Here come those beats

•04/14/2019 • Leave a Comment

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It’s been a while since I posted a hip hop mix, so here’s a new one with a few tracks I’ve wanted to put together for a while. No particular theme this time, but as usual it’s mostly funky, old school tracks from the 80’s with a couple of 90’s tunes thrown in – and plenty of well-known samples.

The mix kicks off with EPMD looping Aretha, taking the main riff rather than the big break this time. Then Stetsasonic rework Across The Tracks (best dance record ever), and De La Soul take the bass line from Could You Be Loved that Mr George once told me it’d be sacrilege for us to sample. Along the way Lifer’s from Cal supply a track that includes possibly the best 20 seconds of hip hop you’ll hear. The De La Soul track uses a very dodgy Bob James loop, but 3:6 Philly instead pick the sublime Nautilus for their piece. The sound of UFOs sampled by the FBI is a bridge to the rap version of Genius of Love. Then there’s a bit of the only track from that first Beastie’s LP that ever really cut it  – I remember Wyn making that point at the time as their appeal faded rapidly (though have to say I’ve have warmed to them recently after reading the brilliant Beastie Boys Book – and of course 33% God is pure genius).

Next is some go-go, another track I’ve wanted to put in a mix for ages and one for all those who wondered where Public Enemy got the other break for Rebel Without A Pause. Then Jam Master Jay cuts up another Bob James track, Take Me to The Mardigras (aka “the bells”). Jekyll and Hyde return with Pumpkin, there’s another appearance for Coldcut’s first and greatest – still the best hip hop record to come out of the UK – and the mix comes full circle with first ever recorded rap record.

  1. I’m Housin’ (UK mix) – EPMD
  2. The Real Deal – Lifer’s Group
  3. DBC Let The Music Play – Stetsasonic
  4. Keepin’ The Faith (12″ UK mix) – De La Soul
  5. Straighten It Out – Pete Rock & CL Smooth
  6. The World Still Turns – 3:6 Philly
  7. Do The Right Thing – Redhead Kingpin & The FBI
  8. Genius Rap – Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde
  9. Hold It Now, Hit It (Instrumental) – The Beastie Boys
  10. I Like It – Trouble Funk
  11. Peter Piper (Instrumental) – Run DMC
  12. Here Comes That Beat – Pumpkin & The Profile All-Stars
  13. Say Kids What Time Is It? – Coldcut
  14. King Tim III (Personality Jock) – The Fatback Band

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Easy on Sunday mornings

•03/02/2019 • Leave a Comment

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I’ve spent a lot of Sunday mornings at car boot sales and flea markets, picking through piles of tat in search of vintage clothes, old electronics, furniture, and of course records. As kids we’d take bin liners with us to lug home our hoards. A few years later, fleets of us would show up hungover on bikes, competing to get there as early as possible for the good stuff. Occasionally the Turk and I would go straight from DJing, wandering through the aisles at 6 am, not having been to bed, beer cans in hand, slowly realizing that the other people drinking had been to bed and were simply alcoholics on their first of the day.

Rare grooves don’t show up at boot sales that often in the UK but there’s always loads of ‘easy listening’ – dodgy crooners, various men and their orchestras, hammond and moog covers – amid the discarded rock’n’pop dross. Easy listening became a thing in the 90’s with club nights like the Karminsky Experience, the release of compilations such as the Sound Gallery, and the realization that the guy behind The Champ also did the music for the Dave Allen Show and Milk Tray ads. We played the odd easy tune at Back On The Streets, but Bobby Champagne’s Sunday Social was where I played more of these, and Robin usually concluded the evening with John Keating’s crazy easy rendition of Jesus Christ Superstar.

The assortment below are pretty much all car boot finds. The mix starts with a latin Boca Loca favorite, followed by the track BBC radio used to count down the top 20. Next is a Chakachas cover our bootlegger friends put out as A Febre Do Mato (I think mine was the copy used to record the boot). Santana and Freddie Hubbard covers follow, more light vocals, then the moog power of Hugo Montenegro, which apparently inspired the music for the Pearl and Dean cinema ads.

hqdefaultA ton of TV/films themes show up on these records. Here we get a breakbeat Batman, a cover of Lalo Schiffrin’s classic Bullitt score that’s as good as the original (still gets my vote for best movie opening sequence), and an easy version of Quincy Jones’s great Mr Tibbs (the original is here). The NBC News theme is one of only a handful of 3/4 and 6/8 tunes I’ve played out (always fun to watch people try to figure out how to dance to those…). Then there’s some great drumming alongside Harry Stoneman, the music for that Cadbury’s Milk Tray advert and one for those who fancy doing a Torville and Dean in their living room (it wouldn’t be an easy listening mix without James Last).

Johnny Pearson returns for the pick of the bunch: the music used for Superstars in the UK and Monday Night Football here in the US. After a lipsmackinthirstquenching…coolfizzin Pepsi from the Hustlers, the mix segues into the same group’s version of Tequila, a track that features on a ton of easy listening records.

  1. Viva (Viva Tirado) – Johnny Pearson & The London Stereo 70 Orchestra
  2. At The Sign of The Swinging Cymbal – Brian Fahey & His Orchestra
  3. Jungle Fever – Big Jim H & His Men of Rhythm
  4. Evil Ways – Johnny Mathis
  5. First Light – Percy Faith & His Orchestra
  6. All I Can Do – The Carpenters
  7. Macarthur Park – Hugo Montenegro, His Orchestra & Voices
  8. Batman – Geoff Love & His Orchestra
  9. Theme from Bullitt – The Chaquito Big Band
  10. NBC Nightly News Theme – Henry Mancini
  11. Move In – Harry Stoneman
  12. Night Rider – Alan Hawkshaw
  13. Bolero – James Last
  14. Theme from They Call Me Mr Tibbs – The Chaquito Big Band
  15. Heavy Action – Johnny Pearson
  16. Shout About Pepsi – Dennis Wright & The Hustlers
  17. Tequila – Dennis Wright & The Hustlers

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Let No Man Put Asunder

•02/02/2019 • Leave a Comment

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Wedding receptions typically conjure up visions of mobile DJs playing dodgy pop tunes, getting requests for Abba not A.A.B.B and Coldplay rather than Coldcut, while grandma does the twist with the grandchildren, auntie starts a conga, and that friend of the family the parents demanded be invited leers at the bridesmaids. Hardly the Jazz Rooms or Back On the Streets…so not generally somewhere I fit in. Nevertheless I’ve DJ’d for a handful of friends’ weddings over the years, generally when it’s been a musical crowd or people who used to go to nights we did in the past.

I hadn’t DJ’d at a wedding for a while but played at two fairly recently – Love Lee‘s upstate and Rvrman‘s the other side of the pond – both great fun. Since a couple of people asked for a track list at the last one, I recorded a mix below* before putting the records back on the shelves.

Not really knowing the crowd, I’d taken music that would hopefully get people dancing and sound familiar, without them necessarily knowing the records. So there are a lot of covers (from the Beatles to John Williams), a few tracks that might ring bells (songs featured in movies or adverts), original versions of tracks sampled by other people (e.g. Beyonce), the odd mash-up, lesser known versions of songs (e.g. James Brown reprising Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag with a big band), along with some obvious favorites (Stevie, Bowie, Prince, etc.). If Jazz Jay can play the Grease 45 in Brooklyn, I can get away with it a wedding – and I wonder how many other people have played Grease, My Favorite Things and the theme from Star Wars in one set…

  1. Light My Fire – Stevie Wonder
  2. Why Did You Do It – Stretch
  3. You Haven’t Done Nothing – Stevie Wonder
  4. Golden Years – David Bowie
  5. Are You My Woman – The Chi-lites
  6. A Little Less Conversation – Elvis Presley
  7. Fever – Marie ‘Queenie’ Lyons
  8. Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag – James Brown & The Louis Bellson Orchestra
  9. What’d I Say – Ray Charles
  10. Favorite Things – Sergio Mendes
  11. Get Back – The Deidre Wilson Tabac
  12. Jumpin’ Jack Flash – Thelma Houston
  13. The Sunshine of Your Love – The Fifth Dimension
  14. Superstition – Sergio Mendes & Brasil 77
  15. Grease – Frankie Valli
  16. Billie Jean – Michael Jackson
  17. I Hear Music In The Streets – Unlimited Touch
  18. Standing On The Verge of Getting It On – Platinum Hook
  19. Holdin’ On – Tony Rallo & The Midnite Band
  20. 1999 – Prince
  21. Main Theme From Star Wars – Dave Matthews

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*Not everything fitted into this mix. So here are a few other things I played for those who asked: Gimme Shelter by Merry Clayton, K-Jee by the Nite-liters (the original of the MFSB cover featured in Saturday Night Fever), Sneakin’ by The Vibrations, I Believe In Miracles by The Jackson Sisters (heard here), Machine Gun by The Commodores, Outa-Space by Billy Preston (heard here), Dance To The Drummer’s Beat by Herman Kelly & Life (heard here), Happy by Pharrell Williams, Get Down Tonight by KC & The Sunshine Band, and Breathe & Don’t Stop (Michael Jackson vs Q-Tip mash-up). Inevitably I forgot to put that First Choice 12″ in my bag.

Jazz-Funk Carnival

•12/08/2018 • Leave a Comment

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Jazz-funk is a pretty broad genre, spanning everything from downtempo funky early 70’s cuts by jazz artists like Donald Byrd to uptempo early 80’s tracks that are pretty much disco. There’s less improvisation than jazz and typically more electronic keyboard/synth arrangements, making it softer than funk. There’s also a helluva lot of crap…but amongst the dross are some great tunes.

Snowboy draws a direct line from jazz-funk to acid jazz, and I guess some of the rediscovered ‘rare groove‘ tracks I first heard were jazz-funk. But it was hearing Lonnie Liston Smith’s Expansions on a Jamie Byng Chocolate City tape (thanks Stocks!) that really introduced me to the sound (as well as revealing where that Stetsasonic 12″ Justin and I played over and over got the hook from). We saw Lonnie live once (Town and Country Club I think – who else was there?). Then came Mizell-Brothers-produced Donald Byrd LPs, Roy Ayers gigs (once sat next to him in a pizza place), Columbia-period Herbie Hancock, etc. Paul introduced me to Atmosfear’s Dancing in Outerspace (source of a Stereo MCs sample), which is the jumping-off point for the mix below. I’ve put versions of it in several mixes before (MAW’s beefed-up mix, their amazing dub, and Francois K’s more subtle treatment) but this is the original I had long before getting those, as is Motivation (the Dimitri From Paris remix is here, and it was also looped by the Bucketheads).

Trip To Your Mind is a rare UK 12″ (sampled by Chubby Chunks here) and blends into a track everyone will know. The earlier Warner-period Earth, Wind & Fire is more my thing but it wouldn’t be a jazz-funk mix without Columbia-period EW&F. Next is Runnin’/Brazilian Rhyme, which I prefer to the slower Brazilian Rhyme on that LP (who was that girl I gave the Gazillion Rhyme 12″ to after Strawberry Fair one year?). The trumpet madness of Maynard Ferguson is one I got from the Turk, here edited especially for Gav 25 years after he complained about the ‘middle bit’ when I played it the first time we met.

The Charles Earland track is a departure from the earlier Prestige sound that inspired acid jazz and this was the soundtrack to my recent record room revamp. In The Middle is the flip to I Hear Music In The Streets (heard here), while Groovin’ You is the original for that “Bom, Bom, Bom, Bom, Bom, Bom, Bom, Bom” tune that was everywhere in the 90’s. The mix ends with a Bill Brewster favorite that’s surprisingly expensive on 12″.

  1. Dancing in Outerspace – Atmosfear
  2. Motivation – Atmosfear
  3. Trip To Your Mind – Hudson People
  4. Jazz Carnival – Azymuth
  5. Biyo – Earth, Wind and Fire
  6. Runnin’/Brazilian Rhyme – Earth, Wind and Fire
  7. The Fly – Maynard Ferguson
  8. Good Question – Charles Earland
  9. In The Middle – Unlimited Touch
  10. Groovin’ You – Harvey Mason
  11. Once I’ve Been There – Norman Connors

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1980’s: Soho Stories

•10/07/2018 • Leave a Comment

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Somewhere I have a Sound of New York record that’s called simply “Punk 1980’s”. The 1980’s conjures up a different picture for me for though: Ray-Ban Wayfarers and Matinique T-shirts, walking down Dean Street, eating at the original Pizza Express in Soho Square, Bacardi adverts, cocktails at Fred’s and Golf GTIs playing music you might hear on the way to The Wag rather than at it – poppier sounds like Grace Jones and Trevor Horn productions as opposed to Hip Hop and rare groove – and coffee shops full of pretentious music video producers like Keith Allen’s character in The Yob.

Much of the music in this imaginary soundtrack (reality of course was much drearier) is from 12″ singles. Although these first appeared in the 70’s, they came into their own in the 80’s with regular punters becoming interested in extended versions and remixes, not just DJs after louder pressings and dubs. As skint teenagers, Raj, Wayne and I had a system: buy a 12″ at Our Price, record it onto a TDK SA-90 cassette (‘high-position chrome’), take the record back to a different store claiming it was an unwanted gift, exchange for another 12″, then repeat (the Sledgehammer 12″ here was the culmination of one such chain). You tend not to hear these long versions much on iTunes/streaming playlists so I thought I’d base a mix around some of them.

The mix features a lot of Grace Jones. Her Sly & Robbie period really defined the best of the 80’s sound for me, and the Libertango rework featured in that great 80’s movie Frantic. Working Week, meanwhile, is classic 80’s jazz-pop. Guitarist Simon Booth would go on to be part of the Acid Jazz Alliance. He also did the soundtrack to another Comic Strip film, Supergrass, which coincidentally features a couple of tunes in this mix, most memorably Two Tribes accompanying Robbie Coltrane’s march down the pier.  The Sade track is one I used to infuriate Pearly with by putting on every time I walked into his room. After that Malcolm McLaren reinvents himself for the 80’s with a New Jersey DJ crew. But it was his producer, Trevor Horn, who was really “the man who invented the 80’s” and Horn’s behind the next three tracks.

Screen Shot 2018-10-06 at 8.44.23 AMThe single release of Paranoimia featured another 80’s icon, Max Headroom, but I never liked it as much as the LP version, so that’s used here. 1984’s 1984 provides a track that reminds me more of Nicky Horne on Channel 4 than O’Brien for some reason. Then the mix ends with long versions of Bowie and Prince tracks. U Got The Look was on permanent rotation in that basement flat in Westbourne Park – I can’t be sure but it was probably playing that night Wyn, Chloe, Jiva and I finished off the ‘lizard drink’ and Kamal ate the lizard…

  1. Private Life (dub mix) – Grace Jones
  2. I’ve Seen That Face Before (long version) – Grace Jones
  3. Venceremos – Working Week
  4. Slave To The Rhythm (blooded mix) – Grace Jones
  5. Paradise (extended remix) – Sade
  6. Buffalo Gals (special stereo scratch mix) – Malcolm McLaren & The World’s Famous Supreme Team
  7. Paranoimia (LP version) – The Art of Noise
  8. Two Tribes (carnage mix) – Frankie Goes to Hollywood
  9. Doubleplusgood – Eurythmics
  10. Let’s Dance (long version) – David Bowie
  11. U Got The Look (long look version) – Prince

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Sampling bias

•08/18/2018 • 1 Comment

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Samples feature in most records I like that were made after the mid-80s – Brian Eno probably had it right when he said the arrival of tools like the sampler meant judgment replaced skill in music. But some tracks remain so close to the things they sample they almost feel like remixes, and trainspotters record collectors can be a bit snobbish about these, always claiming ‘the original’ is better (I’m very guilty of this, once doing a whole tape for Ian (H) to make the point). Often it’s just not true though; some of the tracks are great. As DJ Paul Darkin once said, “I don’t care, I prefer S’Express [to Rose Royce’s Is It Love You’re After – heard here]”.

The mix below is based around a bunch of records like this. It starts with a record I got from Dan (W): The Bucketheads, a Kenny “Dope” Gonzalez alias that samples Atmosfear’s Anticipation (another version of this can be heard here). Next Joey Negro beefs up Dexter Wanzel’s Devonshire Arms floor filler Life On Mars (heard and sampled here). Back to home base, the Idjut Boys’ Dan Tyler loops the Wiz, before van Morrison gets the remix treatment (little more than some extra congas and a kick drum), which sounded great at Le Colonial in San Francisco that time with Tony.

I’ve no idea what sample Bobby Hughes used for Sambortica (which first showed up on a McDisco tape) but would love to know. In the next track, Ashley Beedle sticks a trumpet on Cameo’s The Sound Table (the original’s in this mix). After a couple of fillers that include a brilliant Joey Negro track, Jestofunk loops what I think is Billy Preston tune alongside Colonel Abrams – another one played incessantly by Paul in Pantonville. Then there’s the other side of The Bucketheads, which was the one most people (including Dan) bought it for.

The mix ends with a white label Tim gave me. It makes the best of Voyage’s Scotch Machine. Thankfully removing the bagpipes, it’s the perfect example of a track that’s way better than the original it samples.

  1. I Wanna Know – The Bucketheads
  2. Get Down Tonight – The Men From Mars
  3. No Sleep ‘Til Green Street – Rev. Nathan D-Troit
  4. Workin’- Street Choir
  5. Sambortica – The Bobby Hughes Experience
  6. Ricano Sunspots – Ashley Beedle & Phil Asher
  7. Fly By Night – Joey Negro
  8. Wishing You Were Here (Joey Negro mix) – Blaze
  9. Say It Again – Jestofunk
  10. These Sounds Fall Into My Mind – The Bucketheads
  11. Unknown w/l – Waxploitation

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Disco Airlines

•05/28/2018 • Leave a Comment

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Listening to an old interview with Eric B on the Combat Jack (RIP) radio show prompted me to put together another disco mix. Apparently Frisco Disco was the first record he played when getting his break as a DJ in Queens; so that classic break kicks off the mix and gives it its title. From air travel to space travel, next up is a spacey Salsoul cut with great percussion and production. East Harlem Bus Stop is also heavy on percussion but more raw, earlier disco. Then it’s back to Salsoul and a couple more tracks that sit somewhere between jazz-funk, funk and disco (you can watch the Soul Train dancers show you how to “get yourself together” to Movin’). Next is the prelude to Relight My Fire, which I never liked so get out in time via the same riff in a Began Cekic production.

Three much more well known tracks follow: Spanish Hustle was a favorite at the Positively 4th Street parties; as I said in my earlier long post on disco, Can You Feel The Force was the soundtrack to trips down the A4 with the JAC; and Le Freak’s one everyone’s heard (probably too often but the bridge is still great). It was originally called “Fuck You!” by Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards, who composed it after being turned away from Studio 54 – many of us have said the same thing when asked to play it [right El Grito?]. Staying with freaks, the mix ends with a more raw and rarer number on Sound Of New York.

        1. Frisco Disco – Eastside Connection
        2. Into The Milky Way – Jimmy Briscoe and The Beavers
        3. Let’s Get It On – East Harlem Bus Stop
        4. Getaway – The Salsoul Orchestra
        5. Express – BT Express
        6. Movin’ – Brass Construction Band
        7. Vertigo – Dan Hartman
        8. Let’s Get Horny – Hi Voltage
        9. The Spanish Hustle – The Fatback Band
        10. Can You Feel The Force – The Real Thing
        11. Le Freak – Chic
        12. Dance Freak – Chain Reaction

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