1. The Prodigy – Fire
The opening song of any compilation is vital to its success and coherence. It must draw in the casual listener that might not otherwise consider investing the mix (perhaps opting for one containing ‘Sesame’s Treet’ instead), but also give an honest representation of the rest of the tracks to avoid resentment (and the inevitable trip to Music & Video Exchange).
‘Fire’ is an excellent overture: nonsensical samples, euphoric hands-in-the-air breakdowns, infectious drum beats, a strong ragga influence and plenty of oblique drugs references. Count my boxes well and truly ticked! But it also outlines Rave ’92‘s intent to bridge across the gap between chart rave and the more obscure hardcore tracks. Despite obviously being written with some serious dancing in mind, ‘Fire’ crosses into pop territory thanks to the patchwork song structure and variety of vocal samples – which in turn are possibly a result of the relatively limited vocabulary of noises Liam Howlett could squeeze out of his Roland W-30.
The Prodigy’s early material is high-speed, high-pitched and recklessly playful compared to the darker, noisier distortion of …Jilted Generation and The Fat of The Land. By far the most successful act on Rave’92, their choice of samples are as good an indicator as any of the evolution of dance music over the last fifteen years. Starting with shameless playground nostalgia (‘Charly’), thence to brain-melting ragga (‘Out Of Space’), guitar-crossover (‘Their Law’ and ‘Firestarter’) and ending up at ubercoolische electro (‘Girls’). Somewhere along the line his sense of humour may have evaporated, but throughout his career Howlett has always managed to pick the finest ingredients for the stew (if overcooking them at times).
Now we return to eleven-year-old Kat. A few weeks after receiving the tape, I casually informed my parents that I was now the God of Hellfire, and that I was about to bring them some Fire. Amused rather than worried, Dad played me his dusty copy of the Crazy World Of Arthur Brown LP (also featuring the brilliantly-named track ‘Great Spontaneous Apple Creation’). The world of sampling finally made sense to me: “Dad, this version isn’t fast enough!”
Despite the inferior bpm, I was very impressed with Brown’s performance at Glastonbury over a decade later – one of the most powerful voices I’ve ever heard, emanating from an ancient bloke clearly a few flames short of a headdress. A fine choice of artist to cut and paste into full-on rave euphoria madness, and a fine flagship to start the compilation.