Words & selections by Balearic Mike.
We went to see the movie Dune today – it’s VERY good – so … this seemed like an appropriate record to pull off the shelf for a spin.
Paul Atreides – Arrakis Walk – Going Home 2015/16
I remember Rob J clueing me up to this record on its incredibly limited release back in 2015. I missed out on the first edition of 150, but thankfully Ari Goldman from Beautiful Swimmers sorted me out a copy of the repress (is he the mysterious Paul?). Both sides are completely slamming, spaced out, break driven, synth-funk odysseys of the utmost quality. Arrakis Walk is the more dancefloor friendly, with a rock-solid breakbeat accompanied by a killer moog-bass part, some cowbell and synth strings, with a small snippet of dialogue from the David Lynch being read by the also mysterious Faye Simms. On the flip Thinking Machines is a heavy, heavy beast of a track, very much in the same vein as Li Song by Jonathan. Both stunning. Cosmic funk of the highest order.
Dune made me want to listen to loads of music about space, so I dug out this …
Brian Bennett – Voyage: A Journey Into Discoid Funk – DJM Records 1978
From another legend of the library music world, and who like Alan Hawkshaw was also in Cliff Richards band The Shadows. Not only is the music included on this LP utterly brilliant, but it also has one of the greatest record sleeves ever. Straight off the cover of one of the Isaac Asimov books my dad used to read in the 1970. In fact, I used to have the Bruton Music version of this LP, released a few years later than this original from ’78, but swapped it over at some point because I preferred the sleeve. What we have here is 6 tracks of synth heavy space music, with two really standout cuts in side A’s Solstice – a dream-like, floating slice of the aforementioned discoid funk from the title – and Side B’s Pendulum Force – a propulsive, bass driven monster of a cosmic disco track, all synth riffs and grooves. This used to be quite a common find out in the wild, but prices seem to have risen dramatically in recent years. So, it`s a good thing that those nice folk at Isle Of Jura Records did a lovely job of a legit reissue a few years ago.
I missed what would have been Patrick Cowley’s birthday last week, October 19th…so happy birthday Patrick, you utter genius.
Patrick Cowley – Going Home (Remix Dub Version) – Megatone Records 1983
He would have been the same age as my Dad, 71, but tragically Patrick was one of the very earliest victims of the AIDs epidemic that was about to sweep through the gay community. He died less than a month after his 32nd birthday in 1982.
Patrick Cowley is rightly regarded as one of the leading pioneers of electronic dance music, with at least 3 of his remixes – Two Tons “O” Fun`s I Got The Feeling, Tantra`s The Hills Of Kathmandu, Donna Summer`s I Feel Love – and several of his own productions, including his work with Sylvester, amongst my favourite dance records of all time. Almost as much of Patrick`s music has been released posthumously as during his lifetime, with this incredible 12” from 1983 being a great example. I found this in the racks of Loading Bay Records in Birmingham in the early 1990s. My then girlfriend lived just around the corner from the shop, and my occasional visits were often richly rewarded. When I was asked to play at Horse Meat Disco back in the summer of 2007, I decided to open my set with this track (Ahem! Still my only gig there chaps!). The original appears on his final LP, Mind Warp, recorded while he was battling against the virus that would take his life. This remix is a great set opener, which seems to slowly lurch into life through a swirling fog of sound effects and synths. And THAT breakdown!
A little tip for you. If you decide to treat yourself to any of the compilations of music Patrick made for gay porn soundtracks which Dark Entries have released over the last few years – and you really should, they are incredible – maybe don’t have them sent to you at work and open them in the office in front of your colleagues – definitely NSFW!
Yesterday was an utter turd of a day, so I’m making myself feel better with one of my favourite records…
Johnny Harris – Movements – Warner Bros. Records 1970
This record is as old as me – 51 years old this year – but sounding a lot fresher and exciting than I feel right now. I came to this LP via Shirley Bassey. Her version of The Beatles` Something had become a bit of an obsession of mine by the mid `90s. It’s not often that I say this, but her version is so much better than the Fabs. Her version of The Doors` Light My Fire, from the same album, is also astonishing, and I think it was John McCready who told me that there were instrumental versions on an LP by the chap who had orchestrated and arranged Shirley`s record. I came across this in King Bee Records in Chorlton for a few quid but wasn’t prepared for just how good it was going to be. It’s a mixture of original compositions and covers, but everything on here is astonishing.
Johnny Harris was born in Edinburgh – like me – and had worked in music for years, recording a Beatles cover E.P. with drummer Jimmie Nicol, which resulted in Jimmie replacing Ringo on a world tour. In a varied career this is one of Johnny’s masterpieces though. Imagine something halfway between John Barry and David Axelrod, and that’s about where this LP sits. It’s orchestral, symphonic funk music. The opener, Fragments Of Fear, sets the scene perfectly, and was used as the title of, and included in, the stunning Quiet Village DJ Mix of the same name. The other original compositions are all highlights – Footprints On The Moon and Stepping Stones, which was used in a Levi’s ad in the late 90s – with covers of Wichita Lineman and the jaw dropping funk version of Give Peace A Chance joining the already stunning set. A decade after this, Johnny also created the Loft Classic Odyssey, released on the Sunshine Sound Disco label. His other masterpiece. Johnny lived out his days in California after a hugely successful career working with Paul Anka and Elvis. He died last year at the age of 87.
I own this LP on its first UK 1972 reissue, it’s really great 2001 official reissue on double vinyl, and the CD of the same, AND the 1969 UK 7” of Footprints On The Moon. It’s just THAT good!
Writing about the Johnny Harris track, Fragments Of Fear, plus a prod from Dr Rob, made me remember it’s Halloween tonight, so thought I’d do some quick posts with a spooky theme …
The Cult – The Witch – Beggars Banquet Promo 1992
I came cross this track on the Pure Cult compilation in 1993, and it completely blew my mind, considering what was happening with music at the time. When you think that this was released the same year that Tom & Ed released their debut, Song To The Siren, as The Dust – soon to be Chemical – Brothers, it’s not a giant leap to suggest The Cult were co-inventors of big beat.
The Witch kicks off with distorted bass guitar and killer shuffling breakbeat loop, which suddenly jumps up a notch. No surprise then to discover the track is produced by Rick Rubin. Outside of the album Electric, this is the only other song that Rubin ever produced for The Cult. Also credited on this track, as “Loop Consultant” is Matt Dike, who worked his magic with the Beastie Boys on their magnificent Paul’s Boutique LP. This is a killer slice of funky rock music. I was pretty chuffed when this UK promo 12” turned up in Vinyl Exchange one day. My brother Chris is a huge Cult fan. One day when he was hoovering up at the end of the day while working in Record & Tape Exchange in Notting Hill, he accidentally hoovered into some chaps booted foot. He looked up to apologise and realised it was Ian Astbury.
Blue Oyster Cult – (Don’t Fear) The Reaper – CBS Records 1978
A completely brilliant song from a not very good band. I’ve hated everything else I’ve ever heard by them, but this is a soaring, astonishing piece of music. I don’t recall ever hearing it before I went to art college in Brighton. This was a constant fixture down in the Basement – the student union nightclub underneath the Grand Parade site. I originally bought tis track on the band`s 1976 LP, Agents Of Fortune, which has one of the worst LP covers I’ve ever seen. Combined with the fact I didn’t like a single other track on the album, I was delighted when I found a copy of this UK 12” and could get rid of the awful looking thing from my collection. Brilliant track though, so well-done chaps. Spooky sleeve too.
Bauhaus – Bela Lugosi’s Dead – Small Wonder Records 1979
As debut singles go, this isn’t a bad one is it. It was actually the first thing the band recorded together, just 6 weeks after forming, and considered as the first gothic rock record, although I don’t think that’s a term which really does it justice. Bela Lugosi’s Dead is really an experimental dance record, heavily influenced by dub music, and of course the post-punk environment into which it was released. It’s a wonderful, discordant but highly rhythmic symphony of sharp, angular sounds, wrestled into shape by the ominous bassline of David J. Almost 10 minutes in length, but seeming like a fraction of that, the vocal from Pete Murphy – he of Maxell tape ad fame – doesn’t even arrive until over 3 minutes in. It’s a wonderous pop music moment, and it’s used to stunning effect in the movie, The Hunger. A stylish early `80s modern day vampire flick, where David Bowie and Catherine Deneuve seduce and murder a couple they meet in a nightclub, while Pete Murphy performs the track from within a metal cage. How Halloween do you want it?
David Bowie – Scary Monsters – RCA 1980
Is this the end of one phase of Bowies career or the beginning of another? This is one of my favourite Bowie LPs, and includes probably the greatest UK No.1 single of all time in Ashes To Ashes. Bowies’ imitators are about to catch up to him, and the 80s are about to explode into life, but rather than fear those dandies at the Blitz club, Dave pays them a visit and gets them all on board. You could say it’s the last great LP of Bowie`s great imperial phase, a bit like Prince’s Lovesexy. The two are similar in that after a decade of reinvention at the absolute cutting edge of pop music, they both have this one last incredible LP in them, and then for David an absolute blockbuster will follow, but it will just be the beginning of a troubled decade where he never reaches those heights again. For Prince it’s just a troubled decade. But what a brilliant album to end your time as pops great reinventor. It’s No Game screams the LP into life, followed by the wonderous Up the Hill Backwards, the disturbing title track, Ashes To Ashes, and one of his greatest dancefloor numbers in Fashion. Side two doesn’t quite live up to the first, but come on, what would! Thanks for the music, David, you’re always extraordinary.
Japan – Ghosts – Virgin 1982
One of my all-time favourite songs from one of my favourite bands. It’s such a beautiful song, but also such an unusual and strange record. It blows my mind to think that this was actually a massive hit single, peaking at number 5 in the UK charts, and the band performed it on Top Of The Pops. It’s a beautiful combination of avant garde and pop, of art and commerce, and it always completely floors me every time I hear it. It’s just perfect. I realise that this is stretching the Halloween theme a bit, as it’s actually a song about regret and loss, and not actual ghosts and stuff, but hey, it’s my post OK! And it is quite spooky!