Rare Grooves

One last dance collection from 1987, this one totally focused on looking over its shoulder to the recent past for inspiration. Released on the little known Jam Today label, thankfully featuring just three tracks per side, and promising ‘all tracks in original and untouched form – ABSOLUTELY NO REMIXES OR EDITS’ this is obviously meant to appeal to the cash-strapped purist who like his/her rare grooves untarnished by contemporaneous production techniques. So no bolstering with drum machines, no stuttering samples or carelessly applied James Brown grunts here.

The time period covered is 1979-1982, and the style is instrumental disco, with Atmosfear’s “Dancing In Outer Space” a strong opening track; its uptempo groove laced with pleasingly kitsch Moog frills. Also from ’79, Stop’s “Iauwata” combines energetic percussion with cocktail piano vamps – you can hear Shakatak coming around the corner – whilst Powerline’s “Double Journey” from the following year strips the format back with space-inducing lashes of dub-echo and some furiously tight slap-bass noodling.

But then when you think you have this compilation pegged, along comes the proto-electro vocoder funk of “Inside You” by Contact-U, and finishing with a mellow funk jam from little-known Brit saxophonist Dave Chambers and his ensemble.

To be honest, most of this stuff sounds suspiciously like groovy elevator music, rather than smokin’ hot dancefloor rarities, but perhaps that is actually part of this collection’s curious appeal today.

Published in: on December 13, 2011 at 12:56 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Dance Mania – Full Length 12″ Extended Or Remixed Versions

Yet another dance collection from 1987, but by contrast with the previous post, Needle Records’ decision to cram ten full-length mixes onto a single platter (not an uncommon practice back then) sacrifices sound quality in the name of ‘value for money’. It’s probably short-sighted sales tactics like this that allowed CD to dominate the market so quickly.

Content-wise, this collection keeps one eye firmly on classic funk and disco sounds that evoke the feeling of previous eras, reminding us that, despite the wave of new House and Hip Hop sounds crossing the Atlantic, there was still a big appetite for ‘rare grooves’ in the UK, typified by the subtly tweaked ‘club mix’ of Maceo & The Macks’ 1974 classic “Cross The Tracks”, and the ‘House Mix’ of Philly disco number “Let No Man Put Asunder” by First Choice.

Most contemporaneous styles are represented, with the harder-edged House grooves of T-Coy  and House Master Boys, mellow rappin’ and go-go funk  from Kool Chip and Black Britain respectively, both sides finishing with syrupy, anodyne eighties soul from Lanier & Co and 52nd Street. A somewhat confusing blend, but as the sleeve notes say “Mash It Up!”

Published in: on December 13, 2011 at 12:06 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Rob Olson’s Chicago Jack Beat Vol.Two

Another collection from 1987, on then-Mute subsidiary Rhythm King, but this is House Music from Chicago, and far more agreeable to my forty-something lug-holes. I already had Volume One, so its nice to find the sequel. I still have no idea who Rob Olson is/was. Perhaps I should google/research for this post, but I’m enjoying the mystery of it all (anyone can pretend they’re an expert with just a few taps on a laptop, but I’m happy to admit my ignorance on this occasion).

Suffice to say, Mr Olson executive- produced this compilation which, like Vol.1, takes a welcome detour down some of the less well-known/over-exposed tracks from Chi-town’s golden age of House. Of particular interest to me are “J.B. On The One” by Duane & Co (an orgy of James Brown grunts and latin cowbells) and Matt Warren’s “Bang The Box” (minimal 808 workout) both of which were playlisted by John Peel and recorded from his radio show onto cassette by my House-loving former self for further listening on the Cortina’s tape deck.

The decision to only include 3 tracks per side, which would’ve probably seemed a bit mean back then, now provides some welcome loudness and presence sadly lacking in many of the vinyl dance compilations of the era.

Published in: on December 13, 2011 at 11:33 am  Leave a Comment  
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M/A/R/R/S – Pump Up The Volume/Anitina

I bought both of these when they first came out back in ’87, but my original copies are long since lost (or in one case, stolen) so it was nice to finally replace both with near-immaculate copies in one fell swoop recently.

Conceived as a collaboration between 4AD label-mates Colourbox and A.R.Kane, the project was quickly expanded to incorporate the dj cut-up style of Dave Dorrell and C.J. Macintosh (later of Nasty Rox Inc.) which produced the surprise #1 smash “Pump Up The Volume”, which I’m sure we all know and love/hate. But it’s actually the A.R.Kane-orientated ‘AA’ side called “Anitina (The First Time I See Her Dance)” which still holds me enthralled.  It’s a non-retro slice of psychedelic pop, incorporating elements of noise, dub and nascent dance beats (although tellingly, its the then-current dance elements which have dated least well) which served as a perfect aperitif for their subsequent debut album ’69’, which this writer still considers one of the best the late eighties had to offer.

The remix version is actually superior in my view – more skeletal with a clipped electro-flavour in the beats. No doubt you can compare and contrast on youtube or whatever, but nothing will beat the sheer depth and sonic intensity of these 12″ records blasting  from my rig today…

Published in: on July 1, 2011 at 8:51 am  Leave a Comment  
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West Norwood Cassette Library – WNCL001

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The Thrifty Vinyl guide to blagging new dance singles for free :

1) Befriend talented but unsigned recording artist on internet.

2) Patiently wait a couple of years, until said artist decides to start own label, all the while providing steady encouragement and ego-massaging whenever necessary.

3) Wait for postman to deliver beautifully designed 10″ single. Slap on turntable and enjoy groovy-bleepy-bassy-dubstep sounds.

Or alternatively, just buy it here. Or here.

Published in: on June 12, 2010 at 5:54 pm  Comments (2)  
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Heaven 17 – Fascist Groove Thang

Bleedin heck – wandered into my local emporium of thrift this lunch time – left clutching an armful of a dozen or so 12s and the odd LP from that dead-space-period 1981-ish.   So first up is this dare-I-say awesome slab of wax by none other than H17 – aka the B.ritish.E.lectonic.F.oundation.  Have always owned the LP this is lifted from ‘Penthouse and Pavement’ since it was first released – in fact for some unknown reason I actually have 2 copies !!     Damn nice to have this on 12 inch – and in fact – as I may well be DJing (gulp) a wedding party sometime soon-ish – I need all the help of 80s tracks as I can get ..

Elsewhere under-my-arm – and now on the turntable – we got China Crisis / Pigbag / Spandau Ballet / Associates / Thomas Dolby – all no doubt will be posted – man – the 80s – dontcha just miss it ???

Published in: on February 10, 2010 at 7:49 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Second Image – Better Take Time

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Never heard of this bunch of under-achieving Brit-funkers, but I was attracted to this one by the Tron-like computer graphic sleeve, which seemed to suggest the contents might be a bit synthy-futuristic in a retro ’83 stylee. Unfortunately it’s a rather pedestrian slice of pop-soul, though the instrumental b-side is quite enjoyable in a sub-Shakatak jazz funk kinda way. Maybe if I’d taken a closer look at the group photo on the rear sleeve I might’ve been a bit more suspicious…
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Incidentely, a quick bit of research reveals that one of these guys – Christopher Heaton, who I assume is the one on the far left – had previously been a member of synth-poppers Landscape, who I have a bit of a soft-spot for. Tragic, really…

Published in: on February 10, 2010 at 5:13 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Loose Ends – Magic Touch (Club Mix)

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One of those ’80s groups I kinda liked at the time, then just forgot about. My favourite song of theirs was “Hangin’ On A String”, but this follow-up was pretty nifty too, though I was surprised to note that they never had a top 10 hit. Of course, that super slick sub-Jam & Lewis plastic-soul production sound is about as far away from hip as you can get right now, and as for the fashions on display in this lavish double-gatefold package…sheesh. But maybe all the kids will be dressing like this next year. Stranger things have happened.

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Published in: on February 10, 2010 at 4:55 pm  Comments (2)  
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Ofra Haza – Im Nin’Alu (Played In Full Mix)

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Isreali chanteuse Ofra Haza had her only sizable UK hit with this in 1988, off the back of Coldcut’s cheeky sample as featured on their remix of Eric B. and Rakim’s “Paid In Full”. With me so far?

I didn’t buy it back then, but was quite pleased to find this Dutch pressing recently, though it hasn’t aged as well as I’d imagined. Ms Haza still sounds great of course, but the production by Izhar Ashdot in Tel Aviv sounds a bit lame by today’s standards. Should’ve commissioned a Coldcut remix, innit.

Published in: on February 10, 2010 at 4:26 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Dance Hits 2

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Simply had to have this for the sleeve – such a stereotypical example of mid-’80s design with the garish primary colours, geometric abstracts and squiggles; a pure Smash Hits-style suger rush.

Musically, it’s a mixed bag of the best and worst of electronic dance-pop, r’nb and hip hop of the period. At the time, my idealistic 6th Form self would’ve turned-up his nose at much of this (though I definitely revered Mantronix) but now it’s the audio equivalent of  flicking through an old photo album, igniting pungent and often amusing flashbacks to those happy days of  second- hand Ford Cortinas, attempting to get served in pubs, free study periods, lusting after girls…and so forth.

Published in: on January 19, 2010 at 8:28 am  Comments (2)  
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