The group that took Detroit techno to the masses via the British charts and the world's dancefloors, Inner City was no crossover act -- rather, an intense collaboration between a noted Chicago house vocalist and one of the most influential Detroit producers of the 1980s. Both Paris Grey and Kevin Saunderson were well known for their contributions to the club music of their respective communities well before their 1989 debut album. Saunderson did more to advance techno than anyone except Juan Atkins and Derrick May, through his releases as Tronik House, Reese, E-Dancer, and Essaray; Grey recorded several house classics, including "Don't Make Me Jack." Between the two (and later addition Ann Saunderson, Kevin's wife), Inner City topped dance charts in America and Britain 11 times, hit Britain's Top 40 eight times, and sold over six million records.
The group was formed in 1987 when Saunderson, still in college and recording out of his basement studio, produced a track he felt needed lyrics. After Chicago vocalist Paris Grey (b. Shanna Jackson) was recommended by Chicago producer Terry Baldwin, the two collaborated on the single "Big Fun." It was finally released late in 1988 on the Virgin compilation Techno: The New Dance Sound of Detroit, and hit the British charts in a surprising crossover success. Signed to Virgin soon after, Saunderson and Grey hit again later that same year with the Top Ten single "Good Life." Their debut album, Paradise (Big Fun on its American issue), reached the U.K. Top 20, though it largely failed to cross over on the American pop charts. Paradise Remixed followed in 1990 and later singles "Ain't Nobody Better," "Watcha Gonna Do with My Lovin," and "That Man (He's Mine)" lit up dancefloors around the world, spreading the word about techno to thousands of mainstream clubbers familiar only with house music.
Inner City's second album, Fire, did less well than the first, in part because Virgin had pressured the group into an American version of Soul II Soul. After the popular single "Back Together Again" and third album Praise, the group went on a hiatus, as Saunderson returned to his more experimental roots with work as the Reese Project. Inner City returned to the charts with 1994's "Do Ya" and "Share My Life," and continued to be a vital recording concern well into the late '90s. [See also: Kevin Saunderson, E-Dancer.] ~ John Bush