Sunday, February 03, 2008

Abstract Index Playlist - January 30/08

As much as I love a good compilation, I've never come across one which so evokes my teenage years as this one.

My interest in music started after seeing Beatlemania in the summer after Grade 6. After that, it was solid Beatles for a year. Then, a year of the Stones. Chased that with Floyd, Zeppelin, and a dash of the Who. As far as then contemporary pop music went, Talking Heads opened a lot of doors, as did Grandmaster Flash's "The Message".

By the time that I really started to explore the reggae music I'd grown up with for almost 10 years, Sly and Robbie were at their absolute peak of creativity, and this new obsession not only took over my life but transformed my outlook on music.

I spent some 5 years trying to collect all the Sly and Robbie I could. The jumping off points from Sly and Robbie are too numerous to mention, especially when their collaborator Bill Laswell entered the picture.

But one name kept coming up in liner notes of my favourite records from Talking Heads, Black Uhuru, Grace Jones and Tom Tom Club (and the Stones' "Undercover", but anyways...): Compass Point Studios in the Bahamas. I pictured this incredible tropical haven of creativity fostering a unique approach to bionic boogie.

At least half of "Funky Nassau" pivots around Sly Dunbar's Africanized syndrums. He was inspired to purchase them after hearing M's "Pop Muzik" while on tour with Peter Tosh, and in his hands, the syndrum was tuned percussion played like some kind of robotic burru drumming. This was a powerful subtext to any song which contained these rhythms.

I can blame my lack of interest in other mechanized music at the time (New Order, Depeche Mode) on my infatuation with Sly and Robbie's far more interesting take on technology. And of course, anyone who digs into Sly and Robbie gets the whole history of Jamaican music, from mento to ska to (especially) Studio One. Blended with their encyclopedic knowledge of soul music (they cut a session with James Brown at Compass Point in '83 which has never been released), their many rhythmic quirks sounded funky, never spastic. Robbie's bass lines at the time were very melodic and made better use of chording than any other player in Jamaican history - I've always thought he sounded a bit like Paul McCartney.

Their amazingly open ears and fearless, funky attitudes toward working on fresh riddims in unlikely company have been a major personal inspiration right up to the present day. Strut has done a wonderful job bringing these beats back.

Podcast Hour 1

Podcast Hour 2

man alive - we can and we must (logan 5)
mao mao - jean pierre massiera (mucho gusto)
godofallofus - new hope (BBE)
love of a woman - clutchy hopkins and darondo (ubiquity)
quiet - sex mob (thirsty ear)
at my critical counterpart - john gzowski/ganesh anandan (ambiances magnetiques)
tarakakino - sambasunda (network)
lead - scott thomson/lori freedman (barnyard)
luukkaankangas - nemeth (thrill jockey)
adventures in success - will power (strut)
taxi connection - sly and robbie (mango)
the price is right - chet singh (no label)
casa forte - snowboy rmx. by pathless (ubiquity)
me bowa ya - mekongo (mango)
psychedelic pucho - pucho and the latin soul brothers (BGP)
empyrean - rod modell/echospace (modern love)
man of mystery - doctor pablo and the dub syndicate (on-u sound)
freezing - DATC allstars (heartbeat)
freedom train - joe higgs and carl masters (pressure sounds)

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Blogger rembetikahipsters said...

I'm with you about Sly and Robbie. I spent hours back then playing along with Robbie Shakespeare (The guess who's coming to dinner LP, Bunny Wailer Sings the Wailers, MPLA, especially) trying to duplicate his sound and feel. He's still my biggest influence as a bass player, no matter what the genre I'm playing. - Allen B.

2:31 a.m.  
Blogger Dacks said...

Allen, I can believe it - even playing country, you can't go wrong with a touch of Shakespeare.

How do you think Robbie would sound playing rembetika?

9:35 p.m.  

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