Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Oliver: Aurlus Mabele featuring Diblo Dibala - Malade de Toi (26 December 1991)

Even in the comparatively upbeat and positive world of soukous, it can be easy to go from "Joy of Life" to "Sick of You".  My GCSE French trained ear isn't good enough to tell from the lyrics whether the sickness is love or hate based, but Diblo Dibala's guitar playing speaks a language we can all understand.

Video courtesy of Tonton Ouzouk.

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Oliver: John Peel Show - Radio 1 (Saturday 21 December 1991)

For the only time in its history, the Festive Fifty was replaced by a selection of  Peel's favourite tracks  and sessions of the year.  This covered the last four shows of the year.

I've mentioned before that I would have been happy for Peel to keep this change of format for the rest of his life.  I only ever voted in the 2002 edition.  I can't remember whether my three choices got in, or even what I voted for.  I didn't hear the full list, so don't know whether they would all have got onto my mixtapes in that year.  At least a dozen did including the winner.  It's a perfectly good track, but the best thing Peel played that year?  Not by a million miles.  Had he lived long enough to have held one in 2008, then I would have had no objection to Saloon's next incarnation winning. EDIT: I just looked up the  Dandelion Radio Festive Fifty for 2008 It didn't make the chart: new curators; same issues!

The problem when listening to lists like the Festive Fifty was always frustration over tracks you hated that got in while tracks you loved were completely ignored.  I'm sure I wasn't the only Peel show listener (and Peel himself gave voice to this a few times) who got angry about the apparent philistinism of the rest of the audience.  In 1991, Peel took this irritation away by taking control of the proceedings and the shows were much better as result with all bases touched and a much more accurate reflection of the music that he had played in 1991.  It works well for this blog, meaning that tracks from before November 2 1991 get a chance for an airing.

I made 10 selections from the recording that I heard and happily I'm able to share them all here, perhaps it makes up for the fact that I won't be able to provide anything from the show on December 22 1991.

Complete tracklisting

Friday, 24 July 2015

Oliver: The Pixies [Peel Session] (21 December 1991)

NEWSFLASH! The session keeps getting blocked on this site, sadly.  So I will include individual versions of each track that made up this session.

Videos courtesy of VibraCobra23 Redux, einzack and Subbacultcha.

So having had a single track on the 14 December 1991 show introduce me to the brilliance of The Pixies, this programme had a whole session to salivate over.

What a remarkable band The Pixies were.  Looking at them from nearly a quarter of a century's distance, I'm struck by how such a bunch of un-rock 'n' roll looking people could produce music that rocked as brilliantly and vibrantly as The Pixies did.  Drummer David Lovering looked like he spent all day cruising gymnasiums to work up the muscles to propel the songs along; Joey Santiago sounded like he loved nothing better after a hard day's work on Computer Aided Design programs than to pick up a guitar and pull out mind-bendingly amazing riffs from it; because she looked like the world's oldest exchange student, Kim Deal didn't provide much glamour, but her serpentine bass lines and street punk backing vocals were a cornerstone to The Pixies's sound.  Finally there was Frank Black (hereafter to be referred to as Black Francis) the demented poet/surf wannabe at the heart of it all - striking a blow for the mighty pantheon of slightly overweight men in rock: Jerry Garcia, Chris Burney of Bowling for Soup and err..Buster Bloodvessel.  Best of all, they remained true to their roots in that all their little packages of sonic fireworks could be delivered in 3 minutes 30.  Anything more than that was wasting everyone's time.

There were a number of recurring styles that cropped up in Pixies tunes: overlooked Americana, interpersonal relationships that were sliding into disrepair, oddball character sketches and reportage from ghastly sounding parties/get-togethers in which the narrator sounded as gone as everyone around him.  This session had all that and more.  Starting with a track about Salt Lake in Utah, Palace of the Brine is what I'm going to call any chip shop that I ever open.  Letter to Memphis is a doozy of a love song about the desire to communicate and why we go through the most long winded ways to do so (especially pertinent in those pre-email days of 1991).  Motorway to Roswell is my favourite track of the four with Black Francis pondering the mindset of the Roswell alien and how its vacation went tragically wrong:
How could this so great, turn so shitty.
He ended up in army crates
And photographs in files.

The performance is classic Pixies, with Santiago providing some superb lead work over the rock solid  rhythm section.
The session concludes with the mini rap-rock of Subbacultcha, a heart warming mini-epic about how a pick up in a club can lead to a happy relationship, drug running in Panama.

Four albums in, The Pixies were still putting this brand of idiosyncratic rock together better than
anyone else.  Peel had interviewed Black Francis a few months before this programme at the time
that The Pixies album, Trompe Le Monde had been released.  He declared it one of the greatest albums he had ever heard and there were a number of reviews that took the same line.  Seemingly at
the peak of their powers, the world would surely be theirs as the 90s progressed.  Alas no.  Remember what I said about catching the fag end of things?  Well, it's happened again here.  Within two years of this show, the band had split.  Deal went off to concentrate on The Breeders, Francis worked on his solo career - they both feature on my 2002 tapes.  Eventually they reformed as the original quartet in 2004 and became a going concern as a touring band, before finally recording a follow-up to Trompe le Monde: 2014's Indie Cindy album.

Video courtesy of Vibracobra23

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Oliver: Tony Rebel & Macka B - D.J. Unity (21 December 1991)

"I'm not sure I'd be happy in a world controlled by DJs."

The result of a collaboration between Jamaican deejay, Tony Rebel and Wolverhampton's own Macka B (Christopher Macfarlane), D.J. Unity starts out with footage of a sound system battle, possibly between Rebel and Shabba Ranks before the plea for collaboration and respect among its various practitioners leads to the proposed formation of the "D.J government".  If old Mr. Loverman isn't in the duel at the start of the track, he receives a namecheck as Minister for Family Planning, which may be entirely ironic given that I'm sure I read somewhere he was a prodigious spawner of little Lovermen and Lovergirls (please comment if he's only got one child and I'm barking up the wrong tree).  Cutty Ranks also gets in as Defence Minister.  It's a neat conceit, brilliantly performed, but the politics slightly trouble me given that one of the reasons for pulling together is to "Make the business prosper".  A statement which now, as then, sounds more Tory Party than Legalise It Party.

Video courtesy of 1dubplate.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Oliver: Public Enemy - By the Time I Get to Arizona (21 December 1991)

I always have a tendency to pick up on things just at the fag end of when they're happening.  Whether it's in fashion, technology or culture, I'll always end up keeping my distance until committing myself just at the point where whatever traction the thing has is slowing to a halt and then something else springs up to take its place.  It's now happening retrospectively.

With this blog taking late 1991 as its starting point, I've made a few interesting discoveries regarding some of the artists and scenes that Peel was playing at that time.  The most relevant to this post is that "the golden age" of rap and hip hop was coming to an end when Peel played this track on 21/12/91.  It may not be an exhaustive amount of reading to determine this but both Simon Reynolds in Retromania and Tim Grierson in Public Enemy: Inside the Terrordome have referenced 1987-91 as the genre's highpoint both from a thematic sense and the kid in a candy store mentality which saw unlimited sampling intermingled with a perfect fusion of MC and DJ in so many crews.  Gradually over the course of the 90s, oversampling became more expensive and the MC gained more prominence, altering the balance that made so many of the cuts and records from that first rush of releases so memorable.  That's their theory anyway, it will be interesting to see how Peel shows from subsequent years reflect that and how they affect my selections.

The sense of a golden age being brought to an end also applied in many people's eyes to Public Enemy by late 1991.  The release of their fourth album, Apocalypse 91...The Enemy Strikes Black has been regarded in wider critical circles as the last essential Public Enemy record, part of a continuum with their earlier releases: Yo! Bum Rush the Show, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back and Fear of a Black Planet.  I haven't heard the complete Apocalypse 91.... yet, but according to Grierson, it's overall theme marked a shift away from examining how white repression has stifled black people from enjoying the same opportunities, instead it looked inward to how and why the black community had allowed this state of affairs to come about.  By the Time I Get to Arizona though was on more familiar ground, taking as its inspiration, the decision by the states of Arizona and New Hampshire not to have a public holiday to mark Dr. Martin Luther King's birthday. Using the riff from Mandrill's song Two Sisters of Mystery, Chuck D's response to this oversight is predictably incendiary: nothing less than assassination will do and this coming from a collective who were the antithesis of the gangster rap acts that would start to gain more of a foothold in the market after the "golden age" was over.  The riff is fed through the same kind of distortion that characterised Public Enemy's sound in the Nation of Millions...era; "Recording in the red" as Hank Shocklee put it. And this meant that even if the noise discomfited you, as Chuck D wanted it to, you were primed and ready for him to come over the top of it all and tell you the way it is.

This cut was promoted by a highly controversial video.  It was broadcast once on MTV in January 1992 and Chuck D found himself having to defend it on a number of American TV shows, usually being dragged in to do interviews at 5:30am by satellite because Public Enemy were on a European tour at the time.  Nevertheless, the controversy achieved its aims given that in November 1992, Arizona voters voted for the King holiday.  New Hampshire waited a further seven years before agreeing to it.

Tim Grierson's book is an interesting look at the whole of Public Enemy's career up to the present day.  In a happy accident of timing, they've released a new album this week: Man Plans, God Laughs.

Videos courtesy of R3dJerro and PublicEnemy.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Oliver: The Fall - A Lot of Wind (21 December 1991)

Having previously posted two vintage Fall tracks on this blog, A Lot of Wind is the first "contemporary" Fall track to be selected, having been recorded for their 1991 album, Shift-Work.  When I first heard it, I dismissed it as typical Mark E. Smith blether; only one lot of wind round here, mate, and it's coming from you.  Second time around though, it smacked me round the face with how good it was and how in step I am with his its thinking.  The panels on TV which Smith was at that time railing against were getting larger in number and shriller in voice.  The Internet has now made the wind into a typhoon (and I'm aware that I'm an isobar in that state of affairs).
With its pissed off lyrics and constantly chattering guitar/violin interplay, it would be perfectly fine on its own terms but the passing years have given extra layers of piquancy to Smith's observations of the weatherman who "used to teach all our friends".  Throw in sideswipes at This Morning and the "King of Granadaland", undoubtedly Tony Wilson, and it's all too easy to picture Smith grinding his way through a hangover and caught between the dead boredom of fragility and the prattle of experts on the "tragic lantern".  No wonder he has "antagonals" on his eyelids and is suffering nightmares.

The theme of A Lot of Wind got me remembering this from BBC 2's TV Hell night on August 31 1992, which we'll see Peel on eventually.  Did Danny Baker get the idea from Mark E.Smith, I wonder?

The track was the third out of the four selections for the 1991 Peelenium to be played on this night.

Videos courtesy of #TheFall and magus26.

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Oliver: Loketo featuring Diblo Dibala - La Joie de Vivre (21 December 1991)

It was unthinkable that Peel would let any celebration of 1991's best moments go by without playing something from the man he classified as guitarist of the year.  Diblo Dibala and Loketo's stunning track, La Joie de Vivre was the perfect pick me up to anyone listening to the original broadcast on 21/12/91 as it was played after an 11.30pm news bulletin which included stories about an IRA shooting and an appeal for information about the perpetrator of an acid attack on an elderly lady.
Keep your ears attuned for the glorious passage from 2:36 to 3:55 where the playing all too accurately reflects the title of the track.  Distilled joy in every note and a more worthy inclusion on the 1991 Peelenium than Lambada.

At some point in the next decade, this blog will alight upon the week in April 1993 when Peel did a daytime stand in for Jakki Brambles.  He ended his first programme on the day shift by playing La Joie de Vivre.  Something which only makes his presence on Radio 1 all the more cherishable.

Video courtesy of soukousnostalgie.

Friday, 10 July 2015

Oliver: The Thing - Blu 4 U/Kiss the Sun [Peel Session] (21 December 1991)

Blu 4 U - taken from the Peel Session.

Kiss the Sun - Re-recorded by Electric Frankenstein, the band who rose out of the ashes of The Thing, but this is pretty much a dead ringer for what The Thing recorded for Peel.

Peel's selection of sessions over his "Best of 91" shows was typically democratic and eclectic.  There was plenty of giving the audience what he knew they wanted (Nirvana, The Pixies, The Fall, The Farm), some sessions celebrating new faces who would go on to future prominence (PJ Harvey, The Boo Radleys) and a handful of sessions that were strictly personal choices from the man himself (Babes in Toyland, Ragga Twins, Dr. Oloh and his Milo Jazz Band).  New Jersey based acid rock band, The Thing also fell into that latter category and the two tracks that I heard were immediate choices for inclusion.

The first thing to say about The Thing is that their sound is massive.  In some respects, they remind me of Catherine Wheel but much louder and without the reticence that characterised some of the British acid rock bands of the time.  The riff on Blu 4 U sounds like a planet being spun off its axis.  There's not just big sound but real anger in these tracks.  Blu 4 U sounds as though it's been written from the perspective of a heartbroken shooter, carrying out his massacre because he's been dumped.
The lyrics allude to dark concepts and deeds.  "Assassinating beauty in a parking lot"; How "The
ends justify the screams"; "Her true love kills her again and again.  Exercise the power to dominate her dreams". There's a quiet midsection, where the pace slows down, the musical equivalent of a gunman stalking more victims after the first wave of massacre, or the aural opposite of My Bloody Valentine's "holocaust" section from You Made Me Realise.  But the calm is deceptive, eventually the love manhunt restarts "Loving the curse I'm alone!" And off it goes again, with singer Jesse Ostbaum getting more and more maniacal and obsessive ("I can see you when you're asleep.  I'm always with you.  I can put out your light....Just like you murdered me!") as the music rises in intensity behind him before it concludes with a final death scream.  Perhaps his metaphorical loaded gun has found its ultimate target.

The suicide/spirtual allusion isn't so far fetched when you consider the themes of Kiss the Sun.  Starting out of the relative serenity of a drum pattern, and with lines like " In the secret place within.  I first passed away.  And there was no more sin.  I saw the holy city.  Coming from within me."  There are further meditations on the after death form which see the protagonist move in successive lines from angel to vampire to zombie.  It's obvious which one Ostbaum wants to become judging by his impassioned cry of "I wanna believe!"

Sadly, despite demonstrating such obvious appeal, belief was in short supply for The Thing in the following year as they went through that most soul sucking of experiences - recording an album which went unreleased.  Maybe grunge made them sound passé but on this evidence they made murder and purgatory sound a good deal more enjoyable than it should do.

Videos courtesy of  MarsHottentot and Various Artists.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Well, this could be awkward....

David Cavanagh wrote one of my favourite books about music.  Now it seems he's turning his attention to John Peel.

I shall look forward to reading this book.  It'll be very helpful with research and given how good a writer Cavanagh is, I'm only glad that he can't include music clips with it.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Oliver: LFO - Tan Ta Ra [Moby Remix] (21 December 1991)

There's nothing worse in pop music than the redundant mix.  As the years have gone by, I've become more receptive to "reimaginings" of tracks; remixes which take the listener off into completely new worlds with tracks you thought you knew.  I wasn't an immediate convert to these things in my youth.  I remember being bowled over by the New Order song, Regret when it came out in 1993. I liked it so much that I bought the 12" version of it, as I didn't have a CD player at the time.  Unfortunately, the radio edit wasn't on there, so the two versions out of four which didn't include the vocals passed me by in a glaze of boredom.  But I'd always back complete reinvention over simple audio boosting.

Moby's remix of Leeds electronic duo LFO's track, Tan Ta Ra, falls somewhere in the middle.  The original, as heard on their debut album, Frequencies, is quite ambient and full of space despite the minimalist soundscape.  It's electro dance for the head, quite meditative and no floor filler.  It put me in mind of a minimalist electro act I heard Peel play during my mixtape year of 2002 called Meta 83
and his track, Metalgroove.
Commissioned to do a remix for LFO's What is House EP, Moby injects a blast of energy but with enough subtlety to hold the interest of those who would have got into the original.  There's a vocal sample ("Are we doing it?"), periodic, Marioland keyboards and a constant vibration which sounds like a distilled energy source, all giving the effect of a re-decoration rather than a reimagining, but it works at creating an undeniable ear worm.

The original.  Moby's just wins out, doesn't it?

Videos courtesy of Indiedancepop (Moby) and LFO -Topic (LFO).

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Oliver: Cutty Ranks featuring Wayne Wonder - Lambada (21 December 1991)

This track nearly went the same way as the Peel Session version of Some Fool's Mess by Gallon Drunk, a selection which after getting on the initial list of selections, didn't do enough on subsequent listens to stay on it.

My problems with Lambada revolve mainly around the fact that the source tune is such a piece of tat.  I know it comes from the Brazilian-Portugese musical tradition and wasn't meant to become the early 90s novelty tune that it did, but nevertheless that is how it's remembered in 2015.  However, had I been making a mixtape in 1991, this version would have got on mainly due to a personal memory.

I'm getting married next month.  Out of the children that my mother's siblings had, I'm the penultimate one to get married.  25 years ago this September, the first wedding for my generation took place when my cousin, Karen tied the knot with her husband, Darren.  I was 14 at the time and for many years, my memory of the day was sustained by the copious amount of video that I shot that day.  By 1990, video cameras were reaching a halfway house phase between the hernia inducing units of the early 80s and the mini-cams of the late 90s.  The most memorable footage was shot at the reception disco.  Playing the role of "drunk uncle at a wedding" on that day was my Uncle Pat, who having got suitably refreshed through the day, took to the dancefloor with his shirt half open and cut some rug to Kool and the Gang's, Celebration.  It was incredible to watch, but he wasn't done yet.  The dancefloor eventually cleared to allow him to dance the Lambada with Dorinder, one of Karen's friends.  What no one had reckoned on was how long the Lambada was; it positively reached American Pie levels.  After 5 minutes or so, Dorinder could be heard saying, "How much bloody longer!"

Sadly, ill health means Uncle Pat isn't able to come to my wedding, so for him and Dorinder, here's Cutty Ranks and Wayne Wonder's take on the tune.  Sentiment may be motivating my inclusion of it, but Peel evidently saw more in it as it was one of his four choices for the 1991 Peelenium.

I think the wedding DJ played the 12" version of this, it certainly felt a lot longer than 3 and a half minutes.

Videos courtesy of Zuluonedrop2 (Cutty Ranks) and ClubMusic80s (Kaoma).

Friday, 3 July 2015

Oliver: Gang Starr - Check the Technique (21 December 1991)

Strictly speaking this track shouldn't be here because it was on a file which I didn't use when making the selections from this show, but I was so struck by the incredible string sample, taken from Marlena Shaw's version of California Soul, that I decided to accept such glorious serendipity and include it.

Another reason why this track shouldn't be here is that its subject is one of my bugbears: music about making music.  Authenticity seems to be the beef here as Gang Starr's MC, Guru checks out the competition and finds it wanting.  He speaks of "respect" for the form and as with the very best hip hop, he comes with a mission statement:
"Cos I'm chopping, punting punks just like footballs
Cos I'm gonna put y'all back in the mess hall.
To clean up the slop and stop all the bull crap
Your rap's crazy wack, so don't try to pull back.
You're lacking the vernacular, I'm slapping ya and capping ya
And closing your jaw, cos you can't mess with Gang Starr.
The cool, the premier, always going with blessed beats.
Dance ya ass off, Homes, check the technique."

Gauntlet thrown down emphatically!  In its final verse, the track goes on to curse those who have ended up bringing hip hop/rap to how it is widely perceived in the public eye today:
"It makes me violent, man, to see all these PMC wannabes
Making some cheese for dumb companies.
They've lots of money but no idea what is rap and what is rope.....

...I've got a brain cell so I can stay paid well."
(apologies for any misheard lyrics)

It's marvellous stuff which does full justice to its source material and throws genuine insight into the creative process.  Sadly, many of the things within the genre that Guru rages at here, have only got worse in the quarter of a century since he wrote this.

One of Ashford and Simpson's many finest moments.

Videos courtesy of Supa Graph (Gang Starr) and Gnaf Utopie (Shaw)

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Oliver: Katch 22 - Cynical World (21 December 1991)

This was one of my mixtape recommendations after reviewing the album, Diary of a Blackman Living in the Land of the Lost.  Many of Cynical World's concerns reflect those found within the album.  White hypocrisy ("You call me mate, but you hate what I stand for"); black inertia ("The black race.  We're so forgiving"); the limits that society places on black people, forcing them to become like sheep and which Hunt Killbury FiNN and co exhort them to fight against ("They arrest the body, but they can't detain your brain") and the abiding fear that it will be the black man in this society who gets the shit end of the wedge, every time ("They've got the handle and I've got the blade"). It all plays out over a horn refrain which Katch 22 never credited on the record, but which sounds like a ghoulish lift from a 50s U.S. Police TV series, just to top off the cynical, hard bitten world that Katch 22 suffer in and encourage us to confound, every day.

Video courtesy of LordInfamousYattaro.