Friday, May 19, 2006

Interrupting my line of thought / altitutude and attitude

Before I move on I feel the need to make a comment about the scenario I have just been unfortunate enough to witness on ABC Asia Pacific. I mean the mutual masturbation session from the two least attractive leaders the gratuitously named “free world” (its free as long as you play the game as Chavez has found) has to offer, Bush and Howard, two men with more blood on their grubby little hands since, well since, Saddam, a man with whom they have more than a little in common (all have, amongst other things, knowingly taken life, innocent life, to perpetuate and enhance a power elite of which they are members).

I felt a little nauseous watching Howard proclaim Bush a good and decent man, and felt it was rather like watching Himmler proclaim Hitler as a good friend to the Jewish people.

And then there is this…the latest move in the NZ Government’s unfortunate drive to bring people home. It makes one rather embarrassed to be a New Zealander and certainly removes any inclination one might have to move. I know I give Australia and Australians a bit of a slap sometimes but this makes me grimace.

But I wasn’t going to write about things like that today. So…moving on…Tom Moulton. I think I said sometime ago how much I was dying to get my hands on the Soul Jazz Moulton collection and get my hands on it I did, but it had to sit on a shelf in Bali for three weeks whilst I was in Auckland. Thirty years after he started doing mind boggling things with twelve inch vinyl, a double CD was never going to do him justice, and this doesn’t but, damn, it comes close. The term genius is bandied around, over-used to the point of pointlessness and generally devalued in popular music but nothing else really suffices here. The greatest (and it’s another word I don’t want to use as its so completely misunderstood) disco records are flights of imagination, swirling, climbing, soaring and taking the listener (or dancer) off in a direction before dragging he or she back to the central point again.

Phil Spector used to talk about “little symphonies for the kids”, and his productions were just that, but the founding fathers of disco (the black urban variety), Norman Whitfield and Gamble & Huff took the concept to places that Phil, in even his wackiest moments couldn’t even visualise. Tom Moulton, and others, took that vision and ran with it and its fitting that one of the key tracks on this impeccable (and impeccably mastered) album is an incredible (previously unreleased!!) 11 minute remix of Eddie Kendricks’ masterpiece, Keep on Running, a song usually regarded as the first disco record, from the former Temptations’ vocalist on all those Whitfield epics. Understated in its subtle attack, it slips and slides in and out of its key refrains and dwarfs the better known original (which is itself eight minutes long). The Gamble and Huff track herein is the take of MFSB’s TSOP on the Moulton remixed, and essential, Philadelphia International Classics collection from1979 with the extended electric piano break from Leon Huff at the end. Myself I would’ve picked The IntrudersI’ll Always Love My Mama from the same album because a) it’s the killer track on the album and b) the Moulton remix of MFSB didn’t come into its own until Danny Krivit re-edited it about 1981.

I finally discovered, via this album, Andrea True Connection’s infectious and rubbery More More More. I resisted this song for years. When I was working in record shop years ago it sat on the shelf opposite the counter and the cover annoyed the fuck out of me. I never gave it a chance and I was wrong, but it illustrates the impact a shitty sleeve can have on a worthy record. Assembled at Studio One, it perfectly illustrates the debt that disco owes to dub (and indeed listen to Patti Jo’s seminal Make Me Believe In You (also here) to hear how much Jamaica owes to disco in return).

The 12” promo only take of Grace Jones’ cover of La Vien En Rose has appeared here and there over the years but it’s the definitive version of what my be her finest moment until Larry Levan, and then, Trevor Horn took her in hand (I’ve never really been a fan of much of her flabby Compass Point material), with its lovely sidewalk acoustic guitars and rich, almost cartoon-ish piano that have never sounded as sensual as they do on this compilation.

Moonboots by Orlando Riva Sound first appeared on Moulton’s own label, and feels like the point where disco, funk and house meet. It’s the grinding past, present and future all at once.

Clara Lewis’ Needing You, one of my favourite seventies soul tracks, (and like the Patti Jo track, originally from the Moulton mixed Disco Gold album from 75) if it wasn’t for the post Philly strings, sounds like all those lovely old non-hits that the best British Motown collections are full of, albeit stretched a little.

Unlike the likes of Walter Gibbons (who used a more shock’n’awe approach to the remix) Moulton was (and is) more subtle in his approach, teasing and stretching, emphasising parts of a song that would otherwise be missed.

So..Genius? Fuck it…yes…

I’ve been listening to lots of electro-poppy things like the quaintly named Fuckpony, and their intriguingly infectious Ride The Pony, and the new Trentmoller, Nam Nam (which got my daughter doing Peter Sellers impressions…think about it), but then, last week I re-discovered the granddaddy of it all, Wire’s effortlessly timeless 159, one of my favourite records of around the turn of the decade (and I mean from 1979 to 1980), and of all time truth be known I guess.

Listen to A Touching Display and try and convince me that it wouldn’t sit comfortably on Kompact…..

My vinyl copy walked years ago and I’ve had a burn from a friend rather than pay the silly prices demanded of original copies online but it wasn’t good and there were a couple of tracks that were un-listenably bad dubs (from vinyl), so I’m more than a little please to see the remastered edition out via EMI in the UK, beautifully packaged and annotated, but, for some odd reason missing the original four track EP that came with it (not that it’s a loss to me as that wasn’t “borrowed” and I still have it, and its less than earth shattering, being four, seemingly throwaway, solo pieces).

But, damn, doesn’t it sound as fresh and as forward looking as it did all those years back, revolutionary in fact. Map Ref. 41ºn 93ºw is that great lost UK pop song with a title that ensured it would never make the radio; 40 Versions is a beautifully intriguing paean to self doubt and The Other Window is perhaps the greatest train song ever (ok, second greatest after Trans Europe Express).

I’m a happy aging post punker today….

Ok that’ll do…..