Disco has become a genre saturated with collectors and crate diggers. This has good effects and bad effects…
The good is that old and obscure tracks see new life, and end up on the internet and on compilations. That can only be a good thing!
However, a song like this now goes on discogs for about 150 quid. This particular track is admittedly a very obscure one; Omni was the house band of a restaurant called The Patio in Sarasota.
The title is a play on “disco sucks”, which was a reaction by certain rock fans against disco culture and everything it stood for.
The bulk of the song is made up of little pieces of funky excess, such as the judicious use of jazz flute at the start, the chic-a-chic-a-chic of the guitar, and the all conquering keyboard solo. They really let the synth player go for it here!
The song was released in 1979, but saw a re-release in edited form in 2011 on the BBE compilation Disco Demands.
Hip Hop has a long tradition of diss tracks. It’s good for the artists because it gives them exposure and generates hype. It’s good for the listener because it’s funny and brings out the most acerbic side to MCs.
Acknowledge is a great diss track. The background to it is that a rapper named Boogieman had accused Masta Ace of ripping of one of his tracks. The Boogieman track was called “Ghetto Love”, and the Masta Ace one was called Ghetto Like. So Boogieman released a track entitled “Just You Wait” dissing Masta Ace.
Masta Ace’s reply is “Acknowledge”, a scathing reminder to other MCs about Masta Ace’s talent and long standing in the rap game.
The word play is on point, and the message is a straightforward one: who’s Boogieman?
Such a takedown deserves a decent arena, and the instrumental provides a fantastic backdrop to the lyrics, with a deep, smooth bassline and some catchy strings sampled from “Home” by Cafe Del Mar.
The song was released in 2001, and also appeared on the album Disposable Arts.
“Politician” is a song by Cream, released in 1968 on their Wheels Of Fire album. It’s a fair sleazy sounding song anyway, as a indictment of sexually deviant male politicians throughout the ages. It’s about a politician trying to entice some girl walking along into his car, basically.
Betty Davis takes that ball and runs with it, upping the sleaze levels until the whole thing reeks of non-disclosure agreements and powerful men trying to get their way. Coming from a female singer as well seems to make it that extra bit more biting.
The start of the song is particularly loose, with the various parts of the song careering into each other in a way which sounds a bit unpractised (which it was) but belies a talented studio group.
The song is from a studio session run by Miles Davis, Betty Davis’ husband and Jazz-Fusion legend.
These sessions were released in 2016 on Columbia Years: 1968-1969.
Billy Ocean is one of the most successful British R’n’B acts, with a decades long career.
This song is the one which enabled him to quit his job at the Ford factory, and focus on music.
It’s very much a pop song, with a bright and cheerful vibe offset by a slight tinge of regretfulness. The lyrics tell a story of unrequited love, spurned by some girl who gives her affection to myriad other guys…
The instrumental sounds more like a 60s track to me, with jingly drums, bouncy piano, sultry backing singers, lowkey brass and lush strings. The strings in particular are very tastefully done in the verses.
The song is damningly similar to “I Can’t Help Myself” by The Four Tops, released a year earlier, but in fairness that song lacks something in comparison to this.
“Love Really Hurts Without You” was released in 1976, and reached number 2 in the U.K. singles chart.
This song is more relevant now then ever, and considering it was made in the 70s, is almost prophetic.
It’s dread roots of the most vital kind. His voice rings out loud and clear, with a direct message to stop polluting the planet. Unfortunately, many people still don’t see a problem with stuff like greenhouse gases, deforestation, overfishing, intensive farming etc etc…
The song is gilded by some melancholy piano/guitar skanks, which provide most of the melody of the backing track.
Of course, there’s a pretty fat bass part rumbling away, increasing the dreadness!
“Hurt Not The Earth” was released in 1999 on the compilation album Packin House, under Little Roy & Friends.
Orchestra Baobab are one of the most successful bands to come out of Senegal. Combining Senegalese sounds with Afro-Cuban music, they achieved a lot of fame within West Africa more generally.
The name of the band is because they were the house band of the Baobab Club in Senegal’s capital, Dakar, which was in turn named after the baobab tree.
“Pape Ndiaye” makes the Cuban influence very strongly felt. The rhythms come across as being Latin in flavour rather than African, and the guitar is similarly quite Cuban in tone.
What definitely feels more African is the singing. Not only the language, but also the style, that classic call and response chorus.
It’s hard to place the horn section in either Latin America or Africa, because both countries make heavy use of brass. There’s some great sax playing in this song, creating a joyous vibe.
“Pape Ndiaye” was released in 2007. That accounts for the crisp sound so often lacking in 70s African music. As far as I can tell the song hasn’t been released before, which shows the continuing creativity of this band!
Two massive names in drum and bass for the price of one!
Shy FX’s remix of this is a huge banger, ripping apart dancefloors from the moment of its release in 1996.
Ray Keith’s original, released under the moniker The Terrorist in the same year, is a more straightforwardly jungle tune. This means that it has deep 808 bass, big breakbeats, and just a general dark vibe.
The Shy FX remix has a distinctive buzzy bassline that rises at the end of every few bars, and a much tighter drum pattern. It’s a big anthem because of its catchiness, blended with a strong dose of heaviness!
If anything the song is a bit too relentless, but it has enough of a bounce to stop it becoming to breathless.
The intro is a very cool one, with that time-stretched “we’re now ready for takeoff, so please fasten your seatbelts”.
“Valdez In The Country” has a relatively complicated lineage. One thing is crystal clear though: Donny Hathaway is the genius behind it.
The first iteration of the song is called “Patty Cake”, and was released in 1969 by King Curtis. Then, Hathaway did a version for the band Cold Blood in 1972. Finally, he recorded his own iconic version in 1973, which is a fantastic tune.
The Nite-Liters’ version is not necessarily the most accomplished. Much of the nuance of Hathaway’s version is lost, and the song doesn’t go nearly as far in terms of technical musicality.
What it does do however, is emphasise the song’s best bits. The horns are bold and bright, the bassline is fluid and funky, the guitar riff is much more apparent than other versions. It’s a much more high energy version than Hathaway’s chilled out rendition.
The Nite-Liters were an iteration of New Birth, the long running funk ensemble. Their cover of “Valdez In The Country” was released in 1973 on A-Nal-Y-Sis.
Tame Impala are one of the biggest things to happen to the world of trippy indie rock recently. They’re the new flavour drifting through the hazy airwaves. They’re psychedelic and popular at the same time.
You only need to watch the video for this to realise what it mean. They’ve paired a pop track with some opaque lyrics to a completely insane video!
The song itself is just undeniably a crowdpleaser. Catchy basslines have been a theme with my posts recently, but this one really is a doozy. The world is a considerably better place because of the invention of this bassline!
Lyrically, the song deals with a love triangle between a girl, boy, and sports team mascot. However, you can extrapolate the feeling to normal situations. It’s a song of yearning.
The vocals are washed out and dreamlike, mingling with the various rhodes hits and synth swells, creating an airy soundscape full of regret.
“The Less I Know The Better” was released in 2015 on Currents, and is now certified Gold in the U.S., Silver in the U.K., and Gold in the band’s native Australia.