Freeez – Southern Freeez

4th January 2023 · 1980s, 1981, Funk, Jazz, Music

Here’s one of those songs I haven’t heard in years (decades?) but it comes right back to me the moment the needle touches the groove. I was never a fan of jazz-funk but you’d have to have a heart of stone, and feet of concrete, not to be moved physically and emotionally by the infectious groove, skittering bassline and blissful vocal of Southern Freeez.

Not to mention that liquid guitar that subliminally recalls (surely deliberately) Ernie Isley’s spellbinding solo on the not-so-differently-titled Summer Breeze.

The idea for the song, and the name of the group, allegedly came from a dance move called The Freeze popularised by clubbers at The Royalty in Southgate.

Whenever the DJ played Rodney Franklin’s song The Groove, everyone on the dancefloor would stand stock-still at the moment when the band drops out for a bar.

Freeez began life on the backstreets of North London in 1978 and initially included guitarist Jean-Paul ‘Bluey’ Maunick who went on to form Incognito.

Like the punk bands of that era, they were very much an ‘indie’ affair built around main man John Rocca who managed the band as well as writing, producing, playing and singing.

Their first single, Keep In Touch, came out in 1979 and, like their debut album, was self-funded by Rocca and initially released independently on his Pink Rhythm record label, before Beggars Banquet stepped in to sign them.

Southern Freeez is also produced by Rocca, who co-wrote it with bandmates Peter Maas (keyboards) and Andy Stennett (bass), and the singer is Ingrid Mansfield Allman. who also worked with Ian Dury, Desmond Dekker and Mary Wilson.

Freeez went on to enjoy their biggest hit in 1983 with IOU, written and produced by Arthur Baker, featuring one of the first examples of digital sampling, a proto-hip hip electro style, and a falsetto vocal by Rocca.

It reached No.2 in the summer of 1983 and spawned a hugely successful remix by Baker and Jellybean Benitez that charted all over again, while subsequent singles included the euphoric Pop Goes My Love and the brilliant 12-minute groove Scratch Goes My Dub.