Archive for 2012

Blaze / 25 Years Later

25yrs Later

Way back in the day there were no house albums. House Music I mean. This is obvious I guess – way back in the day there were no hip-hop albums either, more or less because there was no hip-hop.

It has to start somewhere (and please don’t tell me that hip-hop began in the cotton fields/with Cassius/Last Poets/chain-gangs/Africa-ca-ca-ca all of which were raised – plus more – in a forum discussion of recent: you know what I mean).

And so it was with House Music 1.

From 1986 there were singles galore – by mid 1988 you could almost say the planet was awash in jack. Next came compilations and there were hundreds. Jack This, Jack That, Jack’s Greatest Hits, Jack Went To London, Jack to the Underground, Jack on 45 and so on. The Germans were particularly ruthless in compiling every sonic fart recorded with an Roland 808 or 303 machine in Chicago or New York onto a shoddily pressed and overly compressed LP complete with the obligatory ”House Megamix” from some DMC hack remixer (Sanny X where are you?) on side four.

The first artist albums were slow to come and the earliest were just collections of singles with a few extra tracks added to fill it out – in the honoured industry tradition that played a big part in killing the album as a dominant format.

One of those was Fingers Inc.’s Another Side, a monumental long player despite its knocked together origins – but I’ll get to that in weeks or months to come as I find time.

Then came the DJ International albums – the long players built around the line of big club hits released by Tyree Cooper, Fast Eddie and – this one was actually very good but it’s forgotten – Joe Smooth. In New York Todd Terry‘s mutant slicing of hip-hop and house produced an album under each of his pseudonyms, but mostly they were still just singles padded out.

Then there was Ten City. And really they were the first. Produced by one of the new house wunderkids, Marshall Jefferson, the first Ten City singles arrived in 1988 from out of nowhere and they immediately added another dimension – almost a rupture if you will – to the raffish rawness that had defined house to that time, by adding house rhythms and production techniques to classic hamonised rhythm and blues that could draw a comfortable line back via groups like The Bluenotes, The Temptations and The Miracles to street corner doowop and gospel vocal ensembles like the Soul Stirrers and The Ravens. Their debut album, Foundation, in 1989 was the very first soul album to evolve from the House revolution.

And without being obvious in its on-the-sleeve it also seemed to draw from the classic garage and early pre-garage recordings that had exploded in the New York club scene in the 1970s and 1980s on labels like Prelude, Salsoul and West End (once again: read Jahsonic kids).

Which takes us to Blaze and the parallel sound of urban New Jersey.

Blaze, 1989

As Ten City were restating the vocal group Chicago, Blaze, formed in 1984, were doing the same on the US East Coast.

The early Blaze were a trio, releasing a quartet of singles for back-room indies in mid to late 1980s, and it’s this trio, Kevin Hedge, Josh Milan and Chris Herbert that we’re concerning ourselves with here (Herbert left after this album).

Of those early singles I absolutely loved – and still do – this one:

And then came 25 Years Later. On Motown – this at the tail end of the time when being signed to the soul label really, really meant something. PolyGram/Universal had still to turn it into the watery conduit for anything with a dark skin regardless of the quality of the product – it was a huge thing. Atlantic with their street-grit soul history made sense for Ten City, but no other major label had taken the plunge into house music or anything close.

And thus, for arguably the most soulful of the soulful and exquisitely produced of the early house acts, Motown was both significant and absolutely appropriate.

And Blaze delivered.

25 Years Later was both a thematic protest album (especially on the compact disc which had more tracks and interludes) built around urban black activism, and a celebration of Black musical heritage and musical consciousness of the 1970s and early 198os. It articulately fused together Marvin, Curtis, Sly, Gil and more with the new music and as a result was critically acclaimed by both the UK & European media who understood house music, and by the US Black media who were still utterly confused by it.

Sadly it sold nothing at all and was swiftly deleted by a staggering Motown in the midst of a swarm of corporate realignments and takeovers as Berry Gordy tried to get out, and by the time the dust settled and PolyGram owned the company Blaze had been dumped and Chris Herbert had departed taking his voice with him.

The other two carried on with the name and became one of the biggest house acts of the mid 1990s, and 2000s, although they were never again able to create an album like the wonderful 25 years Later – a long player that had a brief Japanese (of course) reissue in the 2000s and a couple of bootleg pressings but otherwise has been unavailable since the early ’90s in it’s released form.

Enjoy…

Lover Man:

All That I Should Know:

So Special:

http://youtu.be/nzmP_fJ_5vM

Gonna Make It Work:

Get Up:

Miss My Love:

And finally the glorious Timmy Regisford skanking 12” mix of We All Must Live Together:

 

All that Glitters….

Heh…

Rocky Horror Picture Show

The above is the publicity shot for the 1978 New Zealand showing of The Rocky Horror Picture show, which featured gilded UK glammer Gary Glitter as lead. On the right is Zero, my flatmate at the time (and still a close friend), also singer for aspiring Enzild punkatroids  The Suburban Reptiles, who were about to a) release the classic Saturday Night Stay At Home, and b) publicly fall apart with some acrimony. The Auckland afterparty was at our flat in Parnell.

Below, she’s in a series of shots taken by the Auckland Star’s photographer, (allegedly so the caption goes) putting on her make up for said show. As the artist formerly known as Jimmy Joy (or was it Lino Clone that week, Jim?) said on a prominent social network: I do like the way Zero starts her make up session – wearing make up.

Zero doing make up

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On a discovery day, Peter Darlington pointed me towards this wonderful EP. And in doing so he allowed me to work out whether the Bandcamp plugin finally worked – after weeks of muddling around trying to get the thing to gel with what is a pretty basic WordPress template.

It works – and so does this EP:

One of my all-time desert island (dancefloor) tunes reworked perfectly by Leftside Wobble:

[soundcloud url="http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/54589058" params="auto_play=false&player_type=artwork&color=ff7700" width="450" height="450" iframe="false" /]

As the first of an infrequent series of guest posts I asked my friend Peter Darlington to offer up a few words and sounds. The idea of these posts is that there is no idea – the writer has a free forum to say whatever they like about whatever they want as long as it relates to this blog’s loose theme: music.

The only curation offered by me is that the writers are people who I think have extraordinary musical taste. Thus…..

———–

Recently, my 17 year old son Tom and I have started a radio show on Nelson’s community station Fresh FM. The show is called Generation Beats and aims to join the musical dots between our generations. Our house has always been filled with music and for a long time my tastes have ventured towards funk, soul and reggae, including dub and various electronica. Tom’s tastes veer more towards big house, electro, drum and bass, and dubstep, but as he’s gone on his own musical journey he’s picking up on the musical roots buried inside the newer tunes he listens to.

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