30/09/2020: “Dancing (Roger Thornhill edit)” by Tru Tones

As with many modern disco edits, it’s not always easy to put your finger on the precise changes. In this case, as with many other revamps, things are cleaned up, reorganised, and generally made more dancefloor friendly.

The original was brilliant – this is simply sublime. The twanging bassline, the exuberant brass, the laid back guitar, the lush strings, the spritely piano… there’s not a note out of place.

Tru Tones were a disco band from St Lucia, active in the 70s. Their cut of the song was released in 1980, on Power Struggle.

Roger Thornhill’s version was released as a single in 2015, but also appeared on Culture of Soul Records’ 2016 compilation of old school Caribbean disco, Tropical Disco Hustle, Volume Two.

29/09/2020: “La Leyenda Del Tiempo” by Camaron De La Isla

For an artist specialising in flamenco, this kind of music is a big step away from tradition. So much so, that the album this is drawn from has since been viewed as a key milestone in the development of ‘new flamenco’.

However, as an English speaker, I have to say that I’m not too fussed – ‘real’ flamenco is still out there!

What this is, though, is fun. Camaron’s intensely performed vocals swell with passion, and rip through the song with gusto. There are naturally a few flamenco based elements, with a speedily picked guitar, and an array of clapping.

The rhythm section is energetic, with a bass part careering up and down, while the drums rattle out a military-esque beat.

The song was released in 1979, on an album of the same name.

28/09/2020: “Mellow Yellow” by Donovan

While researching this song, I learnt two important facts.

One: Donovan is Scottish. Not sure why I didn’t know that, but there you go!

Two: “Mellow Yellow” is about being chilled out. It makes sense, given ‘mellow’. I, along with many contemporary listeners, and because of its 60s origin, assumed it was about drugs.

It does have some naughtiness too it – but of a different nature…

Regardless of what it is or isn’t about, it’s a great tune. When the horn section kicks in, the track really bursts into life. There’s a slight novelty flavour to the song, but “Mellow Yellow” is a well written and well executed piece.

The song was released in 1966. It was most popular in the US, where it reached number 2 on the US Billboard Hot 100. A year later, it was included on an album of the same name.

27/09/2020: “Giant” by The The

When a piece of music is said to be “ahead of its time”, what does that mean, exactly?

Is it that there’s a sound which is yet to become popular? Can a song be truly original without being significantly better than what comes after, or should it be a kind of prototype?

It’s a vague concept: I couldn’t tell you how many years ahead of its time The The’s 1983 Soul Mining album is, because it does have a distinct 80s flavour.

But – like all great music – it’s timeless.

“Giant” stretches on to almost 1/6 of an hour. 10 minutes, to be plain. I wouldn’t say that it drags – not at all. It’s a diverse 10 minutes and there are far worse ways to spend that time.

The song starts lighter, with some casual synth riffing and a delightfully airy little marimba sound holding the melody down. The singing, decent though it is, is very much of its time!

About halfway through, something changes. There’s an incredible rush of intensity, as the drums build to a cacophony, and a chorus of vaguely tribal sounding voices kick in. Things get get very quickly, and that surge of energy just, inexplicably, keeps expanding.

At that point, what you are dealing with is more along the lines of texture, a wall of sonic exploration. When the bass-heavy synth kicks in at the end, the texture thickens until the whole thing positively drips with colour.

26/09/2020: “Safe And Sound” by Peter Edwards Trio

By the standards of much modern Jazz music, this is almost pop music. It’s refreshingly uncomplicated, without losing that all important nuance.

It’s catchy. The song builds, melody intensifying, tension rising… until it releases.

And repeat. Each time, a new and subtle variation, but the core of the song remains the same, in true Jazz style.

The trio format works well here, with a double bass and drum kit to add a rhythmic back up to Edwards’ insistent playing. There’s a section in the middle where he really lets loose, showcasing his dexterity – but Max Luthert, on bass, and Moses Boyd, on drums, keep up ably.

“Safe And Sound” is the title track of Peter Edwards Trio’s 2014 album.

25/09/2020: “Martha” by Tom Waits

‘Martha’ is taken from Waits’ 1973 debut album, Closing Time. If you’re a Tom Waits fan, you’ll notice immediately that his voice, by his standards, is clear as a bell.

In fact, on a scale from butter and silk to gravel and whiskey, this only comes in at dust and wine. There’s some light distortion but otherwise, he sounds fine.

The song is otherwise laid out very simply. The main accompaniment to Wait’s inimitable vocals is a piano. Later, a delicate string arrangement comes in to add another layer of depth. No drums. Just harmony.

The lyrics are poignant – it’s about an man reminiscing about a woman he was going out with, and still loves. The sad part is that they are both married, adding a heavy cloak of wistfulness to proceedings.

24/09/2020: “Jasadik-Hom” by DAM

Arabic music doesn’t feature on most English speakers’ playlists. Arabic singing is very different – disarmingly so. In many ways, Arabic allows a completely different intonation.

But what about Arabic rap?

I like it. There’s something there in the guttural expression – something quite beautiful in a certain way.

The title of this song means “Your Body Of Theirs”, which gives some clues as to the feminist content of the song. It’s basically saying ‘don’t judge’.

DAM are a Palestinian hip-hip group based in Israel, with strong feminist and anti-racist ideals. The situation over there can lend a political character to even the most innocuous songs, but its not something the group shy away from.

It helps that the beat is spot on. It’s futuristic, heavy, and dark.

The song was released in 2019, on the album BEN HAANA WA MAANA.

22/09/2020: “His Majesty” by Jah Shaka

Not to be confused with the equally fantastic ‘Tribute To His Majesty” from Commandments Of Dub Chapter 6 – Deliverance, this chilled out number is found on 1988’s Commandments Of Dub Chapter 8 – Imperial Dub.

There’s rather a lot of dub songs with similar titles, as it happens, due to the genres strong association with rastafari.

The drum section is a measured cacophony, snapping along at a decent pace. There’s a melodica, plus a synth. And, this being a classic roots dub track, there’s a smorgasbord of dubbed out guitar stabs throughout.

I think that’s it. Unless? Is there something I’ve missed out?

Ah yes. The bassline!

The bass part on this one is zippy, relentless, and catchy. There’s enough weight behind it to get speaker cones in a frenzy, but it’s undoubtedly a warm, old school dub bass, like a sonic hug.

21/09/2020: “She’s My Baby” by The Mojo Men

Raucous. 60s raucous, but undeniably, unquestionably, unshakably raucous.

That fuzz bassline is a centrepiece of the track. Probably why Kanye West chose to sample it for his 2010, ‘Hell Of A Life’. The musician behind this gem of a bassline is none other than Sly Stone. Of course.

The rest of song is played with… well, if not exactly elegance, then passion, at least!

And you can’t deny it’s catchy, from the iconic chorus to the bluesy harmonica.

Would you want a world where nobody ever lets loose? I wouldn’t, and neither would The Mojo Men.

The song was first released in 1965, with the second, more polished version released in 1966. It was the B-side to ‘Do The Hanky Panky’.