Words & selections by Balearic Mike.
Sneaking out a week after Prince released “1999”, a P-Funk classic …
George Clinton – Computer Games – Capitol Records 1982
Another banger released on Bonfire Night (I can’t get enough of that pun)! This was Dr Funkenstein’s first solo record after he officially disbanded the Parliament / Funkadelic collective in 1981 – although in reality almost all of the members of those two bands contribute something on this LP. Bootsy Collins, Bernie Worrell, Eddie Hazel, Garry Shider, Junie Morrison, Fred Wesley, Maceo Parker, plus the rest of the Horny Horns, Brides of Funkenstein, etc… All present and correct. So, you’d expect more of the same, eh? Well, Not quite. As is hinted at by the title, George was aware of all the current advances in music technology, and the emerging sounds of electro, or techno-funk. To be fair, the P-funk sound had always embraced the new: just think back to Bernie Worrell’s incredible synth / Moog bass part on Flashlight, and the like. Here the P-Funk family, however, fully embrace the future, adapting it in their own unique way, and it’s a killer LP as a result.
Lead single, Mans Best Friend / Loopzilla, sets the tone beautifully with a 12-minute electro-P-Funk opus, borrowing heavily from Funkadelic’s classic, (Not Just) Knee Deep, and looping in everything AND the kitchen sink into the mix – including lines from the Four Tops’ I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch), Planet Rock, More Bounce To The Ounce, and lots of electronic ‘woof woof’ sounds!
The LP also includes Atomic Dog, the last of the P-Funks collective’s singles to reach #1 in the US R&B charts, and a bona-fide electro-funk classic, complete with more squelchy synths and more bionic barking! Probably the most solid of George’s solo LPs, I bought this copy from a big indoor market-type thing on Gardner Street in Brighton, where Komedia is now. It was two floors of stalls selling secondhand clothes, furniture, records, books, etc., and I recall buying this and Funkadelic’s Uncle Jam Wants You! from there in the summer of 1990, having caught the P-Funk bug the previous year.
“They drive you up the wall, we drive you on the floor.”
Some recent purchases, now, that I’m loving and want to share with you …
Stuart “Chuggy” Leath’s excellent experiment in record archaeology comes up trumps yet again, bringing this collection of previously unreleased material to a vinyl record in a shop near you! For those of you familiar with Brenda Ray’s work, from her now highly sought after classic mini-LP as Brenda And The Beachballs, too her two fabulous, more recent releases on Manchester’s Aficionado Recordings, you will know what to expect here. For those of you not already hip to the joy of Brenda’s music, it might be quite hard to put into words. Imagine, if you will, a sort of experimental, electronic, house-meets-bossa-nova-dub-pop. Something like A.R. Kane, meets It’s Immaterial, with a bit of Augustus Pablo thrown in. It really is a weird and wonderful, and totally original body of work, all recorded between 1989-91 in her home studio in the North West of England.
The opening track, Universal Purpose, kicks things off in a suitably wacky fashion – almost sounding like it might be on the wrong speed, and yet still sounding beautifully hypnotic, with a gorgeous, woozy vocal from poet and friend Eugene Lange, over a sparse electro-style breakbeat. We have a brilliant proto house / garage-influenced track next, in Spirit’s So High, which boasts a soaring pop chorus. There are bonkers Latin scat-bossa-pop numbers Mmmmoon Wrap (lifting a vocal refrain from Balearic classic, Izit`s Stories) and Tequila Sam, plus an array of incredible Balearic dub-pop, with Return Of Theme From Tall Dark Stranger, revisiting a classic track from The Beachballs` Volume One being a melodica-drenched chugger of the Andrew Weatherall variety. The two versions of Love’s The Most are possibly my favourites – sublime, gorgeous, and very, very Balearic, showcasing Brenda’s seductive, breathy vocals. The whole LP is very lo-fi, but that’s a huge part of the charm here. It`s such an original and unique sound. A Brilliant record, and congratulations Stuart on your 100th release.
Another recent purchases that I’m loving and want to share with you …
Forbidden Overture – Turned On! – Dark Entries Records 2022
When I bought my first Adam & The Ants record at the tender age of 10 years old, I didn’t think that 42 years later I`d be exploring the world of gay porno soundtracks, but that’s where I seem to have ended up. After blowing everyone’s minds with a series of previously unreleased ventures into this genre, by electronic music genius Patrick Cowley, those nice people over at Dark Entries Records, this, Forbidden Overture’s Turned On! is another stunning entry (oo-er!). Described as a “Bathhouse fantasy”, from legendary filmmaker, Steve Scott, and gay porn superstar, Al Parker, this soundtrack consists of two 27-minute-plus pieces – both slo-mo, pulsating, building, electronic soundscapes – credited to the mysterious Forbidden Overture. It was only after some serious detective work that it was discovered who this mysterious alias belonged to – none other than legendary New York electro producer Man Parrish! The music is really quite mind-blowing. Like some hybrid of early German electronica from Klaus Schulze or Mobieus, Detroit techno, such as Carl Craig’s more contemplative moments, or `90s UK electronica acts like Boards Of Canada or Mike Paradinas.
The album is beautifully pressed and presented, with an ‘interesting’ booklet and poster insert which are very NSFW. My one criticism would be that while the booklet is packed full of information about the film and the actors and director involved*, there isn’t really anything about the music. A wonderful record. Go buy a copy while it’s still around.
*Fair play to Scott Taylor though: you know you’ve all tried to do it boys – well, the first bit at least.
Danger Mouse & Black Thought – Cheat Codes – BMG 2022
I used to buy and listen to lots of hip hop, but at some point, I just tuned out – for over a decade really. I bought the final Beastie Boys LP in 2011, then the last A Tribe Called Quest album in 2016, and that was it, until during lockdown I bought records by SAULT, Little Simz and Czarface. Suddenly, I’m loving listening to hip hop again.
Danger Mouse & Black Thought`s Cheat Codes arrived back in August. It is absolutely aimed straight at my taste, with a very old school flavour to it. Great delivery, with a host of excellent guest MCs such as Raekwon, but most importantly for me, it’s all over a warm, melodic, set of soulful beats and samples, all of which are pretty obscure (they sample Kiki Dee on one track!) – so it still has a very fresh sound. I suppose it reminds me of late `90s / early `00s acts like Jurassic 5, Dilated Peoples, and the Stones Throw stable of artists. It’s right up there with those peeps. Highlights include the wonderful, haunting, Belize – featuring MF Doom, Because, Strangers, and for me the total standout track is Aquamarine – which features a vocal from Michael Kiwanuka. A totally beautiful track, and thankfully, one with no swearing in it, hence it’s been the only one I’ve played on my radio show. The album has truly disturbing, but brilliant, sleeve artwork, is pressed on red vinyl (swoon!), and you even get a free CD with it – bypassing the download code shizzle and proving its old school credentials. A great record.
I pulled out a couple of records to pay tribute to Keith Levene on last week’s radio show…
Public Image Ltd. – Metal Box – Virgin 1979
Until I started work in Vinyl Exchange, in Manchester, my knowledge of P.I.L. was confined to 4 records: their self-titled debut single, the fabulous This Is Not A Love Song – which crashed into the charts in 1983, the completely Balearic Rise – which was also a big hit, and through Andrew Weatherall, later in the decade, the utterly terrifying and yet funky as hell, Death Disco. This also hit the charts, and it’s rather bizarrely covered on one of those budget Top Of The Pops LPs!
However, when I started work in a ‘serious’ record shop, full of ‘serious’ record people, I then encountered this terrifying looking object – Metal Box. I saw it often, and never once thought to play it, but when Rob Bright began working in the shop, he played the fucker all the time… and I was gobsmacked! It was quite frightening, discordant, and challenging, but also as funky as hell – rhythmic, and propulsive. Just wonderful.
On side 3 of this triple pack, we get Poptones and Careering, which might be two of the most important songs ever committed to vinyl. The influence they had on music being made over the next five years is quite astonishing. The idea that a rock act would release an LP on 3×12” records, housed in a metal tin, is still quite stunning. Despite being a founding member of both The Clash and P.I.L., Keith Levene really did not subscribe to the punk idea of amateurs making music. He loved prog rock acts who were virtuosos, and when you listen to this LP, it’s not the sound of plucky amateurs having a go, it’s the sound of visionaries pushing music into places it’s never been before. Keith pursued this experimentation and adventurism in everything he played on, including some incredible work on the On-U-Sound label, with New Age Steppers and Dub Syndicate, and his productions with Matt Dike, on records by Ice T, and with Vivien Goldman.
Vivien Goldman – Dirty Washing E.P. – 99 Records 1981
Vivien Goldman is a highly respected and hugely influential music journalist and broadcaster. Not only was she right at the heart of the post-punk music scene, but she was also a vocal champion of Afro-Caribbean and Global music, writing at length about both Bob Marley and Fela Kuti. Goldman was there on the fateful day in 1984 Fela’s home was raided by the Nigerian Army. Fela spent 20 months in prison, but Vivien luckily escaped. Originally released on Ed Bahlman’s cult NYC record label, 99 Records, the home of Liquid Liquid and ESG, amongst others. This record is a wonderful example of how exciting and collaborative a place the post-punk music scene of the late `70s and early `80s could be.
The A-side, the wonky-dub-pop masterpiece, Launderette, is a wonderful kitchen sink drama about a romance which begins in a launderette and ends with the pair moving in together. This contemporary love story takes place over a sinuous, punk-funk bassline – played by co-writer George Oban (Ras Levi) – while Steve New (Shooz) and Robert Wyatt lay down a drum and percussion track that sounds like someone playing plastic buckets. Meanwhile Keith Levene on guitar, and Vicky Aspinall from The Raincoats on violin, weave some subversive sonics around Vivien’s vocals. The track was apparently recorded when, “P.i.L .snuck her into the Manor (studios)” during The Flowers Of Romance album sessions, which explains John Lydon’s co-producer credit. On the B-side we have the Adrian Sherwood-produced, Private Armies / P.A. Dub – a much heavier affair altogether, which also managed to find its way onto one of Sherwood’s New Age Steppers LPs. It includes the unforgettable line, “If you can’t get a hard-on, get a gun”.
This is a fantastic record, which acts as a beautiful snap shot of an incredibly creative era. My copy came from the collection of another highly respected music journalist and author.
You can also check out the super silk screen prints of “Balearic Wife” over at @jo_lambert_print