Another favourite, that was about to start climbing up the charts this time 40 years ago…
Monsoon – Ever So Lonely – Indipop 1981 / The Mobile Suit Corporation 1982
This fabulous record, finally, on its second release, managed to break into the UK charts. Originally in shops the previous year as a limited 4-track 7” E.P. on the independent Indipop Records, Monsoon were the brainchild of producer / musician Steve Coe. Steve had hired vocalist, Sheila Chandra, who had a successful acting role in kids TV drama Grange Hill, just a few months after she had left school. She was only 16 years old. The couple later married. Although championed by John Peel, the single failed to make the charts. The band, however, were picked up Phonogram and Ever So Lonely was reissued in March 1982, this time making its way slowly up to #12 by May.
The song is an incredible blend of traditional Indian music styles and instruments, fused with Western pop and dance rhythms. To someone who was too young to witness The Beatles` experiments with Indian music, it was a total revelation.
The band released a couple of follow up singles, one of which – Wings Of The Dawn (Prem Kavita) – I like even more than this, and is a total Cosmic / Balearic classic. If you want to hear that track, it was included in a rather splendid compilation LP called Down To The Sea And Back Vol. 2 a few years ago…
Sadly, a lack of chart success meant that the label started to interfere, and the band split up before their one and only LP was even released. Thankfully Steve Coe kept running Indipop, and Sheila Chandra went on to release a series of wonderful solo albums – both on Indipop and Peter Gabriel`s Real World label. They are really worth tracking down. Sheila performed at The Big Chill one year, which I wish I’d seen.
Tragically while writing this, I discovered that Sheila now suffers from a disease called burning mouth syndrome, which means she can no longer sing, or even speak. And some people still believe in God?
This trippy, psychedelic classic is 20 years old this summer…
DJ Shadow – The Private Press – Island Records 2002
You don’t need me to wax lyrically about Josh Davis` debut LP from 1996. Everyone agrees that Endtroducing…, released on James Lavelle’s Mo Wax label is a masterpiece of the hip hop, taking the genre to places it had never been before, and often appearing in ‘greatest LPs of all time’ type lists. However, I want to talk about the less lauded and often dreaded ‘difficult’ second album, which incredibly it took him a whole 6 years to complete.
Of course, he hadn’t been totally idle in those years, producing the UNKLE LP, and various other projects, but this album, The Private Press, rarely gets a mention. Maybe it’s because it’s even further removed from being a traditional hip hop record than Endtroducing….. was?
What we have here is closer in truth to the kind of rare psychedelic, progressive and Krautrock oddities you would hear in the sets of someone like Finders Keepers Records` head honcho, Andy Votel. It’s evident from the title as much as anything that this was the world that Josh was digging into for inspiration.
The LP kicks off with Fixed Income, one of the album`s highlights – a moody, atmospheric slice of hip hop, driven by a pulsating synth bass riff and with some mournful, yearning electric guitar adding to the psychedelic atmosphere. Next are some more traditional instrumental hip hop offerings, before the music takes us back to where it’s always intended to – planet psyche – with another standout, Giving Up the Ghost – a stunning journey which wouldn’t be out of place on a Can LP.
Side B opener, Six Days, is another outstanding cut, taking us into trippy folk-funk territory, with a beautiful haunting vocal. But it’s on Side C that my favourite track lies in wait. The astonishing Blood On The Motorway, which sounds like some lost psychedelic masterpiece by Aphrodite’s Child, with its totally unexpected synth riff and majestic vocal, building to an almighty crescendo. Anyway, I think it’s a wonderful LP, that doesn’t get the love it deserves.
After posting last time about Imagination, I had to dig out this other classic from Jolley & Swain …
Pedestrians – Commuter Fantasy – Unidisc 1981
This is a total mystery record, aside from the involvement of legendary production and writing duo, Steve Jolley & Tony Swain. More widely known for their wonderful collaborations with Leee John and Imagination, this is the only record released under this band name, and it was a completely unknown to me until the early noughties, when we all went “Cosmic – crazy” (as nobody says – ever!) Yes, it was only when we all collectively fell down the internet wormhole of trying to discover what we could about Danielle Baldelli and his now legendary (and always legendary in Italy and Austria to be fair) Cosmic Club (see also the Cosmic Afro scene and the Baia Degli Angeli nightclub).
The track itself is totally gorgeous. Not dissimilar in fact to the production work they did with Imagination. It has a propulsive, trance-like quality, while being also quite ethereal and dream-like. It’s a totally hypnotic pean to the daily commute to and from work, and yet it’s a transcendental piece of escapism, as the singer reflects on our daily dread and the longing to be home.
The song was released on a 7” in the UK, Italy, Portugal, and Germany, and on 12” only in Canada – so was quite hard to find. Kelvin (Andrews) and I wanted it for our first Down To The Sea And Back compilation, but couldn’t get it licensed. It eventually appeared on Matthew & Jolyon’s excellent Originals comp for Claremont 56.
It took Jan Hammered ages to find a copy because he was searching for a track called ‘Computer’ Fantasy…
The film Blade Runner will be 40 years old this summer…
Vangelis – Blade Runner – Audio Fidelity 2013
I was too young when Blade Runner was released to go and see it at the cinema, as it had a 15 rating. I had to wait for it to come out on video before I could watch it and fall in love with its wonderful darkness. It’s quite possibly my favourite film of all time (No it isn’t, The Empire Strikes Back is – stop trying to look cool ya knob!). OK, but it’s definitely in the top 3! The soundtrack, however, is absolutely my favourite! – and I love soundtracks, so there’s a lot of competition. There are a couple of things that make this one so special.
Firstly, it’s just so “stand alone” spectacularly beautiful, while also being intrinsically a huge part of the film itself. It is almost impossible to separate the soundtrack from either the audio of the movie or the images on the screen. Often traditional sound effects are put aside, and the soundtrack just takes over. I can’t think of another film where the music you hear is this intertwined with the images that you see. Its tendrils have crept deep within the very fabric of the movie itself in a way that I don’t think I’ve ever experienced before or since.
Secondly, for so long it was just completely unavailable, on vinyl or CD. The studio took the bizarre decision to release an orchestral version of the Vangelis score back in 1982, and until it was released properly on CD for the first time in 1994, the best you could hope for was finding the odd track on a Vangelis ‘best of’ compilation LP. In ’94, to accompany the CD release, East West pressed a 2×12” promo with a trance version of Blade Runner (End Titles) on 1 disc, and 4 tracks form the soundtrack on the other…and that was all you had on vinyl – until this superb pressing was released in 2013. And what a stunning pressing. Sonically it`s the dogs’ bollocks, and it looks amazing as well, in its heavy-duty card gatefold sleeve. They seem to do a new pressing every few years now, but I can’t vouch for how they sound.
This dreamy Italian house number is 30 this year…
Agua Re – Holy Dance – Oversky Records 1992
From 1989 onwards, Italian house music was a big part of the clubbing soundscape, going through multiple stylistic changes during the coming years. When they got it right, they produced some truly magical music. A lot of the bigger “piano” records haven’t dated that well, and I’ve culled most of them from my collection, due in no small part to the huge prices people were paying for some of them at various times. Plenty of others though have stood the test of time, and this joyous little deep-ish number is certainly one that has. It’s actually an early release from Alex Neri, who went on to huge success as Kamasutra, Axe Corner, Planet Funk, etc. It’s a gorgeous piece of house music. Initially I was drawn in by the cheeky sample of the operatic vocal from Fila Brasillia’s classic Mermaids – released the previous year – on the imaginatively titled ‘First Mix’, but after a while I came to prefer the ‘Large Sound Mix’ over on the flip – which is basically the same track minus that sample. I think this was included on Young Marco’s excellent Welcome To Paradise compilation LP a few years ago. Thirty years! Blimey!
And I couldn’t listen to the Agua Re record and not pull this from the shelves straight after…
Fila Brazillia – Mermaids – Pork Recordings 1991
This was released around the time of my 21st birthday – so quite some time ago! I was hooked from the moment those beautiful sampled operatic vocals kick in. What follows slowly builds into what – in my very humble opinion – is still one of the finest UK house records ever issued. I know 31 years later there`s a lot more to compare it to, but I stand by that statement.
This record began my love affair with the most excellent Pork Recordings label. Hull’s finest dance music imprint – I’m not sure if there are any others. I was initially distressed to note that this was the second release on the label, but I soon fixed that. I went on to buy everything they did over the next 5 to 6 years. Most of Pork Recordings` output was the work of a certain Mr. Steve Cobby – assuming various pseudonyms and aliases. I’m delighted to say that after a break of a few years he is once again producing music of the highest quality, which defies categorisation. The Balearic sound of Hull.
In praise of cheap dance music compilation LPs, when you were buying records on pocket money and pennies from occasional part time jobs…
Cultural Vibe – Ma Foom Bey (Love Chant Version) – Easy Street 1986
This is one of those genre defying, timeless records, which can’t easily be pigeon-holed – it’s simply brilliant and still sounds like nothing else really. Part house music, part afro-beat, part dub?
I first came across Ma Foom Bey completely by accident. I was too young in 1986 to get into anywhere cool enough to be playing this track, but sometime in late ’86 or early ’87 I bought a super cheap dance compilation LP, called Upfront 2, on Serious Records. I pulled this out of the sale bin in Woolworths in Warrington for, I think, 99p, because it had the Willie Colon track Set Fire To Me on it, which I’d been hearing a lot at this local nightclub called Evergreens. It also had tracks by Eric B and Salt-N-Pepa and The Real Roxanne on it, so I thought why not. Ma Foom Bey, though, completely fried my brain. It was unlike anything else I’d heard.
Sometime in 1989, it started being played in places like The Zap Club and The Escape, as some new remixes were released. They’re in a slightly more house music style, but still pretty good. The DJs also seemed to start spinning the original ‘Love Chant’ version again, which was nice. It wasn’t until I began working in Vinyl Exchange that I was actually able to upgrade from the dodgy dance comp to nice original US 12”. Ma Foom Bey had also been released in the UK in 1986, but that seemed even more scarce than the American pressing. It had obviously sold very well in the dance music record shops of Manchester. I have the ’89 mixes as well… just because I’m a sick man and really need some form of counseling. No, they’re quite good really. I don’t have the comp anymore …