dirty martini

old music for new people

garage city: masters at work June 25, 2008

by 1993 it was clear that us heavyweights david morales and masters at work would define the 90s garage scene. david went for the house crowd with vocal club bangers and the big money remixes. masters at work retained their latin flavour and took on leftfielders like jamiroquai and brand new heavies.

i made my first trip to the ministry of sound that year and was almost perplexed by the alcohol free bar and bizarre location. a million miles from the clubs up and down the country who were rocking the hell out of ‘oh carolina’ and ‘mr vain’ and peddling test tube cocktails.

how different my 17th birthday could have been if I had lived in London and able to frequent the ministry more often…instead of technicolour vomit and fat djs I could have been shaking it to a legend.

download 1993 mix

bizarre inc – took my love

hardrive – deep inside

sound of one – as i am – fire island mix

jamiroquai – emergency on planet earth – danny tengalia remix

shara nelson – down that road – def classic mix

mariah carey – dreamlover – def club mix

dajae – u got me up – danny tenaglia mix

ten city – fantasy – masters at work mix

janet jackson – if – brothers in rhythm mix

joe roberts – lover – k-klass klub mix

judy cheeks – so in love – west end in love club mix

martha wash – give it to you – maurice’s underground playground mix

aftershock – slave to the vibe – club mix

black sheep – strobelight honey – def mix

house of virginism – i’ll be there for you – stone’s club mix

masters at work – i can’t get no sleep – her fantasy mix

reese project – so deep – k.o.k club mix

incognito – givin’ it up – uplifting club mix

garage city 1992

garage city 1991

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garage city: the beginning April 26, 2008

the bacardi club chart was the closest i really ever got to garage in 1991. i was still at school, after all.

on the occasions my borrowed/faked ID got my 15 year old self in to a club or bar (and this is 91 so we are talking wine bar not the current club/bar/chill incarnation), it was either playing music ten years out of date, or simply red. and i had to be home by 12 unless we were puling the old ‘say you’re staying at mine and i’ll say i’m staying at yours’ trick. becuase if you’re sleeping over at a friend’s…you would need a sheer chiffon shirt with hotpants. good job my mum had stopped trying to pack overnight bags for me by then.

we did have the occasional illegal night put on in some dodgy warehouse but i only remember ever going to one. and of course, 1991 was mostly about rave anyway.

download here

brand new heavies – stay this way – morales’ eclipse mix

mariah carey – someday – new 12 inch house mix

incognito and jocelyn brown – always there – morales mix

fortran 5 – look to the future – joey negro future reality mix

reese project – direct me – joey negro disco blend mix

alison limerick – where love lives – classic mix

dionne – if u want my love

deep sleep – love me

korda – move your body

mass order – lift every voice – classic boot mix

jomanda – got a love for you – hurley’s house mix

mk and alana – burning – mk mix

those guys – tonite

djaimin – give you – syndromad mix

mariah carey – emotions – 12″ club mix

ce ce peniston – finally – classic mix

m people – how can i love you more

 

 

less is more: real divas don’t oversing October 15, 2007

breaking-glass.jpg 

the principal objection to r&b, from those who remain unenamoured, is usually the tendency for certain singers to attempt to fit ten notes into a space where one will suffice.

its often viewed as showing off and the results are often hysterical, and i don’t mean funny. whilst a good range and the ability to scale is impressive, it can detract from the meaning of the lyrics. how many times have you sat there and cringed whilst a singer trills their way through an entire album?

vocal gymnastics aren’t big and they’re not clever.  plus – they’re just so 90s,

top 10 offenders/songs

1. christina aguilera – singing anything. i hate her voice. oh look its a little girl with a big voice. lets see what she can make it do…

2. mariah carey – singing ballads. i actually think the whitney criticisms are off – she controls her voice too well to make this list. on occasion, mariah’s lunacy shines through her vocals. bless her.

3. kelly price – on ‘friend of mine’, she actually sounded the death knell for the melisma that had built into a crescendo up until that point in the 90s. too much.

4. beyonce – especially the dangerously in love ballads and most of destiny fulfilled. she was constantly trying to outsing kelly and michelle. and seems to have gone nuts since letoya crashed onto the scene and jennifer stole her thunder.

5. mary j.blige – now i love mary, and god knows if anyone should be histrionic, she’s had a hard time of it. but i like her better when she reins it in.

download here

aaliyah – the thing i like

too cool to coo. i heard that aaliyah’s laidback style was due to her undivalike tendency to allow the backing track to play centre stage and let her vocals wash over them. so effective.

alicia keys – a woman’s worth

content with showing her all round musical ability with her vocals only one of the instruments at her disposal. which is the mark of a real musician. she remains classier than her contemporaries and will far outlast them.

amerie – crush

maybe the reason amerie isn’t as successful in the US is her apparent refusal to screech and holler. i think she has a nice tone to her voice and knows she doesn’t need to dress it up that much.

angie stone – wish i didn’t miss you

it would be easy for a curvy lady like angie to overcompensate with her impressive range. oh and this is one of the best uses of a classic sample, ever.

beverley knight – queen of starting over

sounding more like aretha as time passes, and one of the only r&b singers who is actually good enough to oversing if the mood requires. i just wish she didn’t feel the need to MOR all her work.

sarah anne webb (d’influence) – there can be

criminally overlooked singer sarah anne webb has since left the group to be replaced by a host of others. and it doesn’t sound like d’influence anymore.

deborah cox – sentimental

ok, now that she’s a gay icon, some of deborah’s vocals are sailing close to the edge. but when she arrived in 1995, she was the queen of understated cool with this 2 step classic.

leona lewis – what you do to me

leona could so easily have alienated last year’s x factor viewers by oversinging but she managed to rein in her musical upbringing and used her range appropriately, rather than unnecessarily.

n’dea davenport (brand new heavies) spend some time

acid jazz was never about excessive vocal gymnastics anyway, but n’dea is a prime example of a powerful voice not trying too hard.

sade – the sweetest taboo

sade just doesn’t look like someone about to holler and whoop. and i can’t think of a single occasion in her lengthy career when she would have needed to stoop to that level.

shola ama – you’re the one i love

honey voiced shola has always been the uk’s understated export and it may have cost her in some ways. which is a sad indictment of the industry.

teedra moses – be my girl

ok so, i have criticised the smokescreen surrounding teedra’s real age lately and been scolded. what i will say is that she’s grown enough to realise that runs are for kids.

 

100% acid jazz July 14, 2007

jazz-bar.jpg

in contrast to the frenetic house, techno, new jack swing and jungle scenes of the early 90s, genres that mirrored these scenes but with a slowed down tempo started to arise. ambient and balearic became the comedown music of choice for tired clubbers, and jazz jungle emerged for those too knackered, or rhythmically challenged, for drum and bass.

acid jazz may have been a backlash against the studio produced sounds of the time, or just a natural regression back to a more organic era. i don’t think, for the first few years, i really thought about it that much or recognised acid jazz as any different. one of the first really big tracks, ‘always there’ by incognito, was remixed into a us garage anthem anyway, as were many brand new heavies tracks. acid jazz probably blended more effortlessly with the house and garage crowds than the more obvious affiliate of new jack swing.

acid jazz, thanks to its socially conscious and intelligent lyrical content, was a saving grace for me at university when looked down upon by miserable indie kids and oh so alternative rockers alike. they felt able to decimate house and garage music for its lack of lyrical content, jungle for its london-centric, chavtastic appeal and well, they just dismissed r&b entirely. stating a preference for acid jazz usually left them speechless and for that i was grateful. i’ve never understood quite why fans of such insipid and regressive music feel they have superior taste but i never miss an opportunity to put them in their place.

it’s so true that you will never see your first year uni friends ever again. and that you really need music in common in order to suddenly become flatmates with a bunch of strangers. on my first night at university i sat in my room in the grubby halls of residence and wondered how on earth i was going to cope. to my left, a mature student was blaring out eric clapton, across the hall, elton john.  i wandered downstairs and found a group of greasy helmet heads swaying to suede. after an uncomfortable night in the local pub in which we discovered none of us had anything in common, we awoke the next day to the sound of a latecomer unpacking her belongings to the dulcet tones of michael bolton. she played him every sunday morning until someone broke into her room and stamped on the cassette.

once the caring sharing and huggy early nineties had given way to laddism and ibiza, acid jazz faded. soon it was viewed as too worthy and retro to compete with the futuristic beats and sculpted r&b unleashed by timbaland, the neptunes and roc-a-fella.

the live instrumentation in amerie and beyonce’s work are a nod to the principles of acid jazz and should we ever return to the crystal wearing, cleansing new age era then perhaps it will resurface. well, we’ve revived everything else. in fact the 90s revival is well overdue – i seem to remember spending my 21st birthday at an 80s night in 1997. 

90s jazz funk classics – download here

brand new heavies – close to you

carleen anderson – mama said

clusterfunk – do me right

corduroy – mini

d’influence – midnight

diana brown – masterplan

incognito – don’t you worry ’bout a thing

jamiroquai – blow my mind

leena conquest – boundaries

liquid soul – i want you to want me

repercussions – promise me nothing

young disciples – apparently nothing

 

hiphop love songs April 26, 2007

…collective sigh of relief, one blogger isn’t getting into the whole don imus thing. quite frankly, I don’t know enough about it. more interestingly what it does seem to have triggered is renewed interest in the crusade against misogynistic and violent hiphop lyrics, a cause currently championed by russell simmons.i’m not going to delve for examples of russell‘s back catalogue that contradict this stance. it’s not big and it’s not clever – people are perfectly entitled to change their opinions.

what i’m not clear on though, is why they think the campaign will work this time round. the number of hiphop devotees has multiplied more than every other genre since the mass media last rallied in the early 90s. then, they targeted just a handful of rappers, including too short, tupac and snoop. because that was more or less the scale of the ‘problem’, a couple of record labels, a lot of overblown egos and scores to settle.

in 2007 its a whole different ballgame – they’re not attacking a subsection of underground culture, hiphop is now popular culture. no doubt, the campaign will hold up tupac and biggie‘s deaths, which now happened more than a decade ago, as proof of hiphop beef taken too far. and they were far from an everyday occurrence, the isolation of the incidents involving these tragic figures is exactly what has created their legend. far more people die on the streets every day than have hiphop icons over the last 20 years. and i’m pretty sure most of the street incidents happened to the kind of person who was going to get caught up in that world anyway. listening to eminem in your bedroom does not magically transport you out of the suburbs to the kinds of places where you might face those kind of kill-or-be-killed decisions.

perhaps the real shock factor in these deaths was borne out of a naïve assumption that a celebrity can more effectively shield themselves from someone who wants to kill them than the average member of the same community. that they were granted some kind of immunity and had transcended their circumstances through fame, rather than in fact becoming more vulnerable and a greater scalp.

what we should remember is that genuine hiphop tries to reflect real life. nwa didn’t just rap about compton to entertain you, that’s where they’re from and who they are. they were trying to give their community a voice, not suggest that their reality is anything like yours and that their actions and reactions would be acceptable within other contexts.

in the worst neighbourhoods, shot or be shot is an almost daily dilemma. tupac and biggie‘s deaths weren’t the shocking result of fiction overstepping the boundaries of storytelling, rather a sad indictment of a lifestyle they glorified for cash rather than broke out of. there wasn’t any fiction involved and their late material implied an acceptance of their fate.

so, those that should know better are regrouping to decide how to remove offensive content from hiphop. instead of convening to tackle the real life incidents that inspire it. then the rest of us can pretend its not happening anymore. great, well done.

ten non-offensive hiphop classicsdownload here common and mary j blige – come close
2004 cut from ‘electric circus’. common recognises that relationships can be hard and require sacrifice, but worth saving…

guru – when you’re near
king of non-offensive hiphop, guru and then-acid jazz ingenue n’dea davenport from the brand new heavies flirt back and forth in 1993.

guerrilla black – you’re the one
even g’s get it bad sometimes.

common and jill scott – 8 minutes to sunrise
now this one could really be messy – common has woken up next to his best friend’s girl.

foreign exchange – all that you are

how many men actively try to treat their women right?

ll cool j and boyz ii men – hey lover
ll
pioneered the hiphop ballad with ‘i need love’, then in 1995 he went one better and recruited r&b crooner boyz ii men to assist this tale of an unobtainable crush.

roots and erykah badu – you got me
new relationships are hard…especially when you meet in paris and are worried the spark will fade once you get home.

pm dawn – set adrift on memory bliss

best use of a sample ever. end of.

ali and gipp featuring letoya – almost made you

these relative newcomers are doing their thing, with ex-dc starlet letoya on board.

ll cool j – around the way girl

how come someone as fine as ll never gets his dream girl?