Juice Box 1994. JB26
This single is taken from Black Secret Technology which I posted a while ago, but it’s such a great track it deserves another outing. The beautiful vocals are provided by a pre-fame Finley Quaye in quite a jazzy style which works well with the sparse jungle backing from Gerald. It’s the least experimental track on the album, although of course the remixes here mess with the simplicity, but it really doesn’t need any embellishments – it just works really well as it is.
Gerald Simpson is one of the most important and innovative electronic musicians of the last few decades, and he’s never less than essential listening. He has a new album out which I’d have bought had he not issued it through the infuriating Bowers & Wilkins.
Wooden 1988. WOOD 6
This single barely sold at all, and is now largely forgotten. That’s not because of the quality of the music, nor of the performers. I suspect the problem was than no-one had any idea who “Us” were and Wooden had virtually no distribution.
In effect this single is by A Guy Called Gerald, with Edward Barton on vocals. It’s from the same period as Voodoo Ray, and I think is almost as good. Like its better known companion, this is a superb slab of acid house; minimalist and menacing. Barton’s odd vocals work surprisingly well in this context, as does the sample of the hateful Edwina Currie indulging in a spot of victim blaming. As you’ll know if you follow this blog, I like politics in music, and this works well on that score. If you’re familiar with the UK you’ll know of the huge and ever growing gulf between the wealthy south-east and the rest of the country. Back in 1988 it was bad enough, but it’s grown substantially since then, and it’s good to see musicians expressing their anger about it, and the politicians who seek to perpetuate the divide.
Rham! 1988. RS8804
I’ve never been much into clubbing, so the whole acid house thing from the late 80s largely passed me by, but on the few occasions I did go, this made the whole thing worthwhile. It’s also one of the few tracks from that era that works as well at home as it does in a club when you’re up to your eyeballs in illegal stuff.
If you’ve been following this blog, you’ll already know that I’m very much into Gerald’s stuff. He transcends the genre he works in – that this is a kind of proto-acid house record is really irrelevant. It’s a Gerald record and he’s a giant of electronic music of the minimal type I usually go for.
This is the original issue of the track, not the clumsy remix which bothered the lower reaches of the charts a year later. Legend has it that it was called Voodoo Ray because the intended title Voodoo Rage wouldn’t fit on Gerald’s sampler; it missed the last syllable and became Ray. No idea whether that’s true, but it’s more plausible than the other legends surrounding the track which circulate about Gerald hiding from exploding interest from clubs and radio stations behind his anonymous moniker and a job in McDonalds.
According to Warp who re-issued this as part of a superb compilation of tracks which had influenced the formation of the label, the master tapes are lost, but looking this up on Discogs, it seems it had a CD issue, although that seems unlikely. Whatever the truth of this, the Warp CD was mastered using a vinyl copy in worse condition than mine…
Wooden Records 1989. WOOD 7
This is a remarkable album by any standards. On the face of it, it’s a tribute album to the maverick Manchester artist, Edward Barton, but there’s more to it than that. The usual tribute album is about a long established, legendary artist (like the Neil Young tribute I posted a few days ago), and the performers are either newer artists or unknowns, but this is the other way around. Many of the artists on this album were well established, at least in independent music circles, whereas Barton was little known. It also appeared on Barton’s own label, Wooden, and it appears, was compiled by him. The last odd element to this is how unlistenable Barton’s own performances of these songs were. He was at the time best known for a disturbing appearance on The Tube where he performed I’ve Got No Chicken, But I’ve Got Five Wooden Chairs solo, playing his acoustic guitar with a wooden spoon with a manic vocal delivery which generated a surprising number of complaints, despite the absence of anything obviously offensive.
However, as this album shows, Barton was much more than a novelty act. With his, er, difficult delivery removed and replaced by some of the best Manchester had to offer in 1989, his songs are revealed to be startlingly original, both musically and lyrically. Apart from Chapter and the Verse’s contribution which hasn’t aged well, there’s hardly a duff track here. Highlights are 808 State, whose inspired version of Sorry Dog features a couple of young kids on vocals and tells of a man’s feelings of guilt after he shits on the floor and blames the dog. The Ruthless Rap Assassins (more music from them at some point in the future) deal with the sorry tale of a car crash in Z Bend, also covered strangely poignantly by Ted Chippington. I’d been listening to this album for years before I realised that when A Guy Called Gerald said “pump the jack” in Barber Barber that he was talking about the barber’s chair, not some sort of dance move I was way too uncool to be aware of. As always, Gerald is excellent.
There’s a surprising amount of Edward Barton material available. His new (ish) album which is by far his most accessible to date and really worth a punt is available here. It’s obvious his early releases didn’t sell well, so you can buy them direct here. There are also a few free MP3s if you hunt around.
Juice Box 1995; JBOX 025CD
Gerald has been a pretty constant feature in my listening since Voodoo Ray, and this is probably his definitive statement, although it’s Voodoo Ray which really does it for me.
I’m not great with the labels people attach to this sort of music – I guess I’m just not cool enough, but I suppose you’d call this Drum N Bass. It’s drum n bass with a difference though – it’s playing while I type and while it uses old technology (of course) it doesn’t sound dated in the way that the contemporaneous and much better known Timeless by Goldie does. It’s full of manipulated vocal samples and complex rhythms, but it always avoids that sense of being beaten around the head that much similar music from the period has. It has a subtlety which is a rare commodity in this genre. It also has clear links to another favourite of mine, Photek who clearly spent far too much time in his bedroom listening to Gerald.
This is the original CD issue of the album and it does have a few quirks. It’s mastered very quietly, so you’ll need to turn the volume up, but more seriously it doesn’t have much bass and the sound overall is rather muddy. There was some debate at the time whether this was intentional, but a recent remaster sounds more conventional, so I guess it was a mistake. I rather like the muddy sound, but if it bothers you, seek out the remaster.
Cherry Red 1983 (CD issue 1993) CD Cherry 65
This is, apparently the biggest selling audio recording of a poem, at least according to its writer Edward Barton, about whom there will probably be more in future posts. It sold pretty well for an independent release of the day and later appeared on the Jane and Barton album. The singer, Jane, is Jane Lancaster who was Barton’s girlfriend at the time.
The song is best known for the cover version which charted in 1992 by Opus III, which I thought worked pretty well at the time, but now it sounds like a 20 year old dance track. It was also sampled to good effect by Orbital on Halcyon. This original version, being acapella is timeless and it’s a beautiful song.
Bonus track on the CD is the A Guy Called Gerald remix. You can never have too much Gerald, and if you think the Barton/Gerald pairing is an odd one, there will be more when my vinyl rig is fixed.