Balearic Mike`s Musical Diets / Week 30: 12/12/2021

Words & selections by Balearic Mike.

Sunday afternoon discoid-funk …

The Chequers – Get Up Stand Up / Theme One (Check Us Out LP) – Creole Records 1976

Balearic Mike Chequers

Taking me back to lots of excellent nights out in mid-late 90’s Manchester, this is an absolute nugget of a track, which was unearthed by those folks next door to us in Vinyl Exchange, at Fat City Records. I got my first copy of Get Up Stand Up when it appeared on the 12” promo sampler for their excellent second Mystic Brew – Counter Culture compilation LP. 

The comp doesn’t mention which of the collective selected it, and I can’t recall if it was ever mentioned, so take your pick from Andy Votel, Darren Laws, Dave Walker, Martin Brew, Matt Triggs, the Unabombers and Treva Whateva. Suffice to say that this was on heavy rotation at clubs in Manchester like Electric Chair and other Grand central / Fat City related parties, and later Friends & Family.

I managed to upgrade to an original LP soon after. It’s a UK release, from a British band, so lots to be found in the wild. I got mine at work, but it would regularly turn up in King Bee Records in Chorlton as well.

The Chequers were a reggae band who over the course of the `70s morphed into a disco / funk act. This version of the Bob Marley classic is an absolute killer slice of dubby discoid funk, in a similar vein to Funkmasters` Love Money, or the Disco Dub Band`s For The Love Of Money ….or Cymande`s Bra. There was definitely something in the water back then.

On the original LP you get the added bonus of the track, Theme One, a lovely up-tempo melodic space-disco instrumental, which was compiled a few years ago by the excellent Andrew “Lovefingers” Hogge on his Fingertracks: Vol 1 LP.

Beatles nerds take note, the sleeve of the UK original is printed by Garrod & Lofhouse Ltd. who also printed all the original Beatles sleeves. A nice front laminate too.

Sunday afternoon deep house music …

Abacus – The Relics E.P. – Prescription 1994

Balearic Mike Abacus

Utterly sublime, oceans deep, house music from a chap called Austin Bascom. It’s the only record of his I own, but what a record.

Released on Che Damier and Ron Trent’s Prescription label, this is somewhere between Detroit techno and Chicago deep house, encapsulating all the best bits from both. It’s sparse, yet rich and melodic, with beautiful analogue synth sounds, and twittering effects. It sounds like it’s been beamed down from a spaceship, and it’s the best part of three decades old now! I work with people who weren’t born when this record was released 27 years ago! The closest music I can compare it to is almost certainly the work of Larry Heard, as it shares his jazzier tendencies, and some similar sounds.

Prescription was part of the second wave of Chicago house music, which was so important in the mid-90s, managing to straddle across different strands of a UK club scene which was starting to fracture into various sub-genres. Tracks like this transcended genre-specific clubs, but then most of my favourite clubs then, and now, were the kind which specialised in ignoring such narrow terms. Everyone I knew at the time loved this track, and it was played everywhere. It’s rare when house music does that. Listening again now, it hasn’t lost any of its magic. It might be my favourite release on this label, but then it has some stiff competition.

A couple of posts from me to mark the sad news that Robbie Shakespeare has left this planet …. 

Sly & Robbie – Boops (Here To Go) – Island Records / 4th & Broadway 1987

Balearic Mike Boops

I’ve already posted quite a few records that feature the wonderful bass playing of Robbie Shakespeare, but this is the first record with his name on the cover, and also I’m pretty sure the first record of his that I bought. This incredibly weird and wonderful track was actually a top 20 hit in the UK in early 1987. 

Robbie Shakespeare is absolutely one of the greatest bass players in 20th century music – I mean Larry Graham, Bootsy Collins, Paul McCartney, Bernard Edwards levels of greatness here – and is almost certainly one half of the greatest rhythm section there has ever been, teamed with long-time musical partner, drummer Sly Dunbar.

The list of simply mind-blowing music that Robbie has played on is quite beyond belief really. I could have chosen some of his work with Gwen Guthrie, that run of Grace Jones LPs on Island which defined the musical landscape for the next decade, or any number of the seemingly endless list of Jamaican records he played on. I only discovered this week he  that plays – uncredited – on Catch A Fire.

But Boops is brilliant. I still can’t really find the words to define it. It sounded and looked like nothing else when they performed it on Top Of The Pops. It reveals how strange, funky, and sophisticated it is on the instrumental version, which exposes those sinister haunting cellos…and as a bonus you got their twisted electro-funk version of the Yarborough And Peoples` hit Don’t Stop The Music (originally released under the name Bits & Pieces) thrown in for good measure.

Black Uhuru – What Is Life? (Francois Kevorkian & Paul “Groucho” Smykle Remix) – Island Records 1983

Balearic Mike Black Uhuru

I’m pretty sure that Sly & Robbie had actually become members of Black Uhuru at this point in time, but I could be wrong. This LP was recorded at Compass Point Studios in Nassau, and as well as playing on the record, Sly & Robbie are also credited as producers and arrangers. If that isn’t enough for you, then it gets remixed by Francois Kevorkian and Paul “Groucho” Smykle. It’s an utterly gorgeous song, given that wonderful, luxurious, expansive sound that`s a trademark of both Sly & Robbie and Compass Point. A beautiful ‘Balearic’ sounding reggae track, which I’ve played to death over the years, and it’s cheap as chips and easy to find on this lovely sounding UK 12”.

Bass, the final frontier…

For more from Balearic Mike you can find him on both Facebook and Instagram – @balearicmike. Mike also has a Mixcloud page packed with magnificent, magical, music.

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