Words & selections by Balearic Mike.
A few more 12s from the shelves …
Biddu Orchestra – Nirvana (B-Side of Soul Coaxing) – Epic 1977
The B-side wins again! This is a UK only 12” single from the prolific Indian / British composer, Appaiah Biddu. He released loads of disco stuff and had quite a successful stint composing for Bollywood as well. Tucked away on the flip of Soul Coaxing is a completely sublime piece of chugging cosmic disco – supremely Balearic. It grooves along with a lolloping, almost wave-like rhythm, driven by a killer bass-line and sparse but inventive drum patterns. Flutes, keys and other instruments are added, repeating a simple melody. Next come the soaring string sections, all just adding to the motif being played, and then the chorus of voices, an almost mantra-like chant. This is a bloody epic record! I’ve played this out loads. It can work on a dance-floor early on as well as in bar type sets, but the place I listened to it most was probably round at Moonboots old flat – The Whirlpool. It was played a lot back there.
I didn’t pay the 75p asking price. I probably picked it up for even less. I’ve found dozens of these in the wild over the years and always buy them to pass on. It’s 68p for a VG copy on Discogs right now, or 99p for a NM one – insane. I’ve paid £50 for records before that are nowhere near as good as this.
Big Audio Dynamite – BAD (Remix) / The Bottom Line (Remix) – Def Jam Records 1985
I bloody love Big Audio Dynamite – the band The Clash could have been! I’ll write more posts about them in due course I expect. The first 2 LPs are brilliant. Packed full of ideas, they were so fresh and exciting at the time. Thundering drum machine beats, loads of film samples, the great combination of Mick Jones and Don Letts` vocals – nothing else sounded like them. This was their debut single. I had the UK pressing, but I didn’t know this US pressing, on one of the coolest labels in the world, with one of the coolest logos, in this uber-cool sleeve, existed until about 10-12 years ago, when I found it in a crate in a record store in DC while visiting my dad. It was $2.50, unplayed, and looked like the greatest thing ever, so I bought it!Both tracks are remixed by Rick Rubin and are pretty solid versions. They did get a UK release anyway, but this pressing is just so much nicer! The horses are on the track …
It was Record Store Day 2021 a couple of weekends back, and for the first time, and because of this record, I went out and joined the queue at 8 in the morning …
Prince – The Truth – NPG Records Inc. 1998/2021
Of course, it’s Prince. Who else do you think I would get out of bed early on a Saturday for? I’ve had this digitally for many years – it was originally released as a limited bonus CD with the Crystal Ball 4xCD set in the late 1990s. It’s the first time that Prince’s estate has released anything of note – except I suppose that cassette a few years ago …? – on RSD, and I knew that if it sold out and I didn’t get a copy I might throw myself off the end of the pier, so up I got!
The Truth was billed as an acoustic LP on release – and it certainly starts out like that, but quite quickly you sense that Prince gets a bit bored with that concept, and slowly a few more subtle additions make their way into the mix. That said, it never gets to the stage where you’d say there was a full band. The vocals are Prince, double or triple tracked with more Prince, and all the songs are propelled along by his fantastic acoustic guitar strumming – and plucking.
For me, musically, the LP is a return to form for Prince. The `90s had not been a good decade for him, and between Diamonds & Pearls in 1991 and this, I didn’t buy a Prince LP. With this, and then the follow up LP, Rave Un2 The Joy Fantastic, Prince was definitely regaining some of his mojo. There are some really great tunes on here, particularly the title track, Don’t Play Me, Dionne, and the excellent Fascination. If you like Prince at his most blues influenced, and unadulterated, this is a pretty solid release. I did also buy some records by artists who weren’t Prince on RSD.
Some more 12s from the shelves … “Sesame Street” style again, this week it’s the letter ‘C’ …
Champ’s Boys Orchestra – Tubular Bells – Vogue 1976
Sublime and utterly ridiculous in – almost – equal measures. This is one of those records that you really wish you’d had as a DJ in those early `90s days of the Balearic Network. It’s basically a Jive Bunny / Stars On 45 record for the cosmic disco brigade! What you get is the Tubular Bells riff over the top of the bass-line from Love To Love You Baby by Donna Summer, with loads of other little snippets thrown in every couple of bars. This might sound like shit – but it isn’t! It`s an absolute guaranteed party starter – if you’re in the right ‘frame of mind’ (wink). And look how pretty it is. The wonderful sleeve design is by Sonia Delaunay. Don’t flip it over though. The version of Chuck Mangione’s Land Of Make Believe – a Loft classic, which I love dearly – could curdle milk!
Charanga ’76 – My Forbidden Lover (Mi Amor Prohibido) / We Are Family (Somos Familia) – TR Records 1979
Another guaranteed party starter. I was put onto Charanga ’76`s version of Ain’t No Stopping Us Now (No Nos Pararan) in the late 90s – by John McCready – and while searching for it on the vast world wide web – probably eBay back then – I discovered that they had done lots of other disco covers in the same style. It’s basically a very true-to-the-original set of covers, with the exception that they sing the lyrics in a mixture of Spanish AND English. What’s not to love!!! The version of My Forbidden Lover is pure magic! I might prefer it to the original – sacrilege I know – but both are great ways to play wonderful tunes that might have been a bit overplayed, with a bit of a twist. Trust me, these are gold! My only criticism is that the version of My Forbidden Lover seems way too short at just over 5 minutes – and they’ve listed the composers as N. Edwards and B. Rodgers – but that’s a small and forgivable thing.
Chic – Chic Cheer (1984 Mix by Bernard Edwards) – Atlantic 1984
While we’re near to Nile and Bernard in the racks, let’s give this a little spin – a completely brilliant remix, of an utterly brilliant track from these boys. Possibly the closest they ever got to making a house record, before house music. Its killer riff is played simultaneously by Niles’ guitar, Bernard’s bass, as well as the piano and drums, making it one of the most hypnotic tracks they ever recorded. It just builds and builds by doing nothing except repeating itself. It’s genius. The remix just beefs up the drums and extends it a little, which makes this a complete banger of a record. There are more gems on the flip, including the original LP version. A cheap as chips UK release.
Chris & Cosey – October (Love Song) – Conspiracy International / Rough Trade 1983
A simply gorgeous piece of electronic pop / dance, which in a fair and just world would have been a top 10 UK hit, but sadly never even bothered the charts at the time. This completely perplexes me now. Back in 1983 I had no idea about Chris and Cosey. They’re rightly regarded now as pioneers of electronic dance music, but I’m always shaken by what delicate, beautiful pop songs they were writing. When you consider that at the time the UK charts were full of great synth pop by the likes of The Human League, Heaven 17, Soft Cell, Depeche Mode, etc., it completely baffles me that the records C&C were making weren’t crossing over to a more pop audience. They followed up October with the LP, Songs Of Love & Lust, which also should have been a huge hit, but wasn’t.
I first heard October being played by Andrew Weatherall. I think it was at a Happy Mondays after show party at The Zap Club in the autumn of 1989, that he and Terry Farley DJed at. I now know that it was a huge favourite of Andrew`s, and he included it on the excellent 9 O’clock Drop compilation he did for Nuphonic Records. I was played more records by Chris & Cosey, and Throbbing Gristle, on my history of art module – Music & Art – again, around `89. I heard some great records while doing a fine art degree!
The original release is a beautiful 4-track UK 12”, with every version being really good, and all noticeably different. Sadly, it’s quite a pricey record to find now, but the song is available on a few C&C CDs. Thanks for introducing me to this Andrew, and so many other records…If you’d like to know more about Chris & Cosey, I can highly recommend Cosey Fanni Tutti’s autobiography, Art-Sex-Music. It`s a brilliant read.
While I was rummaging around in the letter ‘C’, I came across “Cobby”, and all the Pork Recordings / Fila Brazillia records …
Steve Cobby – Saudade – Declasse 2014
A comeback of Nancy Noise size proportions! In the early `90s I religiously bought the output of a label from Hull called Pork Recordings. The label was founded by Dave ‘Porky’ Brennand and a very prolific chap called Steve Cobby. It turns out that almost all of the label`s musical output was from the same Steve Cobby, with various partners and under various guises – Fila Brazillia, Spokane, Heights Of Abraham, Solid Doctor, 2 Loops Lautrec, White Dopes On Funk, etc. All the same bloody bloke! I loved this label so much that it was in fact the reason I eventually gave in and bought a CD player, having sworn never to do so. This was after a very drunken meeting with Mr. ‘Porky’ at a Pork Recordings night in Manchester, when a coach load of Hullvians – I don’t know what people from Hull are called? – had followed them over for the night, on a heady diet of cider and whizz. Try as I might to get him to release their LPs on vinyl, he insisted that vinyl was shit, “`Cos you couldn’t put more than 22 minutes on a side, which was no use to anyone”. Fair point. So, I bought a CD player so I could enjoy these wonderful LPs – as well as the great 12”s.
Anyway, in the late `90s I sort of lost track of what the label and Steve were releasing. I think the last LP I bought was around 97/98? And then, out of the blue – a whole 16 years later – Saudade turns up! An absolutely stunning LP, as innovative, uncategorizable and bloody wonderful as anything Steve had released during those exciting years of the early `90s. It has the same broad range of influences, from funk, dub, jazz to house, without actually being any of those things. By the third track, the beautiful Fingers Inc. style jazz / house hybrid, Settling Days, I was completely hooked. Originally available as a limited 2xLP on white vinyl, it’s been out of print for years, so Steve has recently, very nicely, decided to crowdfund a re-press on Bandcamp. Get one while you can.
Fila Brazillia – Soft Music Under Stars / Blood – Pork Recordings 1996
This seems to be the last Fila Brazillia 12” I bought, although I’d buy 2 LPs after this, but only on CD – damn you Porky! It’s a beautiful double header, a duo of tracks from the third Fila LP, called Mess. The A-side is a beautiful, spacious epic of a record. Slowly building and building as beautiful string sounds are overlaid with a gentle walking bass-line, percussion, jazz influenced drums, and a sitar. Over on the flip we have a chunky hip-hop groove, which gets weirder and weirder as it progresses. Sublime music. Fila Brazillia were totally on their own path in the `90s. there’s a copy of this on Discogs for £5 in descent nick – it should be worth £50!
Steve is slowly getting around to pressing these early Fila LPs on vinyl by getting fans to pledge on Bandcamp, and Mess is one I would really love on vinyl, so fingers crossed it’s up next.