Words & selections by Balearic Mike.
One of the giants of 20th Century music left the planet this week, leaving behind a musical legacy like few others …
Lamont Dozier – Going Back To My Roots (Disco Mix) – Warner Bros. Records 1977
Picking a record from the back catalogue of Lamont Dozier is like trying to pick your favourite Motown Record or Bowie record. In the case of the Motown comparison, you might as well be doing the same thing. As part of the Holland-Dozier-Holland songwriting partnership, Lamont was responsible for so much of the labels classic output it’s almost unbelievable, co-writing ten of The Supremes` twelve #1 singles – including Baby Love, Nowhere To Run, Stop! In the Name of Love, You Can’t Hurry Love, You Keep Me Hangin’ On, and Where Did Our Love Go? We are talking about a talent on the same level as Lennon & McCartney, Nile Rodgers & Bernard Edwards, Gamble & Huff, Prince, Stevie Wonder, and David Bowie. A man who’s writing credits cover literally hundreds of classic pop songs.
In the 1970’s Lamont split from song writing partners Brian and Eddie Holland, allegedly over their refusal to sign Funkadelic and Al Green to the teams’ own labels, Invictus, and Hot Wax. A couple of solo LPs for Warners followed, and this track is from the second of those, apparently inspired by reading Alex Haley’s novel, Roots.
There have been several excellent cover versions of Going Back To My Roots. Odyssey had a massive worldwide hit with a very ‘disco’ version in 1981, despite disco being over (?). Many of my friends favour the quite superb Richie Havens version – often cited as the most ‘Balearic’ option – with its incredible opening piano riff, which later formed the basis of the FPI Project`s Italian piano house classic Rich In Paradise. However, I’ve gone for this, credited as the ‘disco mix’ on this US promo 12”, it’s actually the full-length LP version, clocking in at almost 10 minutes, and transforming part way through into a mass of African chanting and percussion. This is the version that David Mancuso played at the Loft, and for me it’s the best. There’s a stupidly rare UK WEA test pressing with both the Lamont and Richie Havens versions, but I’ve never even seen a copy in the flesh. Jonny Trunk has one though!
Another sad music post …
Olivia Newton-John – Magic – Jet Records (Holland) 1980
I should probably own a few more Olivia records. In the days since her sad passing my social media feed has been awash with people posting their favourites – her cover version of Dolly Parton’s Jolene being a standout. I’m afraid all I own is the soundtrack to Grease (of course I do!), and this wonderful record.
I can’t recall who initially told me that there was quite a good slow disco cut on the Xanadu soundtrack, but it might well have been Balearic Wife, as she’s a huge fan of both Olivia and ELO. I remember when Moonboots and I first got copies of those Harvey live CDs from Moonshadows in Malibu. Richard and I were listening through them, writing down all the tracks we knew, but were stumped when we got to this beautiful instrumental track that sounded like an Air record. Balearic Wife just casually remarked “Oh, that’s an ELO, it’s called The Whale. It’s on Out Of The Blue.”
I found a copy of Xanadu in a great record shop in Plymouth (Endless Vinyl?) on my first trip down to play a gig for Phil Banks. I then proceeded to play the track, Magic, to death from the LP over the next few years. It’s such a beautiful record, with its languid, almost effortless rhythm and beautiful soaring vocals and lyrics.
Then in 2006 I was invited to Berlin to DJ by Hunee. I had a couple of gigs over the weekend, and in between the two of us and his friend Christian had a lovely couple of days trawling the record shops of the city – which is when I found this nice Dutch 12” copy for a very small fee. I was asked to record a mix for the Electrik Chair forum soon after, and decided to include Magic, calling the mix ‘Electrik Olivia’. The response was overwhelmingly positive, particularly to this song.
A few years ago, our friends Matthew and Scarlet got married. It was the most wonderfully disco wedding. They had made rosettes for all of us with lyrics from some of their favourite records. Mine read:
“We have to believe we are magic, nothing can stand in our way.”
I’ve been listening to one of my favourite Library Music LPs a lot recently … An absolutely stunning set of tracks from a legendary French composer on one of the most celebrated Library Music catalogues.
Jacky Giordano & Yan d’Ys – Challenger: Musiques Pour Television, Film & Radio, etc. – Freesound 1974
I picked this up while at work in Vinyl Exchange in the late 1990s. After we poached Simon Galsworthy away from Decoy Records across town, it suddenly became quite an expensive place to work, as he would invariably slap down something like this in front of you on a regular basis. It wasn’t a cheap record then, although relative to the frankly horrific asking price now, I guess it was really. Anyway, unlike the majority of Library albums, there`s barely a duff note on this LP, as it makes its way from genre to genre. We have afro-funk mind-melters like Fawa and Plank, imaginary `60s spy movie soundtrack cuts like Remind, Cleaning, and Arrive, Indian tablas meeting space age synths on Tableaux, cool but strange jazzy vibes on Induce and Twice, and lots of wonderful, odd, library cues. I played Plank on my radio show the other day. It’s probably my favourite track, but the whole thing is great. Some nice label like Be With Records should probably reissue it.
This turned 40 last month (bloody hell! 1982 was a pretty good year!). I would have written a post about it then, but I was on my holidays …
The League Unlimited Orchestra – Love And Dancing – Virgin 1982
Martin Rushent is a bloody genius! OK, so my posts are normally a bit longer than that aren’t they – but he just is. This album was entirely his idea, and it took him 10 days and 2,600 tape edits to construct. Martin had been inspired by hearing Grandmaster Flash DJ in New York and figured that he could create similar effects to Flash`s scratching by, instead, manipulating tape. Phil Oakey also liked the idea, and the first attempts at a dub remix appeared on the b-side of the Hard Times / Love Action12”.
Encouraged by this Mr. Rushent then began work on this album, despite resistance from both the band and the label. In an age before samplers, it’s quite staggering to think about how much work was involved, remixing the material on a mixing board with the multitrack recording of Dare being fed into the device. He also operated a Harmonizer on the first send, and placed numerous phasers and delay lines, creating complex vocal effects by hand, cutting up small portions of tape and glueing them together.
Unexpectedly, Dare became a massive hit, forcing the band out on tour to reap the rewards. This mean that they had no time in the studio to record new music, meaning there was an opportunity to release something to keep momentum going. As a good socialist and not wanting to rip off the fans, Phil Oakey insisted that the remix LP be cheap, and issued under the name “The League Unlimited Orchestra” rather than The Human League – in tribute to Barry White’s Love Unlimited Orchestra. The back cover of the album features a photo of Rushent, as he recalled: “They had to have a picture of me. I did the whole thing on my own!”
The remix record was also a surprise hit, peaking at #3 and staying in the UK chart for over a year. Oakey and Rushent have since said that they both feel this LP is actually better than Dare. Although Soft Cell had beaten them to the punch slightly with Non-Stop Ecstatic Dancing, which was released a few weeks earlier, this wasn’t quite the same beast. Love And Dancing was a far more radical and ground-breaking record. Both, though,set down markers for what was now possible in terms of experimenting with pop / dance music.
Incredibly it wasn’t until the following year that the concept of the constant flow of tracks – replicating a club DJ’s mix – was picked up, on the Street Sounds Electro series. The concept of the remix LP never fully took off, but The Eurythmics` Touch Dance is one of the better examples. The Howard Jones one, not so much. The effect of Love And Dancing on the pop 12” single though was nothing short of revolutionary.
Being 11 years old, the album passed me by at the time – I wasn`t frequenting that many nightclubs back then – but in the summer of ’89 I kept hearing this killer version of Things That Dreams Are Made Of – in the clubs… and, oddly, on The Palace Pier where I was working selling ice cream. Wondering what it was, I soon found the answer, coming across a copy of the album in one of the many second hand record shops on Brighton`s North Laine. It’s a record that never leaves the record box (or memory stick – it’s 2022 Mike!). All killer, no filler. Cheers Martin, you bloody genius!
An African reggae gem, released on a French label, that’s as Balearic as they come…
Adioa – Toubab Bi Le / Fatëlikul (Version) – Drouin Records 1987
I, and many others I think, have Danny McLewin of Psychemagik to thank for bringing this incredible record into my / our lives. Although released way back in 1987, I had managed to escape its seductive charms until Danny included it on his fantastic compilation for Claremont 56 subsidiary, Leng Recordings, entitled Magik Sunrise, back in 2013.
In his infinite wisdom, Danny had decided to include the instrumental / dub on the comp – listed on the b-side of the12” as Fatëlikul (Version) – but when I heard the vocal, I knew I had to have an OG. Unfortunately the 12” was as rare as unicorn shit and highly sought after, so I had to bide my time. Thankfully a copy did appear at a reasonable price eventually on the most unlikely of resources, eBay! Remember that boys and girls?
The track is an utter gem from Senegalese artist Max, or Maxidilick Adioa, sung (I think?) in his native language of Wolof. The song is apparently about colonialism and heroes of resistance, like the soldiers at Thiaroye, where Senegalese servicemen were killed while protesting for better pay from their French colonial bosses. Max`s beautiful vocals glide over a languid, majestic groove, which sounds like it could have been recorded at Compass Point. If there’s a criticism, then it’s that at just over 4 minutes in length, both versions are over much too quickly. Some clever chap ought to edit them together or something?
There’s a 12” of this on Island Records offshoot Mango from 1989, but it’s a remix from Paul “Groucho” Smykle. It’s OK, and I know people who really like it (OK, just Jolyon I think?)(I`m also OK with my Mango 12, you can’t go wrong with a bit of Groucho : ) – Rob), but I don’t think it stacks up well against the original. Lovely record.
You can also check out the super silk screen prints of “Balearic Wife” over at @jo_lambert_print – personally I think they’d make damn fine record sleeves / disco bags.