Words & selections by Balearic Mike.
A salute to Charlie Watts who died at the age of 80 years old yesterday …
The Rolling Stones – Sympathy For The Devil – London Records 1990
This record was one of THE sounds of the summer of 1989. Yes, I know, alongside Italo house and Soul II Soul and 3 Feet High And Rising and W.F.L. and Zobi La Mouche and French Kiss. It was a good summer for music.
Prior to that summer I`d never heard this record. I didn’t care for sad old bastard music like The Beatles or The Stones, but that all changed that year as my musical taste was pushed and pulled by what was happening in the club culture of the time.
This record is incredible. It doesn’t really sound like anything that happened in pop music up to that point, and a lot of that is down to Charlie Watts` incredible drumming. Charlie was a jazzer at heart, and nowhere is that more evident than on here. Most people refer to the incredible bongo led intro to this track, but the first percussion sounds you hear are actually Charlie, who’s joined after the first couple of bars by the legendary Ghanaian percussionist Rocky Dijon, on those bongos. What follows is a rolling polyrhythmic epic which instantly makes me think of classic Fela Kuti tracks – with Tony Allen on drums – but this precedes those Fela recordings by a few years. In 2003 Charlie said this about recording the track:
“We had a go at loads of different ways of playing it; in the end I just played a jazz Latin feel in the style that Kenny Clarke would have played on A Night in Tunisia – not the actual rhythm he played, but the same styling.” It doesn’t even have a kick drum!!
After the of summer ’89 demand for this on a 12” must have filtered through to someone in charge, because when they re-released Paint It Black early in 1990 – to cash in on its use on a TV drama about the Vietnam War – and they cleverly stuck Sympathy For The Devil on the b-side. I bought my copy from Vinyl Exchange around that time, before I worked there. I can still make out Adrian LuvDup’s handwritten £2.49 where I’ve removed the price sticker.
Another 12” from the shelves … in no way influenced by the last …
Bananarama – Only Your Love – London Records 1990
The ‘Nanas at their brilliant best. Not only is this one of their finest pop songs, but it completely captures the sound and feeling of summers 1989 and 90 perfectly. Pop-dance at it’s finest, which transports you back to Italo house, Soul II Soul beats, Italia 90, Deee-Lite, World In Motion, etc. Using the same Bobby Byrd – Hot Pants – break as The Stone Roses did on Fools Gold, and sampling the percussion and the “woo woos” from The Rolling Stones` Sympathy For The Devil, may have dated the track a little, but hasn’t dulled it’s completely joyous, ecstatic quality. Produced by Youth, the Milky Bar Mix by Robin Goodfellow (?) is still the one for me, although Youth & Thrash’s Hardcore Instrumental also had a lot of spins back then. On the remix 12”, Terry Farley turns in some reworks which have dated less, due to getting rid of some of the sampled drum breaks, but the real gem on here was of course the second track on the B-side, the Paris Texas Instrumental. This will always put a smile on my face and always make me want to dance.
A few new bits …
Another superb release from Stuart “Chuggy’ Leath’s stable of excellent labels. I bought this back in February, and it was scheduled to ship March, maybe April, but with COVID / Brexit / impending global apocalypse, it got delayed a wee bit, finally turning up midway through July. I’m very happy to say that it was worth the wait. What we have here is some of the funkiest, wonkiest, acid house music I’ve heard in a long time. An E.P. of ethno-acid-chug if you like, that sounds like it was made for the dancefloor of an ALFOS night or a Down To The Sea And Back boat party in the Adriatic. All 4 tracks are fantastic, but Jurassic Shanghai Acid and Mongol 303 slightly edge it over the others for me. All have a beautiful yet subtle blend of far Eastern musical elements such as Khoomei throat singing, Dan Nhi playing, traditional folk singing samples, etc., over rolling 808 rhythms and gurgling 303 lines. It sounds immense on vinyl as well, and there’s rumours of follow up E.P. in the pipeline … can’t wait (Rob – nice interview with Akio here).
JARV IS… – Swanky Modes (Dennis Bovell Mixes) – Rough Trade 2021
You might think that the combination of a Jarvis Cocker record remixed by reggae / dub legend, producer Dennis Bovell would be quite an odd one. Trust me, it’s not. As with Dennis` work on the Steve Mason LP, Ghosts Outside, this is a match made in heaven. Bovell creates the perfect spacious dub soundtrack to Jarvis melancholic, reminiscing, vocals, with the minimal bassline, sparse, reverb drenched percussion, and haunting piano and cello bringing the kitchen sink drama to life before your ears. The lyrics are the usual genius from Mr Cocker:
“Some fell by the wayside
Some moved up to Teeside
Some still scoring cocaine
Some laid up with back pain
Ain’t it sad when your dreams outlast you?
The things you do to make life go faster”
This is just out on a limited 7” so don’t snooze. Cheers to Jif for the tip.
Definitely in a reggae mood at the moment… If this record doesn’t put a smile on your face, then you have a lump of frozen coal where your heart should be…
I`d started working in a record shop, full-time, just before the Frankie Knuckles original of this tune was released. It’s safe to say that although originally I really liked the track, it’s complete omnipresence in every club, bar, clothes shop, café, etc., for the next 6 months has meant that I honestly never wanted to hear it again…until now. Dr. Rob reviewed this Japanese only 7” on here, and I was intrigued enough to give it a listen…and it’s just bloody lovely. A sun-drenched, floaty, dreamy, joy of a remake, and over on the flip there’s an equally lovely, but slightly more ambient Silent Dream Version. It even looks gorgeous too! I’d never heard of the Reggae Disco Rockers before, but they’ve been going for the best part of a couple of decades, making uniquely Japanese reggae. I just happened across their version of Todd Rundgren’s I Saw The Light, and that was rather jolly as well.
While I’m digging that Balearic reggae vibe …
Deep88 – Stories (Sghembo Dub) / Removing Dust EP Vol.2 – 12Records 2013
We moved to Brighton in the spring of 2013, and I spent most of the summer trying to find a job…and wandering around Brighton’s many record shops. Chris Galloway from Soft Rocks had a record shop at the time – above a clothes store in the North Laines – selling a nice mix of rare / second hand and new releases, so I’d often pop in for a chat and a browse. On one such day he pulled this out from under the counter. “A Reggae style cover of Stories on the B-side” he said. “Nice?” I asked. He just smiled. I bought it.
I’ve played this version so much in the subsequent years that I’ve lost count. It`s a great version for a mellow afternoon if people are just sat around drinking and listening, but also works as a bit of a party starter given the right crowd. The rest of the E.P. is pretty good too. I’ve played the Deep88 version of Salsa House a couple of times as well. Summer Balearic vibes …
Another 12” from the shelves…hi-tech soul that still sounds like the future…
Aaliyah – Try Again – Virgin 2000
Lots of articles have been published in the last week or so, as it’s a staggeringly 20 years since Aaliyah died tragically in a plane crash at the age of just 22. You won’t be surprised to find that I’m not much of a fan of contemporary R&B music. I love lots of old soul, funk, and jazz records, with modern soul … meh … not so much. However, I do own a few records by Aaliyah, and that’s because, like this one, they are the nuts! If you haven’t heard this particular track, let me set the scene for you. Imagine the beats from Codek`s Tim Toum. Then imagine that Drexciya turn up and start unleashing a barrage of analogue synth squelches over the top – a sort of cross between Acid Tracks and Bernie Worrell’s Moog bass from Flashlight. Then to top it off Aaliyah delivers her vocal track – in a cool, cold, almost European style – robotic yet rhythmic. Minimal yet melodic. Nothing like most female R&B artists, then or now. Props to the producer, Timbaland obviously, but Aaliyah was the more established artist here, so obviously pushed him to take his sound further than he had before, which is a bold and brilliant move for such a young artist. A jaw-dropping track.
Another 12” from the shelves … inspired by the Aaliyah record…
Codek – Tim Toum / Closer – Island Records 1982
Talk about records that blow your mind the first time you hear them! For me, it was listening to the second Daniele Baldelli mix tape that I ever heard. One from 1982, which started with a track by a band called Gandalf, and flowed first into this, and then straight into Joe Cocker’s Sweet Little Woman.
It seemed so bizarre to me that I had never heard of this incredible record before. By then, I’d been working in Vinyl Exchange for over a decade and was surrounded by people who spent a disproportionate amount of their spare time – as I did – digging around for leftfield, oddball, wonky dance records just like this, and yet no one had ever mentioned it to me. Even odder then to discover that not only was it a big track on Italy’s Cosmic-Afro scene, but it was also a much-loved record in certain niche nightspots in New York as well.
I can’t for the life of me remember how we found out what the track was called. There`s not a lot that you can hum down the phone to someone is there? But anyway, it got a UK release on Island Records – HOW cool is that label? – so eventually I managed to find a copy. I actually found a couple of spares in the wild over the years. I remember selling one at a record fare I did in Manchester in about 2007/2008 to a friend called Sean Canty, who was in an electronic act called Demdike Stare with Miles Whittaker – who also used to work in Vinyl Exchange. It was up on my display with some other rare stuff, and he asked to listen to it. “Bloody hell! It sounds like Timbaland or The Neptune’s!” he said and handed over yet another wad of cash. Sean had it bad.
After writing about the Aaliyah record, I remembered this moment and dug the record back out to play. It’s so amazing, and I haven’t even mentioned Closer, on the flip, which would be a hugely sought-after record in its own right. A kind if pulsing electro – afro tune. Dark Entries Records did a great job of reissuing this 12 a few years ago, so it should no longer cost you a fortune. There are some nice remixes too.
“I gave Bob Marley reggae as a present” – Lee “Scratch” Perry
Lee Perry & The Full Experience / Jah Lloyd / Max Romeo – Disco Devil / Earth Is The Lord / Norman / Sexy Natty – Black Art 1979
One of music’s true giants left the planet yesterday. A man as ridiculously gifted as he was barking mad. Genius doesn’t even quite cover it, as his musical invention covers 6 decades.
I think my top 5 reggae records are all from the mind of Lee “Scratch” Perry. I’ve already written about the incredible Congos LP, Heart of The Congos, so I thought I’d write about this wonderful 12” this time. I really liked The Prodigy single, Out Of Space, when it was released in 1992. It’s not the sort of thing I’d ever have played as a DJ – it’s way to ‘ravey’ – but I just thought it was a great pop record, and I loved the sample they used, but had no idea what it was. Working at Vinyl Exchange there were several staff there who were very knowledgeable about reggae, but I think it was Steve Yates who handed me a copy of the Max Romeo LP, War In A Babylon, containing the track I Chase The Devil that The Prodigy had sampled. That’s another of my top 5 reggae records. A year or two later Steve also handed me this from a pile of records he’d just bought in. “I think you’ll like this one Smitty”. To this day no one else has ever called me Smitty (My surname is Smith). He wasn’t wrong. What you have here are 4 superb ‘versions’ of classic Lee Perry tracks, with the standout for me being Disco Devil – an insane, dubbed out version of Max Romeo’s I Chase The Devil. The version of Norman – from the same LP – on the flip is also pretty special. I used to play this a lot when doing the pre–Jolly Roger party warm-up sets at Joshua Brooks on a Thursday night. Thank you for the music The Original, Mighty, Upsetter.