“Back To Life”/”Back To Life (However Do You Want Me)” by Soul II Soul feat. Caron Wheeler (1989)

There are two different “Back To Life”s.

The first was the track that appears on Soul II Soul’s Keep On Movin’ (or the audaciously titled Club Classics Vol. 1 if you were in the U.K.) It’s almost totally a capella, and if you went to a house party in New York at any point during the summer and fall of 1989, this was probably the first song the DJ played, because it has this great (and long) build into the kick-ass beat. The last minute or so of the original “Back To Life” is basically a call to Get. The. Fuck. Onto. The. Dance. Floor.

NOW.

The second version of “Back To Life” (containing the parenthetical “However Do You Want Me”) was a remixed version of the song that turned it from a mostly a capella jam to a more conventional pop record. It contains a conventional verse/chorus/verse/chorus/bridge/chorus structure, and really retains nothing from it’s original version other than the chorus of “however do you want me/however do you need me” and the bridge. It wasn’t until the 21st century re-release of Club Classics (title now changed to match its U.K. counterpart and also because now it qualified as a true statement) that the single version of “Back To Life” made its way onto an album.

Both versions kick copious amounts of ass and are guaranteed to rock a party, even after a quarter century. I’m partial to the original version. I love the dramatic buildup, I love Caron Wheeler’s unaccompanied vocal, and I even love the two cover versions that sprouted up within a decade after the original’s release. George Michael interpolated it with “Freedom ‘90″ for a hot remix, and DJ Clue recruited Mary J. Blige to re-sing it on one of his commercially released mixtapes, because if anyone is going to give you those late ‘80s block party vibes, it’s gonna be MJB.

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