31/01/2021: “XYZ” by Hardy Caprio featuring SL

Hardy Caprio and SL are hot property in the UK scene. So of course their collaboration is a banger!

They have different styles – SL tends towards drill, although he’s not averse to a catchy hook. But with this skippy, garagey beat, two talented guys like them can’t fail to make a great tune.

The pair are proudly Croydon. The centre of gravity in UK Rap has been South London for a while now, but it always used to be East.

Lyrically, it’s very chilled out, and basically says: we’re so far ahead of our haters we don’t need to worry about them.

The song came out in 2017 – hopefully they’ll work together again!

30/01/2021: “Party Of Special Things To Do” by Captain Beefheart and The Magic Band

Captain Beefheart is weird. Maybe that’s why he often created music which nobody else had thought of before.

His distinctive gravelly voice spells out a psychedelic vision of a party, half Alice in Wonderland, half Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

I’ve got no clue what he’s on about, to be honest. However, when accompanied by the intensely bluesy backdrop on this track, it all becomes strangely pleasant.

A lazy drum groove sets the languid pace, as the funky bass cavorts happily with the guitar. It’s a masterclass in syncopated cool…

Released in 1974 on Bluejeans & Moonbeams, the song is one of the better tracks on an album largely considered to be directionless. Although it still inspired Kate Bush. Not a bad achievement!

The White Stripes released a suitably abrasive cover of the song in 2000, all distorted guitar and face slapping snare hits. In classic Stripes style, it is brilliant.

29/01/2021: “Satisfy My Soul” by Bob Marley

Out of a long and distinguished body of work, this remains one of Bob Marley’s most enduring songs.

It’s obvious from the lyrics that the track is derived from ‘Don’t Rock My Boat’, from Soul Revolution, released 1971.

The recording here is rich, with crisp horns and a tight bassline, as opposed to the rawer, perhaps more soulful original.

But what the newer version does have is a spiritually soothing easiness. It’s like sonic vicks, clearing bad vibes with every note.

The song appears on 1978’s Kaya, Bob’s 10th studio album. Even the title track of that LP is also from Soul Revolution, but I love both the clean, mellow update, and the original gritty roots standard.

28/01/2021: “Spirit” by J Hus

J Hus has really changed the game for West African influences in UK music. Tradtionally, it’s been Jamaican music and accents which have the most visibility within UK rap and dance music.

J Hus is one of the founding stars of the Afro-Swing/Afro-Bashment scene, which tends to draw from Ghanaian and Nigerian Afro-Beat, rather than Jamaican Dancehall. But of course, in the melting pot of London, it all gets blended.

It’s swept the UK in the last decade, with club ready beats and melodic choruses.

J Hus wrote the song to uplift people, after a spell in jail got him thinking about how to make a more positive influence. He’s saying ‘keep your head up’.

The production on this is stellar too, with a mix of afro riddims and lush strings.

You can find the song on Common Sense, released 2017.

27/01/2021: “No Destiny” by Break

Released in 2005 on Commercial Suicide records, this stomping Neurofunk track begins with a eerie, atmospheric arrangement of samples to raise the tension, with flowing drum pattern on top.

When the bassline kicks in at around 1 and a half minutes, it takes you by surprise with its understated ferocity.

A further minute in, the song surprises you again with a light touch of melodic samples and tribal drums. Even the bass pattern switches up in celebration.

As with many great Drum & Bass songs, this track is about build up and release, atmosphere and energy. It might not be Mozart, but it’s a belter!

26/01/2021: “Prophet Rides Again” by Capleton

Capleton is one of the biggest stars of modern reggae, straddling the gap between 21st century roots and dancehall.

Rastafari is a common theme throughout his songs, and this one is no different. It’s about focusing on Jah and Haile Selassie, and forgoing worldly considerations.

The original version of the song is Dennis Brown’s excellent ‘The Prophet Rides Again’, released 1983. His chorus is sampled on Capleton’s track, and pitched up.

The new version is faster, heavier, and sung in heavy patois, but it still has a lot of feeling.

Capleton’s ‘Prophet Rides Again’ was released in 2007 on French label Inkalink. France, for some reason, has really taken to reggae music, second only to the UK in Europe for its soundsystem scene. J’adore!

25/01/2021: “Get Down (Kenny Dope Original Mix)” by Todd Terry All Stars

Todd Terry has been propping up dancefloors around the world since the birth of House in the 80s. The same goes for fellow NYC legend Kenny Dope.

It’s ageless – modern touches make it relevant for today, but it could be from the 90s. There’s more than enough groove, certainly!

The beat feels like a living thing, an entire ecosystem of percussion all organised along one funky pathway. It slaps along magnificently throughout the track.

But which part of the song is catchiest? Is it the bassline, subtle but lively? The euphoric horns, blasting out a joyous report? Or the soulful vocals, otherworldly yet intimate all at once? And let’s not forgot those Latin-infused piano chords beating out an off-kilter rhythm at the back of the mix…

To be honest, I don’t know. They are all essential parts of what makes this richly instrumented piece such a banger – and a work of art!

The song was released in 2007, on Strictly Rhythm. The E.P. has a few other mixes, but this my favourite by far. What a banger.

24/01/2021: “Remember The Rain” by Kadhja Bonet

Incredibly stirring and dripping with melancholy, this song serves as a potent showcase of LA-based musician Kadhja Bonet’s talent.

Not only does she sing beautifully, she also plays flute and strings on this too. The show off!

The flute is particularly lovely, in my opinion. It adds a wistful air, bolstered by the strings and slow plucked guitar.

Kadhja’s version of the song doesn’t improve on the original markedly – but how could you? 21st Century’s 1975 original is stunning soul/R’n’B gold.

But what she does do, is take a fantastic song, and make it her own, convincingly. Her version is more elegant; delicate and haunting.

You can find the song on her Bandcamp. It was released as a single in 2015.

23/01/2021: “I Feel Space” by Lindstrom

According to Spin magazine, Todd Terje is one third of the Holy Trinity of Norwegian disco. The other two Nordic Nu-Disco visionaries Spin had in mind where Prins Thomas and Lindstrom.

There’s a strong theme with their music. It’s hook heavy enough to be catchy, but cosmic and progressive enough to be interesting for several minutes.

And it’s infused with the pulsing rhythms of disco’s latest incarnation, blended with heavier basslines and thumping kick drums.

The synth work is where the distinctively Norwegian influence is felt. It really does seem very retro-futuristic.

It’s worth listening to Donna Summer’s legendary ‘I Feel Love’, produced by Giorgio Moroder and released in 1977, to get a feel for how these Norwegian wizards are riffing off the old disco classics. There’s a family resemblance, but it’s not the same thing at all!

“I Feel Space” was released in 2005 on Feedelity, Lindstrom’s own imprint.

22/01/2021: “Last Train Home” by Pat Metheny Group

What a vibe. Rapid fire hi hats, softly splashing away, a dulcet piano, and, above all, a trippy, gyrating electric sitar. That’s not a typo – it’s an electric sitar!

The song never loses its cool, but it still excites, reaching a high point in the middle, where even some vocals enter the scene.

Plus, it’s not without some low end heft, which is, in my opinion, an essential feature of chilled out evening tracks.

The piece was released in 1987 on Still Life (Talking), which won
1988 Grammy for Best Jazz Fusion Performance