Posts Tagged ‘4th & Broadway’

Womack & Womack

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

Listen: Celebrate The World (Radio Edit) / Womack & Womack
Celebrate The World (Radio Edit) / Womack & Womack

I’m a huge fan of Sirius radio here in the US. Certainly compared to our totally tuckered terrestrial stations, it’s an oasis in a very dry desert. You see, Sirius, via it’s many channels, provides endless variety, with easily one hundred or so to pick from. But put the whole lot up against the UK’s BBC Radio 2, and even collectively, they can’t compete.

Not sure why or how, but every last presenter on BBC’s various stations pack more excitement and personality into their on-air style than many of those from Sirius in America. Here, there’s this persistent problem of a time warp delivery rut. Well, funny enough, not Bob Dylan. Nor most of Little Steven’s crew. And yes, Sirius does have Andrew Loog Oldham, but he kind of counts as English to me, clearly weened on UK radio.

Basically, my preference and the opinions above boil down to one thing. Variety. Not necessarily variety over that one hundred or so channel options, each with a narrow genre to offer, but as in programming variety within each show throughout the day.

Yes, Radio 2 has dedicated programs: Sounds Of The Sixties, Sounds Of The Seventies, specialty country or blues shows and such. But otherwise, each host and their producer pick a wide range of genres to mix within their respective daily time slots.

My absolute favorite being Janice Long. Having started with the BBC in ’82, it was on 6 Music that I first found a real affinity to her via The Dream Ticket, whereby she chose a deep, multi decade variety of live sessions from the station’s library, assembling them into a…dream ticket. In essence, a concert lineup one could only dream of.

Joining Radio 2 a few years back, there’s rarely a week goes by when I don’t listen to her most recent shows on demand, all archived for up to seven days. Never a dull moment and always a surprise or ten musically. Do yourself a favor.

Today, I did some Janice Long catching up, and once again, shook my head in happy disbelief. From The Honeybus, Ivor Culter, Alexis Korner and The Maytals, amongst many, to Womack & Womack, all in the span of a few programs from last week.

And not ‘Teardrops’ by Womack & Womack either. Instead ‘Celebrate The World’, closing track and fourth UK single from their flawless CONSCIENCE album. In England, this 7″ release made it to #14 in ’89, and was a perfect live performance finale, whereby the entire Womack clan would pile onstage for an extended ramp with the audience. Wow, those shows back in the day were so good.

Working for Island at the time, like most of the US staff, I found great frustration by the lack of radio and/or media support here for such a worthy album. Back in the UK, where it went platinum, this was not the case.

Well Janice Long gave ‘Celebrate The World’ a play on one of those shows I soundtracked my afternoon with today, and let me tell you, it sounded superb.

Queen Latifah & De La Soul

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

Listen: Mamma Gave Birth To The Soul Children / Queen Latifah & De La Soul

I was fortunate enough to meet Jon Baker, owner of Gee Street Records, through the Island UK office. Actually, Julian Palmer from 4th & Broadway in London had signed Stereo MC’s to a singles deal, and Jon, the ever ambitious yet courteous entrepreneur, bugged me incessantly to come over and see a rehearsal, guaranteeing their greatness.

I recall Jon having a picture perfect office setup, basically heaving with records and always jumping. I loved Gee Street. They had released some US hip hop and house independently prior to ultimately signing the deal with Island. On a previous trip, this guy fed my 7″ addiction with serious handfuls of each release. Generous wasn’t near a strong enough term. And his pressings were beauties, thick vinyl, top notch UK picture covers. Jon Baker always did these things classy.

Well last night, ‘Mamma Gave Birth To The Soul Children’ got stuck on repeat as I moved some big boxes around the house, a lucky break. It recalled the time he and Ziggy drove Corinne and I around Chelsea, blasting late night London pirate stations. Some of the stuff played would still rock up any world, and in the mix, on comes Jon’s Queen Latifah / De La Soul record. Kid in a candy shop, it couldn’t have been a better moment for him.

Back to that Stereo MC’s rehearsal. They were red hot, yeah, undeniable. Mission accomplished. We scheduled ‘Elevate My Mind’ as a US Island single immediately. It eventually climbed into the BILLBOARD Top 40, paving the way for a proper Stereo MC’s career run and a full Gee Street/Island label deal.

Redds & The Boys / Trouble Funk

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

Listen: Movin’ And Groovin’ / Redds & The Boys
Movin' And Groovin' / Redds & The Boys

Back in ’79, MCA had a freak hit with Chuck Brown & The Soul Searchers ‘Bustin’ Loose’. I distinctly recall our head of radio promotion being amazed at the record’s surprise success and frustrated too. Black radio wouldn’t play the single, only the white pop stations were airing it.

Fast forward a few years, Go Go is now officially a musical genre and movement, but the same tired radio resistance kept all those great singles off the urban airwaves.

But in ’85, Island was headstrong in aiding this musical cause. Signing a bunch of acts to singles deals, some to full albums, then packaging them together for a few nights of serious nasty grinding at The Ritz. I’ll never forget those shows. EU, Mass Extension, Trouble Funk.

The real truth: Redds & The Boys, they were crazy great. Even the worst dancers lost shame, made fools of themselves and did not care. I know cause I was one.

Onstage, ‘Movin’ & Groovin’ did not end, and not a soul wanted it to. Talk about a signature song. These guys were so locked it was scary. They seemed ready to take on the world. What the fuck happened?

Listen: Trouble / Trouble Funk
Trouble / Trouble Funk

When I joined Island in ’88, their mailroom was knee deep in Go Go records. Praise be. I grabbed handfuls of them all.

Like Redds & The Boys, and all the others for that matter, Trouble Funk suffered from the same curse: misguided production and mixes. The drum sounds were so wrong. To be honest, the team around these recordings were a bunch of self celebrating studio churls. Hacks basically having their moment in the sun. Damn shame. Because live, these bands ripped down anything in their way.

Real drums. That’s it. The processed drums fucked it all up. Someone should remix all these records, take off that ghastly wash of cheap studio technology. Because the foundation is here, on every last one.

Bootsy producing ‘Trouble’. Great call.

Now Bootsy, you need to remix and reclaim this.

Bootsy’s Rubber Band

Monday, April 4th, 2011

Listen: Jungle Bass / Bootsy’s Rubber Band
Jungle Bass / Bootsy's Rubber Band

In late ’89, Victoria Clare from Island Publishing in Los Angeles brought forth the idea of signing Bootsy Collins’ latest copyrights, and as I recall, was curious if the label side might be interested as well. I was up for hearing it either way, so she pouched me a cassette.

He’d basically recorded what turned into the JUNGLE BASS EP and circulated the tracks as a demo. At the time it all seemed perfectly out of step/in step with the moment, meaning Bootsy’s Rubber Band had been dormant long enough to shake off the stink of declining sales in their heyday, replacing it all with comeback potential. Whether by design or not, Bootsy was keen to revive the band’s name and begin trading once again as Bootsy’s Rubber Band. Without much deliberation, everyone at Island was on board and off we went.

Bootsy was one awesome sweetheart to work with. In no time, he assembled Fred Wesley, Maceo Parker and the core team. Mudbone Cooper was on front-ground vocals and Bootsy himself, suddenly self proclaimed as The Megabasstron Magus Lord Of The Riff for the studio logs, performed space bass, guitar, drums, black noise, unsamples and vocals. Someone named Boot-tron got the robot vocal credit for fun as well.

I do wish I’d saved some of his voicemails to the home phone. They usually started with “Hey Kev, it’s Bootsy baby”. This guy is a higher form of life, and he’s calling me at home. Sick.

God bless English record labels. They’ve persevered with thick, deep grooved 7″ pressings in non-flimsy picture sleeves to this day. It was a close call, but Island’s UK office hesitantly agreed to a ‘Jungle Bass’ 7″, all 13:10 minutes of it.

How can anyone not love this record? I’ve never found a person who didn’t thankfully. The press and UK fans certainly went for it big time, and presto – a few nights at Hammersmith Odeon went on sale.

Listen: Disciples Of Funk / Bootsy’s Rubber Band
Disciples Of Funk / Bootsy's Rubber Band

Bootsy is publicly known to avoid all forms of air travel, having been on a Concord flight back in the day that plunged to 10,000 feet and miraculously landed safely. This encounter was relayed to me by the man himself. So, when a few weeks after that run of London shows, I looked up to find Bootsy standing in my office doorway, I shouldn’t have been surprised. Inquiring what’s up, why was he in town, I discover he’s just back from England. Okay, did you spend some time there after the show?

“No, I took the QE2 home.”

I’m thinking, I know you don’t fly, but you gotta fly to and from England. Does overseas really count if you’re a non-flyer? Indeed it does.

Personally, I fear the ocean. But the ocean at night, that’s even scarier. Therefore, you’ll always find me trying to take a daytime flight and get over there or back before dark.

“Bootsy, aren’t you in fear of the ocean too?”

“Yeah Kev. But it’s the lesser of two evils. Ya see I can swim a little, but I can’t fly at all.”

Never ever did Boosty not have a hilariously logical comment about every last thing. He just pukes ‘em up.

Which brings me to the single’s B side ‘Disciples Of Funk’. Lyrically full of Bootsy-isms. The guy’s well just never runs dry. If the “You’re the best boyfrien…” intro isn’t enough, a smattering of other Bootsy one liners from the song are proof: “Bebop and boogie woogie baby”, “Don’t funk with my funk”, “It’s time to put some bass in that bottom baby”.

Luckily, nowadays, Bootsy is never out of style. I’ve called on him several times through the years since JUNGLE BASS, for co-writes, features, sessions, production. Within days, he’s back with more than needed. Great work ethic. Great soul. One of a kind.

Eric B. & Rakim

Friday, December 3rd, 2010

Move the Crowd / Eric B. & Rakim

Move the Crowd / Eric B. & Rakim

Listen: Move The Crowd / Eric B. & Rakim 05 Move The Crowd.mp3

There’s just something about a hip hop track when it’s on 7″ vinyl. Luckily, the 45 configuration was still pretty prevalent during the 80′s but far from the format of choice for the genre. Therefore, very few were manufactured, and even fewer sold. Now, not unlike Jazz singles, they’re fairly collectable and are almost like novelty items. I, for one, stock piled them all: Sugarhill, Def Jam, Wild Pitch, Rock-A-Fella, Tommy Boy etc. So yeah, really appreciative to have the Eric B. & Rakim stuff on 7′s.

In the day, these guys were usually hanging around the Island offices on 4th & Broadway, when the company was located above Tower Records. It was a pretty fun location. All the latest releases one floor down, and Keith Richards living in a duplex at the top – a constant hub-bub of activity. Island seemed to be a place the artists liked to visit, and milling about, sometimes all day. It was not uncommon to have say, Melissa Etheridge and Etta James talking in the hallway, or like one memorable afternoon on my office couch, Chris Blackwell with Phranc, Marianne Faithfull and Julian Cope.

Eric B. and definitely Rakim were often playing records in Kathy Jacobson’s office. Rakim in particular was a mensch, polite, humble and really smart.

I have played ‘Move The Crowd’ hundreds and hundreds of times. It sounds great in the car, on the headphones, definitely on the jukebox, seriously everywhere.

Hot Chip / Kool Chip

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

HotChipOver, Hot Chip, EMI

Listen: Over & Over (Maida Vale Session Version) / Hot Chip HotChipOverBBC.mp3

Smart ass as it may appear to be, the two act’s names sound pretty good together, don’t you think? I’ve covered Hot Chip before, given that ‘Ready For The Floor’ was tied with Sparks ‘Good Morning’ as favorite single of the year in ’08. Nothing could touch either of them. I still go through bouts of iPod repeats with both from time to time.

But there’s nothing like ‘Over & Over’ live. It’s the anthem everybody knows, and I’ve felt the floor bounce at more than one Webster Hall show during it, which always is slightly unsettling.

I hadn’t even realized I owned this, sorry, I meant that I hadn’t realized until today that it’s not the album edit, but instead from a BBC session. As opposed to the studio version, this one hints at the high point ‘Over & Over’ still brings to every Hot Chip show.

KoolChip, Kool Chip, 4th & Broadway

Listen: Jazz It Up (Vocal) / Kool Chip KoolChip.mp3

According to the label copy, either Kool Chip or ‘Jazz It Up’ was the Mellow Sound of Summer ’87. I don’t quite recall it that way. In fact, despite working for the label, I know nothing about Kool Chip. Nice job guys.

I tried to Wikipedia him and got: did you mean KOOL WHIP?

Whatever, I always kinda liked this one. It indeed is linked to ’87 given the dated sound but it’s certainly nice to have a personal reminder of what a fun summer I had.

Stereo MC’s

Monday, May 4th, 2009

Stereo MC's Connected Picture Sleeve

Listen: Stereo MCs / Connected StereoMCsConnected.mp3

Has there been a better funk/rock single since this? Probably not. I’ll never forget hearing it for the first time. It was at an Island A&R retreat in New Orleans during Jazz Fest in ’92. Jon Baker, who ran Gee Street, brought it straight in from the studio. Everyone’s mouth dropped.

Jon had invited me two years prior to see the band practice/showcase at a space in south London, just near Waterloo Bridge. They’d put one single out in the UK, and were about to be dropped. The rehearsal was spectacular. Just the three piece, with their live drummer Owen. It was slamming as they say.

Island did a deal for Jon’s Gee Street label, but it took a minute. After some dicking around, Jon was getting fed up and had planned to sign with Virgin, but came into my office for one last shot. He played me a new single by his other act, PM Dawn. Their ‘Set Adrift On Memory Bliss’ was a no brainer. Later that day, I went round the Gramercy Park Hotel to hook up with Jon, and meet the P. M. Dawn guys. I kept them there until around 2AM, insuring they’d miss their dinner with Virgin which was supposedly happening. I must ask Jon if that dinner date was really true. Whatever, Jon and I schemed to get Island’s committal quickly. I suggested Jon demand a substantial check within twenty four hours, and that if the label didn’t conclude the deal within one week he could keep the money. Island agreed to it the next day, once Chris heard ‘Set Adrift’. Bingo, two acts signed in one swoop, not to mention getting Jon Baker as part of the deal.

So we proceeded to deliver Stereo MC’s their first hit, in The States instead of England no less, with ‘Elevate My Mind’. Howard Thompson played Happy Mondays the single, and got Stereo MC’s the opening slot on their upcoming red hot US tour. A perfect storm.

Even better, ‘Connected’ was to follow.