19/05/2019: “In The Evening” by Led Zeppelin

Led Zeppelin have made a lot of songs. What makes them great is that their output doesn’t have many weak spots. There are definite high points, the real classics, but a lot of the ordinary songs on their albums are very good too.

“In The Evening” is one of their great songs, in my opinion. It showcases the vision of the band, and contains one of their most catchy guitar riffs.

The vocals are about love, specifically how Robert Plant wasn’t getting any love. A couple of reviewers have said, not entirely unfairly, that they can’t understand a word he’s saying. Personally, I don’t think it’s as bad as that, but nevertheless, I did have to go on genius lyrics to decipher the message of the song…

The intro of the song is an atmospheric doozy, and is apparently from a soundtrack from a film about Satanism that Jimmy Page was helping with.

The guitar is a familiar Zeppelin buzz, and is shadowed by violins without sounding overly grandiose. In the slower break, the track delivers a crooning solo, sweet and restrained compared to the previous, faster solo.

John Bonham’s drums are as engaging as ever, splashing and crashing a melody of their own.

The song was released on the album In Through The Out Door, which came out in 1979 and was the band’s final studio album before Bonham’s death.

18/05/2019: “Malasimbo” by Swindle featuring Hilarius Dauag

Swindle is one of the most talented musicians to come out of the U.K. bass spectrum.

His original sound was jazzy dubstep, in the same manner as Silkie, but he has diversified sonically now, encompassing a host of cinematic sounds and musical influences from around the world within a range of productions.

This song features a balafon player from the Phillipines, and takes inspiration from Malasimbo festival in that country.

The balafon is like a sort of xylophone, and you can hear it prominently in the track. It has a lovely rolling noise, like water trickling down a pebbled brook.

That percussion garnishes the tune very well. That said, the song is great anyway. From the artfully placed brass stabs, the heavy bass hits, and the snappy snares, the song has an undeniable rhythm to it, a certain swaying contentedness which is amplified by the foggy vocals and darting, airy flute.

The song was released in 2015 on the album Peace Love & Music, which features artists from all around the globe, masterfully woven into his own style.

17/05/2019: “Coronus, The Terminator” by Flying Lotus

2014’s You’re Dead! is a trippy meditation on death and the afterlife. I read an interview at the time where FlyLo talked about his thoughts on heaven and hell, and it’s clear the man is pretty spiritually inclined.

Death is a theme of much of his music, and here it takes an apocalyptic tone. Niki Randa, who sings on this song, says that she is singing about the death of mankind as a species. With the worrying political climate, and even more worrying actual climate change, this is a valid concern…

The beat is a cosmic, jazz infused contemplation, and is literally an anthem for the angel of death. The lyrics portray a personification of death as a liberator, freeing souls from the suffering of the mortal plane. In keeping with this, the track uses gospel vocals to create an atmospheric of divinity.

Like many Flying Lotus songs, the melodies underpinning the song interact with a dense wall of textures; unlike many of his songs, “Coronus, The Terminator” is rhythmically easy on the ear, settling into a relaxed haze.

16/05/2019: “Stress” by Ini Kamoze

Ini Kamoze is a real fixture in the Jamaican dancehall scene, and was one of the most capable practitioners of the singjay style, with hits like “World A Music”.

Later, he was a toasting deejay, with the international pop hit “Here Comes The Hotstepper” in 1994.

This song is chronologically and stylistically in between those two songs, although much more of a proper reggae song than the latter!

The riddim is Nice & Cute/ Enquirer, a classic ragga cut. The bass is full and round, with trilling guitar licks and funky keyboards adding their own touches to the song.

The lyrics are a boast about how his sound is so good that everyone else should give up. It’s a great song for sound clashes…

“Stress” was released in 1989 on the Selekta record label. A few other vocalists also did the riddim at the same time, notably Johnny P with “Nice & Cute”.

15/05/2019: “High For Hours” by J. Cole

J. Cole is one of the rare artists who can appeal to multiple audiences without watering down his sound. His method of doing this is simply to have multiple sounds!

J. Cole’s repertoire includes R’n’B flavours, club bangers, trap songs, and then connoisseur’s hip hop like this…

This is an intelligent stuff, touching on class and race in America and wider politics in a poetic way. At the same time, he breaks it down and speaks in his own voice, rather than an intellectualised one.

Every word is well placed, and the story he tells is a vital one. The title of the song might suggest that this is a stoner song; but this track is stone cold sober…

The beat is chilled out, with a ethereal jazzy vibe, perfected suited for J. Cole’s truth bomb.

The final message is that global change starts with individuals, which for me is quite a controversial point but I think everybody understands the thought behind it!

The song was released in 2017 as a standalone single.

This isn’t just rambling; listen!

14/05/2019: “Volunteers” by Jefferson Airplane

Jefferson Airplane were one of the most successful psychedelic bands. The Beatles were obviously big hippies themselves, but they are in a class of their own really!

When Jefferson Airplane weren’t making songs about drugs, they were making political songs. It’s safe to say that they were not Republicans…

Volunteers Of America are a charity organisation that look after vulnerable people. The title was apparently inspired after a bin lorry with the group’s advert emblazoned on the side woke up singer Marty Balin.

The message of the song is that people all ought to do things like that, helping the needy.

It’s a call to revolution, quite literally, and encapsulates the counter-cultural spirit of the 60s. The lyrics are an exhortation to revolt!

The song is classic 60s rock, with a distinctive country guitar riff running alongside an exuberant piano.

The rhythm section is fiery and lively, topping off the song in fine style.

“Volunteers” was released in 1969 on the outstanding album of the same name.

13/05/2019: “Camel Ride (Mojo Remix)” by Plastician

Plastician was one of the few figures who convincingly straddled the dubstep and grime scenes after they had truly become separate.

He released a compilation of his old tunes, called Plasticman Remastered, in 2014. It’s a great album, and even has some unreleased material.

The original “Camel Ride” was a classic mystical sounding proto-dubstep tune, with swung drums and a deep bassline.

Mojo is more associated with American EDM than Croydon, but this remix isn’t just a load of distorted noise.

The original middle eastern sample is augmented with some reggae flavours, and trappy beats which defy easy classification. The song is euphoric and varied, switching up the melody every now and then, from the straight euphoric anthemic section to a more syncopated and chopped section.

The drums are built around a half time beat, but the snares roll around the beat like marbles falling down stairs. Probably around 5 marbles if you wanted to be specific…

The sound stage is a lot more crowded than the original, but this was never meant to be a nuanced song. It’s a banger, and proud of it!

The remix was released in 2014 on the Plasticman Remixed II” E.P., which was part of a series of 3 remix releases showcasing new takes on the old classics.

Certified banger!

12/05/2019: “Avi-Vo” by Lafayette Afro Rock Band

Lafayette Afro Rock Band are considered one of the most significant funk groups of the 70s.

That said, they weren’t particularly well known at the time. Much of the band’s latter success has come off the back of some of their drum breaks being sampled widely in the hip-hop scene, especially “Hihache”.

“Avi-Vo” is a sumptuous track, containing all sorts of well crafted delights. As would be expected, the drums throb and roll pleasingly, but the song places a lot of emphasis on the melodies as well as the rhythm. The horns sound vaguely Latin, and surely must bring a smile to anyone’s face.

My favourite part is the bluesy and energetic piano, which plays its own carefree jam throughout!

Lafeyette Afro Rock Band are now considered part of the funk canon, but it’s almost outrageous to think of how much this was slept on at the time…

The song was released on the album Malik in 1974.

11/05/2019: “Timing, Forget The Timing” by Black Devil Disco Club

Black Devil Disco Club is an alias of Bernard Fevre, and is one of the most impressive early disco acts.

Often compared to Giorgio Moroder in terms of the sounds, catchy melodies and disco pioneering he has done, Bernard Fevre has never got the critical acclaim of Moroder.

The E.P. this is taken from, called Disco Club, was originally released in 1978. It is years ahead of its time, and was even mistaken for a hoax when it was re-issued, because people thought it was modern music with a fanciful blurb…

It was re-issued in 2004 by Rephlex, after attracting the attention of the label boss, but also Aphex Twin!

There are definitely similarities with Moroder; the relentless, metallic drum beats forges ahead, carving a path for the melodic bassline to rumble across.

Then in their wake, a host of catchy, singalong synth melodies flit and weave, echoing and enhancing the bass.

The song was made without any MIDIs or computers, making it all the more impressive. The drums are actually a processed live drummer!

Timeless!

10/05/2019: “Backstrokin'” by The Fatback Band

The Fatback Band are masters of locking into a groove and just rolling with it. Their songs flow effortlessly; like a torrent of funk, their hits smack any listeners with an irresistible catchy combo of agile basslines, anthemic vocal hooks, and groovey disco drums.

“Backstrokin'” is a quintessential example of this. The root of the song is, naturally, the bassline. The phenomenally funky, charismatic superstar of a bassline!

The vocals are a repetition of a few key phrases, such as the titular “Looking for the good stuff, tighten up on your backstroke”, which is probably an innuendo of some sort, but serves well as a generic exultation of rhythm…

The drums have the easy slap of disco, with a well placed use of the agogos, which is easy to get wrong!

The vocals are complemented by the horns, which serve an accentuating role rather than an attention grabbing one. That said, the song just wouldn’t be the same without those horns!

The song was released in 1980, and appeared on the 1980 E.P. Hot Box. 

Addictive!