with the heroic status they deserve, Derrick May will be first in the queue for his services to the greater good of mankind, exemplified by this track. Often cited as techno’s first (only?) symphony, and built from nothing more than a muted piano loop, some horribly anaemic string samples and a drum machine aimed directly at the feet, it’s the ultimate feelgood anthem, one that, no matter how dated it may sound, will (paradoxically, I know) never be old-fashioned. Just to cherry the cake, it really is fabulous to hear the surface noise and scratches on what must’ve been a much used, and much loved, pressing of this song.

The final CD deals with 1992 to the present, and, perhaps illustrating why I found "Cream Separates" so underwhelming, this is the least impressive of the three, despite the presence of usually reliable names such as Phuture, Armand van Helden and Paperclip People. The Bucketheads’ (admittedly cheesy) "The Bomb" and Basement Jaxx’s rather impressive "Fly Life" help to save the day, though.

As a definitive history of dance music, "Viva Hacienda" fails miserably - there are too many omissions, mainly among young British upstarts like the Aphex Twin, Underworld and Orbital. But that’s not its purpose - as a celebration, rather than an explanation, of fifteen years of frenetic clubbing, it’s pretty much perfect, and makes for the kind of diverting and stimulating home listening package that some mix CDs can only dream of being. Thoroughly recommended to anyone with even a passing interest in dance music. (I’m talking to myself again, aren’t I?!)