31/08/2018: “May Be A Price To Pay” by The Alan Parsons Project

The Alan Parsons Project had a varied roster but really revolved around Eric Woolfson and Alan Parsons.

The band was a prog rock band which produced a lot of concept albums, and had a sound quite similar to some of Pink Floyd’s stuff; this is in no small part due to Alan Parson working as a sound engineer for Dark Side Of The Moon. 

One feature of the band’s style was that they’d have epic instrumental intros. “May Be A Price To Pay” absolutely comes through with an epic intro!

The song starts with a breathtaking theatrical brass section, before ominous strings and a tight bassline kicks in. Then the bassline loosens up, and before you know it, the main song has started. The chorus is suitably dark in tone for the rest of the song, but has a lightness reminiscent of Genesis.

The album from which this is taken, 1980’s Turn Of A Friendly Card, is about the problems of gambling, and “May Be A Price To Pay” is about subordinates sitting around gambling when their boss’s backs are turned. Servants playing while the master’s away, an easy enough scene to picture!

Brilliant!

 

 

30/08/2018: “Cracking The Code” by Mad Professor

If King Tubby can be considered the father of dub music, then Mad Professor is one of the first children. He is one of the second generation of producers who helped to push the sound forward, adding new techniques and new ideas.

He was born in Guyana but moved to England at age 13, where he began experimenting with reggae music.

The track features some vocals from “Why Wicked Man” by Dennis Nolan, and was released in 1997 one of the albums in the Black Liberation series, specifically number 4, called Under The Spell Of Dub. 

The track begins with a heavy cascade of dubby strings, before kicking in with a powerful bassline, with heavily dubbed out drums, and a guitar lick. The effects are laid on heavily, and the song is thick with the textures of the drums and guitar skanks.

The complexity of the various elements in the track is almost symphonic at times; try following one individual song part and see how it bounces off the rest.

First class dub music!

29/08/2018: “Women Of Ireland” by Bob James

“Women Of Ireland”, or “Mná na hÉireann” in the original Irish, is an old poem written in the 18th century by a guy called Peadar O Doirnin.

Bob James’ adaptation is based on the melody by Sean O’Riada, to whom the song is credited on James’ album.

It’s undeniably a lovely tune, with a soothing tin whistle played by Grover Washington Jr., some calm yet uplifting piano, and and easygoing, vaguely Caribbean swing. At some points, it’s so easy on the ear that it approaches muzak (“elevator music”), but I don’t think this is lightweight. It’s a jazzy take on a timeless melody.

Later on in the song, there’s also some stellar guitar soloing by Eric Gale, accentuated by the gorgeousness of the strings. Bob James jams on his electric piano in a more recognisably jazz fashion, but the song remains smooth as silk.

The track was released on the 1976 album Three,  his third solo album after One and Two. Yes, that’s what they’re called!

Marvellous!

28/08/2018: “Shotgun Rider” by Bachman-Turner Overdrive

The lyrics and style of “Shotgun Rider” are very much “wild West”. However, Bachman-Turner Overdrive are Canadian. Not that it matters much; it’s a great song.

The verses of the song are my favourite part, with their galloping bass, and singing that is very much in line with the outlaw fighting theme of the song, calling out confidently into darkness.

The choruses are much more colourful and triumphant, with the guitar licks really coming into play.

It tells a nice little story, and you can’t help but root for the guy in the song!

The song was released on the 1977 album Freeways, and although Randy Bachman said the album was rushed, he mentioned “Shotgun Rider” as one of the songs that he’d consider good enough for any BTO album.

Makes me want to buy a horse and some cowboy boots!

27/08/2018: “Cay’s Crays (Digital Mystikz Remix) by Fat Freddy’s Drop

Digital Mystikz are one of the most respected dubstep outfits around, having been formed at the very start of dubstep, helping to shape the sound as it grew.

Consisting of Croydon duo Mala and Coki, most releases under the name are actually produced by one or the other, rather than Mala and Coki together.

In this case, the remix of “Cay’s Crays” was produced by Mala, and includes his melodica playing.

Released in 2006, it’s a spacious yet weighty tune, with a heavy bassline, minimal yet effective vocals, an echoing, eerie piano, and the futuristic sounds of the melodica.

It has a lot of staying power outside of the club environment, but remains firmly grounded in soundsystem culture.

Heavy!

26/08/2018: “Figure It Out” by Royal Blood

Royal Blood are interesting because they’ve only got two people, but sound like a band of four.

The main key behind their trick is that they have a distorted bass guitar, which covers a lot of the midrange, but still has the energy of the bass.

It’s a gritty track, with a darker tone than many of their other hit songs. The bass/guitar alternates between a muted strumming in the verses and a full throated roar in other sections.

The singing is quite noteworthy as well, with a distinctive drone reminiscent of early Arctic Monkeys.

The song was released in 2014 from their debut album, Royal Blood.

Two talented guys, clearly!

25/08/2018: “Ghetto Kyote” by Treble Clef

Grime. Even the name of the genre is ugly. It brings to mind decaying and forgotten concrete jungles with no hope, everything grey and forlorn.

But the reality is different. There’s a vibrancy to the scene, and sometimes a sort of gritty post-industrial beauty too. Ruff Squad, for example, used a lot of startlingly touching instrumentals on their tracks.

“Ghetto Kyote” is an instantly recognisable anthem to many who follow or have followed Grime music. From a collection of distorted, lo-fi samples, Treble Clef creates a haunting beat, with a piercing flute-y sino-grime synth, a minimalist beat, and only one other synth apart from the bass.

It’s one of the best examples of Grime producers creating songs that are far greater than the sum of their parts.

The song was released first as a limited white label in 2005 under the Kamikaze crew name, then saw a bigger release with Kano and Katie Pearl vocalling it in 2006. Treble Clef’s bandcamp page says it was first released 2004 so it was probably floating around for a bit beforehand as a dubplate.

The vinyl saw a reissue in 2014 but is still very much a prized record.

Matchless in its class.

24/08/2018: “Hip Hop, Be Bop (Don’t Stop)” by Man Parrish

Normally I’m not a great fun of the cowbell. The way it cuts through the mix can be easily parodied, such as in the SNL sketch of Blue Oyster Cult’s “Don’t Fear The Reaper”, which has unfortunately been taken down from YouTube.

Nevertheless, it’s a legitimate instrument, and has it’s place. Certainly, it fits in innocuously enough on Man Parrish’s 1982 classic “Hip Hop, Be Bop”.

It’s a seminal electro tune, as Nick Frost famously quips in Shaun Of The Dead –in a fantastic musical comedy scene — “It’s not Hip-Hop, it’s Electro!”.

As such, it’s got the 808 drums, a staple of the 80s; that’s where the cowbell is from as well. The bass is sampled from The Clash’s “The Magnificent Seven”, from 1977. The synths are incredible for that time period, and give the song a slightly ethereal quality.

It’s a stripped back sound, but there’s plenty going on, and the song stays fresh throughout. If something like this was made today, it’d be called retro-futuristic. As it was, the song was just futuristic!

Foundational track.

23/08/2018: “Dead Ringer For Love” by Meatloaf & Cher

It would be easy to go for one of Meatloaf’s famous theatrical power ballads, like “Bat Out Of Hell”, or “Paradise By The Dashboard Light”. But that seems a bit obvious, and there’ll be time for that later.

Instead, here’s a raucous duet with Cher, who has a wonderful, powerful voice which suits this sort of frenzied rock song. There’s a lot of passion here…

It sounds vaguely 60s, but more hardcore. The drums have some real pace, and the overdriven guitar bashes out a classic chord progression. The sheer power from Meatloaf and Cher is what really makes the song into a hit.

The song was written by Jim Steinman, the legend behind many of Meatloaf’s biggest hits. It’s unashamedly a pop song, but leagues away from the lifeless songs on the radio today.

The song was released in 1981, and is from the album Dead Ringer.

The video is pretty intense to be honest, with a lot of staring and posturing.

Good fun though!

22/08/2018: “Maxi(Mun) Style” by Tom & Jerry

4hero have already been mentioned on this blog for their excellent remix of “Black Gold Of The Sun”. But before that, they were the jungle group Tom & Jerry.

Tom & Jerry releases have distinctive labels on the vinyls, with a picture of the cartoon, and cartoon-y writing. But their music is anything but slapstick.

1994 is often viewed as the pinnacle of Jungle music’s golden era, from about ’92-’95. Naturally,  a song like this fits perfectly into that groove.

The song was released first, and in it’s original mix (there were numerous other iterations and remixes), on the Dancer E.P. in ’94. Often you’ll see it spelt as “Maximum Style”.

The main sample is from the 1977 Soul hit, “Lover To Lover”, by Maxi Anderson. That is where the “Maxi” comes from in “Maxi(Mun)”. I’ve got no idea what the “Mun” is!

That kicks in at the start, a lovely flute riff and guitar, followed by lush strings, and lusher singing. But of course, this isn’t about that song, great though it is.

The Jungle song by Tom & Jerry is typical of that era. The drums are intricate and manic breakbeats, the pads are futuristic and spacious, the bass is weighty, and the ragga samples make the standard cameo. It’s a great use of the old soul sample, turning it from a sweet slow jam into a dancefloor ready classic.

It’s easy to find the song on Jungle compilation CDs but unfortunately the original vinyl is very expensive and even the 2003 repress is pricey and hard to find. At least it’s on YouTube…

Light years ahead of it’s time!