17/06/2019: “Time (T’n’G Remix)” by EEDB vs The Flirtations

“Time”, by 60s vocal group The Flirtations, is actually very hard to find. Unless there has been a crediting error somewhere, the original might not be on the internet…

Soul purists might object strongly to this speed garage remix, but it’s a quality song in its own right, if not quite so classy.

The vocal hook is a banging one for sure, especially when those hard driving choruses hit. The track had the status of an anthem within the Speed Garage and Niche scenes, and is now a stone cold classic.

As is usual for a speed garage banger, the bassline is both heavy and warping, providing the lynchpin of the track. It’s a catchy one too, a very important trait for a song like this one. The drums skip and dance magnificently, providing a swinging feeling. And that’s about it; just those three elements work great together!

The song was released in 2003 on an E.P. with a couple of other remixes on.

16/06/2019: “Mr. Maverick” by Calibre

Calibre is a stalwart of the D’n’B scene, often associated with the mellower Liquid subgenre. He does have a knack for the heavier stuff too though!

This roller is a skilful symphony of the classic “Think about it” breakbeat, a murky Jamaican vocal sample from a King Tubby dub of “Slavemaster” by Gregory Isaacs, and a growling, shifting bassline.

The song is quite minimal in a sense, with only a few elements to flesh it out. It’s a masterclass in building and releasing the flow, so that even if the second drop is very similar to the first, it feels fresh.

The drums are a true joy, giving the song a natural head bopping verve and securing its status as a classic.

The song was first released in 2004, although a lot of the internet will say 2016 because that’s when the digital came out.

15/06/2019: “Saviour” by Beverley Knight

Beverley Knight is English, and the album this song is from, Music City Soul, was released in 2007. The album was well received by critics, and even the middling review from the Guardian praises this particular track.

You wouldn’t know it. She could very well be a Nashville native, her soulfulness is so strong. In fairness, the album was recorded there and features some strong performances from Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood.

None of that is to say that her sound is a throwback, derivative of the past without daring to try anything new or push the sound forward. The song sounds contemporary, with a rock ‘n’ roll guitar riff brushing shoulders with a big bass drum, Knight’s 00s R’n’B vocals, and a sharp drum rhythm.

The gospel vocals are a nice touch too, adding an extra layer of richness to the track.

The album art looks like it could be a 60s classic as well!

14/06/2019: “Free (Mood II Swing Extended Vocal Edit)” by Ultra Nate

Are there any more songs more filled to the top with euphoria than this?

Certainly, there can’t be many more. As great as the original mix is, it’s hard to deny that the Mood II Swing magic touch, subtle as it is, really elevates the song into a masterpiece.

The sounds remain largely the same, but the changed order shows the power of a good edit to draw out the best elements of the song. This one also demonstrates the catchiness of the original; the edit spans 12 minutes without getting tired!

Mood II Swing are the production duo behind the song and Ultra Nate is the vocalist who helped make it such a big hit. The edit is much more orientated towards hardcore house fans and DJs, whereas the original mix is very radio friendly.

The song was released in 1997 on the classic Strictly Rhythm label, and reached number 1 on the U.S. dance chart and number 2 on the U.K. dance chart.

Sublime!

13/06/2019: “Heights Of Great Men” by Beenie Man

Beenie Man is one of dancehall’s biggest stars, having attained and kept popularity for about 20 years, even outside Jamaica.

Having risen to these heights, he gives his advise on how to endure. It seems like solid advise too. It can be boiled down to, slow and steady wins the race. A meteoric rise with much fanfare and flashiness is not the way forward.

Beenie Man put the work in to get to his position, so he’s speaking from experience!

The riddim is one of the all time greats. The Bellyas riddim was the first Greensleeves Rhythm Album. The organ and strings make for a great hook, menacing and furtive, whilst the beat hammers home spectacularly.

Having such a distinctive voice and flow, Beenie Man’s tends to churn out classics at a decent rate…

The song was released in 2000 on the Greensleeves album, and Beenie Man’s own album Art And Life, which got a Grammy for best Reggae album in 2001.

12/06/2019: “Fire In Cairo” by The Cure

The driving creative force behind The Cure was the frontman, Robert Smith, who was one of the inspirations for the original goth movement.

The first album by The Cure was Three Imaginary Boys, which was well received at the time of its release in 1979 and has since become a post-punk classic.

“Fire In Cairo” uses the riots in Cairo surrounding Black Saturday in 1952 to highlight emotional distress and the passion of love, which is admittedly quite a strong metaphor.

Smith himself says the song is about the shameless nature of pop music and the corporate music world, so perhaps the tension in this dark lyric is used to highlight this. The tracklist of the album was decided by the record company, so it’s clear there was some bad blood.

The song is a very catchy one, in particular due to the airy and light guitar riff. The singing is quite melancholy, and in characteristic punk fashion, slightly breathless without losing too much energy. The bassline is simple but adds a great deal of verve, and overall it’s a great listen!

11/06/2019: “Maria Tambien” by Khruangbin

I had no idea where Khruangbin where from until I looked it up. Their song names tend to be in Spanish, whereas the name seems to be in some other language.

I did think that they could be from Thailand, because their sound is a modern, funkier take on old school Thai psychedelic rock, with the tight, dubby basslines and distinctive echoey guitar licks.

Having looked it up, it’s true that the name is Thai, meaning “flying engine”, basically airplane. But the band is a trio from Texas, who try to incorporate a range of African and Middle eastern music into their own.

“Maria Tambien” is built around the groove, the bass and guitar following the same basic scheme, although the guitar tends to wander off in its carefree reverie. The drums have enough funky pizzazz to pull it all off too.

The song was released in 2017 as a single, and in 2018 on the album Con Todo El Mundo.

10/06/2019: “Mannish Boy” by Muddy Waters

Muddy Waters is probably best known as the main influence on the Rolling Stones. The Blues legend inspired that British band more than any other when they were an unknown Rock ‘n’ Roll band trying to emulate the Blues and R’n’B sounds from the U.S.A.

The sound is not really so discernible in their later stuff, but their first album owes a great musical debt to the Blues, and especially Muddy Waters.

“Mannish Boy” is a sort of cover version of the Bo Diddley track, “I’m A Man”, which was released in the same year (1955) and features much of the same rhythm and lyrics. That, however, was derived in large part from the 1954 song that Willie Dixon wrote and Muddy Waters performed called “Hoochie Coochie Man”.

The song makes excellent use of the striking stop-time rhythm, which answers Waters’ singing in a chorus of harmonica and guitar chords.

The song has a great rolling feel to it, driven resolutely onward by the interplay between the stop-time rhythm and the main beat.

The track has been included in the Blues Hall Of Fame, the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame 500 Songs That Shaped Rock And Roll, and Rolling Stone magazine’s 500 Greatest Songs Of All Time.

09/06/2019: “Pick Up The Pieces” by Average White Band

This band’s moniker was picked up when somebody remarked that the music they played was “too much for the average white man”.

Certainly, it was very unusual for a band primarily composed of Scottish people to make such an impact on the funk scene, which was heavily dominated by African-Americans at the time.

Regardless of their origin, the music the band made speaks for itself. The groove is masterful. The guitar is sublime, the drums are engaging, the saxophone more than makes up for the lack of vocals; the only vocals present are the shouted “pick up the pieces”.

The catchiness of the sax holds the song together, but the strength of the rhythm section is the track’s bedrock.

The band were actually flown to Miami to record this tune. Perhaps Scotland didn’t have the right funk pedigree!

The song was released in 1974 as a single from their album AWB, but was initially overlooked in the U.K. until it saw success in America.

08/06/2019: “Lagos Sisi” by Bola Johnson

Bola Johnson is associated with the Nigerian highlife and afrobeats scenes. He was a bandleader, but his true skill was with the trumpet. At this stage, the band was called “Bola Johnson and His Easy Life Top Beats”.

“Lagos Sisi” is a wonderfully funky song, with a catchy trumpet hook sparring with Johnson’s pidgin vocals.

The track has a sense of boundless energy, but there’s still a strong sense of class. The nuances on the horns are a pleasure to hear.

The song also features a delectable selection of guitar licks, as a good section of the tune is taken up by a carefree guitar solo.

Johnson’s voice was powerful and deep. There’s a sense of impact with his singing.

The song was released in 1973 on Philips records, and appears on the 2010 compilation “Man Don’t Die”.