Words & selections by Balearic Mike.
A total musical genius and pioneer re-joined the cosmos this week…
Betty Davis – They Say I’m Different – Just Sunshine Records 1973 / Light In The Attic 2018
Never has an album title been truer about its subject. What a unique talent and force of nature Betty Grey Mabry, better known by her married name of Batty Davis, proved to be.
It’s a sad reflection of the lack of commercial success of her all to brief musical career that Betty is probably better known as the wife and muse of her former husband, legendary jazz trumpeter Miles Davis, or through her friendships / relationships with the likes of Marc Bolan, Jimi Hendrix, Hugh Masekela, Robert Palmer and Sly Stone, than as a musician in her own right. The former model appears on the cover of Miles Filles de Kilimanjaro LP from 1968 and is credited with dragging Miles out of the stuffy world of jazz and into the hip and happening world of late `60s psychedelic rock. Gone were the suits. Miles was newly styled in shades, kaftans, and beads. Betty’s influence is pivotal in sending Miles in the direction of the jazz fusion, which would reinvent him for a new audience with the release of Bitches Brew in 1970. She even got him to change the name of the album.
After her brief, one-year, marriage to Miles came her all to short recording career. Betty only released three LPs, with her fourh remaining unreleased until 2009 -when Light In The Attic gave it the release it rightly deserved. But what a run of albums. I’ve chosen her second, but could have gone for any of them on another day.
What you have here is raw, sexy, ‘parental guidance advised’ funk that sounds like music no one else was making at the time. Stylistically as well, Betty paved the way for so many artists. Her stage outfits, of provocative lingerie and ripped fishnet stockings, predicted the punks that were to arrive at the end of the decade and planted more than an idea or two in the mind of a young Prince Rogers Nelson about what you could get away with on a stage, and on a record. A decade later the PMRC (Parents Music Resource Centre) would be slapping warning stickers on an LP that included the track Darling Nikki. Betty`s influence is huge and runs right through to contemporary artists like Erykah Badu, Janelle Monae and Little Simz.
The record I have here is a Light In The Attic reissue that I picked up a few years ago. I`d owned a copy of the Vinyl Experience UK reissue since the early 90s, but although it sounded good, I was never that happy with it. This is because I almost owned an original `70s US pressing on Just Sunshine Records, and since seeing the OG, the reissue never quite cut it. I say, ‘almost owned’. This was the late `90s. There was a small stall on the first floor of Affleck’s Palace in Manchester which specialised in US soul, funk, disco, etc. I’ve bought many great records from there. One lunch time I popped over, and they had just got a shipment in from the States. They had an original pressing of this LP, gatefold sleeve, and THE POSTER! I hesitated. It was quite a bit of money, and I already owned the reissue. I put it back. Half an hour later I ran back over to the stall, but it had sold. I still think about this often. So, when I saw this beautiful gatefold reissue, I thought I’d upgrade, and sold the old UK version. I just wish LITA had included the poster. Thanks for the music, Betty.
A modern soul classic turns 25 years old this week …
Erykah Badu – Baduizm – Kedar Entertainment / Universal Music 1997
I’m not a huge fan of modern soul music, but in the mid to late `90s there seemed to be a handful of artists and albums that were just so great that everyone bought them. I was working in Vinyl Exchange when this LP was released, and it was universally loved by just about everyone.
As debut albums go, this takes some beating. Small, but perfectly formed, with not a single note wasted. It`s such a beautiful and concise artistic statement, in an age where the tendency was to fill up every minute of a CD with music.
It seemed apt to play this LP after listening to all my Betty Davis records back-to-back over the weekend. The lineage is unmistakable.
File alongside TLC’s CrazySexyCool, as a modern soul – dare I say Neo-Soul? I’m not really sure what that is? – masterpiece, and one of the albums of the 90s.
Having a lady’s day now it seems…
Sunday afternoon has officially become ladies’ day now… and we can’t have that without at least one Sade record…
Sade – Promise – Epic Records 1985
Balearic Wife and I have been listening to Sade a lot these last few weeks. I absolutely adore their first three LPs, but it’s this one that I think I’ve been enjoying the most.
Released just a year after the band’s debut, Diamond Life, had conquered the world, this is every bit as luxurious and gorgeous. I think The Sweetest Taboo might actually be my favourite Sade track, although I know that Paradise, from their third LP, is probably the more Balearic number. It includes the beautiful line “Every day is Christmas, and every night is New Year’s Eve…” which is just so wonderfully full of life and optimistic.
This album also includes the hilariously titled Never As Good As The First Time, which is a brilliant song to have on your second LP, isn’t it. But the closing track Maureen is also a huge favourite of mine. I love the reference in the lyrics to The Fatback Band track Wicky Wacky.
It looks so beautiful too. This is an original UK pressing with that gorgeous, dark, mysterious cover shot, and an elegant gatefold sleeve, paying tribute to the bands jazz roots.
Continuing ladies’ day here at Balearic Towers …
Wendy & Lisa – Re-Mix-In-A-Carnation – Virgin 1991
I was reminded of this wonderful remix Mini-LP by Ban Ban Ton Ton supremo Rob. He posted an article about a ‘Balearic Bargain Bin Mix’ he recorded recently for the Eclectics website, and the opening track is from this.
I bought this at its time of release – I actually have 2 copies, as my original promo became damaged recently, so I had to buy another. It’s a wonderful collection of tracks, and still as cheap as chips.
Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman are without doubt two of the most talented musicians Prince ever worked with, so it was no surprise to me that when they started releasing music of their own that it was pretty wonderful. Their first two LPs in particular are just great, with a style of song writing reflecting that golden period of their working relationship with Prince, taking in Purple Rain, Around The World In A Day, Parade and Sign ”O” The Times.
This Mini-LP selects two tracks from each of their first three albums – I think all the singles – and gets some very cool producers from the world of dance and hip hop to remix them, with some really excellent results.
Rob selected The Orb & Youth remix of Staring At The Sun for his mix, and I have to agree it’s a wonderfully trippy, psychedelic version of what was already a great track. My personal favourite is the Paul Oakenfold & Steve Osborne remix of Are You My Baby, which is just a great pop-dance track. Other highlights are William Orbit’s take on Lolly Lolly, Nelle Hooper’s house version of Waterfall, and a brilliant jazz reworking of Satisfaction by Gangstarr. It`s a brilliant testament to the talent of the duo, and although pop superstardom seemed to elude them, they went on to have a hugely successful career as composers for film and TV.
Love Saves the Day …
Alfredo de la Fe – Alfredo (feat. My Favourite Things & Hot To Trot) – Criollo Records 1979
On this day in 1970 (yes, Valentine’s Day), David Mancuso had an invitation only party in the Loft space he lived in at 647 Broadway, New York City. The invitation read simply “Love Saves the Day”. The parties became known amongst the loyal regulars as simply ‘The Loft’. So happy 52nd birthday to The Loft.
This is one of those records which sums up exactly why The Loft was so special to so many people. Latin violin music anyone? No? Honestly, you don’t know what you’re missing!
Alfredo de la Fe is just that, a Cuban born violinist who had been playing on the Latin music scene for over a decade, but this is his debut solo LP. It’s quite staggering in its diversity of influences for a Latin LP. As well as the Salsa you would expect there’s also a hint of Samba, funk, rock, disco and classical, and it’s to those last two influences that we head.
Alfredo`s cover version of My Favourite Things simply beggars’ belief. According to Debra Lyn Fawcett in the sleeve notes on the back of the album, it “is a jazz-classical masterpiece that borders on the bizarre!” Honestly, she’s not wrong. That David Mancuso would select a record like this, and that it would become a much beloved staple of the parties is testament to its magical and unique place in the dance music culture…and let’s not forget Hot To Trot – a phenomenal slice of percussion heavy, sexy disco, which was a huge record in the downtown clubs of New York, and was given a re-edit and bootlegged at the time. Thank you for the music, David.
More Love Saves the Day …
Manu Dibango – O Boso (Soul Makossa) – London Records 1972
One of the most important records in the early days of The Loft must be this, from the legendary, and now sadly departed Cameroonian saxophonist, Manu Dibango. David Mancuso turned Soul Makossa into not just a Loft classic, but then into a staple of the downtown New York disco scene, and then into a national hit single. The fact that this was achieved purely by the support of club DJs, while it had been ignored by radio completely, was a game changer for underground DJs.
This is a brilliant LP, and Soul Makossa became a blueprint for how disco music would evolve as the `70s progressed, with its rock-solid four-to-the-floor beat, insistent, looping sax riff and chanted vocals, but it’s not actually my favourite track on here. That honour goes to the outstanding New Bell, a slice of ferocious Afro-funk, which is much looser and free-form then Soul Makossa – all clattering percussion, rolling toms and wailing sax.
In fact, Soul Makossa was added to this LP after it became a hit to help the album sell. I own two copies (Balearic Wife is going to flip if she reads this), a Canadian pressing, with Soul Makossa added to both the title and the track listing, right at the start of the LP, and an original UK copy, where its conspicuous by its absence, leaving New Bell to kick things off. Thank you for the music, David.
Congratulations to my dear friend, Luke Unabomber, who just announced this week that he’s releasing a compilation LP on local Brighton record label Mr Bongo. This total banger is on it …
The Brand New Heavies – Stay This Way (Lunar Dub) – Delicious Vinyl 1991
This is one of those totally timeless records which still sounds as fresh now as it did the first time I heard it, just over 30 years ago.
It was Christmas Eve 1991, and LuvDup, the club gang who just never wanted to go to bed, were hosting a special edition of their weekly shindig at The Venue on Whitworth Street. To make that sure things stayed ‘festive’ we had extra nice goody bags with LuvDup pendants being given away by our very own Black Santa, played by our mate Baldi (early ‘woke’).
We had Richard Moonboots as guest DJ for the night, and, no surprises, it was Richard who blew all our minds and caused a minor stampede when he played this absolutely mesmerising piece of music. Richard was by this point in history, one of the most notorious record shop assistants in the world of UK dance music, forging a fearsome and highly respected reputation behind the counter of Eastern Bloc Records – then rightly regarded as the finest underground dance music shop in the country. One of his favourite Balearic manoeuvres was getting in a record this good, but not telling any of us about it until he had a chance to play it out first – which is exactly what he did, to such spectacular effect, once again with this fabulous record. It was his very own Christmas miracle for us all! I recall Christmas dinner back at my mums in Warrington the next day was quite an effort.
This is a stunning remix from New York Legend David Morales. It’s always worth checking his dubs, particularly when you see the words “Red Zone” or “Dead Zone” alongside them. This one is miss-labelled on the sleeve, but on the record label it’s called the ‘Lunar Dub”, and that’s what I’ve always known it as. The maddest thing about this record is that the vocal version of the song is fucking lush! N’dea Davenport`s vocals are totally gorgeous, and yet Morales somehow makes the best mix a version that leaves them out. I don’t understand it really? It has been a constant in my sets in the just over 30 years since its release.
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.