Syncopate 1990. SYN38 and 12SYX38
I love a bit of social commentary in music especially rap, and this single does a particularly good job. It’s the story of a couple emigrating from the Caribbean in the 1950s with high hopes, quickly dashed by the hostile reception they got from the xenophobic Brits. One verse is about the woman, the other the man and the whole thing is told from the perspective of their UK born son. This is a part of UK history everyone who lives here should know about, but it’s not just an earnest history lesson. The words are beautifully written, and it works just as well musically, with loping backing giving a nice caribbean vibe alongside the well placed Malcolm X samples. It had rave reviews at the time and Peel played it quite a bit, but it bombed. The band then took a real dive getting involved with Shaun Ryder and Black Grape. I guess they had bills to pay.
This is the CD single bundled up with the remix 12″. Do you need that many versions of it? I guess not, but it really is a fantastic dose of Brit rap.
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.