It might have taken two decades, but the true genius of New York's early-'80s music scene is finally being acknowledged by a much younger generation of fans. And right in the middle of this revolutionary intersection of punk, disco, rap and soul were four sisters: Marie, Valerie, Renee, and Lorraine "Sweet L" Scroggins, and their seminal mini-funk outfit, ESG.
Recorded live and raw in a small studio located above Radio City Music Hall, the band's debut album, Come Away With ESG is a lasting document of their unique brand of minimal funk that would influence subsequent post-punk, hip-hop, and dance music acts. Stripped down to the most basic of drum beats and rudimentary basslines, "Come Away" confirms the notion that the real rhythm is what happens between the beats.
The staggering gait takes its cues from post-punk outfits P.I.L. and Gang of Four, while the repeated vocal chorus is reminiscent of doo wop's street corner soul. The more up-tempo "Dance" begins with a beat that could have been lifted from a Motown studio outtake, while "It's Alright" combines primitive single-note guitar lines with equally archaic beats and bongo fills. Most memorable is "Moody and Spaced Out," with its warped electronic sweeps and grooving sixteenth-note hi-hat that propels the beat still favoured by well-informed dance music DJs.
It is nearly impossible to understate the influence of ESG, who pave the way for acts as diverse as female hip-hop pioneers Salt-N-Pepa, to post-hardcore legends Fugazi. Much in the same way that Marvin Gaye captured the urban plight of Detroit at the turn of the '70s with What's Going On, Come Away With ESG is a musical snapshot of post-groovy, pre-fresh New York City at the beginning of the '80s.
A1 Come Away
A3 You Make No Sense
A4 Parking Lot Blues
A6 About You
B1 It's Alright
B2 Moody (Spaced Out)
B3 Tiny Sticks
B4 The Beat
B5 My Love For You
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