31/05/2018: “Satta Massagana” by The Abyssinians

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From the moment the trumpets blare out, and the bass thumps, it is obvious why “Satta Massagana”, from the 1976 album of the same name, was such a hit. The song announces itself with such insistent style.

The bassline is like a rolling wave; there’s a fair bit of space at the bottom, but when the bass kicks, you know its there. Sometimes less is more!

The riddim has been versioned extensively by various artists, not least by Augustus Pablo and King Tubby with “Satta Dub”.

The album, like many roots reggae albums from this era, is deeply spiritual. The track title here means “He Gave Praise” in Amharic, one of the main Ethiopian languages.

The lyrics are very much in this vein, and are sung with a correspondingly religious fervor.

One of the all time greats, and deservedly so.

30/05/2018: “Money” by Pink Floyd

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Pink Floyd certainly have their share of grandiose projects; 20 minute long songs, ambient stuff, wild musings.

But the particular aspect of Pink Floyd embodied by a song like “Money” is much more pop orientated, and far catchier. It’s not really like their other stuff at all.

“Money” is on the legendary 1973 album, The Dark Side Of The Moon. The song begins with the ultra-catchy bassline, and a the sound of a very musical cash register!

The track is quite a chilled one, but by Pink Floyd standards it zips along at a fair pace.

The off kilter feel of the song is partly down to the use of a non-standard 7/4 time signature, apart from the brilliant guitar solo, which is done in a normal 4/4 time.

A lovely bluesy song!

29/05/2018: “Heavy Duty” by Herman Chin Loy

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Herman Chin Loy, along with producers such as a King Tubby and Lee Scratch Perry, was one of the first dub musicians.

Aquarius Dub was released in 1973. This makes it one of the earliest dub albums, although it isn’t as famous as cuts such as Blackboard Jungle Dub by Lee Scratch Perry.

“Heavy Duty” is a dub of “Songs My Mother Used To Sing To Me” by Dennis Brown. The bassline is a very catchy and upbeat one, augmented by a trumpet which darts in and out of the spaces left by the bass and drums.

The song goes by in a flash once you get into the groove. Classic dub vibes!

28/05/2018: “I Am The Black Gold Of The Sun (4hero Remix) by Nuyorican Soul

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In 1997, 4hero took the Nuyorican Soul (Masters At Work) version of the classic 1971 track by The Rotary Connection, with some standardly cracking vocals by Minnie Riperton, and turned it into a downtempo breakbeat banger.

4hero have been around a while in the UK dance music scene, producing music ranging from techno, to breakbeat, to drum and bass. This particular scene has a definite drum and bass influence, but it is debatable whether the song is strictly a D’n’B one. The group have released jungle under the alias of “Tom & Jerry”, so 4hero is an outlet for their more innovative material.

The song actually doesn’t deviate much from the original soul version until halfway; at that point, the bass becomes more recognisably a dance sub bass, and the breakbeat intensifies. The remix does a great job at preserving the silky, warm glow of the original song, keeping the vibes nice and sunny.

The song is just drenched with a soulful warmth in the same way as “Everybody Loves The Sunshine”, featured earlier on this blog. The Masters At Work  hip-hop remix of their own track is also pretty great, but the fact is, the 4hero remix is just fantastic.

It comes together so well; the strings, the synths, the pianos, the lush arpeggios, and of course those wonderful vocals!

What a beautiful song…

27/05/2018: “Rome” by Sugar Minott

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Sugar Minott was one of the classic roots singers. “Rome” was released in 1979 in Jamaica, and has a style that straddles reggae and dancehall. Sugar Minott is regarded as a pioneer of dancehall, and was popular in the U.K in particular.

Rome is another name for the Rasta idea of Babylon, which is the oppressive system of evil, in the same way as the biblical Babylon was the seat of evil. And of course it was the Romans who crucified  Jesus. So the song is basically saying don’t go down the path of evil.

The song is a very danceable one, but at the same time, the guitar and keyboard parts add a complexity which makes the tune a very involving listen. The dub version is called “Savage Dub”, which is the flipside of the original 7″.

A classic roots track.

26/05/2018: “Last Nine Days” by Quasimode

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The first time I remember hearing “Last Nine Days” by Quasimode, was actually when it played on shuffle on one of my own playlists. Quite how it had snuck onto their without me recognising how good it was will remain one of life’s great unsolved mysteries.

Quasimode are a jazz quartet from Japan, formed in 2002. However, the jazz they play has a very classic sort of feel to it, nodding to the masters like John Coltrane and Miles Davis.

“Last Nine Days” is underpinned by a relatively simple piano motif, and coasts along on a smooth bass line, and cascade of piano notes, and a latin sounding percussion part. And of course, the jazz trumpet plays a rather soothing melody over the top.

The song presents a very chilled out soundscape, without being lifeless in any way. For me, a song like this represents a perfect balance of being creative with melodies and harmonies in jazz music without becoming too formless.

Very easygoing, but still hardhitting…

25/05/2018: “Prelude In C Sharp Minor” by Rachmaninoff

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I’m not particularly well versed in classical composers. But every now and then I hear a piece that is more striking, and remember it.

The “Prelude In C Sharp Minor” is part of Morceaux de fantaisie, written in 1892, which has 5 parts.

The song is very sombre, almost grim, with a distinctive introduction, building up to a more frantic pitch, before reducing in intensity towards the end.

There are excellent orchestral rendetions of the piece, but in my opinion it is more effective as a slow piano piece, as it was originally written and performed by Rachmaninoff himself, at only 19!

 

24/05/2018: “Rutten” by Skream

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“Rutten”, from 2006’s Skream!, can be viewed as essentially a VIP (Variation In Production) of Rottan, which was released in the same year on Skreamizm Volume 1.

The basic structure and melody of the songs is similar, but the bass is softer and more warping on “Rutten”.

The more noticeable change is that the flute part is played live on “Rutten”, which makes the song a lot richer.

Overall the song is a very chilled, meditative one, but at the same time, there’s bundles of bass for the dancefloor. Such is the magic of dubstep.

23/05/2018: “Tubular Bells Pt. 2” by Mike Oldfield

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Tubular Bells is a very ambitious project. Mike Oldfield’s vision was so extensive that the studio technicians had to use a wide range of innovative techniques to achieve the sort of sounds he wanted. For instance, he played the tubular bells themselves with a heavy hammer that cracked them!

In 1973 when the album was released, there was obviously nothing like the digital manipulation of today. Mike Oldfield played a lot of the instruments himself and overdubbed them. Pretty impressive…

The album has two sides on a vinyl disc; this is two 25 odd minute long songs.

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I am very jealous of this picture disc.

I have chosen “Tubular Bells part 2” because it’s a bit more rock orientated, but there’s not a lot between the two sides. I could have picked either.

Listened back to back, the Tubular Bells are nothing short of a masterpiece. The word “epic” is used rather a lot these days, but if anything is epic, this is. This song is to a 3 minute pop song, what a Shakespearean play is to a gossip magazine. Not everyone likes Shakespeare, but the two are incomparable.

Rather than a lengthy play by play of the whole song, I would just say that it is a varied piece ranging from orchestral to hard rock.

My favourite is actually the very end, the 3 minute long, catchy Sailor’s Hornpipe. Which shows that for all my pretensions, you can’t beat a jaunty little tune!

22/05/2018: “Spirit In The Sky” by Norman Greenbaum

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Norman Greenbaum was a bit of a one hit wonder… but what a hit that was.

“Spirit In The Sky” is a triumphant proclamation of faith in the afterlife, with a vibrant drum part, an exuberant distorted guitar part, and a rather upbeat vocal part.

The song isn’t about death as such, but more about a belief that death is only a stepping stone to a life beyond.

The song was released in 1969, and is very much in line with the sounds prevailing at the time, with a hard rock vibe.

Greenbaum started dairy farming after the song’s success, which is very wholesome indeed. He’s actually Jewish, which makes the Jesus references seem a bit incongruous, but he could have fooled me, such is the passion with which he preaches.

I’m not religious but Greenbaum’s joy is quite infectious…