I Have Twelve Inches


OK I’m lying a little here. I don’t have this as a vinyl 12″ because it came out in 1998 when the only people buying new vinyl were DJs. But I do have it on a CD and it is the extended mix so who cares about the format with a classic tune like this?

Presence was a project of British producer/DJ Charles Webster who released just the one album under that name, the excellent All Systems Gone. I first heard this track on a Norman Jay mix CD and was instantly blown away. I loved Deep House at the time and this is one of the finest examples of it. Dark and moody with a pulsing beat and a soulful vocal by the great Shara Nelson who you all know as the voice on Massive Attack’s “Unfinished Sympathy” amongst others.

Download: Sense Of Danger (Original Presence Mix) – Presence featuring Shara Nelson (mp3)

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I’m Brown and I’m Proud


Up to my tits in work this week so here’s a random great track for your listening pleasure.

“La Raza” from 1990 was one of the first Latin Rap hits and I’ve always loved it’s slinky and sexy groove. The title means “the race” and the words are a bragging celebration of Chicano culture in LA. Listening to it makes me want to cruise the barrio in a Lowrider.

Download: La Raza (Cantina Mix) – Kid Frost (mp3)

Soul II Soul II


Soul II Soul’s debut album Club Classics Vol. One was inescapable in London during the summer of 1989. Everyone I knew had a copy and it was playing in seemingly every shop I went in and blasting from every car. But even though their 1990 follow-up A New Decade also sold well (it got to #1) it didn’t seem to have the same ubiquity as the first one for some reason. It’s a slicker and more professional record but just as good I think.

Singer Caron Wheeler had left for a solo career after the first album so Jazzie B filled her shoes with a cast of guest vocalists. The group was always more of a collective anyway so the change wasn’t all that drastic. Featuring the vocal chords of Victoria Wilson-James (who later joined The Shamen), “A Dream’s A Dream” was the second single from the album and is one of my favourite Soul II Soul tracks. It’s shimmering groove has the same spacey quality that producer Nellee Hooper used with Massive Attack a couple of years later.

Download: A Dream’s A Dream (A Night At The Opera Mix) – Soul II Soul (mp3)

My Forbidden Lover


When this was a hit in 1992 there was a story going around that it was about Bryan Ferry because Hawkins had played in his band. That rumor must have been started by people who hadn’t looked too closely at the lyrics because the line “And I lay by the ocean making love to her” makes it clear she’s singing about her desire for another woman.

There have been lots of hits by gay people about their love lives (“Do You Really Want To Hurt Me” comes to mind) but the lyrics were always gender neutral or the meaning was couched in metaphor and double entendres. So I’ve been wondering if this is the first pop hit that is explicitly about a same-sex relationship. The original video of the song was even banned by MTV for being too erotic though it looks pretty tame now.

I don’t think it was that cool at the time but I always liked this record. One thing it does have in common with Bryan Ferry is the gleaming sophisto-pop sheen to the production.

Download: Damn, I Wish I Was Your Lover (album version) – Sophie B. Hawkins (mp3)

´╗┐Beats Over Easy


I love American diners. We’re lucky enough to have a classic-style one down the road from our house called The Deluxe Town Diner (above) where I often enjoy the corned beef hash and eggs or a tuna melt. It’s been there since 1947 and diners here appear to be surviving better than the traditional English greasy spoon cafe. Maybe the latter could learn from them and win back the punters by offering unlimited coffee (or tea) refills too. Having a waitress top up your coffee for free is one of the greatest things about America.

This track started life as a bootleg called “Oh Suzanne” put together in 1990 by British producers DNA that spliced a Suzanne Vega vocal over a Soul II Soul beat and was only intended to be played in clubs. But instead of suing them for copyright infringement, Vega’s record label decided to buy it and release it officially themselves. This was a wise move as it was a bigger hit than the original version.

Download: Tom’s Diner (Long Version) – DNA featuring Suzanne Vega (mp3)

Deee-Lightful


The other day I came across this terrific 1990 cover of Vogue Italia starring Lady Miss Kier of Deee-Lite. That led me to “waste” a chunk of the afternoon watching old videos of them on YouTube and remembering what a great band they were and how wonderful she was. Not only was she a hot bundle of sexiness with a unique sense of style, but she was also a great singer with tons of charisma.

I’ve always thought it was a shame their second album Infinity Within never sold that well. Though it might lack a big banger like “Groove Is In The Heart” it’s still chock full of great songs and a whole lot of multicolored, funky fun.

Download: Electric Shock – Deee-Lite (mp3)
Download: Thank You Everyday – Deee-Lite (mp3)