- In 1993, Prescription, the label established by Ron Trent and Chez Damier, got off to a casual start. "Carl Bias called me up one day," Trent told NPR recently, "and said, 'This guy Chez is at my house, and he wants to meet you.' [In] a week or two, we were in Detroit recording in Kevin Saunderson's lab, and the first tune we did was a tune that became pretty big for us, "Don't Try [It]."" That the recently acquainted duo managed, in a matter of days, to knock out a near-perfect vocal house track was a sign of things to come. Over the next couple of years, enduring classics such as "Morning Factory" and "The Choice" would become the building blocks of a legacy documented on the six-disc Prescription: Word, Sound & Power.
By the time Damier and Trent formed Prescription, the then 20-something producers had already left their marks on dance music history. Trent wrote "Altered States" when he was 14. (Damier, at the same age, was going to clubs and working at a record store.) Damier would head to East Lansing, Michigan, and eventually cofounded the Music Institute alongside George Baker and Alton Miller. Before meeting Trent, he had already made three classic KMS EPs, Can You Feel It, I Never Knew Love and Untitled. "A lot of the wonderful stuff that was going on [in Chicago] in the '80s had died off and gone in a different direction," Trent told RBMA in 2007. With Prescription, Damier and Trent wanted to bring back the halcyon days of Chicago dance music.
Prescription was also named for Damier and Trent's beliefs in the spiritual power of house music. On the compilation's second track, "Prescription," Trent says this music is "bringing you back to what is sacred, not cheap," before paying his respects to his influences, charting a course through Fela Kuti, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Larry Levan and Ron Hardy. "I was more or less the music guy," said Trent, explaining the division of labour in the studio. "I synthesized the sound, and Chez was more the spiritual philosopher that Chez is." Trent landed on a timeless formula: jazzy pads, dreamy ambience, hand percussion and deep, sub-bass lines. You can hear it on the masterful "Seduction," the roller-skate glide of "Pop, Dip And Spin" and "Morning Fever," and the walking bassline on "The Meaning," among others.
Damier's vocals gave Prescription tracks a certain attitude. On "Don't Try It," his ad libs—"do, dah, do dah"—dovetail with Angelique Nicole's lead vocal. On "The Choice," he combines his own vocal with a hiccup-like sound. Trent's collaborations with Anthony Nicholson feel more like jams—their 11-minute "Soul Samba Express" features a wild, extended percussion breakdown, while the near-16 minute "Night Places Darkness Upon The Earth" has the longest house music synth solo I can think of. Several previously unreleased tracks appear on Prescription: Word, Sound & Power. One of them, "Black Magic Woman," a spacey hip-house collaboration with Harry Dennis, provides the compilation's most memorable line: "I would walk a crooked mile / on the backs of crocodiles / just to get with you."
Prescription: Word, Sound & Power isn't perfect. Romanthony's "The Wanderer" is notably absent. "Enchantment (Original Demo Mix)," by Angora—a group whose members included Peven Everett and Roy Davis, Jr.—is neither producer's strongest material. Otherwise, this is about as essential a house compilation as money can buy. Damier and Trent blended Detroit, Chicago and New York styles of house in music that was clearly black and American. Spirituality was also key. ("It was healing work," said Trent. "We used to put messages on the back of our records.") With Prescription, Trent and Damier made house that honored the long tradition of black soul music, harnessing its healing potential for the dance floor. It sounds as vital as ever.
01. C. Damier & R. Trent - Morning Factory
02. Ron Trent - Prescription
03. Ron & Chez D - Don't Try It
04. Ron Trent - Seduction
05. Ron Trent - Pop, Dip And Spin
06. Ron Trent - Energy
07. Chez Damier & Ron Trent - Sometimes I Feel Like
08. Angora - Enchantment
09. Ron Trent - I Feel The Rhythm
10. Ron Trent & Anthony Nicholson - Soul Samba Express
11. USG - Life 4 Living feat. Monica Elam
12. Ron Trent - Space Ridims
13. Chez Damier & Ron Trent - Foot Therapy
14. Konfusion Kidzz - On My Mind
15. Ron Trent - Morning Fever
16. Ani - Love Is The Message (For Those Who Didn't Hear It)
17. World, Sky & Universes - The Answer
18. Ron Trent - Black Magic Woman feat. Harry Dennis
19. Noni - Be My
20. Warp Dub Sound System - Night Places Darkness Upon The Earth
21. Chez-N Trent - The Choice
22. Ron Trent - History
23. Ron Trent - The Meaning
24. Ron Trent - Piano Track