Thursday, August 21, 2008

An I.O.U. Carved In Ice

Best known in Australia for the dance-synth hit ‘I.O.U.’ (#3) in late 1983, British group Freeez were originally one of the leading acts in the emerging U.K. jazz-funk scene of the late 70s/early 80s. The group was founded by vocalist/percussionist John Rocca in around 1978. Whilst Rocca remained the focal point of Freeeze throughout, he was ably supported by key members Peter Mass (bass/vocals), Andy Stennet (keyboards) and Paul Morgan (drums).

Freeez quickly gained a
solid reputation on the Brit-funk scene, building a strong following from DJ’s and dance music fans. In June 1980 they released their debut single ‘Keep In Touch’ on Pye Records, which featured future founder of Incognito Jean Paul Bluey on guitar, the song reaching a respectable #49 on the British charts. The follow up single ‘Stay’ missed the charts, but Freeez wasn’t frozen out of the charts for very long. In late 1980 the budding Beggars Banquet label signed them up, soon after releasing Freeez’s debut album ‘Southern Freeez’ (UK#17), which also featured vocal contributions from Ingrid Mansfield Alman, and was produced by John Rocca. The title track was released as a single in February ‘81 and soon Freeez were red hot on the charts, peaking at #8 a few weeks later.

The follow up single ‘Flying High’ didn’t soar quite so high on the charts, but still attained an altitude of #35 in Britain. Freeez went into hibernation briefly, but did release the 12 inch single ‘One To One’ in mid ‘82. During this period the group’s line-up was expanded to include Gordon Sullivan (guitar), George Whitmore and Alison Gordon (vocals), though they would soon revert to a more slim lined group profile.

Freeez came in from the cold in August ‘83 with the biggest hit of their career ‘I.O.U.’ The song was written and produced by Arthur Ba
ker, who had worked extensively with the likes of New Order and Afrika Bambaataa (later to perform as Arthur Baker & The Backbeat Disciples). ‘I.O.U.’ soon built up a huge amount of credit on the charts, rocketing to #2 in the U.K. and #3 in Australia, as well as the top 10 in numerous European markets. ‘I.O.U.’ also spent two weeks sitting atop the U.S. Billboard Dance Chart, fending off the likes of Madonna and Michael Jackson.

It was included on Freeez’s second album ‘Gonna Get You’ (UK#46), released in October ‘83 (the album was released under the title ‘I.O.U.’ in the U.S.). Drummer Everton McCalla came on board the Freeez express to also lend his vocals. The follow up single ‘Pop Goes My Love’ achieved a height of #26 in Britain, though the third single ‘Love’s Gonna Get You’ didn’t make it much above base camp on the charts (UK#80). An album of remixed earlier material was then released during 1984, titled ‘Anti-Freeez’.

Freeez then resurfaced in late ‘84 with the album ‘Idle Vice’. Though the album was recorded in
Studio 2 at the famous EMI Abbey Road Studios, the very same studio made famous by The Beatles, Freeez’s ‘Idle Vice’ triggered an idle response from fans, missing the charts completely. The two singles released, ‘That Beats My Patience’ and ‘Train Of Thoughts’, followed in kind. John Rocca then recorded some material with Andy Stennet during 1985 under the name Pink Rhythm. Freeez meanwhile continued under the control of Peter Maas and Paul Morgan, who were joined by Billy Crichton (guitar) and Louis Smith (keyboards). In January 1987 ‘I.O.U.’ was remixed by Arthur Baker and an extended mix was released, climbing to #23 on the British charts. The song was credited to Freeez Ft. John Rocca. Rocca then released the single ‘I Want To Be Real’ (again credited to Freeez Ft. John Rocca) which proved popular on the U.S. Dance Charts, before recording a full solo album titled ‘Extra Extra’, released in late 1987. Neither the title track single not the follow up ‘Move’ made any impact on the mainstream charts, and it was apparent that the music buying public had gone cold on the work of John Rocca and Freeez. Though in the 25 years since it was first release ‘I.O.U.’ has remained a hot track on the dance floor.Thanks to YouTube user gnowangerup for uploading video for 'Pop Goes My Love'

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