Words & selections by Balearic Mike.
Bow down before the magnificent Kurt Hauenstein, AKA Supermax …
Supermax – Fly With Me – Elektra 1979
I was first introduced to the magic and wonder of Supermax, the multiracial, multi-sexual band led by Austrian Thor look-a-like Kurt Hauenstein, via that excellent fellow Chris Galloway of Soft Rocks fame. He sold me the American pressing of their debut LP, which includes the track, Lovemachine, and warned me “There’s gold in them hills.”… and he wasn’t wrong. Supermax’s speciality is an incredible fusion of funk, rock, disco and Afro-beat, and this is all on the same track! I have since bought many, many more Supermax records. They all invariably hold something which is amazing, but this, Fly With Me, might be the best of them.
From the opening track, African Blood, I was hooked. It’s an 8-minute epic of sleazy, loose, fusion of afro, funk, disco, and rock – with incredible percussion, and a low-slung bass-line – which just rolls on and on, adding the occasional synth or guitar flourish. There’s also a 12 of this tune, which is nice. The title track is an excellent piece of synth-led sleaze-funk (a new genre I just invented), while It Ain’t Easy is no masterpiece, but I’ve heard many a DJ play worse in the name of Balearic.
The B-side starts with the album’s real standout – Ain’t Gonne Feel – an epic slice of slo-mo, proto-acid-house funk-rock sleaze, which is quite honestly mind-blowing in its brilliance, but also in how fucking light years ahead of its time it sounds! This is 1979!!! The record closes with African Reggae, which is nice Balearic cod, and a weird ballad, It’s A Long Way To Reach Heaven, which sounds a bit like a Funkadelic track.
Supermax was the first “multiracial” band to tour South Africa. Despite near constant death threats, the group played 21 shows. You could look at that both ways I suppose, but I want to look at it in a positive light. They made loads of records, most of which I haven’t checked out, but the ones that I have are great. Hail Kurt!
This is the sort of weird and wonderful record my long-time DJ partner, Kelvin Andrews, always seems to be able to pull out of the ether… Just over 3 minutes of fucking, funky, acid squelch-drenched, sleaze-funk insanity!
Pilocka Krach + The Lost Amigos – Clarita’s Song – Greatest Hits International 2017
My head almost fell off when Kelvin dropped this at a party we were playing together. It is so far leftfield that it’s actually fallen off the edge of the flat-earth and is floating somewhere in outer space, making asteroids and black holes dance about in utter joy. It’s really hard to describe because it’s so strange, but it starts with an acid-house style 303 bassline, which morphs in and out of the track, and is joined by a slo-mo, rock-solid `70s style drum pattern. All the while Clarita, sings something in a language that I don’t recognise. She’s followed by some other weird vocals, a tinkly piano part joins in, some more weird synth squelches, then a bit that sounds like Buffalo Gals by Malcolm McLaren, then it’s over. It’s utterly mental!
I played this at an amazing all-night party in Athens called Professional Crap Dancers, during a heatwave and refuse collector strike in 2017. It’s one of my favourite gigs ever, and they loved this track. The B-side Zammmmmma, is literally 55 seconds of lots of people going “Zammmmmma” at the same time!
Pilocka Krach + The Lost Amigos are Berlin-based, and only made 100 copies of this wonderful, crazy record, all with hand screen printed sleeves in various colours. It`s a beautiful sounding 7”. I’m a little bit heartbroken that they still have some copies left! How is it possible that this magical, insane piece of music hasn’t sold out? There are 16 copies left on their Bandcamp page. I’d buy them if I were you. (A few hours after Mike posted this piece on Facebook, all remaining copies were sold out – Rob).
I’ve just started reading Island Records founder Chris Blackwell’s autobiography, which made me dig this out …
Traffic – John Barleycorn Must Die – Island Records 1970
I’m a few chapters in, and obviously his discovery of Steve Winwood and Spencer Davis is quite a big event in the history if Island Records, so there’s quite a bit about them. Which made me want to give this a listen. It had been a long time. John Barleycorn Must Die was Traffic’s fourth studio album, and a comeback record, as the band had split – momentarily – in 1968, with Steve Winwood going off to form Blind Faith with Ginger Baker and Eric Clapton. When Blind Faith dissolved Steve initially returned to the studio to record a solo LP, but eventually coaxed back Chris Wood and Jim Capaldi.
I bought the LP for the track Glad, after being informed that it was played by David Mancuso during the early years of The Loft. You can instantly hear why. It’s a beautiful opener to the album. A gorgeous up-tempo instrumental, which sits somewhere between soul, R&B, and jazz, and leaps straight into the beautiful lead piano hook played by Winwood, powered along by a driving soul-clap style percussion. There’s glorious Hammond organ, flute and saxophone parts, tempo changes, and the whole thing is just a beauty.
The rest of the record isn’t half bad either, with Freedom Rider, which comes next, also being a stunning track, while the traditional number, John Barleycorn, sees the band experiment with the kind of folk-rock crossover that other Island Records acts such as Fairport Convention were making.
I got my copy at work in Vinyl Exchange sometime in the late `90s. It’s a nice original UK pressing on the pink “I” label. Island Records have such great label designs.
When a pop record from 1978 is so perfectly constructed and arranged, it already sounds like some 21st century re-edit wizard has gotten his hands on it …
Andy Gibb – Shadow Dancing (Special Long Disco Version) – RSO 1978
For some utterly bizarre reason, there doesn’t seem to have been a 12” mix of Shadow Dancing issued upon its original release in 1977, which when you hear this version just seems like utter madness! This, though, didn’t seem to stop the song becoming an absolutely massive hit, reaching #1 in the US, and going platinum. The Special Long Disco Version, however, released as the B-side to (Our Love) Don’t Throw It All Away in the UK the following year, is the nuts!
Dramatic intro, nice drop into the groove for a couple of bars and then straight into the song, which it must be said, is a total belter. A little taster of the best bit – the chorus – and then back to the drama, groove and song. It really does sound like a modern disco re-edit.
The highlight happens almost exactly half way through though. Dropping down to just drums, bass-line, and the vocal refrain of the chorus, the song then continues to loop and build and loop and build for the remainder of the track, driving the drama like one of those awesome Mark E re-edits. It sounds so modern, and perfect for those post-acid house dance-floors we like to inhabit after dark.
I`m always amazed how wonderful this track is when I haven’t played it for a while. It`s just sublime. It`s also an easy to find UK 12”, on beautiful blue vinyl. Weirdly, I’ve had to wash the 2 copies I own, as both were stuck to the inside of their clear plastic sleeves. No idea what happened to them both, but almost exactly the same. Played at one too many `70s fondue parties perhaps? Mint once washed though.
This lovely new record has just been released…
I have a couple of very wonderful records on this label already, but I’m sad to say that Volume One in this series has eluded me. Ben Monk had a copy and used to bring it to the studio just to taunt me with it, I think. He did occasionally play the odd track from it as well…Anyway, I wasn’t going to sleep on this volume, and I’m very glad I didn’t.
You can probably tell from the sleeve art alone that this is a total labour of love, and an utterly amazing thing it has turned out to be. As compilations go, this is really very special. I feel quite smug in being able to say I that already owned two of the tracks assembled here – the Alessandro Alessandroni vocal delight from his classic Italian Library LP, Open Air Parade, and Phil France’s beautiful slice of Mancunian Balearic-electronica, Transition, from his wonderful 2013 album, The Swimmer. But after that, although I have heard of some of the other acts compiled, everything else is a complete surprise, and really wonderful.
The track that has blown my mind the most is by The Wulu Bunun & David Darling – Pis Lai (Song Of Prayer For Rifles) – which is the combined work of the Taiwanese Bunun Tribe and a Grammy Award winning cellist. I can’t even begin to describe how magical it is. It moved me to tears.
The entire LP, though, is an utter joy from start to finish, including `70s British folk-rock, Punjabi love songs, Western soundtracks, and glistening electronica… and just look at how pretty it is! Just do yourself a favour and go and buy a copy before they disappear. They only pressed 500 copies.
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.