31/07/2019: “Wild Thing” by The Troggs

“Wild Thing” is a classic, beyond any shadow of a doubt. Like many popular songs from the 60s, it’s a cover of a song which was written for another band.

Here, the song was written by Chip Taylor for The Wild Ones in 1965. It didn’t sell particularly well.

The Troggs’ version did sell quite well. Released in 1966, they had a number one on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 with it, and number 2 in the U.K. singles chart.

This isn’t an 8 minute rock masterpiece with lush strings and epic guitar solos. Regardless, it’s one of rock’s most enduring and well known songs, presaging hard rock and punk with its rough charm.

The song is a combination of husky vocals, simply crunchy guitar riff, and a solo which might appear to be whistling but is actually an obscure instrument called an ocarina!

There’s a certain rogueish nature to the way the song is sung, reinforced by the way it pauses almost drunkenly before launching off again…

30/07/2019: “Red Alert (Steve Gurley Remix)” by Basement Jaxx

It isn’t that there’s anything wrong with Basement Jaxx’ original version of this. Apart from, if you were to be picky, a bit too much cheesiness. But it was the 90s, in fairness…

Steve Gurley’s remix is a completely different song. It’s really just the vocals which are used, as the P-Funk squeals and loud bass synths are replaced with smooth and deep 808 bass hits, silky R’n’B style Garage synths, and the sort of perfectly swung drums which only a select few 2-Step producers could really master.

The syncopated nature of the song is a lot less pop friendly than the original, although the remix is hardly hard on the ears!

Everything blends together incredibly well, so that you can easily lose yourself in the sparse stabs and heavily textured synth samples. This is turn of the millennium 2-Step Garage at its zenith.

The original and the remix were released in 1999. Steve Gurley was a fantastic artist, and if you want to hear his stuff I would really recommend the Revealomatic mix.

29/07/2019: “April Skies” by The Jesus And Mary Chain

The Jesus And Mary Chain are a very influential band, doing indie style music before it was big. It is the creation of two Scottish brothers called William and Jim Reid.

A lot of their output is quite noisy to say the least, with a lot of distortion and feedback.

That makes this pop tune something of an anomaly in terms of its accessibility. It uses clean and light guitar riffs and contains brooding lyrics about love.

The Jesus & Mary Chain fanbase is generally quite “into music”; they’re one of those bands with a real cult following. But “April Skies” was popular beyond that little niche, reaching number 8 in the U.K. Singles chart.

It helps that the Reid brothers are gifted with a fair amount of “cool”…

The song was released in 1987, the first single from Darklands.

28/07/2019: “Bun Down Babylon” by Kaiju

Kaiju are a pretty versatile duo within the dubstep genre, covering dark and spacious beats, heavy stompers, and dubbed out wonders like this.

Released in 2016 as a 10″ white label on Mala’s foundational Deep Medi Musik label, “Bun Down Babylon” is backed with “Wrong Tings”, a similar rootsy dubstep tune. 10″ records are a rarer format, but more common within the reggae scene, because acetate dubplates are often 10″.

The buoyant and extremely solid bassline pushes the song forward, and makes it a dubby tune right from the start. The drums are similarly dubbed out, adorning a dubstep halftime beat with a heavy selection of echoing percussion.

The melody is mainly in the bass, but the slightly mournful organ complements it perfectly, just as the joyful skank completes the reggae vibe.

And of course, no dubby dubstep track would be finished without the mandatory Jamaican vocal sample, but here there’s also a flitting melodica.

Dubplate special!

27/07/2019: “Ska” by DJ Zinc

DJ Zinc has been knocking about the U.K. electronic scene since the hey day of acid house, and was at the forefront of a very interesting movement as the head of the Bingo Beats label.

Some of his best stuff is drum & bass, which he produced in his own style, with distinctive use of breaks and bass sounds which tend to mark out a DJ Zinc production from the crowd.

“Ska” was released in 2002 on the True Playaz label as part of the Present Tense E.P., with a very good remix by DJ Zinc himself in 2004.

The bassline is a classic Bingo Beats style, slightly rough yet ineffably bouncy. There’s a very natural rhythm in that bass!

There’s also a heavier bassline of the more basic square wave kind, to keep things moving.

The drums are beautifully constructed, with a supremely danceable shuffle in the hi-hats.

26/07/2019: “Frantic Moment” by Eddie Hazel

Game, Dames and Guitar Thangs was released in 1977, the only one of Eddie Hazel’s solo albums to be released while he was alive. Until its re-release in the 21st century, it was very rare and something of a holy grail for collectors.

As Eddie Hazel was Parliament’s lead guitarist, you can be sure that the godfather of P-Funk, George Clinton, would make an appearance or two. On this particular song, George Clinton is a co-writer with Bootsy Collins and Bernie Worrell.

The song is very much within the realms of P-Funk, but has a certain ordered chaos reminiscent of Free Jazz. There’s certainly some more serene moments full of catchy melodies and relatively simple rhythms, but also moments of spaced out craziness.

The lyrics are slow and trippy, but are secondary to the exquisite guitar playing. At the song’s most anthemic part, from about 22 seconds and 2 minutes 22 seconds, the guitar really soars!

It surprising that the song hasn’t been sampled more, but as it stands over 6 Hip Hop artists have sampled various parts of the song…

25/07/2019: “Mango Drive” by Rhythm & Sound

The often nebulous label of dub techno can generally be taken to mean “things that are similar to Rhythm & Sound”.

The Basic Channel duo, famous for inventing dub techno in Berlin during the 1990s, refined and intensified it under the Rhythm & Sound moniker.

The original version of this is “Mango Walk”, a 1979 dub tune by The Chosen Brothers. It’s worth a listen in its own right, but also because it makes it easier to see the relationship between dub, dub techno, and techno. When you see what’s been done to it, you can appreciate what Rhythm & Sound were trying to do.

Essentially, they were trying to strip back the melody to its bare bones, leaving a truly gargantuan bass pulse overlaid with the odd flicker of echoey dub goodness, drifting like smoke across the minimal yet warm soundscape.

Although the run time approaches 9 minutes in the full version, you can get the effect well enough with the 7 minute one…

“Mango Drive” was first released in 1998 on the famous Wackie’s label.

24/07/2019: “Camarillo Brillo” by Frank Zappa

“Camarillo Brillo” is a typically crazy Frank Zappa. With his distinctively droll style of singing and vaguely dirty sounding lyrics, it doesn’t take itself too seriously.

That’s just as well, because as far as the song is about anything, it’s about a lady who has crazy hair from electro-shock therapy in Camarillo Mental Hospital. A bit crude maybe, but Zappa was often intentionally offensive and vulgar. This is not a particularly bad take by his standards.

The song is fleshed out magnificently with all kinds of percussion flourishes, euphoric guitar and piano licks, and sombre brass.

Like many Zappa songs, there’s a fair amount of chopping and changing, including a key change for the chorus. Nevertheless, it is a cohesive piece, flowing naturally throughout.

The song was released in 1973 on Over-Nite Sensation, but was played faster during later live performances because Zappa found it boring.

23/07/2019: “One Step Ahead” by Aretha Franklin

Out of all of Aretha Franklin’s lovely songs, this is one of the most lovely. The serenity and grace of her singing really bursts through here.

Borne along by a whimsical guitar riff and a stately bass, the refinement of the strings complements her own composed and controlled manner.

When the song calls for a more forceful delivery at its zenith, her passionate and strong voice is more than up to the challenge.

The lyrics are about how she’s broken up with someone, and regrets it despite knowing that, deep down, it was for the best.

The song predates her Atlantic Records signing, and although Columbia were a big label, this song is actually something of a rarity in its original pressing. It was never released on any of her studio albums.

It was released in 1965 as a single, backed with “I Can’t Wait Until I See My Baby’s Face”.

22/07/2019: “Doing It To Death” by Fred Wesley & The J.B.’s

This song has such an infectious bounce that it almost seems like it could just go on forever. It doesn’t though; the track lasts about 5 minutes in the most common form, although the album version stretches it to 10.

The guitar lick is one of the primary culprits for the criminal amounts of grooviness, as well as the slapping drum beat.

Some other key suspects are Fred Wesley’s trombone and James Brown’s off kilter lyrics…

Fred Wesley & The J.B.s is an odd choice to credit the song to. Not along did James Brown write it, he also provides the vocals. The song is basically a studio jam over the core bass, drum and guitar groove, and Brown just tells the musicians what he wants.

The vocals are a mixture of chatting and chanting, and are sure to please any decent crowd. At one point, he even instructs the band to play their instruments in a lower key, which they duly do!

The song was released in 1973, and was number one on the soul chart in the U.S.A.