research&development

featured tunes :: august 06 album

peckings presents :: old skool young blood

This record was first pointed out to me during a recent pilgrimage to Honest Jon's record store in London. Home to the label of the same name, their incredible re-issues [such as the Cedric M. Brooks record reviewed here last month and the London Is The Place For Me series] made a visit to their counter my #1 Thing To Do In England. But I passed on its mellow Studio One-flavoured offerings that day in favour of some more modern sounding Casio-toned dancehall circa 1986, having listened to Wayne Smith's "Sleng Teng" eleven times on the flight over [ipods allowed on aeroplanes, those were the days]. The irony of this being that "Old Skool Young Blood" is not a reissue, it is brand new reggae recorded in London - it only *sounds* like it was recorded in Kingston in 1972.

But it was 2006 in Jimmy Sings similarly brand-new-old-school Sydney record bar where I heard this record for the second time and instantly realised the mistake I'd made in passing it up. And Jimmy himself can attest that the quality of the vintage sound has had more than one listener confused about the recording date. Particularly for those unable to resist dancing when he plays "Shake It Off" as performed by Kelly Makeda.. "I can't believe Mariah Carey ripped this song off so blatantly!" they say when hearing this 2006 cover version of the unconquerable diva's hit of the previous year.

Which puts this record in a similar category to some of the fantastic new-old soul records the likes of Nicole Willis and Sharon Jones have offered of late - succeeding in their quest to grasp roots amongst the boggy terrain that is 'retro' without coming off like slightly hipper versions of the Black Crowes. On closer listen the Peckings set does less to self-consciously pretend it's from a previous decade than the average Dap-Tone record is wont, the unmistakeably Bone Thugs-n-Harmony-esque melodic stylings of "Shake It Off" showing an unabashed love for current Urban romantic motifs. But where the digital piano in the average RnB mix of 2006 will scrape trails through your eardrums, Mark Overton's sax playing on Bitty McLean's "Walk Away From Love" draws you irresistably in through its coy sweetness. There's very little studio affectation going on here, its just a saxophone sounding like a saxophone. And what a beautiful sound that can be.

[Do less for your employer this hour by visiting Jimmy Sings]

featured tunes :: way back album

marvin gaye :: i want you

We're always fighting about our favourite Marvin album and "I Want You" is a record that polarises poeple. Some, like us, love it for it's sensual and sultry disco grooves and lush arrangement while others chastise it for not being a complete album, complaining that it caught Marvin during a dry period, a sort of haphazard extension of "Let's Get It On" if you will. But bah humbug... I don't know about you but I never get tired listening to I Want You and furthermore, I'm always happy to hear the third version of the title track. This album continually comes up trumps for sexability, listenability and sexability.

Recorded in 1976 with Leon Ware at the controls, the album's a paean to woman and not just in the singing. Ladies get this: The album was dedicated to and recorded live in front of Gaye's second wife to be Jan. Makes it all the more amazing to listen to it and imagine Marvin crooning it out, overdub after relentless overdub with his love standing right there.

The overall sound of "I Want You" is incredible. Leon Ware wrote all the songs on the record with a little help from Diana Ross's brother "T-Boy" Ross. The sound of James Gasdson's drums is truly incredible and the insane vocal tracking and delicious reverb add a beautiful space to the songs. This album inhabits a sonic world all of its own and you know that it had to be high rotation for artists like Prince, D'Angelo, Mary J Blige and Dwele. The explicit lyrics pushed the boundaries of pop/r&b for the time but you have to listen close to discern them amidst the layers of croon and harmony which are all over the record but somehow, never seem to clog up the effortless lilt of the rhythm section.

Of course synthesizers were nothing new at this time but the use of them in this record is also one of the best things about it. Dig, for example, the incredible start to track 3 "After The Dance (instrumental)". It sounds so simple but upon close inspection, the sounds are intensely layered and aside from the percussion and lead synth sound sitting in the middle of the mix, everything is panned hard left and right and mixed just so to build up to the slack squelch of the electronic bassline. Both Ice Cube and De La Soul also found this groove undeniable and had to take a little bit of it for themselves.

So you've probably guessed by now that we've got no issues with this particular Marvin record, we do in fact love it dearly. Whether it's sunday afternoon summertime snoozing or a little bit of midweek come hither you're after, don't listen to the haters, Marvin knew what was going on. Fans of Marvin Gaye who've never heard of Leon Ware should check out his little known Musical Massage album.Quite simply, amazing.

featured tunes :: top fives

Declan's Top 5

  • Les Murray Collected Poems 1961 - 2002
  • Arthur Russell - Calling Out Of Context
  • Sufjan Stevens - The Avalanche
  • Jay Dee - Vintage Unreleased Instrumentals
  • Hey Conviict - Time To Noodle

Richard's Top 5

  • Young Blood Old Skool - V/A
  • CL - Grown Roads - Rebtuz N Edit
  • Mr President - Gimme Some Time
  • Danny Breaks - Duck Rock
  • Pete Rock & C. L. Smooth - Creator

Neil's Top 5

  • Hey Convict - Time to Noodle mix
  • Broken Keys - Gravity LP
  • Lilly Allen - Smile
  • Roots - Don’t Feel Right
  • The Stafford Wanderers in fantasy premier league

Dave's Top 5

  • The Dirty Three – Great Waves
  • Mapstation – Horns Version
  • Four Tet – Pockets
  • Prefuse 73 – Another One Long Gone
  • New Sektor Movements – The Show