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Picks 10/21/12

October 21, 2012 Leave a comment

It had been a quiet week, but just as I was about go out and play a party a bunch of records fell in my lap. Digger’s luck.

– Pulled from a trip to Bagatelle (yo Steve!) and an order from Chemical Records.

James Mason – I Want Your Love (Rush Hour, 1984/2012) – Pick!

To any self respecting beat-head/record-nerd/true-dj/jazz-nut, the name James Mason will prick up ears and get digging fingers twitching. Mason’s jazz-funk (if you can even call it that) masterpiece Rhythm of Life is one of those records that when you find it, you will carry it to your grave. His amalgam of street funk, functional disco, and deep r&b with the sophistication and chops of a veteran jazzman is really unparalleled. Roy Ayers, Lonnie Liston Smith, Stevie Wonder, and Herbie Hancock are comparisons that you can reference, but they do little to reveal the singular vision of Mason’s work.

With that intro out of the way, it pains me to acknowledge the fact that I’ve put off buying this record for about 9 months now. Rush Hour did the universe a great service to reissue Mason’s other (lesser known) classic, I Want Your Love. Recorded as a label demo in 1984, the tracks collected dust until being reissued in ’96 and again in 2000 (both fetch quite a bit online nowadays). Here they are reissued along with an extended cut of “Nightgruv,” which offers an extra two minutes of hypnotic deep funk. The track is VERY Chicago sounding, and whether it was an influence upon the work of Virgo or Larry Heard is unknown but it could easily be mistaken for either of those godfathers of Chicago house. My pick is the title track, and at almost 10 minutes it moves slowly, gracefully, and ever so soulfully. The vocal is really wonderful, but DJs everywhere will love the instrumental section just past it where the guitar picking sparkles, the synths drip like molasses, and the congas dance as the vocals eventually creep back into the speakers with unbelievable anticipation and intensity. Fucking brilliant. Buy the vinyl immediately.

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Sade – Promise (CBS, 1985)
If you’ve spent any time with me recently you’ll know I’m obsessed with Sade right now. Like, wish I was 25 in ’85 so I can line up outside waiting for the latest record or concert ticket, but creepier yet, wait her to pop out of the studio so I can ask her to marry me. Mad obsessed. This is Sade’s second album, and is very much in the vein of Diamond Life. The tracks are post-Quiet Storm slow groovers with ample funky bass lines, organic percussion, elegantly restrained vocals, and an opaque bedroom sensibility. Tracks like “Never as Good as the First Time” or the track above would easily work for a lot of DJs and dancers, whereas songs like “Tar Baby” and “Mr. Wrong” are appropriately sensual and soulful, while remaining unique and fresh. For years I ignored the siren song of Sade, cluelessly satisfied with lumping the group into the smooth jazz category, but when you stop judging and start listening – this is when you start living.
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UBQ Project ft Kathy Summers – Volume II (House-N-Effect, 1991)
I walked into Bagatelle yesterday looking to quickly pick up a few gay-friendly cuts for a party and Steve pointed me to a fresh box of house 12s. A couple of weeks ago I logged about 20 hours within the span of a week going through a buy Steve had just put out, so I was really surprised when he said he something new. Most of the stuff I had, or didn’t care about but this is one of the few things I pulled for closer inspection. “When I Fell in Love” blew me away immediately. This is a deep deep DEEP jackin house track with a great subtle vocal. I really love the atmosphere, the synth tones, the vocals, the drum sounds… I really love this track. This style is being aped hard right now by a lot of modern house producers, and it actually reminds me a lot of Maya Jane Coles’ vocal work. The other pick on here is “Feel My Soul (Soulful Mix)” which has a wonderful rolling bass line, soulful ivories and a sweet smokey haze over everything. I also really love the execution of the percussion on this track; the claps hit hard, the hi hat drives me nuts, and the congas are played by a real live human. This is real house music y’all, no Haddaway bullshit here.
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N (Noir) – Lucy in the Sky With Pearls/VoxDub (Exploited/Black Jukebox, 2012)
Bigbigbig! I’m really happy I came across this tune, at first I was all about the vocal, but once I got the actual record I realized it is ALL about the dub. This is the kind of track that will start a party anywhere, anytime. It’s a really fun jackin R&B infused, Lucy Pearl sampling, throwback track with a bright tone, toe-tap percussion and plenty of sing-along hooks. “I wanna dance tonight/I wanna toast tonight/I’ll spend my money tonight/I wanna get freaky tonight.” Enough said.
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Gerry Read – All By Myself/What A Mess (4th Wave, 2011)
Gerry Read is a young cat from England making really thick, gritty, soulful house music in the style of Theo Parrish. In fact, I’m sure Read has a picture of the Three Chairs above his bed. Regardless, for fans of analog house bathed in reverb and filtered to a crunch will love all of Gerry Read’s output for the 4th Wave record label. He has this unquantifiable characteristic to his music that is supremely organic and human; it is flawed and it is messy, but is soulful and perhaps spiritual. “All By Myself” is the jam for me on here, it is dark and moody with a really great vocal, but properly functional despite all the grit to it. Please note that Read records live, punching in drum patterns, piano lines, vocals – he makes mistakes and keeps them in. This record is one of those things that I know is not for everybody (and in fact, probably not for many), but it hits just right and has really made an impression on me.
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Sade – Paradise (CBS, 1988)
Deep rumbling bass, funky bongos, thick atmosphere and Sade’s incredible voice. Extended 12″ mix for the win. Oh and how adorable does she look on the cover?
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Beenie Man – Turn Around/Version (Fat Eyes, 1995)
**PLEASE DO NOT LISTEN TO ON YOUR LAPTOP. GET HEADPHONES/SPEAKERS** I am very new to digital dancehall. I literally picked up my first 45 this year. I was always turned off by the cheap/cheesy sounds and seriously, “Sleng Teng” is really hard to wrap your head around the first time you hear it. With the help of Vybz Kartel/Dre Skull and the amazing David Rodigan RBMA Lecture, I finally began to understand the vibes. I searched around online for a long time trying to find the dub of this sub-par Beenie Man voicing, because really for me this 45 is ALL about the riddim. The riddim is quirky, with kinda 70s horror movie cheesy sounds, but carried by this madd sense of dread all over it. The subs really rumble here in that rolling ragga sort of way. I ripped the audio from my copy and uploaded it to my soundcloud for y’all. Who knows how long it’ll stay up, but download it and enjoy. And again, please don’t listen to this on your laptop, it really wont make any sense at all to you.