30/06/2019: “For The Love Of God” by Steve Vai

Steve Vai was a disciple of Frank Zappa, and there’s a great deal of the Zappa style in his playing. But Vai has surpassed Zappa in terms of technically ability, if not in the sheer creativity, prolific output, and innovation which remains the sole domain of a select few like Frank Zappa.

“For The Love Of God” is Steve Vai’s masterpiece. It was apparently written during a 10 day fast, which fits with the spiritual nature of the song.

The album version runs to 6 minutes, and the most popular live recording goes to 9. This is Vai really allowing himself the space to solo, without having to cut anything away.

The backing track is actually quite unremarkable, a cliched although pleasant soft rock stroller. This is probably intentional. The star of the song is Steve Vai’s guitar, so it’s only natural he wants all attention focused on that.

The solo was rated number 29 on Guitar World’s reader survey top 100 guitar solos.

“For The Love Of God” was released in 1990 on the album Passion & Warfare. 

29/06/2019: “Getting Nasty” by Ike Turner & The Kings Of Rhythm

Ike Turner was one of the central figures behind the evolution of rock n roll from blues. His 1951 hit, “Rocket 88”, is widely considered the first rock n roll song.

This song is a bit different from the style he normally pursued, incorporating a lot more funkiness than the fast paced rock n roll he was known for.

Billy Preston plays the piano superbly on this, using a some simple chord progressions to jam and groove effortlessly. It’s infectious without being too superficial.

The bassline echoes the piano, and you can almost feel the band’s synergy, working together so smoothly. The drums have a little step to them, reinforcing that wonderful jive feeling.

The whoops and shouts in the background contribute to that; it really does come across as a quick session of friends. In fairness, it was laid down in a studio session in his free time while touring.

The song was released in 1969, on the album A Black Man’s Soul.

28/06/2019: “Prophecy” by Fabian

The bassline of this one is an absolute monster. Even in the reggae scene, there aren’t many heavy than this.

The song is very catchy too. From the first licks of the intro, the dread trumpets, the alluring vocals, to the earth shattering bassline itself, the song has a natural groove.

At the time, due to the potentially inflammatory lyrics and the violent nature of 70s Jamaican politics, the song was suppressed within Jamaica. It did find a following in the U.K.

The song was produced in Jamaica by Jack Ruby, and in the U.K. by Sir Coxsone.

Sometimes the song is credited to Faybienne or Fabienne, because that was Faybiene Miranda’s name. She was born in Panama, but grew up in the U.S.A., moving to Jamaica to pursue a career as a reggae singer.

The song was released in 1977, on Coxsone’s Tribesman label. The heaviest cut is the Black Swan release though!

27/06/2019: “Pulp Fiction” by Alex Reece

This is one of the undisputed classics of the drum and bass scene. Not only did it bring stripped back 2-step drum patterns into vogue, it’s also just a flawless tune.

The track has a killer bassline, overlaid with an anxious sounding synth pad. The drums are snappy, but have a very cool second snare and hi-hat pattern in the background. Together they’re almost mesmerising.

The female vocal sample, dubbed out with delay and cut short, is incredibly effective. Along with the jazzy horns, they give the track a sophistication which simply can’t be reduced to a formula.

A further bit of energy is provided by the ominous, repetitive percussion noise in the latter third of the track.

There was some disagreements between Reece and Goldie, the Metalheadz label boss, over Pulp Fiction’s release, because Goldie wanted it on a compilation album and Reece wanted it on his own album.

This landmark song was released in 1995 on Metalheadz.

26/06/2019: “You Better (Original Mix)” by Mount Rushmore

I love a bit of old school organ house. The big, bold vocals, the funky drums rhythms, and naturally, the fat organ basslines!

The title of this one is a bit confusing, because the song was re-released a few times in the 90s. The first release was 1996, where this version is called the Andi Amo Mix. The popular ’98 release calls the song “Original Mix”.

It was a real crossover track, big in the house scene and the speed garage scene.

The vocal is powerful, in a way which is not exclusive to this sort of music, but still very much connected with it.

These songs live or die by their basslines, and this has a real stomper. It’s a classic heavy organ bass, relentlessly groovy and very catchy.

The drums have a bit of a tribal feeling to them, with a subtle bongo/conga roll…

The big organ chords are proper hands in the air stuff, complementing the bass perfectly.

25/06/2019: “Ashley’s Roachclip” by The Soul Searchers

“Ashley’s Roachclip” contains one of the big drum breaks. It’s a break which has been sampled in so many songs as to make it an integral part of modern music, especially the hip hop scene.

The most famous song which makes use of this drum break is probably “Paid In Full”, a huge early hip hop hit from Eric B and Rakim, released in 1987

The actual song itself is a great one, though. I first heard it, as with a lot of great yet underappreciated songs, on the GTA V radio.

There’s plenty of funk to be had on this. Obviously, the drum beat is one of the coolest elements of the song, but the track is a real banger throughout.

The flute is a great part, both assisting the horns and launching into a lively solo. It’s really catchy!

The bassline is pretty sweet as well, nailing down the groove solidly. It’s also very catchy…

The guitar strums are a must for this kind of funk, and there’s a fair bit of guitar virtuosity on display. The organ is less pronounced, but helps to elevate the euphoria of the song.

“Ashley’s Roachclip” was released on Salt Of The Earth in 1974.

24/06/2019: “The Word II” by Shigeo Sekito

Earlier on, I wrote about Mac DeMarco. One of my favourite tunes by Mac DeMarco is Chamber Of Reflection, not least because of the stunning and entrancing melody.

Although the form it takes in his song is slower, trippier, and heavier, the melody is a take of this song by Japanese electronic musician Shigeo Sekito. It’s not strictly a sample; more of an interpretation.

DeMarco takes great inspiration from classic Japanese music. It doesn’t get more classic than this!

The song is a lovely expedition through a kind and gentle cosmos. Considering the time it was made, the electone (electronic organ) is expressive and played with a fair amount of impressive improvisation…

The electronic string sounds in the background are ethereal, and almost as delicate as the dainty drums.

The song was released in 1975 on the album Special Sound Series Volume 2.

23/06/2019: “Jibaro” by Electra

The original “Jibaro” is by Colombian duo Elkin and Nelson, and was released in 1974. It’s a great tune, a lovely rare Latin disco song.

That said, I do love this 80s cover. It’s a real Balearic classic, by Paul Oakenfold’s band. The song is transformed into a sun soaked stomper, without losing the passion of the original.

A Jibaro is a traditional Puerto Rican farmer, and the Latin influences are preserved here.

The horns in particular are anthemic in the extreme. The delay fx vocals are also effortlessly sing-along.

The beat is a pretty solid late 80s House drum machine one, with the distinctive snare sounds crashing through the mix.

The song was released in 1988, at the beginning of Ibiza’s transformation into the Balearic beat paradise, and way before its descent into 8 euro waters and trashy holiday resorts…

22/06/2019: “Ode To Viceroy” by Mac DeMarco

Mac DeMarco is a star with legions of fans, a distinctive sound, and a penchant for unusual stage antics, fashion and video visuals.

There’s clearly some influence from the largely internet based Vapourwave scene, or whatever all the collection of vaguely crusty 90s inspired scenes are called. But the root of his sound on this track is a kind of psychedelic folk rock. His use of vintage instruments and a soft playing style ensure that the whole thing seems vaguely anachronistic in a way that’s hard to place.

The guitar work on here is praiseworthy indeed. The rhythm guitar is a washed out, chorus soaked twangy trip, lovely to listen to. The lead guitar is a different beast altogether, agile and clear, yet still imbued with the echoey otherworldly nature of the rest. There’s a certain surferness to the affair.

The song is a love letter to the Viceroy brand of cigarettes. As you can imagine, this is not a conventional style, to cheerfully salute something that you know is killing you slowly.

As with much of DeMarco’s music, there’s a wry undertone to this, a self-awareness that smoking is a part of his life. It’s not meant to be taken seriously, that’s the point to take away here.

“Ode To Viceroy” was released in 2012 on the second Mac DeMarco album, 2.

21/06/2019: “Mystery To Me” by Walt Barr

I stumbled across this song because the YouTube algorithm suggested it. I have to say, these algorithms are getting good!

Other than than, people might have heard the track sampled. It is something of an obscure song, and Walt Barr is a hard man to find information on.

In any case, the song is a wonderful piece of Jazz fusion, replete with sonorous keys, groove-ridden organs and a velvety, melodic guitar part. The song exudes a confident warmth, with a relatively unambitious but completely solid rhythm section adding an extra measure of soulful energy.

Although it’s an instrumental track, the organ/keyboard and guitar both express themselves articulately, giving the track an air of virtuosity.

The song was released on First Visit in 1978, the debut album of the Walt Barr Quartet.