July 22nd, 2014
Back (sadly) from our holidays in Rhode Island. Had a great time, though as you can see from the above photo, the wife had to go catch our dinner every night.
Seized by a bout of nostalgia for late-90s club music I took on the trip the CD Beach House, one of the many, many Hed Kandi compilations I bought back then — just looking at the distinctive sleeves they had sends me back in time.
The first track on the album is “Music and Wine” by Blue 6 which originally came out on Naked Music, another label I bought a lot of back then with equally distinctive sleeves. Naked specialized in smooth and soulful dance music and “Music and Wine” is one of the most sublime, summery House records you’ll ever hear. It was my favourite single of 1999 and still sounds wonderful.
Download: Music & Wine (Original Funkaphonic Vocal) – Blue 6 (mp3)
Give me a few days to get back up to speed here.
May 21st, 2014
Grace Jones’ classic 1981 album Nightclubbing has been given a well-deserved reissue with the usual deluxe treatment of unreleased tracks, remastering, remixes and all that lovely stuff.
There are two extended mixes of “Pull Up To The Bumper” on the reissue but not this one for some reason. I can’t remember where I got this from and there seems to be some confusion over its origin and availability. But wherever it came from it’s still brilliant, really bringing out the rubbery funkiness of the great Sly and Robbie rhythm section.
I danced to this on many nights back when it was a new record — Lord, what an amazing time for new music that was — and even though I knew it wasn’t really about parallel parking I’d never listened to the words close enough to realize just how filthy it really is.
Download: Pull Up To The Bumper (Larry Levan Garage Remix) – Grace Jones (mp3)
April 2nd, 2014
I had already planned to post this record in the next week or so as part of my I Have Twelve Inches series, but now, sadly, it will have to do as a tribute to the great Frankie Knuckles.
Of all the genres, subgenres, and microgenres of dance music over the years the classic Chicago House sound has been my favourite from the moment I first heard the massive pounding beat of “Love Can’t Turn Around” in 1986. Give me a big piano riff and drum machines over a 4/4 beat with soulful vocals and I’m in Dance Music Heaven. Frankie Knuckles practically invented that sound which not only revolutionized the club scene — giving us superstar DJs and Raves — but was also a huge influence on mainstream pop music.
Club music was changing and evolving so quickly back in the late 80s-early 90s that it could he hard keeping up with who was doing what or even know the names of records you’d been dancing to, but if I saw Frankie Knuckles name on a label, either as producer or remixer, I’d buy it.
“Tears” from 1989 is my pick for his best record. A slow-burning, hypnotic number, with a gliding sensual beat and an intensely soulful vocal by Robert Owens. Just sublime, and a contender for greatest House record ever made IMHO.
Download: Tears (Classic Vocal Mix) – Frankie Knuckles Presents Satoshi Tomiie (mp3)
November 6th, 2013
I’ve used up all the adjectives like “chilled-out” and “trippy” on the previous two records plucked from the 12″ single box but they could apply to this one as well. “Talking With Myself” was originally released in 1988 and this Frankie Knuckles remix from 1990 adds a Deep House undertow to the sublime electronic soul of the original.
Like the Soul Family Sensation record posted previously this was remixed and re-released a few times in an attempt to get it in the charts though, unlike SFS, it did became a minor hit. Electribe 101 didn’t last very long though and broke up in 1992 after just the one album.
Recorded from vinyl so excuse the snap, crackle, and pops at the beginning.
Download: Talking With Myself (Frankie Knuckles Mix) – Electribe 101 (mp3)
October 15th, 2013
Here’s another gem I dug out of the old box o’ 12″ singles. Like the Soul Family Sensation record this is from 1990 and has a trippy, blissed-out vibe but is driven by a euphoric House beat. With its ocean sound effects and the lovely spoken-word sample of actor Rod McKuen whispering “I put a seashell to my ear and it all comes back” it’s all very sunkissed and Balearic, perfect for dancing on a beach with a thousand other people on Ecstasy all waving their hands in the air.
I never went to Ibiza but did once go to an insane all-night club in a warehouse outside Alicante where everyone seemed to be out of their heads on something or other and the music was brain-meltingly loud — it was quite an intense experience that didn’t end until the next morning. Some Spanish kids I knew took me there and I don’t think they went to bed the entire weekend I spent with them. I was only in my late 20s but they made me feel old with my quaint notion of things like getting some sleep. Crazy kids, those Spaniards.
A Man Called Adam were a British duo who I think are still making music in one form or another. I used to have their debut album The Apple but couldn’t tell you if it was any good or not as I don’t have it anymore — which I guess means it probably wasn’t.
Recorded from the vinyl so forgive any imperfections, I haven’t done that for a while.
Download: Barefoot In The Head (12″ version) – A Man Called Adam (mp3)
October 2nd, 2013
The “Funky Drummer” drum break has been sampled more times than you and me have had hot dinners. Though it was more ubiquitous in hip-hop than a tracksuit and trainers its shuffling beat was also sampled to more mellow and trippy effect in records by George Michael, The Family Stand and, er, Candy Flip which were a reflection of the more chilled-out direction club music was going in post-Acid House.
My favourite such usage was on the gorgeous “I Don’t Even Know If I Should Call You Baby” by Soul Family Sensation from 1990. How such a sublime record was never a hit is beyond me but, despite several remixes (including one by Marshall Jefferson), it never made the charts and lead singer Jhelisa Anderson left the band for a solo career after their first album New Wave — which is well worth a listen too. I think maybe they were a little ahead of their time, making soulful Electronica before Trip-Hop was really a thing. Another few years and they could have been Morcheeba or something.
Download: I Don’t Even Know If I Should Call You Baby (Original 12″ version) – Soul Family Sensation (mp3)
September 6th, 2013
I first heard this at the Lyceum soul nights I used to go to. I think Steve Walsh played it, and it was one of those very rare moments when a record literally makes you stop and think “What the fuck is this?” because I wasn’t sure what the hell I was hearing — some guys rapping/chanting over an electronic beat (Kraftwerk it turned out) — but whatever it was it sounded brilliant.
It was also the first time I saw anyone body-popping as there were two kids dancing near me like herky-jerky robots (this was before Jeffrey Daniels appeared on TOTP). When it was over I asked one of them what the record was called and he said “Planet something”, so the next day I went to my local Our Price and asked if they had some funky electronic record called “Planet something” and the man handed me the 12″ of “Planet Rock” — which I still have and it still sounds bloody amazing today.
September 4th, 2013
This is a terrific short documentary with great archival footage about the British soul scene from the 60s to the 80s, part of a series of films about British youth culture directed by Don Letts for Fred Perry.
The differences between the scenes in the North (thumping beats, practical clothes) and the South (slick Jazz-Funk, fashionable gear) seem like cultural cliches of Hard Northerners vs Soft Southern Pooftahs but are actually mostly true in this instance.
The soul scene in the South hasn’t been written about nearly as much as the one oop North — a reversal of the usual media prejudice — but it was just as vital and more modern in outlook so it’s nice to see it given some proper respect in this movie. My earliest clubbing experiences were at the Lyceum in London in the late 70s with soul-scene legends Steve Walsh and Greg Edwards DJ-ing. The place was packed with Soul Boys (and girls) wearing t-shirts emblazoned with the name of their local posses like Streatham Funk Patrol and blowing the whistles that hung around their necks. While the clothes were important — this was the era of Pringle jumpers and Lois jeans — there was no posing going on, everyone was too busy dancing.
Here’s a Brit-Funk classic from those days featuring the amazing bass-slapping fingers of Mr. Mark King.
Download: Love Games – Level 42 (mp3)