Words & selections by Balearic Mike.
This week I have been mostly listening to … records with significance …
Such sad news yesterday with the death of Mary Wilson. In celebration of her wonderful musical legacy, Balearic Wife and I dug out a couple of our favourite Supremes records for an impromptu after diner sit-down disco!
The Supremes – Mary, Scherrie & Susaye – Motown 1976
The Supremes – A’ Go-Go – Motown 1966
Two LPs released 10 years apart, which illustrate the range, talent and determination of Mary Wilson.
First up we have Mary, Scherrie & Susaye, the band`s 29th and final LP – which reunited them with songwriters and producers, Holland & Holland. Talk about going out on a high! This includes the absolutely stunning deep disco cut Come Into My Life, one of mine and Balearic Wife’s favourites. When I was honoured to be asked to contribute my Desert Island Disco selection to Lauren Laverne’s BBC 6 Music show a few years ago, this was one of the 5 tracks I selected. It’s the final track on side one, but the 3 before it are also brilliant: You’re My Driving Wheel, Sweet Dream Machine and Let Yourself Go, which was released as a single and was a Larry Levan spin at The Paradise Garage. That the band stayed together this long after everything they’d gone through, from Berry Gordy’s grooming of Diana Ross for solo stardom, the effect this had on original lead vocalist Florence Ballard and her subsequent death though alcoholism, the rebranding as Diana Ross & The Supremes, being replaced on later recordings by session singers, the departure of Ms. Ross and subsequent line-up changes, and indifference of Gordy to the band’s continuation is testament to Mary Wilson’s determination.
Next is The Supremes at the peak of their powers. This 1966 LP, A’ Go-Go, is packed with some of the finest songs Holland-Dozier-Holland ever penned. Add in a cover of the Lee Hazelwood composed, These Boots Are Made For Walking, and a killer version of Smokey Robinson`s, Get Ready, and you have an LP so good that it knocked The Beatles` Revolver off the top of the US album charts, and was the first No.1 LP from an all-female group in US history. And what a sleeve! Thanks for the music Mary!
“Hey Chuck! We got some non-believers out there.”
Public Enemy – Yo! Bum Rush the Show – Def Jam Records 1987
Happy birthday to one of the greatest debut LPs, and hip-hop LPs ever made. Released on this day, February 10th, 1987, this game changing masterpiece is 34 years old today.
It Takes A Nation of Millions… might be the LP that took Public Enemy stratospheric, and it has the hits – in Rebel Without A Pause and Bring the Noise – but this LP has such a ferocity about it, and Chuck D has never sounded so urgent and vital. This album both scared me to death and thrilled me like no rap album before it. And let’s not even mention the tour…
“Panther power – you can feel it in my arm,
Lookout y’all cause I’m a timebomb tickin’…”
50 years old this week!
Carole King – Tapestry – Ode Records 1971
One of those albums that seems to permeate the very fabric of life. It`s hard to imagine a world without this wonderful collection of songs. Loads has been written about this LP over the last week, by much better writers and far better-informed fans of Carole’s music, but I just wanted to add something from my own personal experience. This record seems to have always been there, in the background somewhere. But it came back into my life in a big way I the early `90s. I was DJing with LuvDup, and the guys had launched a new night at The Paradise Factory called Jolly Roger. We all played dance music downstairs, in the main room with guest DJs, but upstairs, in what became known as ‘The Crows Nest’, Justin Robertson, John McCready and Richard ‘Moonboots’ – plus occasional guests – would spin anything but house – and I can remember all of them playing tracks from Tapestry.
The last time its brilliance had an effect on me was a few years ago at the Alfresco Festival. I`d been booked to play the beautiful woodland stage on the Saturday afternoon, and had the unenviable task of following the excellent Nancy Noise – no mean feat. She finished off a beautiful set of balearic gems, afro-funk and disco with I Feel The Earth Move – and it felt as if it literally did! It made an already hard to follow set, even harder – it was a perfect moment. Happy birthday Tapestry!
Today is the 51st anniversary of the first of David Mancuso’s Love Saves The Day parties, or The Loft to you and me!
Andwella – World End – ABC Records / Dunhill 1970
I discovered this album when David published his Loft top 100 in Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton`s Last Night A DJ Saved My Life. This quite frankly creepy looking slice of UK – Northern Irish actually – prog rock includes one of the greatest slabs of disco-rock crossover ever made in the shape of the absolutely epic Hold Onto Your Mind. Imagine if you will the missing link between The Rolling Stones` Sympathy For The Devil and Primal Scream`s Screamadelica. Apparently this was one of David’s ‘welcome’ songs. It’s just a joyous bundle of bongos, funky drums, massive piano chords, guitar riffs, and a killer “come and join the party” style vocal. There is one other really good track in the form of I Got A Woman, a slinky blues funk number, with an almost Bossa nova feel to it, but the rest, unfortunately, is garbage. I’ve got the US pressing, but I’ve always wanted a UK copy on Reflection, as the grey sleeve looks a bit less scary than the black US version. Never found one in the wild though. Shame.
Here’s another classic from David Mancuso`s dancefloor…
Brain Auger’s Oblivion Express – Closer To It – CBS 1973
A ridiculously funky LP from this UK blues / jazz / rock outfit. A superb 6 track album, every bit of which is a delight, but which also sports a couple of standout cuts in Happiness Is Just Around The Bend – there are so many great versions of this track, and it’s been covered and sampled and played to death, but nothing touches this original version for me – and Light On The Path – a beautiful dance-floor instrumental cut which again, has been sampled and played from then until now. There are a couple of superb covers on the flip side as well, with Compared To What and Inner City Blues both being beautiful reinterpretations of already great tracks.