22/04/2021: “Poison” by The Prodigy

The Prodigy, at the time of More Music For The Jilted Generation‘s release in 1994, tended towards fast, heavy big beat and hardcore songs. “No Good” is a case in point.

This beautiful oddity right here represents the first glimmer of the new Prodigy. Without sacrificing the menace, the heaviness, the darkness – they dropped the tempo and used live vocals rather than samples.

Liam Howlett’s production is top notch, blending brazen breaks and squelching synths with so much finesse you’d swear it was played by a band.

The group would later take their sound further in this direction, but the tune was strikingly ahead of its time in 1994.

21/04/2021: “True” by Spandau Ballet

Okay. You got me. Not every song on here is a hidden gem. Usually, they are a bit ‘cooler’ than this, though.

Regardless, this one is a classic for a reason. It exudes 80s chillout, every note dripping with calm, lazy contentness.

It isn’t without its cringey moments. Sometimes the lyrics are vacuous to the point of meaninglessness. But, nonetheless, it has become an enduring hit.

Released in 1983, the song was the title track and third single from True, and went to number one in the UK.

20/04/2021: “The System” by Michigan and Smiley

Vocal duos were fairly common in dancehall during the 80s. Think “Uptown Top Ranking” by Althea and Donna.

Papa Michigan and General Smiley were the best example. Their natural cadence and flow works brilliantly. They play off each other like strawberries and cream, and take you through the track like a rubber ring on a lazy river.

The duos’ call and response is best exemplified on ‘Diseases’, which remains their most famous track.

Lyrically, it’s righteous stuff on the oppression of Jamaicans by ‘The System’. Everyone is ensnared in the web.

‘The System’ uses a variation of the chilled out Pretty Looks riddim, originally popularised by The Heptones, using a smooth bassline and laidback horns.

You can hear Michigan and Smiley’s version on 1983’s Sugar Daddy.

19/04/2021: “Pablo Picasso” by The Modern Lovers

Covered by Jack White, John Cale and David Bowie, the original 1976 song was written by Jonathan Richman for The Modern Lovers.

It’s a sardonic, wry exploration of art and fame, and the relationship between men and women.

The song is very cool too. A dark, slinking bassline, deadpan vocal delivery and slow, groovy drums set the stage for some thoroughly debauched guitar playing. The piano chords are tight and menacing. Overall, the vibe is very ‘late night in Vegas’.

Technically, even though the song was recorded in 1972, since The Modern Lovers wasn’t released until ’76, John Cale’s 1975 version came out first. He produced the tune so I guess that’s alright!

18/04/2021: “Hater” by Various Production

DJ Various, aka Various Production, has delivered some incredible music over the past couple of decades. A lot of it went under the radar.

‘Hater’, self-released in 2004, also appeared on The World Is Gone in 2006, which blended the industrial rhythms of Dubstep with folksy vocals.

The song starts off with harsh, futuristic factory sounds, before developing into a soulful, spacious masterpiece.

The bassline picks its moments, lying low before unfurling into action. The off kilter beat actually plays really well into the catchy melody – it’s a bit of a different one, but well worth a listen!

17/04/2021: “Woman (Ikonika Remix)” by Rosie Lowe

This one is criminally slept on. The original is perhaps the real work of genius, with its poetic and beautifully sung lyrics. It’s a breath of fresh air.

Ikonika adds a darker edge and weighty bassline, but still retains that feminine, soulful core.

The trappy drum beat works surprising well with the echoing, full bodied synth chords and delicate vocals. And the end, polished with a trilling, airy synth bell tone,

The original can be found on 2016’s Control, and the Ikonika remix on Woman (Remixes), sat alongside the murky, heavy Cooly G mix.

16/04/2021: “The Night (Club Mix)” by DJ Tonka

This is one of the most addictive songs ever made. It ought to come with a warning of some sort, like over the counter codeine. Do not take for more than 3 days continuously. See a doctor if symptoms persist.

Mind you, as the side effects for a dose of DJ Tonka mainly consist of euphoria, inner peace, and the urge to dance, there’s a solid case for rolling out it more widely to give the population a lift.

I must have listened to this song several hundred times over the years, and only recently, I picked up on the subtle component to the main riff from about 1-2 minutes, providing emphasis on the bouncy synth.

In many ways, the song is a ‘best of’ of European 90s underground house. A chunky bassline, classic piano, an earworm melody, and a placid yet unstoppable beat.

The track was released on the artist’s own Uplifting Records in Germany in 1997, backed with ‘Security’.

15/04/2021: “Shoo-B-Doop And Cop Him” by Betty Davis

Slow and cool. Unabashedly liberated. Smokey and sultry.

Betty Davis was an icon, and this song is iconic. It’s also very feminist, especially by the standards of the time.

The growling bassline, foxy guitar and freestyling synthesizer develop that loose feeling throughout the song, finishing up with some horns and revitalised backing vocals.

The song came out on They Say I’m Different in 1974, Davis’ second album.

14/04/2021: “Edit A” by Lazare Hoche

A good disco edit is about finding a groove and enhancing it. That’s what Lazare Hoche has done here, in masterful fashion.

It’s only a subtle tweak. A heavier beat, a bit of reverb, some chopping and changing. But the end effect is stupendous – you can get lost in this dreamy, Balearic jam forever!

The song takes its cue from ‘Heaven Of My Life’, released in 1981 by Change. That was already a fairly sun-drenched tune, but by focusing on that core riff, Lazare Hoche highlights its potential for modern dancefloors.

You can find the track on LH Edits, a 3 song EP released in 2012 also featuring Martin Hayes’ ‘Stretchin’ alongside Hoche’s ‘Luv Thang’.

13/04/2021: “Vegetables (Long Version) by The Beach Boys

Quirky, simple, and transmitting a wholesome message – you can’t help but love this far out number by The Beach Boys!

Unusually for psychedelic stuff, the song can be taken at face value – it really is about promoting vegetables, as Brian Wilson was into his health at the time.

The celery munching in the track was allegedly Paul McCartney. Perhaps not one of his most impressive musical contributions!

I love this later version, which is much more stripped back. It’s little more than a double bass with the band’s harmony singing filling the rest of the range. The original is a bit crowded, in my view.

‘Vegetables’ was released in 1967 on Smiley Smile. Technically the picture I’ve used is for the original version…