Words & selections by Balearic Mike.
I`ll start with a couple of late contenders for my favourite single of 2021 … Better late than never though, right?
Sara Loreni – Neve A Maggio (Mushroom Project / Leo Almunia / Deep 88 Remixes) – Archeo Recordings 2021
I love this label. Manu is a dear friend, who I first met about 9 years ago when he invited me out to his beautiful home city of Florence to DJ. I’d just ruptured my ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) pretending to be Kenny Dalgleish on Hove lawns, and thought the whole trip might not happen, but he went out of his way to make Jo and I welcome, putting us up in a beautiful stair-free apartment and showing us a great time.
Manu was just about to launch the label, and the first couple of releases were both records which I’d selected for the Originals Volume 1 compilation that I did with Moonboots on Claremont 56 – which showed that he had exceptional taste. I’m happy to say that since then Archeo Recordings has has gone from strength to strength, focusing on reissuing obscure and rare Italian records -mostly. What makes this release a bit of a change for the label, is that it isn’t a classic old Italian record, but rather a track by a contemporary artist, with an absolutely ball-busting set of remixes. My favourite is the ‘Mushrooms Project Disco Maxi Single Mix’, which brings to mind cosmic, nu-beat and Italo-disco vibes, with an insistent synth riff that totally kills, and sounds like it was made specifically for the dancefloor at ALFOS, or maybe an Adriatic boat party. Mushrooms Project also team up with Leo Almunia for a mellow Balearic Version, and Deep 88 joins in the action with a tough house excursion.
This is an utterly brilliant release, that looks incredible too. Look at that sleeve art – and it’s on purple vinyl. It’s currently rocking my world.
Gabriels – Love & Hate In A Different Time – Atlas Artists / Parlophone 2021
This was originally released late in 2020, but completely passed me, selling out on vinyl almost immediately. It wasn’t until early in 2021 that Brother Sean (Johnston) hipped me to it. I then had the enduring misery of waiting and waiting for a repress, while the price of the original began to soar!
Lead track Love & Hate In A Different Time, is hi-tek soul music of stunning quality. An astonishing blend of gospel, jazz, soul and house, and yet not actually falling into any of those pigeon-holes. It has the elusive feel of being ‘almost’ house, like that incredible ‘Live Garage’ version of Roy Davis Jnr. Gabriel (a spooky coincidence?).
It is honestly one of those tracks, where, once you’ve heard it, you can’t live without it. It’s just wonderfully original, yet sounds like it could have been made any time in the last 30 years. Astonishing stuff.
Gabriels are a 3-piece from LA, and the rest of the LP / E.P. is also very lovely – a modern twist on classic jazz and soul. Beautiful songs, vocals, and arrangements. They were definitely an act to watch…and watch I did. I spent the entire year listening to this track digitally on my iPod, constantly refreshing their Bandcamp page. Then thankfully in the closing moments of 2021 they pressed it up again, this time with a bonus mix of the lead track, and on ‘bone’ coloured vinyl (a bit creepy if I’m honest) – complete with a gorgeous sleeve art and insert too. Worth waiting a year for a re-press!
One of my all-time favourite LPs…
Although this is now one of those albums that I couldn’t live without, that wasn’t always so. In fact, it was several years after its release before I fell in love with it. I fell in love with the record at the same time as I was falling in love with a person.
Released in the long hot summer of 1984, the summer I moved to England, I loved the single Each And Every One, and as my dad was back working in Saudi again, I was sending him lists of albums I wanted, which would be fulfilled by blue and white spined 747 bootleg cassettes. I received a bunch of cassettes which included Eden. I listened to it a couple of times and forgot about it.
Some years later I’m at art college and I had begun a relationship with a girl on my course – who from herein shall be known as Future Balearic Wife, or FBW. I’d get the bus over on Friday evenings from Latchford in Warrington (the ghetto) to the village of Lymm in leafy Cheshire where FBW lived (NOT the ghetto). We’d spend the evening drinking cheap wine and listening to records, and we listened to this one a lot. That’s one of the reasons why I love it so much. The other is that it’s an absolutely gorgeous album, full of songs about love, longing, and for the most part anguished relationships. All sung by Tracey Thorn, in what is still one of my favourite voices in pop, over some beautifully sparse musical accompaniment, which takes in influences from jazz, but also Brazilian bossa-nova, samba and Latin.
When they recorded this, Ben and Tracey were so young – like early 20s – still at university. It was only after reading Tracey Thorn`s books, particularly Another Planet: A Teenager In Suburbia, that I realised that a lot of the relationships in her songs were actually drawing on her relationship with her mother, rather than past lovers.
I bought Eden at the same time as the Yargo LP I wrote about the other week, probably during my first few days in Brighton. FBW was at Winchester School of Art, so this LP made me feel like she wasn’t too far away.
I’ve been listening to this complete banger from George and Andrew a lot recently …
Wham! – The Final E.P. featuring Battlestations – Epic Records 1986
My friends and I completely adored Wham!, and two of them actually made it to The Final gig at Wembley. All I could afford on my pocket money was this 12”, and then the subsequent LP of the same name. Amid the tears that they were splitting up was a sense that this could never last. It`s good to go out on a high and leave them wanting more, which is exactly what Wham! did with this 4-tracker.
Although Edge Of Heaven was the lead track for the radio, and a fine last number 1 single for the boys, the opening track on the 12”, Battlestations, is the real solid gold number, and a tantalising glimpse of what a more dancefloor, adult, edgier direction might have sounded like. It’s a raw, driving, electro-funk track, with a similar feel to that other Wham! classic Everything She Wants, but tougher, and pointing the way to George’s solo career, tracks like I Want Your Sex and Hard Day. The vocals tell the tale of a dying relationship, in quite a brutal fashion for a Wham! track. All quite grown up. George even does a swear! The other lyrical highlight is when he does this great little “days of the week – state of the relationship” bit, which is obviously the blueprint for THAT Craig David song.
“But Wednesday was the best day, because on Wednesday night we made love…”
Battlestations is a big favourite of Richard Moonboots as well, and he’s been known to drop it when the party`s getting REALLY Balearic!
The E.P. is rounded off with an OK remake of Wham! Rap, inventively called Wham! Rap ‘86, and a cover of Was (Not Was) track Where Did Your Heart Go? Not a bad send-off really. I miss you George.
Happy “best record New Order ever made day”!
New Order – Technique – Factory Records 1989
Released on this day in 1989, this record is 33 (rpm) years old, and is my favourite New Order record by a country mile. A total Balearic / ecstasy record!
The band famously headed out to Ibiza to record the album at Mediterranean Studios in the summer of `88. Big mistake? Was it though? The band spent more of their time soaking in the atmosphere of the Balearic Beat in clubs like Amnesia, Pacha, and Ku, than in the recording studio, with Peter Hook once commenting that they came home with “Nothing, but great suntans and ecstasy poisoning”. Tony Wilson remarked to Bernard Sumner, “This is the most expensive holiday you’ve ever had!”, with Sumner admitting the LP was only “20% complete”. Oh dear!
Off the band went to Peter Gabriel`s Real World Studios to finish it…and what a bloody great job they did. Opener Fine Time was the lead single, released at the end of 1988, and it’s basically just a brilliant house record, with the band abandoning all pretense that they’re a rock band. Minimal vocals, a drum pattern to die for, irresistible synth bassline, and that drop. Then they completely confound all expectations. After that opener, and considering the background to the LP`s creation, you half expect them to go all out house and techno, but the rest of the album is much more organic, with some of it sounding like their old LP, Movement. It all has those wonderful house rhythms, but with lots more live guitar and bass work than their recent recordings. That’s the spirit of the Balearic Beat for you!
There honestly isn’t an average moment on Technique, but side two’s sequence of Run, Mr Disco, Vanishing Point and Dream Attack is just so close to perfection.
I didn’t buy the record immediately upon its release – there were a lot of records to buy that year! I was beaten into submission by my friend Becca, who played it to death, and eventually purchased a copy from Rounder Records sometime that summer while working on the Palace Pier selling ice cream.