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  Ten City

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Click below for a Ten City sample:

Thick and Thin

Right Back to You  

Ten City was something of an anomaly in house music, consisting of a traditional vocalist/musician combination.  Once known as Ragtyme, the group was formed between singer Byron Stingily and instrumentalists Byron Burke (keyboards) and Herb Lawson (guitar, bass, keys).   Producer Marshall Jefferson was a virtual fourth member, since his vision was essential to their sound.

They signed a deal with Atlantic in 1988 and exploded into international stars with "That's The Way Love Is" and "Devotion," two of the brightest moments for Chicago house. The former cracked the British top ten, one of the first clues that the music has having a major impact overseas.  Stingily's soaring vocals and the live musicianship brought back memories of the classic disco of the 70s but placed the vibe in a new context.

The debut LP Foundation rode these two singles to best-selling status and Ten City wer the undisputed kings of house.  1990's State of Mind, while not as groundbreaking, contained the masterful "Whatever Makes You Happy" and "Superficial People."

After a two year layoff, during which they dissolved ties with Jefferson to exercise more creative input, No House Big Enough was released.  While a great LP, with production from Kerri Chandler and David Morales, it did not live up to sales expectations and they were inexplicably dropped from Atlantic.  The final recording was That Was Then, This Is Now, but there were further problems with the label bosses and they disbanded rather than continue an uphill battle.

The fellas are still involved with music in varying degrees.   Stingily established a solid career as the highest-profile artist on Nervous Records and runs Deep Soul Records.  Burke has released one-off singles and Lawson is active with session work. 

Ten City's Deepest Grooves

Foundation (Atlantic, 1989)
A house landmark, linking contemporary sounds to the Philly soul tradition.

State of Mind (Atlantic, 1990)

No House Big Enough (Atlantic, 1992)
A very truthful title, as Ten City was out to prove its versatility beyond 4/4 rhythms.  "Come This Way Again" and "School Me" are some of the most credible r&b songs ever attempted by a house artist.  The essential "My Piece of Heaven," "DeepKiss" and "Thick and Thin" showed they hadn't lost their way with a thumping dancefloor song.

That Was Then, This Is Now (Columbia, 1994)
The Ten City story ends here, highlighted by "Fantasy" and "Goin' Up In Smoke."  They deserved better.

Best of Ten City (Ibadan, 2001)
Thanks to the efforts of Joe Claussell, there's finally a well-deserved compilation of this seminal group.

Copyright 2001 B.Graff.  All rights reserved.

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