05/10/2019: “Hunter” by Jah Shaka

Jah Shaka’s 3rd Commandments Of Dub album, Lion’s Share Of Dub (1984) is easily one of his best. The songs are all exquisite, melding catchy hooks to thunderous basslines while arranging a symphony of percussion and effects.

The album’s theme is a take on Selassie I’s title of “The Conquering Lion of Judah” within Rastafarianism.

“Hunter” is an echoey slice of vibes, with a twinkley, electronic piano sound providing the main riff. The bassline largely plays second fiddle to the hook, but naturally remains a central part of the song.

As with many dub songs, the percussion has a hefty part in the track, augmented with various reverb and delay effects.

The song has nailed the uncanny ability of certain dub and reggae tracks to create a bouncy, lively energy without losing the unflappable chilled out feeling.

07/09/2019: “Today” by LD, Monkey & Dimzy

U.K. Drill gets bad press, because it’s aggressive and made by inner city kids. Just like Hip Hop and Grime, really.

It has to be admitted that most drill lyrics are quite violent even by the standards of the gangsta rap which scandalised the U.S. in the 90s. But so is the original Chicago Drill.

“Today” is about selling drugs and shooting people, there’s no getting around it. A lot of drill artists wear balaclavas in videos and have done jail time too.

But it’s still music, made by people describing their lived experience of London in the 21st century, and it shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand.

The production for 67 is usually handled by Carns Hill, who produces a consistent stream of wavy beats in a distinctive style. The production on this is full and heavy, proper anthem material.

If you don’t understand the slang, try reading Genius lyrics for this track. It’s got a certain deadpan humour to it…

The track was released in 2015 on 6.7. 


03/09/2019: “Mike Lowery” by Skepta

Skepta is a huge name now, working with artists in America and playing at huge mainstream festivals.

But he’s about as rooted in the Grime scene as you can be without being DJ Slimzee or Wiley…

“Mike Lowery” isn’t the classic mid 00s Grime sound, but there’s a lot more English grittiness on it than some of his more recent stuff. His last album was a good effort, but did lack any real bangers.

The track is essentially a series of threats to haters. Of course, Skepta isn’t really going to turn up at your house if you write bad things about him, but the basic point is that he’s harder than you, whoever you might be…

The song name is from Bad Boys. Fairly obviously, Skepta is not a fan of cops, or at least wouldn’t like to give anybody the impression that he is.

The song was released as the iTunes bonus track on Doin’ It Again in 2011.

14/07/2019: “Love Really Hurts Without You” by Billy Ocean

Billy Ocean is one of the most successful British R’n’B acts, with a decades long career.

This song is the one which enabled him to quit his job at the Ford factory, and focus on music.

It’s very much a pop song, with a bright and cheerful vibe offset by a slight tinge of regretfulness. The lyrics tell a story of unrequited love, spurned by some girl who gives her affection to myriad other guys…

The instrumental sounds more like a 60s track to me, with jingly drums, bouncy piano, sultry backing singers, lowkey brass and lush strings. The strings in particular are very tastefully done in the verses.

The song is damningly similar to “I Can’t Help Myself” by The Four Tops, released a year earlier, but in fairness that song lacks something in comparison to this.

“Love Really Hurts Without You” was released in 1976, and reached number 2 in the U.K. singles chart.

Very sweet stuff!

28/06/2019: “Prophecy” by Fabian

The bassline of this one is an absolute monster. Even in the reggae scene, there aren’t many heavy than this.

The song is very catchy too. From the first licks of the intro, the dread trumpets, the alluring vocals, to the earth shattering bassline itself, the song has a natural groove.

At the time, due to the potentially inflammatory lyrics and the violent nature of 70s Jamaican politics, the song was suppressed within Jamaica. It did find a following in the U.K.

The song was produced in Jamaica by Jack Ruby, and in the U.K. by Sir Coxsone.

Sometimes the song is credited to Faybienne or Fabienne, because that was Faybiene Miranda’s name. She was born in Panama, but grew up in the U.S.A., moving to Jamaica to pursue a career as a reggae singer.

The song was released in 1977, on Coxsone’s Tribesman label. The heaviest cut is the Black Swan release though!

15/06/2019: “Saviour” by Beverley Knight

Beverley Knight is English, and the album this song is from, Music City Soul, was released in 2007. The album was well received by critics, and even the middling review from the Guardian praises this particular track.

You wouldn’t know it. She could very well be a Nashville native, her soulfulness is so strong. In fairness, the album was recorded there and features some strong performances from Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood.

None of that is to say that her sound is a throwback, derivative of the past without daring to try anything new or push the sound forward. The song sounds contemporary, with a rock ‘n’ roll guitar riff brushing shoulders with a big bass drum, Knight’s 00s R’n’B vocals, and a sharp drum rhythm.

The gospel vocals are a nice touch too, adding an extra layer of richness to the track.

The album art looks like it could be a 60s classic as well!

12/06/2019: “Fire In Cairo” by The Cure

The driving creative force behind The Cure was the frontman, Robert Smith, who was one of the inspirations for the original goth movement.

The first album by The Cure was Three Imaginary Boys, which was well received at the time of its release in 1979 and has since become a post-punk classic.

“Fire In Cairo” uses the riots in Cairo surrounding Black Saturday in 1952 to highlight emotional distress and the passion of love, which is admittedly quite a strong metaphor.

Smith himself says the song is about the shameless nature of pop music and the corporate music world, so perhaps the tension in this dark lyric is used to highlight this. The tracklist of the album was decided by the record company, so it’s clear there was some bad blood.

The song is a very catchy one, in particular due to the airy and light guitar riff. The singing is quite melancholy, and in characteristic punk fashion, slightly breathless without losing too much energy. The bassline is simple but adds a great deal of verve, and overall it’s a great listen!

30/05/2019: “My Propeller” by Arctic Monkeys

Sometimes fans get a bit carried away with their interpretations of songs, to the point where the artist has to step in and categorically deny the perceived nature of the song.

That happened here, as fans thought the track was about erectile dysfunction, and Alex Turner says it isn’t. Instead it is about emotional decline. Turner is asking someone to bring him out his low point.

It’s a flagship Arctic Monkeys song from that era, blasting off with a catchy guitar riff and then settling into the familiar dark pacing of many Monkeys songs.

There is a short “have a spin of my propeller” that provides a momentary uplift in tone, before dropping back down. The drums are almost tribal, with an interesting break pattern.

For the last third of the song, everything is noisier and more energetic, a classic Monkeys trope.

The song was released in 2010, the third single off Humbug. Interestingly, a 10″ single of the song was available only in Oxfam charity shops.

02/04/2019: “Voodoo Ray” by A Guy Called Gerald

An interesting fact about this song: the sample used was originally “voodoo rage”, but the sampler used was quite old and didn’t have enough memory to store the whole thing.

It was the early days of the acid House scene in the U.K., and it was difficult to get records from the U.S.A. That meant that enterprising musicians like A Guy Called Gerald had to work it out from scratch…

The song sounds quite different to a lot of what would be called House music today. In many ways, it’s closer to Electro, with it’s old school drum machines and samples, truncated beats, and synthesised basslines.

Regardless of that, the song proved catchy enough to be a hit in the U.K., reaching number 12 on the U.K. singles chart. With the bell samples, and the vocals from Nicola Collier, it has enough melodies to justify that!

It’s actually quite a chilled out song, even though it is definitely dancefloor orientated.

The song was released in 1988 on Rham records.

Seminal acid house!

07/03/2019: “Babarabatiri” by The Quantic Soul Orchestra

The original version of this is Cuban mambo, released in 1969 and performed by the bandleaders Beny More and Perez Prado. It was recorded in 1950. The song was originally written by Antar Daly, another Afro-Cuban.

The Quantic Soul Orchestra, in contrast, are an English band, centred around Dj Will Holland. They specialise in this sort of old-school soul and funk.

The main thing carried over from the original is the brass, which is easily the most Latin thing on the cover. It’s a great melody, with a slight variation that gets repeated over two bars.

The Quantic Soul Orchestra version is hard hitting, with a slightly gritty feeling, especially on the frantic drum break. There’s even a more dubby sound effect towards the end of the song, helping it fade away with a quiet dignity.

The cover version was released in 2003, although there was a more famous version in 2001 by the Gypsymen, a Todd Terry project.