Thursday, March 01, 2007

Basement Crates: Classics Edition

Joanna Law: First Time Ever (City Beat, 1990)
St Etienne: Only Love Can Break Your Heart (Version) (Heavenly, 1990)
Public Enemy: Shut Em Down (Pete Rock remix) (Def Jam, 1991)
Urban Species feat. MC Solaar: Listen (Talkin' Loud, 1993)
The Memory Band: Catch As Catch Can (Hungry Hill, 2003)

In the grand tradition of my side of Landcroft House, (almost) all these records came out in the very early 90s which I'm increasingly beginning to see as some kind of golden age for me, a time when I liked the records I liked because I heard them in a club or in the shop or at parties round someone's house rather than liking them because they sound nice when you're trying to write, or you're commuting, or because someone on the end of the phone tells you really should listen because, honestly, it's really good! And it's release date coincides with your next issue!

Anyway, the Joanna Law track - an early attempt at, ahem, breakbeat folk - was a huge favourite of mine back in the days when summer evenings were spent in the back bars of Kingston pubs listening to Shuff and Tarby play PE, Lonnie Liston Smith, James Brown, Tribe, you know, all those people that only old people like. To most other ears it probably sounds like the lamest, most mannered piece of crap ever, but I loved it. I still do. That's her brother Simon - the only ginger part of the Soul II Soul collective - on the piano. I feel like I remember a video was made for this, but I might have imagined that.

The St Etienne tune is seriously old. It has, of course, since become a Copper Bottomed Classic and the Et' became a much loved pop group, but at the time this came out, they were as pie-eyed on rave tablets and as full of mad ideas as everyone else. Except most other people went to bed on their mad ideas and by the time they'd woken up and their head was back together the moment had passed. Well, not for this lot and this dub version remains a brilliant window on a way of thinking that doesn't really exist anymore.

Although the idea seemed a bit crazy at the time, Shut Em Down would prove to be Public Enemy's last truly remarkable single. A viciously anti-corporate blast, it retains a harsh, belligerent edge 16 years after its release. This is taken from a wonderfully ugly, white vinyl-N-die-cut sleeve UK Def Jam release. Pete Rock was, literally, the coolest person in the world at the time and this mix was everywhere for months after. It still gets me in the same way Fight The Power or Night Of The Living Bassheads do...

Look. I've got every single Talkin' Loud promo between 1990 and 1995 and I'm probably going to post quite a few of them, so get used to it. I find it incredible that a major label actually funded this - a stridently anti-war rap track with a live jazz group and a French rapper - how good must those drugs have been? Anyway, I imagine that this is about the uncoolest music in the world right now which means, in time, it will be the coolest thing ever. And then I'll be RICH! Rich, damn you!

The Memory Band is the only ringer having come out in 2003 (which, in itself, feels like a fairly long time ago already). I wanted to put in in here because it's a great link between the early 90s jazz-inflected post-rock that came right after - and was undeniably influenced by the sort of records Pete Rock and his crate-digging peers made - and, well, it's the sort of warmly psychedelic-toned British folk that - right here in 2007 - is enormously popular. Well, enormously popular with me anyway.



Ben said...

Ah, Joanna Law...
Summer 1992. A field in Wiltshire. Some Universe 'rave' or other. At 5am. Matt Black DJing.
And as dawn broke, Joanna Law mixes in and magically you could suddenly see the sunlit faces of those who had been dancing around you.
(NB: the memories of the moment are no doubt considerably more beautiful than the likely sweaty and deathly pallor of the actuality.)

The Mammary Gland said...

Pete Rock - absolute blooody genius. When we ran the stall in the glorious ealy 90s Mecca and The Soul Brother used to get played every week.

Rob said...

I feel a brotherly warmth flooding up my spine...

shortswiss said...

Hey man any chance you could possibly re-upload
Urban Species Talkin' Loud EP??

I'm after the listen instrumental on that but can't find it anywhere...