Looking around my iTunes library for a suitable track to go with the previous post I found this which I recorded off my 12″ vinyl copy a long time ago but never posted for some reason.
Remixed in 1982 from an earlier b-side, this a sleek Euro-disco groover that glides along on Mick Karn’s rubbery bass playing and some honking sax. I was never a huge Japan fan but this does make me want to suck in my cheekbones and go pose outside a Berlin nightclub. Hopefully I’d be allowed back in England after.
It took a while for us Brits to make soul and dance music as good as the Americans. Our efforts were decent but, from Dusty Springfield’s Motown-esque pop to early Britfunk like Hi-Tension and Linx, often suffered from thin production and lacked the warmth and oomph of our Yankee cousins.
As a consequence British soul music didn’t cut the mustard across the Atlantic and the acts which did make it were white and made their records over there. It wasn’t until 1982 that Londoner Junior Giscombe’s debut single “Mama Used To Say” became the first record by a black British soul artist to be a major success on the American R&B charts. In addition to that barrier-breaking he was also the first black Brit to appear on “Soul Train” which is a real badge of honor.
We hadn’t completely cracked the code though. To become an R&B smash in the States the single still needed the help of a punchier American remix which beefed up the original. But we must have learned something because after that America opened its hearts and charts to other Brit soul acts Loose Ends, Sade, and Soul II Soul.
My copy of the single is a 12″ white label promo, bought in a record store I used to frequent which had a lot of review and promo copies of records probably offloaded by music journalists for booze and drug money. It has a sticker on it that says “Special New Mix” which is different to the others I’ve heard so I’ve no idea if it was ever a commercial release.
This is another of those lost records I strongly suspect I was one of the only people to buy. It’s a wonderful, gorgeous track I only heard by chance back in 1985 because a DJ friend of mine was part of local (and very short-lived) pirate station called Radio Fulham and he played it on the air one Saturday night when I was getting ready to go out. I never would have heard it if I didn’t feel obliged to listen to my mate’s radio show but that one listen was enough for me to go out and buy the 12″ right away. Well, a couple of days later anyway. I think I was in the bath at the time, no doubt sprucing myself up for another night of failure with the opposite sex.
I knew nothing about First Love for years, but now I know they were a female quartet from Chicago who released several singles and an album, none of which were hits. This one really should have been though: It’s a soaring, shimmering ballad with an electronic-soul sound similar to Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis’ productions for the SOS Band, which isn’t too surprising as it was written and produced by their keyboard player Jason Bryant.
I’ve never seen the 1990 movie The Return of Superfly, and I don’t think many other people have either because it was a total flop and is apparently a bit crap too. Some may even be surprised to learn it exists and is actually the second sequel to the original.
I do, however, have this 12″ single from the soundtrack by the great Curtis Mayfield with Ice-T. Curtis’ career was in the doldrums at the time (he still drew crowds in England though, I saw him live twice in the late 80s) and teaming him up with a rapper was a way of appealing to the kids. Sadly, Curtis’ comeback was derailed later the same year when he had the accident that left him paralyzed.
While this can’t hold a candle to his original Superfly songs it’s a pretty good record. Gangsta Rap owed a lot to Blaxploitation movies so Ice-T is a good fit for the subject and it’s always nice to hear Curtis’ sweet, yearning voice, even if it is for a rubbish film.
This “Seven Minutes of Madness” remix by Coldcut from 1987 is still an amazing and radical piece of sound collage, throwing in Ofra Haza, Humphrey Bogart, James Brown, and a BBC Play School record while still keeping the bones of the original. Though we were all to get sick of that “This is a journey into sound” sample they were the first ones to use it.
Apparently Eric B dissed this as “Girly disco music”.
Roxy Music hid this gem away on the other side of the 12″ single of “Take A Chance With Me” in 1982. It’s an extended remix which takes the Avalon highlight on a 7:40 minute journey and listening to it makes me think their comeback albums would have been more interesting if they had pushed the songs in this expansive direction.
From “The Bogus Man” to “Manifesto” Roxy were always very good at long, atmospheric instrumental passages, so imagine the chill soundscapes of Avalon or the pulsing sequencers of “Same Old Scene” stretched out into more trippy, hypnotic territory. I think the results would have been terrific.
Producer Arthur Baker made quite the splash in 1982. First he unleashed the revolutionary “Planet Rock” on the world and changed dance music forever — I still remember the first time I heard it — and had his first big popular hit with this classic cover of an Eddy Grant song which took over dance floors all over the land that year.
After that double whammy Baker became one of the hottest knob-twiddlers around, in demand as a remixer, and producing other megahits like Freeez’s “I.O.U”. Even those gloomy buggers New Order flew over to New York to touch the hem of his garment and work with him on “Confusion” — which, to be frank, was a bit of a let-down and nowhere near as good as this track.
I’ve always thought of this as a perfect 12″ single, even though it lasts an epic 9.5 minutes it never feels too long (unlike some extended mixes). In fact, I think I’d be happy if this went on forever.
Orange Juice’s early Postcard records are rightly held in reverence but their later work gets a little overlooked as a result. Personally my favourite album of theirs is Texas Fever and I remember there being a bit of Dylan-going-electric purist snobbery about them signing to a big label and sounding more polished — like they could keep doing that kind of amateurish jangly indie forever. “Polished” is a relative term of course, their records always sounded a bit off-kilter no matter how many new chords and grooves they learned.
One time I saw them live Edwyn Collins jokingly introduced “Rip It Up” as “our one-hit wonder” and their final single “Lean Period” from 1984 wasn’t a hit either like 99% of their others, but it’s a bouncy and catchy number that should have done better even if it maybe isn’t one of their greatest. I still like it a lot though, a typically snarky Collins love song (and maybe even a sly commentary on his own critical reputation) here given a nice dubby remix by Dennis Bovell in this 12″ version which isn’t easily available anywhere far as I can tell.