Archive for the ‘Sampled’ Category

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Soul Brothers

June 1, 2016

Siblings in soul is, as Tom Jones might say, not that unusual. The Isley Brothers weren’t so-called for nothing, ditto the Family Stone, with Sly fronting a band including his brother Freddie and sister Rose.

Erma and Aretha Franklin both developed singing careers from a church background. Their father was a travelling preacher, a pop star in his own right who’d go from town to town raising hell with his fire and brimstone sermons before his daughters raised the roof with their pure gospel. Big sister Erma would go on to have a hit with ‘Take A Little Piece Of My Heart‘, but it was Aretha who went on to far greater success. You may have heard of her.

Then you had the Jackson Sisters and, no relations, a whole hairy-headed handful of brothers in the Jackson 5, who had expired long before Michael would climb the charts all over again, duetting with little sister Janet.

There are loads more, of course, but to acknowledge them all would turn this article into a listathon, and who wants that?

One of the more interesting musical family rivalries was that of the Butler brothers. Big brother Jerry was a songwriter chiefly, but a decent crooner in his own right. Like many of his ilk, he found his voice via gospel and actually ended up being the lead vocalist in the Curtis-free first line-up of The Impressions. Mayfield certainly made the bigger, er, impression, as Jerry and his voice were soon dispatched to make way for Curtis and his distinct vocals.

jerry butler

Most of Jerry Butler’s tracks never get out of 2nd gear; shiny-suited and highly pompadoured mid-paced mushy love songs that were expertly delivered, easy on the ear  and admired by many. To me, he’s a bit too wallpaper, ie, he’s there, but kinda in the background and unnoticed. This track from 1968’s ‘The Ice Man Cometh‘ LP though is a stone-cold classic.

Jerry ButlerNever Gonna Give You Up

Wee brother Billy on the other hand favoured up-tempo soul stompers. In an act of how-to-piss-off-your-brother-pettiness, his early material was produced by Curtis Mayfield. Loud, in your face, driving brass-led blasters were his speciality.

billy butler

In the mid 60s, Billy had a hit with ‘The Right Track‘, a dazzling slice of Temptations-inspired northern soul. You can take any meaning you fancy from the lyrics – ‘I’m gonna keep on steppin’, never lookin’ back, I believe I’m on the right track‘ could be the rallying cry of a manifesto-wielding civil rights supporter, but it could also be the rallying cry of the weekend mod and his pals, pilled-up and looking for a good night out. Take yer pick.

The Right Track‘ has it all; clipped guitar, blasting horns, a piano riff absolutely ripe for sampling and, with Billy outta the traps like a talcum-covered whippet, all over and done with in under 2 and a half explosive minutes.

Who disnae like this, eh?

Billy ButlerThe Right Track

northern soul dancers wigan casino 1975

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Toots Sweet

February 28, 2016

Last Saturday night I found myself in the unlikely position of DJing at a ska night for 500+ of the best-dressed gig goers in the country. Troon Town Hall was the venue, a town more in swing with the “Fore!” on the golf course than the “1 and 2 and 3 and 4” ryhthm of rocksteady, but Seaside Ska 2 as it was billed, following last years successful inaugural event, was terrific.

seaside ska

I’d love to tell you I was spinning vintage Trojan and Blue Beat 7″s all night, but in truth I was spinning the wheels of steel on my laptop, filling in between 4 of the best ska acts around by drawing on my decent collection of ska and reggae CDs that I’ve built up over the years. Soul Jazz‘s The Dynamite Series (100% Dynamite, 200% Dynamite etc) are a great resource for such a night and despite the lack of authentic snap, crackle and pop, my ska collection seemed to do the trick.

 ska djWhat to play for the Skins, the Rude Boys and the Guns ‘n Roses fan?

Many of the records were greeted with beery cries of recognition, groups of lads tunelessly bellowing out the brass line to all manner of Prince Buster, Byron Lee and Skatalites tracks. The highlight for me was between twin ska stalwarts The Amphetameanies and Esperanza’s sets when I played this;

Toots & The Maytals54-46 Is My Number

A quick pan across the room saw every head bobbing along to the rhythm. Desert ‘n Doc-booted feet tapped in time. One old skin in Ben Sherman and braces punched the air in barely concealed delight before losing himself in his own wee private version of the Moonstomp. Two Perry-clad rude girls girls with sweat-soaked sidies stuck fast to their cheekbones mirrored one another’s moves. Eveywhere else, people lost their inhibitions and cut loose. Being the person responsible for playing the tune, and by default the person responsible for creating this mass dance craze, it was quite the buzz. Almost enough to make me fling both my arms in the air with giddy abandon and holler “Superstar DJ!!!” Almost. But not quite.

toots maytals

54-46 Is My Number is a primo slice of late 60s rocksteady. Written about the time Toots Hibbert was caught in a sting operation and jailed for marijuana possession, it rolls along, infectious and catchy, like a Jamican Otis Redding. There’s the regular throat-clearing declaration, “Give it to me one time!” There’s that fantastic clipped guitar. And there’s a keyboard line that snakes in and out it like mercury. I can’t imagine anyone not liking this record.

toots 54 46

Bonus Tracks

Here‘s Toots & The Maytals skankin’ take on Louie Louie. Every bit as good as you’d expect.

And here‘s the Rebel MC with Street Tuff, a track that steals the bass line from 54-46, revs it up to 100mph and loops it ad infinitum, to now dated effect. “Is he a Yankee? No, I’ma Lundun-ah.”

toots yeah

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We Are 9

December 30, 2015

Somehow, some way, Plain Or Pan has turned 9. Or, to be more accurate, is just about to turn 9. But at this time of year, when you can never be entirely sure if it’s Sunday morning or Thursday night and inspiration goes out the window along with routine and work ethic, it’s tradition that I fill the gap between Christmas and Hogmany with a potted ‘Best Of‘ the year compilation, so I’ve always made this period in time the unofficial birthday for the blog.

i am nine

Not that anyone but myself should care really; blogs come and go with alarming regularity and I’ve steadfastly refused to move with the times (no new acts here, no cutting edge hep cats who’ll be tomorrow’s chip paper, just tried ‘n tested old stuff that you may or may not have heard before – Outdated Music For Outdated People, as the tagline goes.) But it’s something of a personal achievement that I continue to fire my wee articles of trivia and metaphorical mirth out into the ether, and even more remarkable that people from all corners of the globe take the time out to visit the blog and read them. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you, one and all.

Since starting Plain Or Pan in January 2007, the articles have become less frequent but more wordy – I may have fired out a million alliterative paragraphs in the first year, whereas nowadays I have less time to write stuff and when I do, it takes me three times as long to write it. To use an analogy, I used to be The Ramones, (1! 2! 3! 4! Go!) but I’ve gradually turned into Radiohead; (Hmmm, ehmm, scratch my arse…) Without intending it, there are longer gaps between ‘albums’ and I’ve become more serious about my ‘art’. Maybe it’s time to get back to writing the short, sharp stuff again. Maybe I’ll find the time. Probably I won’t.

The past 9 years have allowed me the chance to interview people who I never would’ve got close to without the flimsy excuse that I was writing a blog that attracted in excess of 1000 visitors a day (at one time it was, but I suspect Google’s analytics may well have been a bit iffy.) Nowadays, it’s nowhere near that, but I still enthusiastically trot out the same old line when trying to land a big name to feature. Through Plain Or Pan I’ve met (physically, electronically or both) all manner of interesting musical and literary favourites; Sandie Shaw, Johnny Marr, Ian Rankin, Gerry Love, the odd Super Furry Animal. Quite amazing when I stop to think about it. You should see the list of those who’ve said they’ll contribute then haven’t. I won’t name them, but there are one or two who would’ve made great Six Of the Best articles. I’m not Mojo, though, so what can I expect?

pop9

A quick trawl through my own analytics spat out the Top 24 downloaded/played tracks on the blog this year, two for each month:

  1. Michael MarraGreen Grow the Rashes
  2. Wallace CollectionDaydream
  3. Jacqueline TaiebSept Heures du Matin
  4. The TemptationsMessage From A Black Man
  5. New OrderTrue Faith
  6. Bobby ParkerWatch Your Step
  7. Jim FordI’m Gonna Make Her Love Me
  8. DorisYou Never Come Closer
  9. Ela OrleansDead Floor
  10. Mac De MarcoOde To Viceroy
  11. Teenage FanclubGod Knows It’s True
  12. Iggy PopNightclubbing
  13. George HarrisonWah Wah
  14. MagazineThank You Falletinme Be Mice Elf Again
  15. Future Sound Of LondonPapua New Guinea
  16. Bob DylanSad Eyed Lady Of the Lowlands (mono version)
  17. Richard BerryLouie Louie
  18. REMRadio Free Europe (HibTone version)
  19. The CribsWe Share The Same Skies
  20. Johnny MarrThe Messenger
  21. McAlmont & ButlerSpeed
  22. Talking HeadsI Zimbra (12″ version)
  23. Style CouncilSpeak Like A Child
  24. Darlene LoveJohnny (Please Come Home)

And there you have it – the regular mix of covers, curios and forgotten influential classics, the perfect potted version of what Plain Or Pan is all about. A good producer would’ve made the tracklist flow a bit better. I just took it as I came to them; two from January followed by two from February followed by two from etc etc blah blah blah. You can download it from here.

See you in the new year. First up, Rufus Wainwright. Cheers!

 

 

 

 

 

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The Steal Council

December 9, 2015

There were a few Whistle Test repeats on BBC4 last week, one of which jumped out at me. Nick Lowe was leading Brinsley Schwarz through a great, soulful version of Surrender To The Rhythm, a track from their 1972 ‘Nervous On The Road’ LP. I’d never knowingly heard Brinsley Schwarz before and I was getting into the song’s groove when it hit me: That wee occasional keyboard riff! The phrasing in Nick Lowe’s delivery! I’ve heard this song before!

Placed in time somewhere post glam and pre punk, Brinsley Schawrz were part of the pub-rock movement, a gritty, back-to-basics scene where ‘real’ musicians were more concerned with the make-up of their songs than the make-up on their face. Keen and earnest, the scene nonetheless spawned Kilburn & The High Roads, who would morph into the Blockheads, the 101ers (who featured a pre-Joe Strummer John Mellor on guitar) and Dr Feelgood, a major influence on the young, impressionable Paul Weller (to this day, Weller still plays From The Floorboards Up without a plectrum, choosing instead to adopt the open-handed Wilko strum whenever he plays it live).

Weller, as it turns out, is more brazen about stealing things than you maybe realise. He has form – not only a strumming pattern from Wilko Johnson but also a career-long vocal delivery cribbed from Steve Marriott, a haircut half-inched from everyone from Worzel Gummidge to Muriel Gray and, more blatantly than any of this, the riff for Changingman that he heartilyappropriated from ELO’s 10538 Overture, something I’ve pointed out before. But long before the heady days of Brit Awards and Stanley Road etc, he was borrowing the mood, the feel and sometimes the chords and melody from more obscure tracks and passing them off as his own work.

style council

Time has been kinder to the much maligned Style Council than the dissenters might have thought back in the day (C’mon! This might cause a row down in Slough, but some of those tracks are ace – pretentious, aye! Ludicrous, aye! But ace – check out Weller’s recent tour for unarguable proof!) They were a deliberate move away from the Jam’s laddism; cricket jumpers, cycling gear, blokes with arms draped around one another, Weller at the back, pastel sweater hanging off his shoulders like a C&A catalogue model. All reference points lay somewhere between Dusty In Memphis, Curtis in Chicago and tongue firmly in cheek, and you either got it or you harked back to a time when Eton Rifles was the only thing that mattered.

Their debut single Speak Like A Child (in itself the title of a Herbie Hancock LP on Blue Note) is to this day a high point in The Style Council’s back catalogue, even if (as if turns out) you really have heard it before. With its breathy vocal delivery and airy Hammond lead, it isn’t entirely a million miles away from Brinsley’s Surrender To The Rhythm. Contrast and compare:

Brinsley SchwarzSurrender To The Rhythm

The Style CouncilSpeak Like A Child


Not content with pilfering blatantly from the past for his more soulful numbers, Weller went on the rampage through the more obscure parts of sunshine pop, alighting at Harper & Rowe’s 1967 bossanova boogaloo The Dweller and stealing the best bits for Have You Ever Had It Blue? This track was a highlight of the recent tour, the band kicking out the jams to play their blue notes under blue lighting, an inward-looking circle of nodding, noodling jazz-heads, but how many of the appreciative audience knew they were in effect listening to a carefully restructured cover version?

I’ve always loved The Style Council’s track, with its Gil Evans-arranged trumpet motif, the non-rock time signature and wordless Dee C Lee doo-be-doo backing vocals. As a 16 year-old, I thought Weller was a bit of a genius for having ‘written’ something so finger clickingly jazz. Great tune ‘n all that, Paul, but really, how did you manage to get away with it?

Harper & RoweThe Dweller

The Style CouncilHave You Ever Had It Blue?

*Bonus Track!

Here‘s The Style Council‘s With Everything To Lose, essentially the first version of the above track. No brass, different words, carefree flute etc etc

 

 

 

 

 

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Anti Dance Music / Intae Dance Music

August 9, 2015

Back at the start of the 90s I was anti ‘dance’ music. It almost goes without saying that I liked Chic, Sly Stone, James Brown…all that kinda stuff, and I was fond of doing my rhythmically-challenged thang to In Yer Face and Voodoo Ray when no-one was watching. But on the whole, dance music, the one real alternative to indie music and chart music, the one true genre of music guaranteed to annoy parents and anyone over the age of 25 did nothing for me. Which is somewhat ironic given I was neither a parent nor a quarter centurion.

rave

Thump thump thump thump thump. Soulless and repetitive, it was a four-to-the-floor car crash with all the sex appeal of a just-landed trout from the River Irvine. Given the option, I much preferred repeat-playing the b-side of the latest Chapterhouse or 5.30 single than give in to anything of a dance bent. Quite a ridiculous choice in hindsight. But in those days, if you wanted to stay out late, it was dance music that inevitably soundtracked your night. To go home early and potentially miss out on whatever I might be missing out on, I tended to stick it out, tolerating rather than enjoying the tunes.

And then I heard this.

FSOL-PapuaNewGuinea-UK-12-Label-A

The Future Sound Of LondonPapua New Guinea

What a fantastic record! It was Future Sound Of London’s debut single and, as it turned out, one they would never better.

Here‘s a shortened version, taken from a Hacienda compilation that I like to stick on now and again while I’m cycling.

Papua New Guinea is that rare thing – an electronic dance record that’s synthetic yet soulful. It’s not just Lisa Gerrard’s skyscraping vocals (sampled from Dead Can Dance‘s ‘Dawn Of The Iconoclast‘, with thos oo-ah-oh vocals coming lock, stock and barrel from a dance track called ‘Shelter‘ by the mysterious Circuit) that go straight to the heart and it’s not just the staccato bass (sampled from Meat Beat Manifesto’s Radio Babylon, much to their displeasure) that goes straight to the feet, it’s the whole thing; the clattering breakbeat drums, the wee keyboard pings and dings, the swooshes and whooshes and the way it all drops out before revving into gear again, lead always by the ubiquitous bass and vocals.

Papua New Guinea was put together by a couple of stereotypical studio boffins (the bald one and the ponytailed one) that most folk would fail to recognise as the creators of one of the best records ever.

fsol

Everything about this record is perfect. Even Lee Mavers, the bowl-cut skiffle king of 1989 rates it as one of his most favourite records. And I bet he never cared much for what constituted ‘dance’ music much either.

Here are those constituent drum parts, sampled from Fuzzy HaskinsThe Fuzz And Da Boog and Bobby Byrd‘s Hot Pants and stuck together with invisible ambient breakbeat glue:

Fuzzy Haskins The Fuzz And Da Boog

 

Bobby ByrdHot Pants

A truly groundbreaking record, like most of its contemporaries it came in a multitude of re-releases and remixes. In fact, by the end of 2013, Papua New Guinea had been re-pressed and re-released over 30 times. Maybe you could download those tracks above and have a go at doing it yourself, though you’ll be hard pushed to better the original.

*Bonus Track!

Here‘s a longer, more ambient version, illegally remixed and released by Ozgur Ozkan.

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Dorissey

April 14, 2015

Question: What is this record? Is it groovy jazz funk, a long-forgotten off-cut from a Blaxploitation soundtrack that never was? Is it late 60s wig-out psychedelic rock/pop, a remnant of the days when guitar solos were almost as expansive as the lead singer’s flares? Is it fuzz guitar-led, musique concrète strangeness that coulda come straight outta 1972 West Germany?

Answer: It’s all of the above!

The record in question is You Never Come Closer by Doris, from her Did You Give the World Some Love Today Baby album, released with no fanfare to total indifference in 1970.

doris

Doris Svensson was an insignificant Swedish pop singer in the 60s. Along the way she teamed up with respected Scandinavian big band composer Berndt Egerbladh and, from Aberdeen, a Scottish cellist/jazz guitarist/lyricist called Francis Cowan who’d found himself playing on cruise ships where he met his Swedish wife.

This mis-matched trio of musicians put together Did You Give the World Some Love Today Baby, an eclectic soup of funk, rock, jazz and cutting edge electronica. It’s a staggering listen, uncomfortable in places, yet totally pop. Forward thinking retro-revivalists such as Portishead, St Etienne and Massive Attack likely own original first pressings – some of the tunes are a sampler’s delight, packed full of weird strings, breakbeats and fruggable fuzz bass. You can buy reissued CDs of the album from all the usual places. It’s definitely worth further investigation.

candie payne

 

You Never Come Closer reminds me an awful lot of the long-forgotten post-millennium tracks produced for Candie Payne by Edgar Jones and Simon Dine. Edgar has his fingers in many a musical pie; from the r ‘n b stomp of The Stairs via the be bop-isms of his Soothing Music For Cool Cats album, to playing on stage with Lee Mavers and Johnny Marr – a real non-stop, hard-working musician.

Simon Dine, in his guise as Noonday Underground has taken the weirdest, wonkiest bits of 60s pop music and sampled and looped them into something terrific. His production is all over the last 3 Paul Weller LPs – those electronic rushes and synthesised strings are all his doing. You knew that already though, aye?

Candie PayneI Wish I Could Have Loved You More

Candie PayneAll I Need To Hear

Anyway, my guess is that both Edgar Jones and Simon Dine also have first pressings of Did You Give the World Some Love Today Baby. The feel of that album more than permeates the work they did with Candie Payne. Nothing wrong with that, of course.

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Good Felas

April 2, 2015

What a shitty few weeks. The previous post below will fill you in if you’re an infrequent visitor. Thanks for taking the time to leave your comments. I read them all, even if I couldn’t face replying. Truly, thanks.

Anyway, what better way to get back on track than by digging out some slick Nigerian Afrobeat from 1977?

fela kuti

Fela Kuti is a real musicians’ musician. A multi-instrumentalist, equally at home on sax, keys, trumpet, drums….you name it, between 1960 and his death in 1997 he was responsible for around 60 LP releases. Perhaps only The Fall would appear to be able to top that. Much like The Fall, many of his albums are live affairs. A few are also dubious-looking compilations of indeterminate origin. Amongst the regular studio recordings, there are whole LPs of collaborations with other musicians (‘Stratavarious‘ with Ginger Baker, ‘Music Of Many Colours‘ with Roy Ayers.)  All Fela’s albums are tight and taut, superbly played and full of meandering grooves underneath the politicised lyrics.

In the 70s, Fela changed his middle name. Ransome, he said, was a slave name.  And Fela was nobody’s slave. He was a folk singer. The Nigerian equivalent of Woody Guthrie, singing the songs of the ordinary man.  He took to singing in his own unique pidgin English as a way of ensuring Africans throughout the continent would understand his message – they all spoke in their own native tongue, but they also all understood basic English. He sang of the barbaric Nigerian Government and had a smash hit (‘Zombie‘) on the back of it. This resulted in him barely surviving with his life after a severe beating from government flunkies whilst his studio was burned to the ground. More than just a fly in the ointment, Fela galvanised his fellow countrymen into action, a real anti-establishment hero.

fela kuti 2

Fela’s music is terrific. There’s a real discipline to the playing. Much of it is simple and  repetitive. The musicians could easily break out and rattle off a little lick or two, and sometimes they do. His brass section in particular (sometimes just Fela) are fond of the odd up-the-garden-path solo. But mostly to Fela, the rhythm is King. It’s a bit like Can at their grooviest – hypnotic, shamanistic, designed to subconsciously affect the limbs. Feet will tap. Hips will sway. Heads will bob. Before you know it you’ll be on your feet and wondering how you got there.

1977’s Sorrow, Tears and Blood LP is typical of his work at the time. The title track formed the entire first side, a relentless guitar ‘n sax-led tour de force, all polyrhythms and funk bass, lightly toasted with electric piano.

Fela KutiSorrow, Tears And Blood

Atop the non-stop one chord groove is a lyric worthy of Joe Strummer at his authority-baiting best;

Everybody run….Police they come….Army they come….confusion everywhere…..someone nearly died….Police don’t go away….Army don’t disappear….them leave sorrow, tears and blood….

Fela’s work is absolutely ripe for sampling and reinterpretation. Mr Mendel has done this excellent remix of Sorrow, Tears And Blood:

Fela KutiSorrow, Tears And Blood (Mr Mendel mix)

fe la soul

….and a couple of years ago, someone came up with the brilliant concept of Fe La Soul, where they took the Daisy Agers raps and placed them on top of Fela’s funkiest fills. There are whole albums of the stuff if you look in all the right places. Here‘s one of my favourites;

Fe La SoulItsoweezee

….and no doubt inspired by the relentless, driving grooves of Fela, during the sessions for 1980’s Remain In Light, Talking Heads recorded Fela’s Riff, a terrific piece of instrumental New York, new wave funk. I really need to do a Talking Heads feature at some point…

t heads

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