Words & selections by Balearic Mike.
Apologies for the lack of posts last weekend. Was off to Cornwall to see my mum. Hope you didn’t miss me too much?
Something gorgeous to wash away the working week and help you slide into the weekend…
Rainer Vs. The Grid – Nod To N₂0 – Glitterhouse Records 1995
This is just under 12 minutes of pure musical perfection. I was lucky enough to be sent this record way back in the spring / summer of ’95 by those nice people at White Noise – one of the few 90s promotion companies that you were always excited to receive a mailer from. It’s been in that same PVC sleeve, with the press release, for 27 years. So long in fact, that the print has stuck the two permanently together.
I didn’t get back to Ibiza that summer, which is a shame, as this record was definitely made with sunset at The Café Del Mar in mind. I did, however, rinse it at every opportunity I got, and played the track at numerous bar gigs and in warm up sets. I still play it to this day. The last time was probably a few years ago on my old 1BTN radio show, although I also played it during my only gig – to date – at Spiritland, back in 2018.
The original from Rainer Ptacek appears on his solo LP Nocturnes (The Instrumentals) in its original form as Ode To N₂0, but it was then given this remix by Richard Norris and Dave Ball of The Grid, which also appears on the CD version of the album. This single sided promo was its only vinyl pressing (Rob – it`s actually also on an excellent comp, called Earthed, curated by the London record store, Atlas).
Rainer was an East German-born, American guitarist, and while writing this I discovered that he sadly died just 2 years after this great record was released. He really was a wonderful guitarist, as this track beautifully illustrates.
I have just listened to this 5 times back-to-back, and I think all it’s really lacking is an hour-long remix. Any chance Richard?
An under-appreciated UK double header…
Boxsaga – Radio Rhythm / Steppin – Radio Rhythm Records 1994
These are two tracks that I’ve constantly revisited over the last – almost – 30 years. Both tracks still stand up today, I think. I’m kicking myself that when Rob interviewed me last year, and asked me for some charts, I somehow neglected to include this!
The A-side, Radio Rhythm, is a squelchy, sexy, early `80s synth-led disco /boogie-influenced number that shakes and wobbles in all the right ways. Think Prelude Records classics like D-train, or a Larry Levan dub mix, but with a bit of a hip-hop / electro vibe. It was released around the same time the first Idjut Boys records, and not totally dissimilar. There must have been something in the atmosphere…
On the flip, Steppin, is a killer slice of jazz inflected breakbeat driven electro-funk, with a phenomenal synth bassline, which I completely hammered at the time. Circa 1994 I was VERY into playing tracks with breakbeats, and this fitted the bill nicely.
In addition, the record looks totally gorgeous too. Look at that beautiful silver foil outer sleeve. The artwork is by Paul Allen – brother of DJ / radio host / A&R legend, Ross – and Tom Hingston. The reason mine is still so pristine is that I bought two copies, and this one stayed at home for ‘best’. I’ve since sold the spare copy, for pennies sadly.
Boxsaga was the alias of a producer called Nick Philips. He later released a couple more tracks under the name Boxsaga on Ross’ Filter label, an offshoot of Dorado. They were pretty interesting, but not quite as essential as this. Still cheap as chips on the ‘cogs.
A totally bonkers break dance track with deep disco roots …
B+ – B-Beat Classic – West End Records 1983
I first came across this incredible track on the fantastic Beat Classic collection that Depth Charge, aka J. Saul Kane, compiled and released on his D.C. Recordings label in `96 / `97. The compilation is solid gold, but this track jumped out a mile, and I had to track down an original copy, via Brighton based black-crack pusher, Nick the Record. It’s the only release under this particular pseudonym from early hip-hop pioneer Duane Hughes A.K.A. Spyder-D.
The track itself has a trippy, disorientating, almost psychedelic feel to it, created by the contrast between the heavily vocoder-treated vocals, intense scratching, and the somewhat serene, fluid groove – looping the percussion heavy break of the Jim Stuard mix of Sessomatto, the first ever release on West End Records in 1976.
Many of the original hip-hop DJs used the break from Sessomatto in their sets, and if you flip this over you have a great instrumental mix, which just loops this section for close to 6 minutes. This isn’t a million miles away from the sought after Idjut Boys edit on their Noid Recordings label, Mad Sex, a pun on the original title Sessomatto, which translates from Italian as “Sex Mad”. There’s a dedication on the record label “In memory of Jim Stuard”. Tragically Jim died May 1977 in a fire at the Everard Bathhouse in Manhattan.
I thought about this record again the other day when I was writing the post about Phill & Friends Band. The instrumental version was on the same CD we first heard This Man on and was one of the only tracks that I recognised.
Disco, turned into hip-hop, then back to disco again …
It’s not the 50th anniversary of Maggot Brain, despite all the emails I’m getting about the special anniversary edition. No, that was last year…
Funkadelic – America Eats Its Young – Westbound Records 1972
It is the 50th anniversary of this though – a fabulous LP that goes almost unremarked upon in the P-Funk back catalogue.
My own totally non-scientific theory about why this album is so overlooked goes like this…The first 3 Funkadelic LPs are pretty consistent in content and direction. George Clinton and the gang have this excellent idea of fusing funk and psychedelic rock (hence the name – duh!), and are trying to decide what that might sound like, leaning heavily on the work of other geniuses such as producer Norman Whitfield, whose production on the then most recent Temptations albums helped pave the way. That trilogy of Funkadelic records are a firm statement of intent, with the funk cuts all having a cavernous sound, which makes them sound psychedelic and trippy without resorting to too many obviously psyche-rock touches, and they sit alongside tracks which are pure psychedelic rock freak-outs.
Then they change up from their usual recording location of Detroit and record this America Eats Its Young in Canada and London – with some assistance from Ginger Baker – and seem to have abandoned this direction a little. If anything, this reminds me of the freeform total experimentation of the Parliament LP Osmium. Over 4 sides of vinyl – the only double LP in the Parliament-Funkadelic discography aside from the live one – George and the gang supercharge through straight up R&B, soul, gospel, jazz, funk and everything else they can think of. The only truly P-Funk sounding track is Loose Booty, which is actually a bit of a leap forward from the previous psyche-funk, and hints at the sound of forthcoming Parliament-Funkadelic tracks, like Up For The Down Stroke.
This schizophrenic variety is what makes this LP so great in my opinion. Much like Prince’s Sign “O” The Times or The Beatles White Album, it sounds like half a dozen different bands compiled. It’s also the first Funkadelic album to feature the whole of The House Guests, those funkateers recently fired by James Brown, who included William “Bootsy” Collins and brother “Catfish” Collins.
I have the reissue from 1991 which I bought at the time of release, but I also picked up this original US copy on a visit to the states, hoping against hope that it included the poster and booklet, but it didn’t. I bought it anyway as it was cheap. I would swap a vital organ for that poster. It is a thing of beauty, illustrated by Cathy Abel, it features the first appearance of now famous Funkadelic logo, which would go on to grace all future releases. I had always presumed that Pedro Bell, designer of the Funkadelic sleeves from Cosmic Slop onwards, had designed it, but no.
A slightly lost Mancunian classic…
MC Buzz B – Words Escape Me – Polydor 1991
File next to Yargo in the “should have been huge” section of your record collection.
I’d been a fan of MC Buzz B, A.K.A. Sean “Shorn” Braithwaite, since hearing his second release, How Sleep The Brave, in 1988. However, it wasn’t until he decided to stick that track on the B-side of his next single, The Sequel, in 1989 that I actually managed to buy a copy. It was snooze and you lose back then, and once a record was gone that was it.
This, his one and only LP, was released shortly after I began working in Vinyl Exchange Manchester, in April 1991. It’s a beautiful, and varied record. Sean’s delivery is complex, subtle, and totally original, often drifting towards spoken word rather than rap. It seems to sit completely outside of everything that was happening in hip hop at the time, which might go some way to explaining why it wasn’t a huge hit, and why Sean isn’t universally lauded as one of the all-time great MCs.
This was just after the daisy age, afro-centric, vibes of De La Soul, ATCQ, etc. Gangsta rap was emerging, and hip hop was digging deep into new musical genres for samples. But this album has little in common with any of those trends. Most of the music on the LP is written and produced from scratch, often electronically and often veering towards house, with hardly a sample in sight. It scales the heights of perfection on the single The Last Tree. Despite a lot of good press, and support from the likes of John Peel, who played Sean a lot that year, the album wasn’t the huge hit it should have been, and Sean never recorded another solo record as MC Buzz B. All we have after this is a brilliant performance on Lionrock’s Packet Of Peace – and a few other numbers on Lionrock`s first LP – and then a rare appearance a few years ago as half of B&B with Ben Ashdown on an Aficionado Recordings E.P.
As Les McQueen of Crème Brulee once said “It’s a shit business”.
A beautiful LP for a sunny Sunday, that I was recently reminded of…
Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66 – Stillness – A&M Records 1970/71
My friend Boggy – Mr James Holroyd, A.K.A. Begin – recently posted a picture of this wonderful record. I’m pretty sure it was Jim who put me onto this album, back when we worked in Vinyl Exchange together in the early to mid `90s.
It’s an utterly flawless LP from start to finish, co-produced by Sergio with Herb Alpert. Although it became sought after for the completely stunning cover version of the Buffalo Springfield classic For What It’s Worth, and essential for that alone, it’s an incredible set, with not a bum note to be found.
Opener – and closer – Stillness sets the scene perfectly, and then it heads straight into one of the highlights, Righteous Life, followed by a great cover of Joni Mitchell’s Chelsea Morning.
Side 2 kicks off with a gorgeous cover version of Caetano Veloso’s Lost In Paradise, which blows the original version out of the water. Then comes that cover version of Buffalo Springfield. Just incredible, a folk-funk, Latin-Balearic bomb, and so often a total floor filler. I’m picking out some standouts, but honestly, just let it play.
My copy is an original UK pressing from 1971. No idea why it came out in 1971 in the UK and 1970 everywhere else, but there you go. I found this in Kingbee Records in Chorlton, many moons ago. It wasn’t pricey if I remember correctly, as the sleeve’s not great. No idea what the silver paper in the top corner was for? As a little Brucey bonus, here’s that picture of Sergio Mendes and Harrison Ford, from when Harrison was a working carpenter, and built Sergio a recording studio. You’re welcome.
Deep French house goodness, which reminds me of Manchester, and is good to play at the weekend …
Nuages – Blanc EP feat. No Work Today – F Communications 1994
Two heavyweights of the French deep house scene team up, and surprise surprise, it’s rather good!
Nuages are Ludovic Navarre (St Germain) and Shazz, and between them they come up with a mighty fine 4 track E.P. It’s all pretty good, mostly deep, acidic, and squelchy, straddling the twin genres of house and techno, but the opening track No Work Today, is an utterly stunning piece of house music perfection which I’ve loved and played since its release, 28 years ago.
It’s one of those tracks which was ubiquitous at the time, being spun by just about every DJ I admired. I played this a lot when warming up for LuvDup, at Home in Ducie House, as well as guest slots all over the country. You’d hear it everywhere, from Bugged Out at Sankey’s to the more mainstream ‘handbag’ clubs. It’s a lush, complex sounding record, but also incredibly simple. It consists of that one vocal refrain, and a lovely fake synth saxophone sound which reminds me of the Underground Resistance / Galaxy 2 Galaxy track, Hi-Tech Jazz, which came out the previous year.
Balearic wife and I now like to listen to it while we drink cocktails at home, while not at work… a quite literal interpretation.
Vive le France!
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.