Friday, July 29, 2005

Funky Friday's Classic 12" - Back To Life

It's 1989. The first time I hear Soul II Soul, it's this beat coming out of the stereo - it's a beat that launched a thousand imitators, with that bicycle bell sound, and the percussion and bongos panning all over the place. It's so damn funky (in a laid back kind of way) that I'm held rapt. Then these epic piano riffs start rolling, and suddenly this beautiful voice is singing "however do you want me, however do you need me". The bassline kicks in, and for the next seven minutes I'm in heaven. It's a remarkably minimal tune - the beat and bass, some piano, a few string fills and the delicious voice of Caron Wheeler. It's a testament to the strength of the song, so catchy, so soulful. Back in the day everybody I played it to loved it - even people who ordinarily wouldn't be having it smiled and were seduced by Jazzie B and his crew's sunny positivity and multi-culti funkiness. The ensuing album Club Classics Vol.1 AKA Keep On Moving was played to death - next single Keep On Moving is also pretty close to perfect - and though they had a few choice moments after it they never quite reached the greatness of their debut. Anyway, here is the 12" version (remixed by Nellee Hooper and Jazzie B) of Back To Life, seven and something minutes of funky Friday goodness.

NEWS! - Siouxsie! - Go!Team - Tom Verlaine!

Siouxsie & The Banshees' back catalogue gets the remastered and expanded treatment - it's about time! Can't wait to get my hands on these - just look at the second disc of stuff on The Scream - 16 tracks!

The Go! Team signs with Columbia Records. They will be reissuing their spectacular debut Thunder, Lightning, Strike on September 27th with bonus tracks of course - jeez, don't you just hate that!?! I splurged on the import too.

Tom Verlaine signs with Thrill Jockey records, gets set to release two records - one instrumental, one vocal. These should be pretty interesting...

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Classic 12"s Week - M/A/R/R/S

M/A/R/R/S was a one-off collaboration between 4AD Records labelmates Colourbox and A.R. Kane. Label boss Ivo Watts-Russell had been approached by both acts at the time (1987), and both had expressed an interest in releasing a record that was inspired by American house music - a genre that was exploding at the time. Ivo hooked up the two acts, who apparently did not get along - different work ethics - so they each recorded a song and then passed the tapes to the other band for tweaking. The end result of the collaboration was the classic tune Pump Up The Volume (the Colourbox song) - a beat laden sample fest that became the first British made house hit. Everybody knows the A side so I've decided to post the flip side of the single - the A.R. Kane tune, called Anitina (The First Time I See She Dance). Where the A side was slick and funky and definitely chart material, this tune was dark and clattering and a bit spooky, with lyrics that were kind of creepy too -

Little dolly
I'll feed you sugarcane
Keep me close, hold me tight
Keep me close, hold me tight
Oh my little dolly, follow
Follow, holler
Follow, hollering
Oooh, sweet, oooh sweet
You can touch me where it's forbidden
Follow, holler
Follow, hollering
Little dolly's paper heart is wafer thin
Oh, dolly
Little dolly's paper heart is wafer thin
Oh, dolly....
Come and see

Due to the previously mentioned diffences the two bands never worked together again, so this remains a unique one off, and to me this track is as classic in it's own way as the A side.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Classic 12"s Week - Fascinating Rhythms

Bass-O-Matic were the brainchild of William Orbit, and his second group effort after the demise of his '80s band Torch Song. Their debut LP was Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Bass (a witty tribute to the Pink Floyd album "Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun"), and it was a collection of typically tight and synthetic Orbit grooves mixed with pyschedelic spaced out-ness and a touch of funk. It was both house and techno inspired, and also contained some funky tunes in the style of their peers at the time, Soul II Soul. 1990's Fascinating Rhythm (Soul Odyssey Mix) was the big hit single from the album, and was William's first top ten hit. This version is a remix by William himself and the song rides the great breakbeat Soul II Soul made famous on their debut album. IMO this remix is all about the Soul II Soul sound - the beats, the bass, the rolling piano riffs, even the use of the word soul in the remix title. Very tasty.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Classic 12"s Week - There's Something Wrong With Human Nature

Take a great house band - the On-U Sound System, which contains various members of Tackhead, who used to be the Sugarhill Records house band. Add a vocalist with a distinctly British flow - Gary Clail - who rants and raves about politics and the idiocy of man, much like Mark Stewart but without the shriek. Add a second set of vocals in the break - dramatic and swoony, delivered by half man, half woman Alan "Lanah" Pillay. Dubmeister producer Adrian Sherwood tweaks it with his usual verve, then gives the tapes of the song Human Nature to the pre-eminent remixers of the day, Paul (before I became crap) Oakenfold and Steve Osborne. The result is this - 1991's Human Nature (On The Mix). It retains much of the orignal's dubtastic flavor, while adding those crucial Perfecto touches - the house-y beats, the Italo piano riffing, the swirly "rave" keys. A stomping good tune with a message, and another classic 12" remix.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Classic 12"s Week - What Time Is Love?

The latest Q magazine is their "scandalous rock'n'roll behaviour" issue - filled with stories about all manner of rock star stupidity and bad behaviour. One of my personal faves is the one about how Bill Drummond and Jimi Cauty, AKA The KLF, burned a millions pounds in a hut on a tiny island in the North Atlantic. It was one of the ultimate "art terrorist" acts, and probably one they regret every day of their lives! Reading it made me think back to the glory days of their career - Chill Out and The White Room, and how unlikely a pop duo they were and how odd it was that they conquered the pop charts of the world with their techno anthems. It also made me head straight for the record rack and this 12" - one of the highlights of their recording career, 1990's What Time Is Love? (Live At Transcentral). They took all kinds of vocal samples (the MC5 intro, Jim Morrison's thank you's) and mashed them up with huge pounding techno beats, disco diva chants of "MU MU!", the rap by MC Bello, and then they let the Moody Boys wreak sonic havoc all over it. It was a pretty unique thing - an acid-house techno hip-pop smash. It sounded like nothing else - hell, it still sounds like nothing else. It's a classic twelve inch mix. That's this week's theme so the next couple of days worth of posts are all going to be "classic 12"s" - mostly from the "baggy/rave" era of the late '80s and early '90s.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Funky Friday Flashdance

I did a Deep Dish post last week where I talked about streaming a bit of their new album George Is On and not feeling it. Streaming audio over the computer is not the ideal method for listening to an album for me - I need to hear it at work, in the car, around the house - so I decided to buy it and give it a chance on those terms. I mentioned the remake of Fleetwood Mac's Dreams with Stevie Nicks on vocals - it's OK, but not as good as the original. The album is decidedly more "rock" in tone than the last one, and it's also more song oriented, with Richard Morel handing vocals and guitar all over the album. Right off the bat I was hooked by the guitar riff on the single Flashdance. A scratchy little riff, it's soon augmented by big booming house beats and the lovely vocals of Anousheh Khalili. It sounded vaguely familiar, so I checked the CD credits, and see the song is written by someone other than Dubfire and Sharam. Song called Flashdance? I get out the classic soundtrack to the '80s movie of the same name - yes, I own it on vinyl - and turns out that this is a remake of the song He's A Dream by Shandi. Guitar riff? Yep. Same lyrics. Same breaks. Just no house beats, and a lot more of that serious '80's legwarmer flavor. Shandi is still making music today, and has had a series of good gigs to keep her busy, including a gig as backing vocalist for Paul Shaffer's band on Letterman. This is a link to her website where you can read all about this song's journey to Grammy greatness. The DD update of it is pretty nice - a lot beefier for sure. I haven't had a chance to listen to the rest of the LP too many times so I won't offer any more of a review - it doesn't sound as bad as I though it did at first. In that earlier piece I also mentioned the sampling of Dire Straits' Money For Nothing - it's really more of a mash-up slash remix of the single Flashdance, and I will say this - I like the Dire Straits tune and I like the Deep Dish tune, just not together.

Additional Funkiness
A couple of recent releases I'd like to heartily recommend - they've been mp3ed all over the blogosphere so all I will do is hype them. Jamie Lidell's Multiply is fantastic, a fresh and funky take on classic soul a la Stevie Wonder, but with icy, modern sounds and glitches and stuff thrown into the mix - after all it is Warp Records product. I love it. Also sounding rather large pumping out of my speakers this week is We Are Monster, the new LP from German microhouser Isolée on Playhouse Records. It's a step away from micro house and into guitar riffs and squelchy disco and electro, and if it's fabulousness fails to move ya, you're a stiff.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Broad Souls

A few weeks ago I was shopping for music when I happened across the latest album by the British duo Faze Action. Called Broad Souls, I had no idea it was out - since April or May of last year! I am a fan, having been seduced by the disco soundscapes the Lee brothers had released on their debut Plans & Designs and it's follow-up Moving Cities. It's been five years since that last one, so I snapped up Broad Souls, eagerly anticipating some big, Afro-beat tinged disco deliciousness. What poured out of my speakers instead was deep, lush, vintage styled soul and r'n'b tinged pop songs. Real songs, sung beautifully by Andre Espeut - the man possesses a seriously soulful croon, smooth and creamy like velveeta. They are songs that hearken back to the classics of the '60s and '70s. There are horns, and Rhodes keyboards and soulful backing vocals. There isn't an upeat disco tunes in sight. And after a few spins I don't really care, because what is there is so sweet and groovy and warm. The folks I work with can be a good indicator of how good a record is, and if more than one or two ask "who is this?" I know it's a winner. This one fits that bill. The title track Broad Souls kicks off in big style, with strings and a big guitar riff, before settling into a sun kissed groove. Outside is a simmering instrumental that shows off the band's love of Serge Gainsbourg's brand of French pop. It's gorgeous. I can't believe that this record didn't generate more heat and hype when it was released. A fantastic musical reinvention.

Monday, July 18, 2005

The Soviettes

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Minneapolis quartet The Soviettes have recently released their third album. It's called III (the other two were I & II of course), and it picks right up from where they left off - fast and tight pop punk with a slight whiff of new wavery. The band is 3 girls and one guy, and they all share vocal duties. This is one of the reasons I love them - there is great vocal interplay between all of them, with drummer Danny having the perfect sneering tone to compliment the sweet and sassy girls. All of the songs are like a minute and half long - the album clocks in at 28 minutes. Is it anything new? No. Are they a one trick pony? Pretty much. But if you can get past that, and have some love for punky pop music I think you will enjoy How Do You Like That and Photograph.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Funky Friday's Tasty Chicken In A Box

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Andy Carthy AKA Mr.Scruff is a unique talent in the world of instrumental electronica. His tracks are typically lush, jazzy-breaks driven grooves festooned with strings, quirky loops and lots of goofy vocal snippets. There is also a rather odd fascination with fishies and large sea mammals that permeates all of his records. I have found the albums to be very entertaining, going from mellow downtempo chill out tunes to uptempo dancefloor fillers. The fine folks at NinjaTune records have just reissued his first album, Mrs.Cruff. It's a collection of assorted 12"s, and was originally released in 1997. It's very typical Scruff fare, and the track Chicken In A Box is the prototypical Scruff tune. It starts with the looped riff of a flute - Irish sea shanty or Indo-raga? - then those beats kick in, topped off with some gorgeous strings and a chunky bass riff. It's melody is beautiful, as much of his music is. I love it, and the rest of the record is pretty damn groovy too.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Return Of The Punky Reggae

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Ari Up, former lead singer of post-punk icons The Slits, released a new album here in the US this week called Dread More Dan Dead.

The Slits were a bunch of teenagers when they got together in 1976. Singer Ari Up was a 14 year old, posessed of one hell of a scary set of pipes, screaming and warbling and yelping through a shambolic, dub groove heavy set of post-punk tunes. Their seminal 1979 debut Cut, produced by reggae star Dennis Bovell, is a record that has held up well. It finally got a US reissue this year with a few bonus cuts on it, including their stellar version of I Heard It Through The Grapevine. I love the tune Typical Girls, something that this trio were definitely not. It's got a great beat, terrific piano pounding, scratchy guitars and Ari's great vocals. We need more Slits reissues!

Over the last few years I've seen her name around a bit more. She did guest vocals on the German electronica act Terranova's 2002 album Hitchhiking Nonstop With No Particular Destination. There is no mistaking her voice on Mongril, a rocking electro dancehall tune.

The new album Dread More Dan Dead is a very entertaining listen. It's a mix of dub, reggae, hip hop, rock and post-punk flavors mixed up in a digital styl-ee (and there is also another collaboration with Terranova). Baby Mother kicks off the album in bumpin' style, with a cool clicky beat and sweet sample chopping, topped off with a nice toast-y rap from Ari. Her voice hasn't really changed, thought there isn't as much of the high pitched, shrill warbling she used to do. All in all I would sat that the new album is a very nice update of her old style for the year 2005.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

I'm A Hustler, I'm A Full Moon

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The Chemical Brothers' latest LP Push The Button was released earlier this year to generally positive reviews but seemingly little interest by the public at large. I have always been a fan but was feeling like at this point they were kind of played out. I picked up the record - with low expectations - but after a few spins found myself actually enjoying it quite a bit. There is nothing new to their formula on it and some of it can get a bit repetitive, but several of the tracks stood out to me - the Middle Eastern flavor of Galvanize with Q-Tip on the rap, Keke from Bloc Party's vocals on Believe and the track The Boxer. Featuring vocals from long time collaborator (and singer for The Charlatans) Tim Burgess, it is the latest single from the album. The CD5 features two new tracks (Giant & Spring), 2 remixes of Believe (by Erol Alkan & Mathew Jonson), a remix of Galvanize by Abe Duque, and this ab-fab remix of The Boxer by uber hipsters the DFA. They smooth out the original's stutter and actually bring the tempo down a notch, taking the tune from it's glitchy machine funk origins and turning it into a mellow, dubby, late night groove. Very tasty indeed.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Don't Look So Surprised

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Vicious Vicious are a Minneapolis band led by Erik Appelwick who is also part of several other local acts including Alva Star and the hotly hyped Olympic Hopefuls. What began as one man and his four track has turned into a tight quartet. With bassist Heath Henjum, drummer extraordinaire Martin Dosh (Dosh & Fog) and studio whiz Alex Oana he's put together a 7 track album - or is it an EP? - called Don't Look So Surprised. It's a collection of sharp, literate pop songs that are all over the stylistic map. On a funky track like Here Come Tha Police I hear fellow Minneapolitans Prince & Iffy. Fans of Phoenix and the Fountains Of Wayne will find something to like on some of the mellower rock tunes. There are also moments that sound like Grandaddy or Beck, and on the album's first track, It's A Serious Thing it's like Modest Mouse mashed up with Weezer slathered with the new wave stylings of The Cars. All in all it's a fine little set of tunes, well crafted, nicely produced and pretty damn catchy.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Super Non-Stop Über Rocking Disco Party

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The Brakes are a bit of a British indie supergroup, comprised of Eamon from British Sea Power, Tom and Alex from The Electric Soft Parade and Marc from The Tenderfoot. Their first single is All Night Disco Party, and it's an amusing little new wave disco track. It's got the funky, spongy, up and down bass, the syncopated disco beats, and goofy lyrics sung in a fairly goofy fashion. It also has some killer rock breaks in it. It's like Clinic might sound if they took a few E's and got happy for a change. It's sounds like it should be dreadful, but it's actually a lot of fun. The other two songs on the CD single are nothing like this, and the forthcoming album has been described as having an alt country flavor. Should be interesting.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Funky Friday's Music Makes You Lose Control

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Missy Elliott is back with a new LP, The Cookbook. I've read a few reviews and they haven't been very positive - mostly a case of too little Timbaland involvement. I've given it a few spins now and I have to disagree with that line of thought. There are a few Timbaland tunes, a bunch of self produced joints, and a few guest producer spots too - the Neptunes, Scott Storch and Rich Harrison among them. Missy helms the boards for the big single Lose Control. It's pure electro magic, built on some vintage samples by Cybotron and Hot Streak, and guest starring r'n'b hottie Ciara and Fat Man Scoop. This is pure gold pumping out of my car stereo. I also really dig Can't Stop, where Rich Harrison takes his by-now-familiar blueprint - see Beyonce's Crazy In Love and Amerie's One Thing - of rough, percussive soul and lets Missy rip it up over his gritty groove. I think that it's this diversity of sound that I like about the album - no diss to Timbaland, because the tracks he brings are as big as always, but I like the change of musical pace on offer here.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

You Make A Grown Man Cry

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I have been a long time fan of Pink Floyd. Their balance of spooky, dreary insanity (Roger Waters, and to a degree, Syd Barrett) with glimmers of hope (Dave Gilmour) always moved me, as did their sense of space. I also liked the fact that they could get sort of funky in that classic rock kind of way. So you can imagine that I was glued to the TV for their Live8 reunion on Saturday. This was something I never thought I'd see in my lifetime - the end of acrimony, the burying of the hatchet between the members, Dave and Roger singing the songs as they were originally intended. Hell, I paid good money to see the fake Floyd twice, and here was the real thing. The house was full of kids yelling when their set began, and I slowly inched the volume up. By the time that they were starting the third song, Wish You Were Here, the house had magically grown quiet - the kids had gone outside to splash in the kiddy pool, and I was alone. Surround sound on? Check. Volume up? Check. Bit of a buzz? Check. Beer? Check. And then the strums of their guitars, the two of them singing those old familiar lyrics, the dedication to Syd Barrett, or any number of other reasons moved me to actually shed a tear. It was really a joyous thing, one of those few moments where the love of the music overwhelms you, and it was awesome. It also made my wife laughingly point her finger at me and call me "old man!", but that's OK, because it was pretty funny and true. Anyway, I know you can probably get this song in a bunch of different places now, but you won't get that goofy story to accompany it. Enjoy the mighty Pink Floyd, live at the equally big Live8 concert, singing Wish You Were Here.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

It's Just Another Day On Earth

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Brian Eno has a new album out called Another Day On Earth. It's his first vocal album since the late '70s when he went all ambient on everything. What to say about Eno that hasn't already been said - electronic pioneer of ambient music, Roxy Music and those outrageous outfits, David Bowie, Talking Heads, U2, blah blah blah. The man is a legend in popular music, his new record is a lovely, dreamy album of near lullabies, with a few songs having some vaguely funky beats. The title track is Just Another Day and it's a perfect example of everything that the man is about - a hazy filtered beat, banks of keys softly building, playing ethereal melodies, and his distinctive vocals floating over everything. Relax and enjoy...

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

The Dead 60s

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The Dead 60s are a Liverpudlian combo who have recently released their self titled debut in the US. All you need to know is that The Clash have already made this record a few times. Musically it's a dub and reggae inspired run through post-punk that will remind you a lot of Sandinista and parts of Combat Rock - the vocalist even does a pretty good Joe Strummer. Get over all of that and what I've found is that it's a really fun listen. There's a great feel of space in these songs - the production is nice and clean. Riot Radio kicks off the album in rifftastic style. It's also a good indicator of what's generally on offer over the rest of the record. There are a few forays into straight up reggae, but it's mostly dance-y, skank inflected grooves like Nowhere. This thought occurred to me the other day when I was listening to the album - this is the record that I wish Radio 4 had made instead of Stealing Of A Nation. It's got that Gotham! kind of feel to it, only a bit more polished and reggae-fied. If you can get past it's derivitive nature I think you might just enjoy it as much as I do.

Monday, July 04, 2005

The Spirit Of Revolution

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In honor of the fact that it's the 4th of July - happy birthday America! - I give you the totally unique and revolutionary rant of Mark Stewart. Former singer of the Pop Group, he pursued music after the dissolution of the band, both solo and with The Maffia AKA Tackhead. Pretty much everything he has recorded has been with dub meister Adrian Sherwood at the controls. The fine British label Soul Jazz got Stewart to compile a bunch of songs from his solo career as well as a few Pop Group tunes, including rare and unreleased stuff, and released them as Kiss The Future. It makes for great listening, the sharp art punk tunes of his old band and the digital, industrial dub of his solo stuff. The Pop Group was always a politically motivated band, and Mark continued that tradition solo. From 1989, Hysteria is one huge, dubby riff topped off with Mark's rants against the man and his distinctive shriek of "hysteria!" - no-one else sounds like this. One nice bonus on the CD is the inclusion of a new song, Radio Freedom. It's digital dub in the year 2005 stylee, featuring a fierce rap and some more politically charged lyrics - this dude's been yelling the same message for almost 30 years now, and it still a message that needs to be heard.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Song For Floyd

WOW! I added just a splash of color to spice things up around here and get away from yer basic black. It's a work in progress.

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In memory of yesterday's Pink Floyd reunion at Live8 - I was verklempt like you wouldn't believe! - I say HIT ME BABY ONE MORE TIME!!! No, it's not Britney's version - it's by Fountains Of Wayne, taken from their 2CD set of outtakes/b-sides/rarities called Out Of State Plates. I love this version of the tune - they definitely bring their unique flavor to it.

And Floyd rocked my world. I can't believe MTV/VH1 cut to commercials in the middle of the Comfortably Numb guitar solo. Idiots! Bring on the world tour...

Friday, July 01, 2005

You're My Kind Of Climate

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It's a funky Friday, and to end this week's '80s themed posts is a cool tune from Rip Rig & Panic. They were an offshoot of then recently defunct Bristolian legends the Pop Group. A jazz-funk combo, they left behind the art-punk of their old band, but held onto it's free thinking "no boundaries" attitude. From 1981 to 1983 they released three albums of funky, jazzy grooves with loads of anarchic SKRONK! mixed in. They are also notable because they feature the tough vocals of a young up and comer by the name of Neneh Cherry. It's her unmistakable flow you hear on You're My Kind Of Climate (Party Mix). This version is taken from another cool Virgin Records compilation, 1982's Methods Of Dance Volume 2, and was previously only available as a DJ promo 12". It's got a great big-band feel to it, Neneh is fierce on the vocals, and the dubby breakdown that happens halfway through is big - I love how it breaks down and then builds back up into a sax driven squall of noise before petering out.