Archive for the Punk Funk Category

FUNKY NASSAU : THE COMPASS POINT STORY

Posted in Compilations, Post Punk, Punk Funk, Soul/Disco on June 23, 2008 by bangtheparty

On the surface, this compilation is intended to be a broad rundown of a specific studio’s output– that of Compass Point, the Bahamian outpost established by Island Records founder Chris Blackwell and manned by a who’s who of reggae session players including the ace production team/rhythm section of Sly & Robbie. But it might as well be a symposium on the polyglot tendencies that made the dance underground of the first half of the 1980s so unpredictably rich in ideas. Name a genre that either established itself or peaked in the late 70s or early 80s– electro-funk, disco, reggae, dub, post-punk, old-school hip-hop– and it’s represented in the music on this compilation, rarely without being comfortably fused to another genre to spectacular effect.

The most well-known cuts on Funky Nassau: The Compass Point Story 1980-1986 might as well be shorthand for this type of fusion– Tom Tom Club’s chirpy, blissed-out Caribbean/new wave/rap pastiche “Genius of Love”, Talking Heads’ jittery Afrobeat-inflected digital rave-up “Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On)”, and an extended version of Ian Dury’s BBC-banned “Spasticus Autisticus”, which retorted to Britain’s patronizing declaration of 1981 as “Year of the Disabled” with Spartacus-lifted shouts of solidarity, bitingly arch lyrics (“So place your hard-earned peanuts in my tin/ And thank the creator you’re not in the state I’m in”) and a vertigo-inducing bass/synth interplay. There’s just one baffling decision in the famous names department– instead of something from the superb Nightclubbing, Grace Jones’ tenure at Compass Point is represented by the digital reggae of “My Jamaican Guy”, and the combination of her flat singing and the gradual tedium of its seven-minute extended mix makes for an unexciting way to open the compilation.

But Funky Nassau gets better in a hurry, thanks not just to the usual post-punk suspects but also due to the fringe artists, obscurities, and ostensible novelty records (emphasis on novel) that fill out the bulk of the collection. There are two tracks that, thanks largely to house music pioneer François Kevorkian, prove to be the collection’s most surprising highlights. Cuban-born Guy Cuevas’ 1982 France-exclusive “Obsession” piles glimmering keyboards on top of a Bernard Edwards-caliber bassline and comes up with a late-disco gem that sounds triangulated between Havana, Paris, and NYC. And the Kevorkian mix of “Dance Sucker”, the 1983 debut single from Scottish obscurities Set the Tone, sounds like a uprocker’s take on a circa-1988 Nine Inch Nails demo, with a lead singer belting out sneering Reznor-isms (and the occasional Nic Offer-ism) over a packed wall of electro.

Where most of the tracks on Funky Nassau breathe free with loose-jointed smoothness, disco deconstructionist Cristina’s “You Rented a Space” is a claustrophobic slab of electronic dub where the percolating bass and the staggering but sure-footed rhythms practically corner you in a hallway and breathe down your neck. (Cristina’s decadently sly voice knows better, and aims directly at your inner ear: “Your lovin’ is as cold as the cold clasp of death.”) And then there’s Bits & Pieces– basically Sly & Robbie working under an alias- – cranking out a playful but heavy cover of Yarbrough & Peoples’ 1980 hit “Don’t Stop the Music”, replicating its fuzzed-out synth-funk faithfully but throwing in a subtle reggae backbeat and, for kicks, a few likeably daft rap lyrics about hairstyles. The Compass Point sound proved that the sound of the Caribbean could cover just about anywhere– and, at the same time, helped create music that couldn’t have come from anywhere else.

click below to listen

GUY CUEVAS – Obsession

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SAL PRINCIPATO ie LIQUID LIQUID ( redbull academy interview )

Posted in Interviews, Punk Funk, SAL PRINCIPATO (LIQUIDx2) on June 3, 2008 by bangtheparty

MA: »Ladies and Gentlemen of the Red Bull Music Academy, Cape Town 2003, term two, this here is the video for a song you might know or you might have heard referenced at other places. It’s a song called ‘Cavern‘ by a group called Liquid Liquid. I have a core member of Liquid Liquid here on the couch today. So everybody, please welcome Sal Principato. Why don’t you grab that microphone and tell them who did this video?«

Sal Principato: »Alright, this video actually was done in 1927 by an animator called Oskar Fischinger and I don’t know if you know the history of animation. He was the guy behind the concept of ‘Fantasia’. [Walt] Disney’s ‘Fantasia’ and this video is called ‘When The World Got Drunk’. One of the guys from Liquid Liquid went out to L.A., California, to talk to his widow, like his 100 years old widow, to get the permission to use this for ‘Cavern’. She gave us [the permission], so it’s all straight up. And we are streaming it off the web, that’s why the sound and everything is a little twisted.«

RBMA: »Was this video ever released to television or video channels?«

Sal Principato: »Yeah, MTV did it a bunch [of times]. And I forgot who it was, someone wanted to use it for commercial purposes. As I said, we got the permission to use it for promotional purposes, but not commercial purposes. We got stopped from doing that. It’s like, that’s it whenever you create anything, whenever you put anything out there, you better check all your legal stuff to make sure that you not giving all away. Signing all your rights for all your life, only getting limited use. You know, we only got limited use of the video and it’s kind of stopping us from distributing it further out there.«

RBMA: »It’s understandable though, since it is someone else’s video work.«

Sal Principato: »Absolutely. You know, we pay for it, too. We pay for using it. And I mean, if I was his widow, this Oskar’s [Fischinger] widow, I would say: ‘Hey look, a whole new generation could be exposed to his work.’ I mean, it works both ways. Which we can talk about: people using ‘Cavern’, about samples.«

RBMA: »It’s funny that we are talking about that. Particularly with this song. Let’s actually switch the audio to a full res[olution] version. So this song ended up on WBLS?«

Sal Principato: »Yeah, WBLS. All the urban contemporary stations in New York at the time. And also in the heavy duty dance clubs back in the early 80’s in New York: the Paradise Garage, the Fun House, the Roxy, Afrika Bambaataa, Larry Levan, you know, the dance scene there at that time was like very serious. People took their dances in the club scene very seriously. And somehow though we considered ourselves a rock band, it was actually the break dancing scene, the urban dance scene, that really embraced our stuff. And which lead to the sampling and everything else that followed.«

RBMA: »It’s actually kind of funny. When you hear this song, if you don’t know Liquid Liquid, you probably think of a song called ‘White Lines’, which actually takes a line from this song that, I believe is “slipping into another phenomenon” [, a line of Liquid Liquid’s ‘Cavern’], right?«

Sal Principato: »Yeah, right.«

RBMA: »…and turns into “something like a phenomenon”, which is a Hip Hop phrase you have heard years ago again and again. I think it was like two years ago that was a LL Cool J single. But, you know, that’s like the main refrain. But you’re actually listening to ‘White Lines’. It is not even by Grandmaster Flash, it was like Grandmaster Melle Mel and the Furious Five, or something. You know, it’s getting into a real grey area, nit-picking stuff. It’s not actually sampled in the version that’s on Sugarhill [Records], the Grandmaster version, because they had this band called Tackhead and I think that’s how they thought how they could get around the copyright stuff. You kind of couldn’t mess with Sugarhill, they had some mafia connections, to my knowledge.«

Sal Principato: »Who said that (laughing)?«

RBMA: »Rumors I’ve heard, things I’ve read (both smiling). Anyway, they had their band replaying that and actually you might want to know that band that replayed it. If you are listening to it, it’s definitely a crappier version as far as the production and whatnot. They lifted the tones up and I think they made it a little bit more like a radio version.«

Sal Principato: »Yeah, it’s more accessible, their version. I think it lacks a certain bottom.«

RBMA: »Yes. We should actually go back to the point of: how did this song cross over to this crowd. You know, this is pretty unique. It’s like a band coming from…? So let’s rewind to before there was ‘Liquid Liquid’.«

Sal Principato: »Basically, we come out of the Punk Rock scene of the 70’s. And an aesthetic of the Punk Rock thing was: whatever else you were doing, whether you were chef, whether you were a visual artist, whether you were an athlete, you seemed to form a band. You seemed to get into music. Music seemed to be the thing to express yourself through. It was very much a do-it-yourself aesthetic. You weren’t following any template.

Actually, you would pick up an instrument and start playing. And when you learned that instrument, you would put it down and pick up another one. Because knowing how to play an instrument really well, was not looked at as a good thing. Because it stands for creativity and innovation. So we come out of that aesthetic and then as we hit the 80’s, coming on and a whole new thing started coming into play.«

RBMA: »So the first Liquid Liquid record is actually, what? ‘Liquid Attack’ or something?«

Sal Principato: »No, no, it’s ‘Liquid Liquid’. I mean, I had a few manifestations self-produced like seven inch 45’s and stuff like that. When we were kind of a Punk band, we called ourselves Liquid Idiot and played CBGB’s back in the day and all that. But then we started getting the groove on, we started getting the big beat. Because the big beat was in the air. There was all this kind of innovation going on uptown, downtown. And that’s the other point, too: I mean, there was a convergence, there was a Hip Hop scene and a downtown Dance Rock scene. Back then everything seemed fresher and newer. (…). I don’t know if they were more open, but there was a feeling, that there was time to see what we can learn from each other.

But it wasn’t like this ‘big conscious thing’. People were just doing their thing. We were on the street. I mean, remember too, this was before the video age and that changed everything. Because that illustrated how things were supposed to be. Before then you would go and see a live show to see how things supposed to look. And how they’re supposed to feel. So there was a whole different texture. And it allowed you to be a little more quirky. People were a little more tolerant of your quirkyness. Mistakes weren’t bad. Mistakes were possibly a lot of people’s only spontaneous moments. So they were looked upon as interesting.«

RBMA: »It’s also important to think about it as the time before Hip Hop was really on record. The time of the Liquid Liquid records is just [when] the dawn of Hip Hop [was] coming onto record. You know, it had been maybe in parks, in nightclubs. But it actually hadn’t been solidified yet. It was much more of an open thing. So what was like the first Hip Hop stuff that you saw?«

Sal Principato: »First Hip Hop stuff I heard was Kurtis Blow’s ‘The Breaks’. We were really into that jam.«

RBMA: »Yeah!«

Sal Principato: »But the real thing that I loved so much, which really coloured my perception of Grandmaster Flash, eventually, you know, using our tracks, there was this track they had called ‘Supperrappin Nr. 2’. It’s played live. The Sugarhill house band played that, there were no samples in it. This was pre-sampling, too. Another thing: this is all pre-sampling, this is pre-video.

This is ancient history, really. But, they played this wicked, wicked groove. You had the five of them rapping over there. (starts to rap) “…introducing the crew, you got to see to believe, we are one, two, three, four, five MC’s (laughs)”. (…). We were feeling the warmth [of Hip Hop]. There was a warmth in the music, too. In 1982 we tried to do this show. It was…what’s his name? He produced some of the Beastie Boys and Johnny Cash?«

RBMA: »Oh, Rick Rubin.«

Sal Principato: »Ah, Rick Rubin, all right. Rick Rubin was a student at the NYU at the time. And he comes to our manager. We had this underground label called 99 Records on McDougall Street in the village. And we had this guy, Ed Bahlman; he was a producer and everything like that. And he had a record shop. He was the hip underground guy at that time. And Rick Rubin goes to Ed, he says: “I want to put on a show, I want to do something with your acts.” And so we came up with this concept, uptown meets downtown, we had the Treacherous Three, (rapping) “Rock the body body, Rock the body body.” They had that jam at the time.

And we had this Punk hardcore band at this time and we had Liquid Liquid, which was like the groove music. The link, like the connection between hardcore Punk and Hip Hop that was going on. And we rented this hotel in midtown Manhattan, the Diplomat Hotel. Man, I was so psyched about this. It didn’t seem like no one ever did this. No one even thought about this stuff. That Hip Hop and Rock could get together and do something. Well, (laughs) it was a beautiful show, but it wasn’t as well attended, as we wanted it to be. And, at that time I got really discouraged. It was like ‘what the fuck!’, you know?

But it was the start of something. It was like the opening salve of that cross connection. But ultimately it wasn’t us who initiated it. Like I said. It was amazing. It was the DJ’s. It was Afrika Bambaataa, you know Afrika Islam, Larry Levan and a host of others. Some I know, some I don’t know. But our jam started appearing in master mixes and WBLS. And also our manager, too, going up to the offices of BLS net. That was the days of PLO [the Palestinian Liberation Front] was still in effect and stuff. But things started happening. It started appearing in very unlikely places.«

RBMA: »But let’s talk about coming right out of the Punk scene. What was it like when you first heard ‘Second Edition’?«

Sal Principato: »Yeah, you know, it’s interesting. Well, first see, that thing was in the air. It was not only that ‘Second Edition’; it was [P.I.L.] ‘Flowers Of Romance’, too. Let me first refer to ‘Flowers of Romance’. Because, at the time Liquid Liquid had songs, that were just drums. You know, drums, or drums and bells, drums and sticks. I always kind of looked at it [as if] we were just playing sticks and stones, basically. So anyway, we had this very minimalist percussive thing.

And then, I heard Public Image, doing like ‘flowers’ over that song. And then Adam Ant, all these people using the ‘Burundi’ beat from Africa and stuff like that. And it was like ‘damn!’ Right now we are with an underground New York label. These people had access. Same thing with David Byrne. He was doing all these experimentations. And it was all good. But it was like, how come these guys could get it out that fast? We’ve been working on this for three or four years and no one’s heard our shit. And these guys probably thought about it last week and they were already out there with that.’ And it was like ‘Aaaahhh!’ (laughs).«

RBMA: »Yeah, so the first Liquid Liquid record, it’s a…«

Sal Principato: »1980, that was. And that was before ‘Second Edition’.«

RBMA: »Really?«

Sal Principato: »Yes, it was.«

Participant: »You were saying that you consider yourselves a Rock band. And then you tracks attend on all the mixes and, you know? You had support from the breakers and stuff. Did you pen any songs after that at all for that scene or become influenced and start changing your stuff for that?«

Sal Principato: »No, no no. That’s against the rules, you know? You just do what you do from your heart. And when you are doing ‘heart’ music (points to his heart), you can’t be… Well, let me put it this way: the inspiration for a song or for any piece of art should solely come from within you, for you. Or just speaking to someone you love. But, when you go into the production stage of it, then you have to target your audience. That’s when you think of, you know: ‘who is it that is gonna possibly care about this and how should I present it to them?’

But the original spark of inspiration, your groove or your melody or your catchy vocal line, it’s just got to be for you or the one you love (points to his heart). There are no other considerations. Anything else is just commercialism, which is crap. In a certain respect, in an artistic sense. I don’t know, everybody is trying to make a living. If you are just trying to put [out] your product, fine. You could do it, the way you want. If you are trying to make art, it’s got to come from here (points to his heart again).«

RBMA: »Let’s check out some of the stuff.«

(music: Liquid Liquid ‘unknown title’)

Sal Principato: »Now, just by the way, this is recorded live in 1980 at this club called ‘Harass’. And that’s another interesting movement that started happening. Before that there was only, for a downtown Rock band, there was only CBGB’s and Max’s Kansas City to play at. And then, all of a sudden, these so-called Rock disco’s opened up. They were more based on like the Disco era.

With the mirror balls (waving his hand in circles) but they were playing edgy Rock music. A Certain Ratio or The Slits from England or all the New York bands. And this was recorded live in 1980 at that club Harass. We are now presently doing a studio version of this with the label DFA in New York. So we going to do a club mix of this now. But this one is just done on a little type one cassette, basically. All bells, all drums.«

RBMA: »What kind of percussion were you guys using? This is a group of four people?«

Sal Principato: »Yeah, that was four guys, making that noise. We were, in that song, it was a home made go-go bell. (singing) ‘Ding ding dong da ding ding dong’. There was an alarm bell. Like an alarm bell on a stand being tracked with a stick. And then there was Dennis playing a marimba. As you heard, like the ‘dancing skeleton’ sound and then there was just a trap drum.

So that’s an acoustic song. It got some club play back in the day. And back in the day, just like kind of now, there was electronic sequencing, which just started to come into fashion. And there was this kind of electro sound and stuff. So you would hear all these keyboard synthesizers and sequencers and stuff. And then in the distance you’d hear (singing) ‘bing bing bing, bing bing, boom’. And you’d hear our acoustic songs being played in a club. And I’d be amazed, but people just started dancing to it, you know.«

(music: Liquid Liquid ‘unknown title’)

RBMA: »On to the second record. Here is a studio record.«

Sal Principato: »Yeah, but the production of this is so flat (smiling). It’s unbelievable. We were just making it up as we went along, you know.«

RBMA: »How much of an influence was African music?«

Sal Principato: »Well, at that time we were absorbing all kinds of ‘roots’ music. Whenever we heard something rootsy or authentic, we got all excited about it. But I can’t say it was an influence, because rhythm is in all of us and we were just bringing our own rhythm. We weren’t trying to appropriate anybody else’s rhythm. Because, you know there was a little of that being done at that time.

People not digesting their influences and spitting them out. And I feel that at least when we were influenced by something, we totally digested it before we put it out there. So you could say: “Ok, they are pounding on drums, you know, African music, whatever.” But, that’s not an African rhythm.«

RBMA: »No, I hear it actually mostly in the bassline, I think of it kind of like ‘Juju’ at that time.«

Sal Principato: »Really? No, totally unselfconscious.«

RBMA: »This makes me want to jump up.«

Sal Principato: »Yeah, maybe we were listening to Sunny Ade’s ‘Jah Funmi’. (sings ‘Jah, Jah, Jah, Jah Funmi’).«

RBMA: »You were one of the first acts on 99 Records. This label came out of a record store?«

Sal Principato: »Yeah, like I said Ed Bahlman, he had a record store. And that time even his record store was a little bit revolutionary. Because at that time, you couldn’t go into a major record store and listen to what you were buying. You were just buying it and bring it home and see if you liked it or if you heard it before. And he had a thing where he would play records for the people, for the asking. And so for that time it was revolutionary or at least progressive, not revolutionary, progressive.

Let’s put it that way. So his first release was Glenn Branca. And Glenn Branca wrote guitar symphonies. He would have 14 guitarists doing these symphonies. And it was very intense music. And I don’t know why Ed started doing that, but that was his first release. Then there was the Bush Tetras, which was another downtown dance rock beat band, and then ESG, and then us. And then he formed an alliance, with some of the people in England like On-U Records, Adrian Sherwood, the Congos. He did a 12″ with the Congos, the Reggae group.«

RBMA: »Really?«

Sal Principato: »Yeah, yeah!«

RBMA: »But yeah, this ESG record gets produced by Martin Hannet, giving them the sound that’s and takes this really interesting young group of girls from the South Bronx.«

Sal Principato: »Yeah, they were three sisters, literally sisters from the south Bronx. The drummer, you couldn’t see her over her drumkit. I mean, they were like sixteen years old, between sixteen and nineteen years old. They have this little squeaky sound and stuff. It was sweet. It was really sweet.«

RBMA: »They told me that their mum bought them instruments to keep them off the streets in the south Bronx, to give them something else to do. And they were just listening to James Brown records and try to come up with a cooler rhythm than James Brown. It was their motivation to top James Brown.«

Sal Principato: »Yeah, we used to call it ‘Bubblegum Funk’. We did a show at Knitting Factory in March of this year. And it just went really well. It was really awesome and since then it was all these offers including electronic music festivals.«

RBMA: »And thanks to a crazy lady named Tinku, who had the energy to pull it together, she got Liquid Liquid and ESG at the right time for Detroit to see this. It was probably the most legendary moment of the Movement Festival this year. You had producers [from Detroit], that wouldn’t ever leave their home to go to a club or anything, standing around in the crowd, actually losing it, seeing four guys standing on stage, all hitting different rhythm instruments. Or when you had ESG, who in their current incarnation, had their younger cousins in the group?«

Sal Principato: »Now their children are playing in the group. They’re going to dress in spandex and all that shit.«

(both laughing)

RBMA: »It’s a family affair. Have you seen anything that captures the feeling of that time?«

Sal Principato: »Alright. I’ve heard things. It’s interesting enough; there is this whole raft of bands coming up now in New York, like The Rapture and stuff, which take the whole catalogue and the whole vocabulary that we used in the early 80ies. And they’ve updated it and they’ve swallowed it ‘hook, line and sinker’. Like, you’ll hear Pat from The Contortions on guitar, and you’ll hear Liquid Liquid percussion and you’ll hear ESG congas and stuff. But, you know, they evoke that purity, they really do. Just to hear that. ‘Cause, it’s just people doin’ it (smiles), you know, just doin’ it. That’s what reminds me of it.«

Participant: »I’ve been listening a bit to [music from] this era and I just wonder how James Chance and the Contortions kind of fit in. You haven’t talked much about them?«

Sal Principato: »He talked about No Wave. That was definitely with them and DNA, they were part of the No Wave movement. When I came to New York, I arrived in New York in 1979 from California. James Chance at Max’s Kansas City was the first show I ever saw. And he was walking on the tables, because they have big long tables, family style tables at Max’s Kansas City.

And you could walk right off the stage onto the tables. And James Chance walks off the stage and he was just kicking off everybody’s beer (stands up imitating him). ‘Off with those things’, you know. He was very wild, you know? But his thing was based on; he was like the ‘Punk James Brown’. He was trying to do a pretty selfconscious version of James Brown.«

RBMA: »James White and The Blacks

Sal Principato: »Yeah, James White and The Blacks. To a certain extent we were a self-contained unit. We weren’t trying to associate ourselves with anybody. And it’s only in retrospect, I think, that it all comes together. At the time it was just everybody doing their thing. And you didn’t really look at yourself as all that related to anybody else. You appreciated what they were doing.

But you said: “Well, that’s Arto Lindsay [guitarist of DNA] doing that and Fab 5 Freddy doing that and we are doing this.” But when you look back on the whole thing, you see a connection. There is a compilation that came out; Soul Jazz Records put out a compilation called ‘New York Noise‘, which has a pretty broad range of all [those styles]. I have it here.«

RBMA: »I would like to go from the times of these early 99 Records and go a little bit further than that to after the Hip Hop thing was stronger in New York. It seems, this record here is really focused, the ‘Optimo’ EP. It’s like a very focused record. There is one song, if you have never heard Liquid Liquid before, that one you just have to hear.«

(music: Liquid Liquid ‘Optimo’)

»That record right there is why I will always cite Liquid Liquid as a major influence.«

Sal Principato: »And just to keep reminding you: that was basically an acoustic song with an electric bass. That was the only electronic thing that had a plug in, in the whole song (smiles).«

RBMA: »It has so much energy and how did you guys, for instance, put together that kind of structure?«

Sal Principato: »Totally organic. I mean probably just sitting around, smoking all afternoon and got the groove going. And then we recorded it the next day and tried to imitate it. This lead to that. And this lead to the other thing. It’s just organic grooves.«

RBMA: »And what about the lyrics, the voice? It seems to me that the voice isn’t trying to tell you a story. It’s just trying to evoke imagery. Quick emotions.«

Sal Principato: »Well, you know the thing, what I consider a great vocalist is to be, is not someone who can sing in twelve octaves. But someone, where you can hear their voice, it opens up a vista. Just a texture of their voice gives you a whole view of life. But not by what they are saying, but just how it feels. And the other thing is, that even back, twenty years ago, it seems life is one big billboard or one big commercial.

Like everybody is trying to dictate your reality, giving you this complete package of how to feel, think, look at yourself, look at others. And so I thought literal meaning should be put in the background and just the pure texture of the voice should be brought out. And not to mention, at the time I was very impressed by Dub Reggae. And not necessarily on that song, but on certain other songs

I was just trying to do dub snippets. I listened to lots of Reggae music at that time and I liked the dub versions more than I liked the regular songs. I felt the vocals in the dub versions said more to me (points to his heart) than (sings) “Ladi da da, da da da.” I would rather hear: “La la la la la. Da da da da da (imitating an echo with his voice)”«

click below to listen

LIQUID LIQUID – Optimo

GRACE JONES

Posted in Boogie, GRACE JONES, Punk Funk, Soul/Disco on June 2, 2008 by bangtheparty

Born Grace Mendoza on May 19, 1952 in Spanishtown, Jamaica, West Indies. Grace and her twin brother Christian grew up in a large family of established politicians and preachers. Her grand-uncle was a Bishop and her father was a Preacher, who left the island for America while Grace was still a baby. The twins grew up loved and protected, and yet outsiders, in a melange of aunts, uncles, siblings, and cousins. It was a lonely experience.

When Christian and Grace were teenagers they moved to America, joining their father who was then preaching in Syracuse, New York. Grace who had grown up a virtual ‘wild child’, free to do as she pleased, found herself in a middle-class world of shopping centers and drive-ins, of schools and rules.

I never understood the rules,” she said. “I can’t behave. I don’t know how to.” She fought the system. She rebelled. She cursed. She wore Afros before they became fashionable, and she displayed her breasts long before nudity was acceptable undress. The locals regarded her as “a crazy girl.” Her report cards described her as “socially sick.”

“I WAS THE ONLY BLACK GIRL AT MY JUNIOR-HIGH SCHOOL. I HAD AN AFRO, A JAMAICAN ACCENT, I LOOKED REALLY OLD. I WAS ORIGINALLY TRAINING TO BE A TEACHER OF LANGUAGES. I SPEAK FRENCH, SPANISH, JAPANESE, ITALIAN AND GERMAN. WHEN I RAN INTO MY DRAMA TEACHER ALL THAT CHANGED.”

College couldn’t hold her for long and soon she ran off to Philadelphia where she studied in drama workshops. Then she ran off to New York and landed a spot with the renowned Wilhelmina Modeling Agency, and was soon modeling in Paris for Vogue and Elle.

In 1973 Grace got her first taste of acting when she landed the part of “Mary” in the Ossie Davis directed, “Gordon’s War.” While in Paris modeling, she landed another role as “Cuidy” in the 1975 french comedy “Let’s Make A Dirty Movie” (the American title).

Grace had been an underground, uncrowned “queen” for years before the “straight” world discovered her, she was the darling of the gay disco crowd. She haunted New York City’s day world of dance studios, salons, fashion shows, photo studios, and openings, and the night world of polysex bathhouses, private clubs and discos.

In the days when “Le Jardin” was the disco that ruled Manhattan, Grace Jones was it’s acknowledged queen. Night after night she ruled the dance floor, moving, dancing, creating. And every move she made, every step she took, was watched and studied, and copied a hundred times over.

By late 1976 Grace found that modeling no longer satisfied her, and since singing had always been one of her primary obsessions and with the emergence of discos and disco music, she decided on a career in music. She acquired a manager and press agent, and Tom Moulton, the acknowledged “master of the disco mix,” was hired to produce her first album. Tom brought in top notch people to help, “The Sweethearts Of Sigma Sound” did the backgrounds, while Vince Montana did vibes, conducting and arranging, the albums line-up also include Ron Kersey and Bobby Eli among it’s credits.

The first 12″ single released from the album “Portfolio,” raced up the club charts and immediately established Grace as a musical force to be reckoned with. “I Need A Man” dominated dance floors across the country in the summer of 1977. Her second 12″ single, the double-sided hit, “Sorry” and “That’s The Trouble,” which Grace co-wrote, helped cement her status in the disco community and propelled the sales of her album.

“I MADE MY DEBUT AT STUDIO FIFTY-FOUR, AT THEIR NEW YEARS EVE PARTY. I WAS THE FIRST ARTIST TO SING LIVE THERE.”

By 1978 Grace had met French artist Jean Paul Goude whom she would later marry and who would father Grace’s only child, a son. Goude an avant-garde artist would also be instrumental in guiding Grace through a number of career transitions. For her second album, “Fame,” Tom Moulton once again assembled the cream of the crop. This time John Davis (of Monster Orchestra fame) was brought in for arrangements. The first 12″ single was “Do Or Die” and once again Grace was in the Top Ten on club playlists. The second 12″ was “Fame” backed with the haunting “Am I Ever Gonna Fall In Love In New York City.” This album put Grace in a modern dance sound and introduced her to a much larger audience than her freshman effort. By this time Grace was a permanent fixture at Studio 54 when not touring or recording. She was often photographed frolicking with other celebs at New York’s most infamous disco.

1979 saw Grace in the movie “Army Of Lovers” (or a.k.a. “Revoulution Of The Perverts”). In this personal diary-style documentary of German Gay rights activist Von Praunheim’s sojourn in the U.S. Grace is seen writhing her way through “I Need A Man” at a rally and is sharply criticized for doing so by a Lesbian feminist.

Her next album only produced one 12″ single. “On Your Knees” did receive clubplay but at this point disco and Grace seemed to be going in different directions. Sales for 1979’s “Muse” were less than spectacular even though the album contained a fabulous medley. And despite critics and sales, Grace was just being Grace! This album was to be the final collaboration with Tom Moulton. Album graphics and pictures were once again by Richard Bernstein, who had done the previous two. Arrangements were by Thor Baldursson and John Davis and the background vocals included Phil Hurtt and Ron Tyson.

By 1980 the relationship between Jones and Goude firmly intertwined, Grace and Jean Paul reinvented her image and sound. For the album “Warm Leatherette” they chose producers Alex Sadkin and Chris Blackwell. This was the beginning of the Compass Point Sessions and the new “Sly & Robbie” reggae flavored sound that Grace would become most famously linked to. Three 12″ singles were released from the album, a remake of the Motown classic “The Hunter Gets Captured By The Game,” the Bryan Ferry penned “Love Is The Drug,” and the title track “Warm Leatherette.” This album marked a direct effort towards the bastardization of reggae and rock. The results were stunning! Grace now appealed to the emerging punk devotees as well as retaining her loyal gay following. The album was released with two different covers.

1981 brought Grace back to the movies with a role as “slick’s girlfriend” in “Deadly Venegance.” The movie was a financial bomb, but Grace’s biggest success was just around the corner. For her second Nassau, Bahamas recorded album, “Nightclubbing,” Grace wrote a little number that would eventually become her biggest hit ever. The first 12″ was “Pull Up To My Bumper.” That song became one of the top club hits of the year and is without a doubt her biggest to date.

The other 12″ singles from the album were: “Feel Up,” “Walking In The Rain” and a cover of Sting’s “Demolition Man.” There’s no doubt that the success of this album was propelled by the Disconet Remix of “Pull Up To The Bumper.” At this point music videos were just coming into their own with the start-up of MTV and Grace was on the cutting edge of it. She began making music videos with “Warm Leatherette” and for this album she did four of them.

1982 saw the last of The Compass Point Sessions being recorded with Sly, Robbie, Alex and Chris. For “Living My Life” Grace wrote or co-wrote all the songs save one (“The Apple Stretching”). This album was the most reggae flavored of the three she recorded with Blackwell and Sadkin. The 12″ singles from the album were: “Nipple To The Bottle” and “Cry Now, Laugh Later.” More music videos followed this release.

She received a Grammy nomination in 1983 for her video-only release “A One Man Show.” The video was a visual extravaganza encompassing all that is Grace….bizarre, eclectic, mesmerizing, hypnotic, beauty and style.

By 1984 Grace had attained enough notoriety to land a starring role in the big budget Arnold Schwarzenegger film “Conan The Destroyer” playing Zula. Her acting received unanimous praise and landed her the role of Mayday in the 1985 James Bond thriller “A View To A Kill.” Playing nemesis to Roger Moore alongside Christopher Walken.

Her album “Slave To The Rhythm” was a musical biography in 8 acts. Produced by Art Of Noise leader Trevor Horn, it took Grace in yet a whole new musical direction.The 1985 release had the title track on 12″ single and spawned the hugely successful video compilation “State Of Grace.” All videos were conceived and directed by Goude and showcase Grace’s striking visual presence. That same year a “greatest hits” of sorts was released. “Island Life” has three tracks from the Tom Moulton sessions but relies more heavily on the Blackwell/Sadkin sessions.

The momentum of the 1980’s continued with the starring role in 1986’s “Vamp” where Grace played modern day vampire Katrina. Her album that year was the Nile Rodgers produced “Inside Story.” The 12″ singles of “Crush” and “I’m Not Perfect (But I’m Perfect For You)” did extremely well but the killer track was “Victor Should Have Been A Jazz Musician.”

Her next movie, 1987’s “Straight To Hell” gave Grace a minor role in the Courtney Love dark comedy. The remainder of the year saw Grace concentrating on her acting with appearances in “Siesta” with Jodie Foster and Martin Sheen, and the Mick Jagger video of “Running Out Of Luck” as herself.

For most of 1988 Grace took time off to relax, enjoy her son, and reformulate her career strategy. She did make an appearance on “Pee Wee Herman’s Christmas Special” as herself. She also filmed her first television commercial. The automobile commercial featured some stunning visuals of Grace tearing across the desert, putting her well manicured foot to the pedal, and driving into her mouth. Part of the shot of her driving into her mouth was also used as the cover of her 1989 album “Bulletproof Heart”.

“Bulletproof Heart” was to be Grace’s last original full length album. The album lacked a certain cohesivness, perhaps due to the abundance of producers. David Cole & Robert Clivilles (C & C Music Factory) did some of the production and the album featured such notable guests as Diva Gray, Lani Groves, Vanesse Thomas, Jocelyn Brown and Martha Wash. The album produced two 12″ singles: “Love On Top Of Love” and “Amado Mio.”

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GRACE JONES -Pull Up To The Bumper

IAN DURY ( the upminster kid )

Posted in IAN DURY, Punk Funk, Soul/Disco on May 28, 2008 by bangtheparty

Kenwood House, the stately home on Hampstead Heath in north London, and a belter of a day. The sky is blue. The sun is hot. The grounds are lush and green. Babies in lacy sun bonnets sit up in their prams. Small children roll gigglingly down the inclines. A young couple neck greedily in the shade of a big tree. Ian Dury loves it here. Ian Dury, who now lives in Hampstead, comes here often. “It’s just so bloody gorgeous innit?” he sighs happily. “It’s just so English. It’s just so. . . who was that geezer? Coleridge?”

Ian Dury – inspirational pop figure, occasional playwright and actor – is big. Or maybe, I should say, gives the impression of being big. His lower body is actually very small, diminished by childhood polio, but his head and neck are huge. He looks part Oliver Reed, part Bill Sykes – or part Oliver Reed as Bill Sykes and part Bill Sykes’s dog, which, if I recall rightly, also had a small body and big head and may have been called Bull’s Eye.

He could look quite scary and would, were it not for the softening, humorous accessories, such as the Joan Collins-style sunglasses that he recently bought from a Rastafarian in a park for pounds 4. A man strolls past, out walking his two gorgeous Dalmatians. “Oi mate,” calls out Ian, “lovely bit a dog action you got going there!” It is idyllic here. It is brilliantly Coleridge. But I wonder, naturally, do heavenly days like this feel even more precious, once you know your time is running out? A cliche of a question, I know, but I’ve got a cliche for a mind sometimes and just can’t help myself. He says: “I just don’t think like that. It’s not in me nature. Do I ever get depressed? No. I only get hangovers. Ha! Ha! Shall we ‘ave a cuppa in the caff? And some crisps? I’m quite peckish, I think.”

In 1996, Ian Dury was diagnosed as having cancer of the colon. He underwent an operation, but then secondary tumours appeared on his liver. “When the specialist diagnosed it six months ago, I said: `What’s the worst scenario?’ He said: `Eight months.’ ”

Ian, I ask in my hopelessly clumsy way, how does it feel to know you are. . . um. . . dying? “Bloody irritating! But I haven’t shaken my fists at the moon, if that’s what you mean. I’m not that sort of a geezer. I’m 56 and mustn’t grumble. I’ve had a good crack, as they say.”

Do you ever feel sorry for yourself?

“No. Sorry for yourself is for wankers, innit?”

Any plans to become Cancer Spice?

“No! I don’t like the Spice Girls. I call it the Italia Conti School of Music. I prefer the All Saints. At least they make at an attempt at singing and move their arses right.”

There is, at the moment, no cure for such secondary liver tumours, although treatment can help prolong life, perhaps even keep the disease at bay for six, seven years. Ian is currently hooked up to a “Hickman Line” which feeds him drugs intravenously all day every day, and is not such a humorous accessory. The line consists of “this little chap ‘ere” (a pouch of chemicals, which he wears around his waist) and tubes that have been inserted directly into his chest. His biggest fear, he says, is that some mugger is going to think the pouch is a money bag, grab it and pull me lungs out.”

No, he’s not frightened of death, even though he doesn’t believe in God or any kind of afterlife. “There’s nothing beyond, if you ask me, but that’s alright. The human mind is such an amazing thing, that this life’s been enough for me.” I ask him what he thinks makes life worthwhile. “To love and be loved,” he replies, “and to watch me kids.” Being as cliched emotionally as I am intellectually, I find I get a bit choked up. Ian says no sympathy, please. “Look up sympathy in the dictionary,” he cries, “and you’ll find it comes between shit and syphilis, ha, ha!”

Ian Dury has always been a terrific one-off. Not just as a bloke, but also as a pop star. His music, a sort of cross between rock and music hall with immensely witty lyrics, has always been very much his own. He writes songs about having it off in the back of his Cortina with Nina who is more obscener than a seasoned-up hyena. He has, over the years, introduced us to Billericay Dickie, Plaistow Patricia, Clever Trevor (“knock me down wiv a fevva”), “Sex’n’Drugs’n’Rock’n Roll” and, of course, “Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick”, which shifted a million copies in the UK alone in January 1979.

Anyway, now reunited with his band The Blockheads, he has just bought out his first album for 17 years. “Why so long? Because I’m rubbish! For every good song, I write 20 bad ones I have to chuck away.” Mr Love Pants as the album is called, is as good and as cheeky as anything he’s done. There is an ode to a sandwich maker (Geraldine) that appears to exist purely for the pleasure of rhyming “inamorata” with a very cockney delivery of “dried tomato.” Plus there is the brilliant way Dury delivers them: Oliver Reed as Bill Sykes as Rex Harrison.

Certainly, Dury has always been more concerned with doing his own thing than being famous or rich. Money has never especially interested him, and most of it goes on medical care. He is being treated privately, yes. “I’m a socialist, but I didn’t want to go on no waiting list and become a dead socialist.” He reckons he must have spent pounds 50,000 to date. “I’m not terribly rich, but I’ve managed to so far. I might have to sell me Rembrandt, though.”

He could be a lot richer. Some years ago, Andrew Lloyd Webber asked him to adapt the lyrics for the musical Cats. “But I said no straight off. I hate Andrew Lloyd Webber. He’;s a wanker, isn’t he?” Well, he seems very popular, I say.

“Popular. Popular! Aqua are popular! But it don’t mean they’re any good. To be good, you have to be semi-popular, like me. Every time I hear `Don’t Cry For Me Argentina’ I feel sick, it’s so bad. He got Richard Stillgoe to do the lyrics in the end, who’s not as good as me. He made million sout of it. He’s crap, but he did ask the top man first!”

Dury can be quite horrid about people. Oasis are rubbish, too, he says. “They’re not very good and the music’s boring.” Shakespeare is boring. “I’m very good friends with Helen Mirren. She told me to read it ‘cos I’d love it. But I can’t see the point in it.” He detests opera. He is undecided about Philip Larkin. “I think I’d quite like him if he weren’t such a bitter, curmudgeonly old bastard.” You might, from this, take him to be a bitter, curmudgeonly old bastard himself, but he isn’t.

He just says these things because he’s not frightened of saying what he thinks. He actually strikes me as a very loveable bloke. And the cheerful acceptance of his illness is typical. He could be mean, angry and bitter. But isn’t because, possibly, the first bit of his life was so rotten he decided nothing would ever be as rotten. His mother, Peggy was the middle-class daughter of a doctor while his father, Billy, was a working-class bus driver turned chauffeur. Quite a dandy, by the sound of it. “He was very good looking. Very handsome, with a broken nose. He’d been a boxer once. My dad was quite something. He could fart the first line of God Save The Queen. I think he had a stomach ulcer. Certainly, he always had a lot of wind.”

His parents split shortly after Ian was born, then he contracted polio from, he thinks, a swimming pool in Southend. He was in bed for the best part of a year and, at the end, had a wasted left side. He says he didn’t mind when he was told he’d have to wear callipers. “When you’ve been encased in plaster for eight months, you don’t worry about something that’s going to help you walk.” He still wears them.

He was dispatched to a special school for the disabled in Sussex where, he says, a lot of sexual abuse went on. “A lot of the staff were pervs. No buggery, but a lot of enforced wanking.” In terms of his disability he wasn’t the worst-off, he says. “You know, there were kids with just fingers coming out their shoulders. Still, they played ping-pong. They were f***ing lunatics!” He was very bright, and got accepted at a grammar school where he was initially bullied. “These loony prefects called me Spastic Joe, so I grassed ’em up. I wasn’t having any of that.”

His first ambition was to become a painter so he went to art school in Walthamstow, where he did big paintings of either gangsters or naked ladies (“I was very interested in Trilby hats and tits”) and married a fellow student, Betty, by whom he had two children, Baxter and Jemima, now young adults. He was thrilled to become a dad. “When me old man died, I got two grand so me and Betty decided: “Right, we’ll buy a fridge and have a baby.”

His paintings were never successful commercially. “I spent 12 years not earning a crust, so I started doing music as a joke. I thought of a name, Kilburn and The High Roads, and then got a band together.” The band became Ian Dury and The Blockheads, who were to have their first big hit in 1977 with the punk anthem “Sex’n Drugs’n’Rock’n’Roll”.

Fame did not, as it happens, miss going to his head entirely. He and Betty divorced in 1985 mostly because, it seems, he could not resist women who pursued him. “I was 30-years-old and getting smothered in birds, smothered.” His leg has never put women off, he says. “I lost me virginity at 14 on Upminster common. Gorgeous it was.” He remained on good terms with Betty who died four years ago from, yes, cancer.

He has since married the sculptress Sophy Tilson, the daughter of the artist Joe Tilson, who is 23 years his junior. He now has two little sons – Albert, three, and Billy, one – who, he says, smell lovely. “Like chocolate and coconut.” No, they don’t know he’s ill. Yes, he does think about not being there to see who they grow into, but not morbidly. “They’ll be alright. They’ve got their mum.”

Anyway, he’s due for another scan this week, which will tell him the state of his tumours. As we part, two magpies flutter down. “Two for joy!” I exclaim in my clumsy way. “Perhaps the news won’t be that bad.” “Only if you believe in that sort of crap,” says Ian cheerfully. One of us might not be a cliched thinker. And I don’t think it’s me.

`Mr Love Pants’ is available for pounds 12.99 on Ian’s label, Ronnie Harris Records, which he named after his accountant because “I knew he’d take care of the business if I named it after ` im”.

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IAN DURY – Spasticus Autisticus

KONK

Posted in KONK, Punk Funk on May 28, 2008 by bangtheparty

With the rise of electroclash’s popularity in the last few years, the sounds of robotic disco-funk have been seducing fashionable nerds onto the dancefloor in record droves. And with the parallel surge of interest in the early 80s New York scenes, it’s a good time to discover Konk, an act that was born out of jazz, early hip-hop, and disco to create a fusion (certainly a dangerous word) of the better kind. Led by saxophonist Dana Vlcek, Konk channeled sounds ranging from the alien hooks of P-funk to the stilted grooves of krautrock through early-80s technology. Of course, a band with such a period-specific sound risks seems more silly than relevant 20 years later, but happily, Konk is both at once. It’s cheesy, for sure, but if you dig good times, then The Sound of Konk– a collection of their singles and LPs (such as Yo! and Jams)– is ready for action.

Like post-punk reference-point the Talking Heads, Konk apply the rhythms and melodies of Latin music within funk’s staccato pulse. But while the Talking Heads’ experimentation is contained in song forms, Konk maintain a funk-sprawl ideology in a system that foretells acid-jazz– a slew of solos and sections announce themselves unprovoked over shifting grooves, creating non-linear yet highly organized multi-part jams. With several layers of live and electronic percussion, Konk compel movement. You don’t need to dance to enjoy the music, but Konk won’t likely do much for you if you’re sitting still– driving, running, cooking, or partying are all recommended Konk-enhanced activities.

Konk’s integration of live instrumentation and electronic manipulation remains impressive, combining synthesized sounds that are still imperfect enough to sound human with musicians of precise virtuosity. While Konk is often lumped with fellow downtown experimentalists Glenn Branca (with whose ensemble Konk shared members) or ESG, the strongest link there is a shared interest in the deconstruction and reformation of musical elements, especially in live performance. Simultaneously, Konk shares just as much common ground with the proto-techno of The Art of Noise or Yello. Like these acts, plenty of gated snare drums and Max Headroom-style vocal manipulation keep the mood of Konk gleefully rooted in the 1980s, but Konk’s timeless horn section and airtight basslines save them from the fate of becoming a technological artifact.

The Sound of Konk begins with one of Konk’s most conventional tracks, instrumental “Baby Dee” (the bonus live version includes some excellent Kurtis Blow-style MCing). Delayed female vocals intertwine with a robotic male chorus in “What U Want”, before the song lets loose a prolonged rhythmic breakdown of drums and synth bass. “Love Attack” begins with a monologue highlighting various dangers of an oncoming love attack– such as when “some girls think a kiss is a contract”– segueing into a vocoded chant that could be taken from one of Senor Coconut’s Kraftwerk covers. “Soka La Moka” breaks up the relative rhythmic homogeneity of the album with a tumbling bongo beat and klezmer horns. To today’s ears, The Sound of Konk combines true dance pleasure and experimentation with the humor of the groovy whiteboy sound embodied/parodied by Gary Wilson.

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KONK – Baby Dee
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A CERTAIN RATIO (Tony Wilson’s Group?)

Posted in A CERTAIN RATIO, Punk Funk on March 9, 2008 by bangtheparty

A Certain

You sure don’t hear many people talking about A Certain Ratio these days, and it’s a shame. The Manchester six-piece was one of the first bands signed to the legendary Factory label, contemporaries to Joy Division/New Order, the Pop Group and more. They were a pioneering force in the post-punk dance movement, perhaps more so than any other band commonly associated with it. They toured with Talking Heads, who conveniently started to show some of the same influences shortly thereafter. And of course there’s the fact that they made some really excellent records.

Sextet is one of these. It’s a masterpiece, in fact—a mesmerizing blend of ethnic rhythms and ghostly production that really sounds like nothing else. Picture Chic covering Unknown Pleasures for a simplified starting point. But that doesn’t quite capture how alien sounding it actually is—it isn’t quite funk, but it is funky, full of slap bass, slashing guitar riffs and loads of percussion. It’s almost like looking at third-generation Xerox copy of funk—you can certainly recognize the original artifact in there, but the toner has made it all gray, detached and distorted, leaving you with an entirely new piece of art in its stead.

Propulsive opener “Lucinda” features the vocal talents of Martha Tilson (as does much of the rest of the album), and you can practically smell the pasty Britishness coming out of the speakers. She is quite possibly the polar opposite of the token soulful female vocalist, like Martha Wash kept in a dark basement for 40 days and 40 nights. It doesn’t stop her from trying, and in my view, succeeding in putting across the soul of the music. In fact, her voice is almost a perfect reflection of the music. You can see the soul in it, albeit through a fun house mirror. When she duets at various points throughout the album with the doom-voiced Simon Topping, the dourness is almost overpowering, and yet they seem to complement each other perfectly. Hey, peanut butter and chocolate probably sounded weird once upon a time as well. For his part, Martin Moscrop’s trumpet owes far more to Jon Hassell or 70s Miles than to any Motown or Philly horn charts.

As the record moves forward, the grooves become more and more otherworldly. “Knife Slits Water” features Tilson’s already-hollow voice run through treatments and all manner of echo effects for a truly individual construction that has a charm all its own. The fact that it was the single released from the album speaks volumes for where ACR were coming from. Elsewhere, the group take on (and suitably, wonderfully mangle and make their own) Latin, African, Brazilian, and Jamaican sounds and techniques for a propulsive mix that still manages to leave the listener off-balance, if not downright baffled. And through it all, impossibly, your feet will not stop moving. The bonus tracks (“Kether Hot Knives” and “Funuzekea”) take the grooves even further into leftfield, if you can imagine that.

ACR take the funk blueprint and add (or subtract) “something” to arrive at a totally fucked-up version of the original formula, and one gets the impression that they had no idea that it wasn’t right the whole time. Like they carved a square wheel, but somehow got it to roll and just went with it. To me, however, it’s that “something” that gets lost in the translation that makes Sextet so compelling. It’s fascinating in the way that one of those tiny “superdeformed” Japanese figures of Godzilla is. It looks like Godzilla, possesses all of the key attributes and physical characteristics, but you would never think that it was going to destroy Tokyo. You just hold it in the palm of your hand and marvel at the craft and ingenuity of it; the distortion is the key. Beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder.

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A CERTAIN RATIO – Gum

MAXIMUM JOY

Posted in MAXIMUM JOY, Punk Funk on March 9, 2008 by bangtheparty

Maximum Joy

Now that the “post-punk revival” has reached critical mass and we can safely declare it ever-so-over, it’s nice to know that as briefly as it lasted it managed to uncover a couple of great forgotten bands, and perhaps inspire the genesis of one or two new ones. Quite an accomplishment, really, when you consider that the transition from ‘edgy’ to ‘played-out’ occupied a little less time than a couple seasons of The O.C..

That might have something to do, of course, with our complete self-awareness, our up-to-the-millisecond cultural meta-criticism, and our inability to focus on anything for more than one or two… where was I? Oh, right. Welcome to the future—we were so over this whole post-punk thing before it even started. Well, good. So were Maximum Joy. In fact, to throw around the p-word (punk, not post) in the direction of this band is to miss the point entirely.

These guys (and gal) are about as punk rock as Herbie Hancock, King Tubby, Larry Levan and that naked chick who danced at all the Hawkwind shows. True, they sprung from the ashes of the semi-infamous Pop Group (which combined the confrontational aesthetic of punk rock with the avant-garde approach of Cabaret Voltaire and Throbbing Gristle), but the only thing they seemed to have taken with them was an utter disregard for the conventions of rock music and a working relationship with the Y Records label.

More rooted in jazz than rock, Maximum Joy delved into all forms of groove-based music, from reggae to afrobeat to post-Miles fusion to proto-disco and so on. Interestingly, and quite unusually for the times, they did so not in the manner of the Clash (who absorbed the same influences into a rock context), but as musical dilettantes who desired nothing more than to see this whole ‘funky’ thing through to its apotheosis, along the way embracing as many different styles as possible.

Despite being white kids from Brighton, Maximum Joy sounded a good deal more pre-disco Kool and the Gang than post-disco Gang of Four, like an 80’s indie version of a 70’s jazz-rock or 90’s jam band. But what sets Maximum Joy apart from the handful of bands (A Certain Ratio in the UK, Konk from New York, maybe one or two others) they could be musically or stylistically compared to was the sheer exuberance with which they created their music.

You would have to be a total Scrooge not to get a rise out of the positivism, freedom, and electricity of this band’s playing—coupled with utterly, well, joyous sentiments (“Get into it!”) and a completely non-ironic celebration of life. Remarkably, this happened during a time in which even the most crossover-friendly acts carried with them a certain weight, darkness, and cynicism—Maximum Joy took the expected negativity of the whole late 70’s indie music scene, answered it, inverted it, and blasted it back out onto a hotbed of funky rhythms, free-jazz rooted improvisation, and a spacious but exciting instrumental framework on which the sparse vocals ride but do not dominate.

Unlimited (1979-1983) marks the first time the music of this relentlessly obscure band has been available on CD. Included are the majority of their 7″ and 12″ single tracks as well as about half of their sole LP. The liner notes are terse but informative (they sadly lack a discography—the one on discogs is fairly complete), and although I am not familiar with the original recordings, the quality of the CD transfer sounds pretty outstanding to me.

Nearly every track on here is a winner, but “Stretch” is the standout amongst the harder funk jams, a minor classic in the early-eighties NYC dance underground. Janine Rainforth’s vocals (“Don’t say maybe / Call me yes!” / “Pulsate! Pulsate!”) demand rather than request your enjoyment over a skanky bass, accompanied by Tony Wrafter’s trumpet, which travels between horny horns-style riffing and bursts of pure skronk.

The LP track “Where’s Deke?” is probably my favorite amongst the moodier, more downtempo numbers—a densely populated dub landscape of city sound effects, echoed-out horns, and spooky walking basslines. When bringing in “world” music influences, as on the afro-carribean “Silent Street,” or the Dennis Bovell-produced reggae of “Man of Tribes,” Maximum Joy exhibit a stylistic freedom rare in similar British acts, many of whom exhibited such a stilted take on imported sounds that the end results were more often cod-reggae than not.

“Man of Tribes” in particular is a standout, not just because Bovell joins in on vocals, but because it also shows Maximum Joy in critical mode—”Money dreams / Give you heartache / Let money be / No part of you and me”—which, typically, they turn into a wake up call (“People everywhere / Open your eyes if you dare”). This leads nicely into the final tracks of the disc: the modern-world manifesto disguised as funky afrobeat of “All Wrapped Up!” (“Before they dump you on the street / They ought to give you sharper teeth”), followed by “Dancing on My Boomerang,” a sweet, genre-traversing instrumental that exists in the previously undiscovered grey area between Don Cherry, Duane Eddy and Bow Wow Wow.

One of the axioms of our current reassessment of the state of late 70’s/early 80’s independent rock is that the era was concerned with dissolving barriers between rock and other genres of music, that the cultural exchange rate was free-flowing from all sides and that the rulebook had, for all intents and purposes, been discarded. While mostly a load of crock, it just happens to hold true in a few isolated cases. Happily, this is one of them.

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MAXIMUM JOY – White And Green Place