30/04/2018: “Beggin'” by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons

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Released in 1967 and modernised by Madcon in 2007, “Beggin'” is an instantly recognisable funky masterpiece. The drum break works perfectly with the bassline to create the basic feel, with a lively piano and slower strings complementing each other perfectly, giving the song more colour.

Frankie Valli’s singing is distinctive and passionate, with his voice breaking slightly at the strongest parts of the song. It’s a very soulful tune yet it still retains a sort of desperate energy.

The best melody in the song for me is the guitar part. I assume it’s a guitar; it’s that odd twanging sound.

29/04/2018: “Celestial Blues” by Andy Bey

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Sometimes less is more. Andy Bey proves this with “Celestial Blues”, which saw the light of day in 1974, on Experience and Judgement. It’s a rather sparsely populated track by some jazz-funk standards; the bass patiently twangs up and down in stops and starts, the drums flash on and off, and Andy Bey’s voice rings out above as he preaches meditation and spirituality with lines like “Expand your mind, don’t let it wither and die”.

That’s not to say there isn’t any layers or complexity to the song. In fact, as the track progresses, the synths and organs build up to produce a wonderful symphonic sound, dancing over and around each other. It’s an extraordinarily meditative track, perfect for times you want to relax. Very soothing harmonies…

The album must have been rare in the past, as it’s hard to track down a reasonably priced copy on vinyl, but luckily it is available on YouTube and Spotify.

 

28/04/2018: “A Face In The Crowd (Dub Mix)” by DJ Assassin

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House music can sometimes be a bit repetitive. But often it needs to be; a club setting is all about having a groove for dancers.

DJ Assassin gives a masterclass on how to keep a solid groove rolling for a decent few minutes with “A Face In The Crowd”. The drums kick hard, with a fat kick drum, a boisterous set of skippy snares and crisp hi-hats all creating a great foundation. Then there’s the almost underwater sounding bass, with a dynamic warp to it, which nonetheless provides a bit of weight without dominating proceedings.

The song originally came out in 1998 but it’s such a classic it got a re-issue in 2011.

The strings and pads are ethereal and give the track a floaty feeling up until the plucked riff kicks in. After that the song really comes into its own as a beach party anthem. It isn’t easy to make an energetic dance banger that still feels chilled out, but DJ Assassin nailed it with this one. Absolute belter of a tune.

27/04/2018: “Does Your Mother Know” by ABBA

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ABBA have announced today that they are releasing some new songs, the first since 1982. It seems like a good time choose an ABBA song!

“Does Your Mother Know” is one of the more dance-floor ready ABBA tunes, which is saying a lot really. The song kicks off with a chunky bassline, which chugs along nicely until the verse kicks in. ABBA truly excel at producing stellar melodies, and here they really come through with a great guitar riff, smooth vocals (normally it’s the women who sing but it’s good stuff), and of course, a fantastic chorus.

The song came out in 1979 on Voulez Vouz!, and was released as a single.

With the ubiquitous I.D checks these days, the song isn’t so relatable, but it’s a great song nonetheless…

26/04/2018: “Yesterday” by The Beatles

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I can’t even imagine what Beatlemania was like at its height, or if it has an equivalent today.  But there’s no doubt that The Beatles are one of the most popular bands that have ever existed. After their more raucous rock n roll and their later psychedelic explorations, their sound was a classic pop one, but also with a certain thoughtful artistry.

“Yesterday” is from the 1965 album Help!, and was also included on an 1966 EP as the title track. It is a hauntingly sad song, with McCartney wistfully recounting a break up and how hopeless he feels. The string section add to the sombre tone very well indeed. The only other instrument is a single acoustic guitar. The lack of a drum section or bass help the song to retain its tragic feeling and make McCartney’s singing even more poignant.

For me, it serves as a reminder that the best and most enduring songs are often the most simple ones. “Yesterday” is a very beautiful song, that will probably affect people the same in a 100 years as it did when it was written.

 

25/04/2018: “War” by Edwin Starr

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“War, huh, yeah
What is it good for
Absolutely nothing”

Edwin Starr’s version of “War” (originally sung by The Temptations), was released in 1970, in the shadow of the Vietnam war. It was undoubtedly controversial, with the label only releasing the song as a single if The Temptations didn’t have to do it, in order to preserve their image.

It’s a real call to action; with strident brass in a very striking rhythm, a gospel like chorus, and a very lively percussion section during the verses, the song makes it’s message very clear.

The song was number one for three weeks in  America, a sign of the disillusionment many felt with the ongoing war in Vietnam.

24/04/2018: “Zimbabwe” by Bob Marley & The Wailers

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Getting only this far without posting multiple Bob Marley songs has been something of a challenge for me. I am a big fan, as it goes…

You can expect Bob Marley to make a number of appearances on this blog; but I can’t apologise for that. He deserves multiple appearances in my book.

“Zimbabwe” channels the more militant side of Bob Marley, the Bob Marley concerned with global injustice, poverty, and black liberation. The song came out in 1979 on the album “Survival”, which was a decidedly militant album.

The album cover has many different African flags on, to show unity. It was a time of upheaval on the continent, with various countries fighting civil wars in the wake of independence struggles from the West.

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The history is Zimbabwe is a tragic one all through, but Bob Marley’s song symbolises the hope many felt when Zimbabweans created their new country from the white supremacist Rhodesia. African liberation was a theme that, as a Rastafarian, Marley would have been deeply supportive of.

“No more internal power struggle
We come together to overcome the little trouble”

 

23/04/2018: “What A Wonderful World” by Joey Ramone

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Most people would be more familiar with the original 1967 Louis Armstrong version of this one, for good reason; it’s one of the most uplifting, life affirming and beautiful songs ever written. It’s a lovely, jazzy homage to the profound niceness that nature and humanity can have at their best. A real antidote to the constant stream of war and destruction on the news. There are loads and loads of covers of the song, of variable quality, but that means there’s a few gems too.

I have to admit that, as much as I love Armstrong’s refreshingly gravelly tones, the Joey Ramone cover really hits the spot. It’s so full of energy and life, with the ferocious guitar strumming and pacy drums sweeping Joey’s vocals ahead. It’s not a complicated song by any means, but I think the simplicity increases the power of the song, and adds to the feel good factor.

Joey Ramone was unfortunately dead by the time the album (Don’t Worry About Me) was released in 2002, having died the year before of cancer. A great parting gift to us all.

22/04/2018: “Dub Fire” by Aswad

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Aswad are one of the more famous British reggae bands. Originating from London, their members had Jamaican heritage but grew up in England.

Released on 1982’s A New Chapter of Dub, “Dub Fire” is a dub version of Aswad’s Love Fire. It isn’t that the lyrics are bad or anything like that; the dub version is just better. There’s more going on and the greatness of the track really shines through. A better vocal version is Dennis Brown’s “Promised Land”, which came out the year after in 1983.

I couldn’t even say what my favourite part of the song is. The bassline is phenomenal, and unusual for a dub song. It has a warp to it almost reminiscent of dubstep. The piano that kicks in halfway has a powerful impact. The brass section is timeless, in both its forms. Listen to the song and you’ll see what I mean, as the song has two versions of the main melody on display.

Taken altogether it’s simply amazing.

21/04/2018: “Funkytown” by Lipps Inc.

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The 80s gets a bad rep sometimes, in terms of fashion and music. But there’s a whole load of songs from the 80s that will still rock in 100 years!

Funkytown came out first on 1979’s Mouth to Mouth, but was released as a single in 1980. So tentatively, I’m going to class it as a 80s jam. It just seems so 80s!

As a single, it was number one all over the Western world. Listening to it, you can see why: the beeping synth hook is just phenomenal. The rhythm just drives forward, with the more restrained verses chugging along under the arm of the bassline, until the vocal chorus, “Talk about, talk about, talk about movin'”,  then the song breaks down into a strings and guitar riff that completely switches the song up.

It’s just packed full of melodies to be honest; check out music radar’s dissection.

This song is just a guaranteed groove. If this gets stuck on at a party and nobody moves, it’s probably time for bed.