Stardust -Music Sounds Better with You

My formative clubbing years, spent at Utopia in Reading pretty much until it closed down. We went Friday nights to Disco Inferno with Lionel Vinyl, which to this day has still given me one of the best Christmas eve nights I’ve ever had. Tuesday night student night, and Saturday night, the House/Chart/Garage Meat Market night. Thursday nights were the over 25’s night. Why on earth would you want to go to that I wondered in my late teens. When I hit 25 I realised exactly why you would want to go to a night like that.

But that was years away, it was Saturday night, I was inevitably driving (I didn’t drink for 5 years) and one song I loved more than any others for it’s sheer funk filled danceability  – was The Music Sounds Better with You. From the one hit wonders Stardust (featuring one half of Daft Punk, and let’s be honest, the track has French Disco smeared all over it, and no one really does disco as good as the french anymore) The Music Sounds Better With You was admittedly everywhere, in the charts, all over the radio, we are not talking a deep and dirty underground burner here, it’s pretty much pop.

But who cares, when it swung in over the preceding track through the speakers, you could not help but dance, singing to whoever was nearby that the music sounded better with them. The swaying Chaka Khan sample riding over chunky beats and a simple vocal that for me is an absolute classic slice of 90’s disco..ooh baby..

Reef – Consideration

So my first holiday without my parents. A driving trip to the north of France, at a Eurocamp site. One of my mate’s driving him and his girlfriend in his clapped out Vauxhall Chevette and four of us in a Vauxhall Astra. and I definitely wasn’t going to drive, no sir, not in France. After leaving the ferry a journey that was supposed to take a few hours doubled as we got completely lost. The designated driver felt tired, I drove.

Arriving at the campsite at 3 in the morning after 8 hours driving was not the worst thing to happen that holiday, that would come on the way back. But we were there, we were without our parents. The holiday itself was great, I lived in shorts and sun glasses, I ended up driving on all of our excursions, we all got on surprisingly well despite the nocturnal habits of the couple and Grizzly Bear meets a bansaw snoring of someone else.

But one night I felt rough, really rough. I was in bed while the others got ready to go out. One of the guys was playing a Reef album, I have to admit, even know I don’t know what the name of the album is, but Consideration came on, and I fell in love with it, such a beautiful heartfelt song that sunk deep into my soul after just one listen. I have returned to it time and time again throughout my life to help me unwind and contemplate and to pick me up.

It’s slow, languid pace forces you to slow down before it whirls round and round to it’s rousing conclusion, and you know that whatever you’re doing, wherever you are, it’s gonna be alright..

Mark Morrison – Return of the Mack

At last! England had it’s own Bad Boy Gangster. Not a rapper admittedly, and he didn’t really do Hip-Hop, and he sung in an unusually high voice, and he was actually born in Germany, and came from Leicester, but he got in trouble with the police! Gangster I tell you, a proper Gangster that Mark Morrison.

I absolutely loved Return of the Mack as soon as I heard it, always danced and sung along as soon as it came on if we were out, and even now my mate says he thinks of me every time he hears it.

I used to go home for lunch at school, and used to get in at about a quarter to one. In 1996 it was Martin Collins on Capital radio at 1pm, and for months every day he would start his show, while I was eating my Pot Noodle, with Return of the Mack or Fast Love by George Michael, both of which were jockeying for the number 1 spot in the charts.

I bought the single, and then bought the album, from which Morrison had five Top 10 singles, the first artist in British pop history to do so. But the album wasn’t quite as good as Return of the Mack. After a few years, for some reason I felt the song was mine, and during a particularly difficult time I promised myself I would never play the whole original version until I was 100% happy, and I still haven’t played it yet (including searching for the video for this post).

I have listened to the remixes though, and at the Funky Fish in Brighton on New Years Eve it soundtracked my entrance into the club, which brought a huge smile to my face, and kicked off a great night and filled me with optimism for the coming year, so hopefully it won’t be much longer before the Mack returns.

 

Prince – Raspberry Beret

When Doves Cry (the first Prince song I ever heard), 1999, Nothing Compares 2 U, Purple Rain, The Beautiful Ones, The Most Beautiful Girl in the World, Diamonds and Pearls, Money Don’t Matter 2 Nite, Kiss, I Feel For You, Little Red Corvette, If I Was Your Girlfriend, where do you start with Prince?

I will admit to shedding a few tears when I learnt of his death last year, a man whose songs I lost myself in, who was capable of moments of extreme musical genius and still at times of decidedly average music, and yet he still effortlessly wrote and performed rock, soul, love soaked ballads and sex drenched funk, a little hip-hop, a touch of jazz and a whole lot of purpleness.

I first heard him on the radio, got deeper into him via his greatest hits albums, just as he ditched Prince and came back as Symbol, or the more keyboard friendly TAFKAP. I was hooked just from The Hits 1, Let’s Go Crazy, Adore, Alphabet Street, Pink Cashmere, Sign Of The Times, pretty much every song was great. The Hits 2 contained more of the same, but from that I bought The Gold Experience when it was released, preceded by the pop ballady Most Beautiful Girl in the World. This album absolutely cemented Prince into my life. P Control, Shhh, Endorphin Machine, We March, Now, 319, Eye Hate  You, the uplifting ttle track, the funk busting Billy Jack Bitch and the electric soulfulness of Shy, it still ranks as one of my favourite albums ever. I listened to it over and over again, I threw almost every song onto one home made mix tape or another for my car.

From Gold Experience on I bought every album he released (that I could find out about) while slowly gathering his back catalogue. For some reason I instinctively knew there was a hidden track on New Power Soul, Wasted Kisses, probably the best track on the album, and after listening to The Vault, I wondered just how amazing he would be if he turned his hand to jazz. The Rainbow Children started in that direction but by then Prince had become a Jehovah’s Witness and the sweaty sex driven funk had become diluted. I listened to his later stuff, but didn’t get into it so much, completely missed the album released in the Daily Mail and just raved about the show I was lucky enough to go to as part of his 21 nights at the O2 in London.

So why Raspberry Beret? Mostly because it was one of my early favourites, and because I used to tape songs of the radio and I remember taping it on what would become my favourite tape. It always reminds me of summer and showcases Prince’s playful side
“busy doin’ somethin’ pretty close to nuthin’, but different than the day before …That’s when I saw her, ooh yeah I saw her she walked in through the out door..”

Since he was so hot on the ownership rights of his music (and rightly so) it’s actually fairly difficult to find his songs with audio on youtube or soundcloud, so I’m posting the links to the mixtapes I did in tribute, the 2nd one contains Raspberry Beret.

 

 

Guitarrísimo: Santiago Lara — Flamenco Tribute to Pat Metheny

Wednesday 22nd of February – Sadlers Wells

Well. Not one for the purists. As we trooped in to the small and intimate Lilian Bayliss studio we were greeted by the site of a piano and a drum kit. a piano! No no this won’t do, this won’t do at all, what does Santiago Lara think he’s playing at. Flamenco with all it’s heart wrenching emotional power and jazz, whose where-on-earth-is-it-going-to-go-next rhythms are the epitome of life itself, I can’t see this working. Indeed, after the first song Lara gracefully acknowledges the audience by saying good night, it doesn’t seem quite right.

Well. One standing ovation later, to the sounds of whooping and hollering and other more traditional Spanish noises, I can honestly say that this was some of the most beautiful guitar playing I have ever heard. Lara’s playing was masterful on every song, sometimes driving flamenco power, sometimes light jazzy flourishes that were ably accompanied by the piano (which deliberately or not seemed much quieter in the mix) and drums.

Even with jazz rhythms and breaks, the guitar playing was unmistakably flamenco and it perfectly skipped over the top or drove through the accompaniment with joyful results

Mercedes Ruiz came out for a couple of songs, and perfectly complimented the jazz infused music with some powerfully elegant dancing, that reconfirmed my feelings from the night before, that Flamenco is one of the most sensual dances in the world. Mix it with Jazz however, and that is something beautifully different.

Cía. Mercedes Ruiz — Déjame que te baile

Tuesday 21st Feb at Sadlers Wells

This was a slow burner. Mercedes Ruiz in all her pomp, starting with fingers clicking, her arms swaying hypnotically or even at times snapping with the music, an unflamenco touch that suited the night, that built up into a virtuouso performance with Flamenco elegance and passionate power . The accompanying guitar was soft, the voices and clapping audible but meant to underline the dancing, not distract from it.

Watching Ruiz early on I was mesmerised as usual by the movement, trying to think of the right word for Flamenco. But I couldn’t come up with just one. There is power, there is passion, but as I watched the arms, fingers the body strut and sway, it was the dress that caught my eye. For an instant it reminded me of a snake, but a snake as a temptation of something good.the dress slid with a languid uncoiling around those stomping feet, but there was nothing dark, it was altogether sensual.
At other times, arms raised like a bull, there was sheer power in Ruiz’s performance, she clearly commanded the floor, strutting like a bird with prize plumage through each song.

One of the costume changes saw Ruiz appear in a red suit, that she owned as well as an many male flamenco dancer would hope to do. It was wonderful, the power slipped into elegance, as the trousers allowed the audience to see the technical side of the woman’s dance, normally so well concealed underneath the traditional dress.

As usual the guitar and accompanying singers had their own moments, but it was Ruiz herself that powered the show and at the end, she rightly drew the appreciation of the packed hall that burned with more than a little Flamenco fever.

Jurassic 5 All Nighter – Chali 2na, Krafty Kuts, Mr Thing and DJ Nu-Mark

Let’s take you back to the concrete streets
Original beats with real live mc’s
Playground tactics
No rabbit in a hat tricks
Just that classic
Rap s**t from Jurassic

It was concrete streets that introduced me to Jurassic 5, and still Power in Numbers is one of my all time favourite albums. The 4 MC’s running the track, passing the lyrics between them like a relay baton, some times mid line, some times all holding it at once. Their rap was understandable not undecipherable and the beats from Cut Chemist and Nu-Mark were for me the embodiment of great Hip Hop.

It was always Chali 2na’s deep baritone voice that I loved, although the interplay between all the rappers were what made J5 so good, the track didn’t seem complete until Chali rumbled in, so while I wasn’t sure what it would be like to see him on his own, I couldn’t pass up the chance to see him live, and then see Nu-Mark at the after party.

I arrived just as A Skillz was finishing the warm up, and shortly after Krafty Kuts and Chali 2na came out onto the stage to a welcome louder than seemed possible from the size of the crowd. Playing old school Hip Hop with Chali rapping over the top the crowd were bouncing and dancing from the opening tune. Although there were a number of phones in the air recording bit and pieces, when Chali implored the crowd to put their hands high nearly every one did, something that seems to be becoming rarer these days.

I didn’t know all the songs that they did, but they in no way lessened the sheer pleasure of hearing him rap, and at one point he busted out the robot which was loudly appreciated by the crowd.

The highlight though was Krafty Kuts playing a new track, It Ain’t My Fault which features Chali and MC Dynamite, who guested. Watching Dynamite and 2na interact on the stage, and the smile on 2na’s face, it felt that as good as he is on his own, Chali misses the rest of the J5 crew on stage to interact and share the flow with. At one point he told the crowd that J5 was his past, his present and his future, and as much as he is clearly enjoying working with Krafty Kuts, it almost feels like a fling, until the time comes for a full on re-union.

He finished with concrete streets and Krafty blasted out Bob Marley’s Could You Be Loved that brought the house down and was a fitting end to a gig filled withgreat tunes.
As people flowed out the doors, making their way down through Islington to Nu-Mark, Chali jumped down to the barriers and patiently chatted and took photo’s with the crowd, about 20 minutes later I has my own photo and headed out into the night.

I walked into the Runnin’ by the Pharcyde at the after party  as Mr Thing scratched and turntabled his way through a large portion of the Tribe Called Quest back catalogue and some Hip Hop classics. Nu-Mark came on at half 1 and switched it up a notch, and switched the styles to play some brilliant beats mixed in with old school classics, and a slice of disco. I spent the entire time dancing in amongst the crowd who all had the same appreciation as I did for the music.

At 3am I finally stood still, aching all over, with a free CD from Nu-Mark and another photo. My knees hurt, my legs hurt but it was worth it, the whole night had been filled with great beats still reverberating through my head as I headed home through the concrete streets.