Originally published April 2013
I didn’t have a bank account until I started college when I was 20. The jobs I’d had before then paid me cash (in those little brown envelopes nicely stuffed with notes) but I got a grant to go to college and I had to put the cheque somewhere. So I opened an account with NatWest who gave me one of those new-fangled cash cards that let me get money out of a hole in the wall anytime I wanted. Quite a radical idea at the time which meant you didn’t have to rush to the bank before 3pm on a Friday to make sure you had enough cash for the weekend.
But giving a student easy access to money is not a good idea and by the time I left college I had an overdraft of £300, most of which went on beer and records so it’s not as if I wasted it. It seems like a piddling amount now but the bank got a bit shitty about it during my final term and took my cheque book and cash card away from me. I had to go to my branch every time I wanted money and tell them what it was for. Saying “I need £40 because they’re having a sale at Our Price” wouldn’t have gone down too well so I had to use it for boring stuff like food. I guess they weren’t confident that I’d be a wealthy, world-famous graphic designer one day. Very wise of them.
I paid it off once I left college and got a job, but then the fools went and gave me a credit card. Uh-oh. Big trouble.
Here’s one of the records I spent my grant cheque on. Super dirty funk music from 1983.
Download: Cash (Cash Money) – Prince Charles & The City Beat Band (mp3)
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)
This record came out in 1985 right before House changed dance music completely and I’ve always thought of it as one of the last great old skool tracks. It was produced by legendary Disco knob-twiddler Patrick Adams so it really is like one of the last hurrahs of the previous generation.
Like me, it may be old skool but it’s still funky and fresh. That loping groove could go on forever far as I’m concerned.
Download: Thinking About Your Love (12″ Version) – Skipworth & Turner (mp3)
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)
“I only wanted something else to do but hang around”
Hard to pick a favourite single by a band as consistently great as PSB were in their pomp but this would at least be top three for me. Given a more punchy makeover from the version on their debut album this was their second Top Ten hit and the one that convinced me they might have something special.
They’ve always been good at the extended mixes and this spectacular nine-minute one is no exception.
Download: Suburbia (The Full Horror) – Pet Shop Boys (mp3)
One of the other guest vocalists on Soul II Soul’s 1990 second album was House diva Kym Mazelle on the sublime “Missing You”. The year before Mazelle had lent her big vocal chords to this brilliant single with (Dr.) Robert Howard of The Blow Monkeys. I’m not sure why it wasn’t credited to the band because after it was a hit it was added to their third album.
Apparently this was originally recorded with soul/jazz singer Sam Brown but her record company rejected it. I can’t imagine that it was better than this stonking House banger though.
Download: Wait! (Long version) – Robert Howard & Kym Mazelle (mp3)
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)
It’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day today and, given the current state of things, I think we could all do with something uplifting. Like this monster tune from 1989.
Download: Musical Freedom (Extended Freedom Mix) – Paul Simpson featuring Adeva (mp3)
Coati Mundi (not to be confused with the other one) was a member of Kid Creole & The Coconuts who had a 1981 solo hit in the UK with the great “Me No Pop I” the year before the band became stars there with the Tropical Gangsters album. Though it’s a fun novelty number the lyrics are actually quite a mean kiss-off to an unfaithful girlfriend: “When I came from the VD clinic, I thought our love was finished. How could you be so crude, Makin’ love to so many dudes.” Still funny though.
This is the 12″ version with “Que Pasa” at the start. Seven minutes of downtown Latin funk for your grooving pleasure.
Download: Que Pasa/Me No Pop I – Coati Mundi (mp3)
This record was the first time most people heard the powerful Manchester pipes of Lisa Stansfield. British sample wizards Coldcut had already made Yazz a star with their earlier single “Doctorin’ the House” and for their next trick they did the same for our Lisa in 1989 — though her career did miles better. She’d already made some records with the group Blue Zone before this without much chart luck, but the success of “People Hold On” encouraged her to go solo and her first single “All Around the World” was a monster smash.
This is what they call a real banger. A monster piano riff over a big House beat with a euphoric wave-your-hands-in-the-air chorus. It still gets me going — well it would if my hips and knees let me these days.
Download: People Hold On (Full Length Disco Mix) – Coldcut featuring Lisa Stansfield (mp3)
PS: Listening to this it occurred to me wonder why Adele hasn’t recorded a club banger like this. She clearly has the lungs for it — not to mention the big personality to be a proper Dancefloor Diva — but she just sticks with the same turgid sappy shite. What a waste.