28/02/2021: “Caution” by Bob Marley

Released as a single in 1971 with “Stop The Train”, this lesser known cut also appeared on The Best Of The Wailers. Despite the name, that isn’t a compilation, but a complete album in its own right.

In classic early Wailers style, the song features gospel-like vocal harmonies, a twanging guitar hook, and warm, fuzzy bassline.

As is probably fairly obvious, the lyrics are a warning – don’t rush headlong through life in case you fall. It’s most likely connected with the spiritual struggle, the struggle to improve yourself despite life’s challenges.

27/02/2021: “Everybody Hurts” by R.E.M

Mellow Magic. Red wine. Cosy Autumn evenings. The best Soft Rock ever to be ushered gently into the world.

“Everybody Hurts” is crushingly melancholic, dealing with the tough topic of suicide in a simple, raw way. The song was allegedly aimed at teenagers, so doesn’t go in for obscure lyrics.

Yet, there’s an uplifting edge to the track, especially as the strings kick in. And at the end, the song soars, and reveals itself as one of the most life affirming pieces of music ever written.

Released on the classic 1993 Automatic For The People, the song has been certified Gold in the UK.

26/02/2021: “White Room” by Cream

Ginger Baker really did change the game for rock drummers. It’s impressive that his musicality and rhythmic nuance stands out on a track which features Eric Clapton’s blazing guitar playing at the close!

It’s late 60s psychedelic rock grooving by masters. Ambitious yet engaging, the track buoys you along on a wave of free, joyous energy.

It was actually the band’s bassist, Jack Bruce, who wrote the song. The lyrics were penned by Pete Brown, a poet.

“White Room” appeared on the 1968 album Wheels Of Fire.

25/02/2021: “So You Want To Be A Gangster” by Too Short

This is probably one of Too $hort’s least misogynistic songs. It’s not even that violent too!

Instead, it’s about warning people that are drifting into the gangster life that it’s all or nothing – and that they’ll likely end up dead.

The beat is a solid early 90s hitter, with a big, weighty bass drum and bags of attitude. The melodic hook is sampled from 1975’s “Black Frost” by Grover Washington Jr.

The album, Shorty The Pimp, was released in 1992 – named after a 1973 film.

24/02/2021: “Leave House (Ikonika Remix)” by Caribou

The original mix is undoubtedly the richer song. It has subtler melodies and more complex progression. I like it a lot, but it’s more cerebral. There’s a fair bit going on.

Ikonika, for me, adds a great deal of life to the track, without losing the eerie, dreamlike atmosphere.

Thudding UK Funky drums and a stabbing bass synth nod to the dancefloor, as the more leftfield Ikonika style electronic blips pulse off in all directions.

The track was released on SwimRemixes in 2010, the same year as Caribou’s fascinating Swim LP.

23/02/2021: “Charlene” by Anthony Hamilton

I don’t normally go in for crooners. Can’t deny that this one is dangerously smooth though…

His voice is a masterclass in raw, soulful, dozy tranquility. It’d be wasted on subject matter less lovelorn and yearning.

It’s the type of song which uses five syllables to sing the word ‘cry’. Ultimately, it can be hard to have a stable life as touring musician, and this is a heart wrenching, brutally honest inspection of that.

“Charlene” sobbed its way into the world in 2003, on Comin’ From Where I’m From, and was released as a wistful, anguished single the year after.

22/02/2021: “Red Shift” by Scientist

Researching this was confusing, because Scientist and Greensleeves had a copywrite dispute in 2005. The Scientist backed album is called Scientist & The Space Invaders, and this song is called “The Red Planet”.

The original was released in 1981, on Scientist Meets The Space Invaders, which is one of the all time classic dub albums.

The basis for this dub version is “I’m A Dreadlocks” by Sammy Dread and Papa Tullo from 1980, on the Strong Like Sampson label.

It’s masterfully done, playing off stop-start drums and a punchy bassline while a swampy yet refined guitar picks out an intermittent tune overhead.

Truly, everything Scientist touches turns to gold!

21/02/2021: “The Beautiful Ones” by Prince

Nobody does it like Prince did. His signature sound, his trademark singing, his timeless compositions.

Purple Rain is a true product of the 80s, with its synths and drum machines. The eerie, artificial sounds blend with Prince’s guitar and vocals – true cyborg music, with a very human heart!

The end of the song sees Prince’s vocals shatter and twist with emotion, screaming harshly. It’s a bit of a shock after the more laidback bulk of the track, to be honest, but the jarring change of tone makes the songs more powerful.

“The Beautiful Ones” was released in 1984. You might be able to guess which album it comes from…

19/02/2021: “Violence In The Street” by Julian Marley featuring Damian Marley

It’s well known that many of Bob Marley’s children and grandchildren are musically gifted. Damian Marley is perhaps the most successful in his own right.

This collaboration between Damian and Julian Marley shows plenty of Marley fire, lashing out at gangsters who terrorise Kingston.

It makes you wonder. If Bob Marley was born in the 80s, would he now be a dancehall artist? I tend to think that he would – and I think he’d be great at it. And I think that Damian Marley is a glimpse of what might have been, if that had been the case.

Not to disregard the other Marley sons. Julian Marley’s modern take on roots makes for fine listening, and here, in ragga mode, he performances admirably.

“Violence In The Streets” came out in 2011, with a King Tubby dub mix on the B-side.