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…

17/02/2021: “Somewhere” by The Danse Society

I think Goth has got to be one of the most misunderstood subcultures. Many people get it confused with the later ’emo’ trend, for one.

I’d never really given much thought to what Goth music was. I’d heard emo music and decided it wasn’t for me…

Goth music is much cooler. It’s 80s. It’s punk. It’s quite unlike any music released since.

This song, for example. It is essentially post-punk, due to the catch all nature of that word and the time the track came out. It’s undeniably a murky affair. However, it doesn’t lack energy.

That plucked bassline gives an ominous edge which contrasts with the guitar chords – but supports those suitably Gothic vocals brilliantly!

The biggest surprise of all is the synth breakdown. It hints at the new wave influences throughout some of the Goth scene.

“Somewhere” was released as a single, first in December 1982, then reissued in 1983.

14/02/2021: “Sketch For Summer” by The Durutti Column

Some tracks are just light years ahead of their time. This could have been recorded by some indie group from LA in 2018. But it’s over 40 years old!

It was released in 1980 on The Return Of The Durutti Column. The Durruti Column was an anarchist militia in the Spanish Civil war, led by the legendary Buenaventura Durruti. This band got the name from a French pamphlet from the sixties.

Taking their lead from said French pamphlet, the record sleeve was sandpaper – you don’t want to store this one alongside your prized collection without a hefty cover!

The original sandpaper sleeve!

The music itself, fortunately, is far less abrasive. A gentle, heartbeat drum pulse, with crunchy snare and ambient jungle noise, set the scene for a dreamy guitar duet. The notes echo and blend, creating an ethereal, calming lullaby.

It exemplifies the best of the post-punk experimental sound of the late 70s. Just magnificent…

05/02/2021: “It’s Alright” by Sterling Void

Imagine being there in a 1987 Chicago nightclub hearing this for the first time. The rough, raw bassline, the euphoric piano, the powerful vocals.

Must have been a blast.

The Pet Shop Boys heard the track on a DJ International Records mix cd and took a shine to it. They released a cover in 1989 to great effect – even the original was re-released and went to number 53 in the UK chart – not bad for an underground Chicago House tune!

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

16/01/2021: “You Can’t Turn Me Away” by Sylvia Striplin

Funky souly goodness from start to finish. You can’t help but love this, I feel!

Her voice is stunning, of course. But that groove is brilliant. The squelchy yet tight bass struts confidently over a solid drum beat. You’ve got a smattering of guitars and a couple of old school synths to complete the package too!

Roy Ayers, who Sylvia had worked with extensively in the 70s, helped to write the song. It’s become her most famous, especially after being sampled in a Notorious B.I.G song (“Get Money”, 1995), and used in a Grand Theft Auto video game.

The song was released in 1981, on Roy Ayers’ record label, “Uno Melodic”.

15/01/2021: “Love Has Found Its Way” by Dennis Brown

Even Bob Marley regarded Dennis Brown as his favourite Reggae singer. And what a career…

Dennis Brown, mirroring the development of Reggae music as a whole, started off singing American R’n’B as a young kid. He started early, recording his first album in 1970 – age 12!

The early 80s saw him pursue a more pop sound, before the dancehall era truly kicked in. This song, released in 1982 as the title track of an album, reflects that. It’s lighter disco influenced reggae, lovers rock for the masses.

But, although it’s not hardcore roots, it’s still a great tune. There’s a place for the watered down stuff, as long as it has soul. And nobody could deny that this song has soul in spades!

04/01/2021: “Columbus” by Burning Spear

This is roots reggae at its absolute best. The lyrics are powerful and challenge the common conception that Christopher Columbus was some kind of hero.

His legacy, to be clear, is not a good one. But what really does rankle to anyone who thinks about it, is that not only were many people already living in the areas he discovered – he’s not even the first European to ‘discover’ the Americas.

The horns lay down a strong retort, backed with one of reggae’s catchiest basslines. And that’s saying something.

You can find this masterpiece on Hail H.I.M., released 1980. H.I.M. stands for His Imperial Majesty, an honorific term for Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia, venerated by Rastafari.