NEWSFLASH: God tells music award nominees, “Leave me out of it.”

HEAVEN, 6 December, 2009: With the Brits and Grammies just a couple of months away (and a handful of even more insignificant awards ceremonies due to follow), the music awards industry has been shaken to its core by an enormous snub from the Almighty himself.

Yesterday God took the unconventional move of calling a press conference to disassociate himself from every mediocre musician who has ever thanked him on receiving an award, and formally asked all present and future music award nominees not to mention him in their acceptance speeches, should they win.

“For decades, I have wondered why the myth that the devil has all the good music  persists,” God said. “I have now come to the realisation that constantly being associated with naff music the way I am at music awards ceremonies has done my brand image a great deal of harm.

“It’s not just the fact that terrible musicians blame me for their lack of imagination that hurts. There’s also the fact that members of the public validate this by voting for their music to win awards. I suppose they blame me for their lack of good taste too. As the Almighty, I simply cannot have that.

“Besides, as a God of truth and honesty, I cannot take credit that’s not due to me. We all know the real person most of these artists should be thanking is (AutoTune inventor) Andy Hildebrand.”

God added: “I don’t normally deliver personal messages. But Michael says that’s enough tributes, thank you very much.”

News of the divine diss sent shockwaves through the music community. Hip Hop artists in particular were uncharacteristically speechless. MC Kill Murder Dawg is expected to win several awards next year with his hit single ‘Bitch Slap’. “Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve seen all my heroes at the Source Awards or the Grammies, or the MTV Awards, up there with their champagne and their hoes, thanking God for it all,” he said. “That’s all I ever wanted to do – and now I can’t! I’ve got to thank somebody! Maybe I’ll join the Scientologists and thank Xenu.”

The snub has created a big dilemma for the organisers of Gospel music awards, as God’s statement says “all music awards ceremonies” and he has refused to make any exceptions. “This is just going to kick up that old debate about whether old hymns are better than modern ones,” said a gospel music spokesperson.

However, there is one group of people for whom the snub from God is good news.

“For my industry, it’s a godsend – if you’ll excuse the pun,” said a representative of the Association of American Advertisers. “Those thank-you prayers used to take up a lot of time – which can now be freed up for us to fill with more adverts when the ceremonies are televised. Maybe I should be thanking God for that! Ker-ching!”

10 Reasons Why Urban is the New MOR

Its mostly young audience likes to think that ‘Urban’ music – in its various forms – is cutting-edge, cool, even dangerous. But scratch the surface, and in many ways ‘Urban’ music is every bit as safe, as conservative and as middle-of-the-road as its fans misguidedly think Easy Listening is – perhaps even more so. Here are my ten reasons why Urban is the new MOR:

1. The Cowell factor. Leona Lewis, JLS, Fantasia, Alexandra Burke, Jennifer Hudson… I’m not here to argue over whether they’re ‘soulful’ or not (Jennifer and Fantasia certainly are; the rest – well, that’s up for debate). But the sole purpose of X-Idoltalentfactor telly shows is to find the most saleable artist possible – and nothing sells as much as the stuff aimed at the middle. So be big enough to admit it: if your favourite R&B singer came up through one of these shows, there’s no difference between him/her and Susan Boyle (and there’s nothing wrong with admitting that).

2. Ice Cube’s film career. For the most part, I preferred the comic strip version of The Boondocks to the telly version. But one scene in one episode of the show stands out for me. Wannabe thug Riley and his favourite rapper Gangstalicious were on the run from some thugs; they got caught and were tied up and locked in a car’s boot. As they lay in the boot awaiting certain death, Gangstalicious said to Riley, “When I was your age, my favourite rapper was Ice Cube,” to which Riley replied, “That guy who makes family movies?” It’s a brief scene, but it speaks volumes of how one of hip hop’s legendary tough guys has mellowed – and in the process, become middle-of-the-road. It seems to happen to a lot of rappers who go into acting (Will Smith doesn’t count because his music was never that ‘threatening’ to begin with). I’m not sure whether it’s because they’ve grown up, started having kids and now feel some responsibility for what they put out, or because they’ve realised that there’s more money to be made in doing more family oriented stuff. Still, it can’t hurt…

PS. It’s been pointed out to me that this doesn’t just affect rappers, and that Eddie Murphy’s career has taken a similar path. That’s true – but Eddie recorded ‘Party All the Time’ while Ice Cube gave us ‘F*** Tha Police’.

3. Flavor Flav’s TV career. From prancing about on The Farm to going all Ozzy on us with Flavor of Love, Flav’s career trajectory from Public Enemy’s time keeper to serial reality TV clown has to be the biggest blow ever to hip hop’s street cred. Just the thought of him in that barn dancing to ‘Achy Breaky Heart’ gives me shivers.

4. The Obama effect. Like Spike Lee, I’m not drinking the “post-racial Kool-Aid” either. But there’s no escaping the fact that America now having a black president (all right, you pedants – a half-black President) has had the knock-on effect of making large chunks of black culture – music in particular – more mainstream. It’s also indirectly responsible for the next item on this list:

5. Dizzee Rascal’s Newsnight appearance. Sorry – this is supposed to be the things that made urban music MOR. Dizzee’s interview with Paxo just made it comical. My bad – but the next Dizzee-related thing on this list definitely belongs here…

6. Dizzee on the Electric Proms. I know the ‘Electric’ prefix is supposed to make them sound youthful, or less formal (or something) but ‘electric’ or not, the Proms are still the Proms – and you can’t get any more Middle England than that.

7. Timbaland wins Eurovision for the Russians. Here’s Russia’s first ever Eurovision Song Contest winner from 2008: Dima Bilan singing ‘Believe’ – produced by (whisper it) Timbaland! That victory puts one of the coolest producers in urban music in the same class as Abba and Celine Dion. I’ll say no more…

8. Dancin’ Alesha. I do love Alesha Dixon. The only time I’ve ever voted in a TV poll was for her to win Strictly Come Dancing. But when I remember Mis-Teeq’s “ragga gyal” and then hear that “does he wash up?” song, I can’t help but wonder if the price for mass appeal hasn’t been a bit too high…

9. 50 Cent is now a self-help guru. Personal development is the new religion of our time. And with his new opus The 50th Law, our man Fiddy can now be found in the ‘self-help’ selection in your local bookshop, stuck between Your Best Life Now and Screw It, Let’s Do It. Think about it: that annoying bloke who phones you up trying to sell you double glazing gets his motivation fix from a book Fiddy wrote! I wonder what his success seminars are like? Or his infomercials?

10. Dr Dre collaborates with Burt Bacharach. Actually, I’m changing my mind on this one too. It hasn’t made urban music MOR. But it did temporarily turn Mr. Bacharach into Burt Badass. And for that, Dre, I salute you.

Hanging Out With the Apples

If I were to pick the ideal venue to record interviews in, the EAT café in Notting Hill wouldn’t be my first choice. It’s tiny and extremely noisy (and I’m sure their staff don’t appreciate random people walking in and sitting down for 15 minutes without ordering anything either, so the feeling’s probably mutual). At the moment, however, it’ll have to do. It’s certainly a lot quieter than the nearby Notting Hill Arts club, where a handful of bands are busy soundchecking ahead of performing later today.

Two members of one of those bands – Israeli funk outfit The Apples – are huddled round a table with me: trombonist Yaron Ouzana, and DJ/turntablist Todres. A week ago, I’d met them for the first time at the Greenbelt festival, where I’d had the job of hosting two workshops they’d led there: one introducing themselves and their music, and one titled Tracing the History of Funk.

The rest of the nine-piece band’s line-up are: Arthur Krasnobaev (trumpet), Oleg Nayman (tenor & soprano saxophones), Yakir Sasson (baritone sax), Yonadav Halevy (drums), Alon Carmelly (double bass), Schoolmaster (turntables) and MixMonster (sound & live effects guy). Most of them are from Haifa in the north of Israel; Yaron is from Jerusalem. “A few of us studied together at the musical academy of Jerusalem,” explains Todres. “Some of us studied together at the musical faculty in Haifa’s university. We played together in some small groups, then Yoni (Yonadav, the drummer) had the idea to form this supergroup which would contain two djs and a really good four-piece horn section.”

And where did the name come from? “Our drummer loves apple juice,” says Todres. “He had to decide on a name just before our first gig, for the flyers and PR. And he just thought ‘Okay – let’s call ourselves the Apples.’ It was a last-minute decision. But it’s stuck. And there it is!”

“Most of us come from jazz music,” says Yaron, explaining how they gravitated towards funk. “Somehow, we went ‘way left’ to James Brown and all the funk around the JBs, Curtis Mayfield… all the good guys. We really got inspired by them. We have a lot of inspiration from other genres as well, such as reggae, dub, electronic music, classic rock, psychedelia and Latin music.”

In the seven years that they’ve been going, the Apples have shared the stage with some of the giants who’ve influenced them. Yaron, for one, is still awestruck from their collaborations with Fred Wesley of the JBs. “For me specifically as a trombonist,” he says, “meeting Fred was a dream come true; the highest point of my career. I never could have wished for more. He’s a huge man, an amazing musician, and I know all his licks and phrases! We’ve also had the privilege of working with Shlomo Bar who’s a legendary Israeli singer; he’s the founder of ethnic music in Israel. He’s amazing; he sings in gibberish! In some way, he fitted in with us.” One of Todres’ highlights was performing with Indian drummer Johnny Kalsi at WOMAD. “It was a last-minute idea,” he recalls. “Yoni knows him and so he asked him if he’d play with us, and he said ‘Yeah – of course!’ He heard the track once, then came on stage. It was crazy!”

If the audiences at their Greenbelt seminars are anything to judge by, the Apples are one band that can truly claim to reach all ages. During their ‘history of funk’ Q&A session, the people asking questions ranged from about 11 to 50-plus. “In Israel,” says Todres, “it’s kinda natural for us to see kids – or parents with kids – coming to see us.”

Yaron concurs. “There’s no age limit to the Apples’ audience. Anyone who can enjoy the music enjoys the music. We don’t aim our music at a specific age group or audience. We just enjoy playing.”

About three years ago, the band’s manager Zack Bar started working on a strategy to take their music overseas. He wrote letters and sent their music off to 200 record labels. London-based indie Freestyle Records warmed to two tracks: the title track of their second album, ATTENTION!, and their cover of the Rage Against the Machine song “Killing in the Name”.

“Freestyle released ‘Attention!’ on a compilation,” says Todres. “People began to ask who the Apples were. They then signed us up.” As a consequence, the Apples have spent a lot of time performing in and around Europe. “English audiences are good,” says Yaron approvingly. “We’ve been to Germany and Belgium and also Spain. But the UK is really like our second home now.”

Nevertheless, the Apples are still very committed to the Tel Aviv underground scene they consider themselves part of. At Greenbelt, their first seminar was meant to be an introduction to themselves as a band. They covered that in half an hour, then spent the remaining half hour talking about (and playing us music by) other Israeli artists, introducing us to the likes of Digital Me, UBK and the Ramirez Brothers (they’re not brothers, and their name’s not Ramirez).

Todres waxed lyrical on the band’s philosophy of sharing (he did tell me the Hebrew word for it, but I haven’t a clue how you spell it): “If you give away, you always get back. At Greenbelt it was kind of like, we’ve finished talking about ourselves; now we have time to give to our friends who are really good musicians, to give them some space so that other people around the world can know about their music because we think it’s good.

“All the things you heard – the Ramirez Brothers, Digital Me, UBK, the reggae stuff – all came from close friends of ours; people who are like family round us in Tel Aviv.”

“There are many, many musicians in Israel,” Yaron adds. “There are many bands and many new styles. And some of them are really successful around the world; Balkan Beat Box, for instance.”

But the challenges facing musicians are as real in Israel as they are anywhere else in the world. “People in Israel download music too,” says Todres. “But I don’t think this is the main issue. The important thing is that the underground scene has grown intensively in Israel over the past 10 years – especially in Tel Aviv.

“I think the minute you understand that you’re not going to become wealthy from music, this is the exact moment that all your attention goes on to the music itself.”

The Apples are touring the UK from the 30th of October to the 7th of November. If they’re playing a venue near you, make sure you see them; they’re well worth it.

Songs Every Dad Should Play for Their Sons

I’m not a dad myself (at least, not yet), but I like to think that when I do have kids, my taste in music will rub off on them. And while it’s not a good idea to live your life by everything pop stars say in their songs (come on – does anybody really want their ‘baby’ to hit them one more time? Or to dance into the fire?), every now and then you do come across one with some sage advice worth passing on to your offspring.

I was thinking about this the other day (as you do), and thought it would be fun to see how many songs I could come up with that either have some brilliant advice in for a dad to pass on to his boy, or songs a dad would want to play to his son because he wanted to school him in great music.

The most obvious song that comes to mind when you think of songs that have good fatherly advice in them is “Father & Son”. It’s not on my list because playing it means exposing your kids to Boyzone – which is tantamount to child abuse, in my opinion (besides, we all know that Boyzone is a gateway drug that could lead to full-blown Westlife addiction – or even worse, developing a liking for those twins on the X Factor).*

So here’s my shortlist of half a dozen songs I believe every dad should play to their sons. It’s a work in progress, so feel free to add your own, argue with my choices, etc. Just be sure to say why you’ve gone for the songs you’ve chosen.

• Real Man – Electric Church (because being a ‘playa’ is just stupid)
• Boys (Lesson One) – Jars of Clay (touching – in a good way)
• Try A Little Tenderness – Otis Redding (because every kid should hear at least one Otis song in their lifetime)
• Mr. Follow Follow – Fela Kuti (teach ‘em to think for themselves and not become lemmings)
• Gold Digger – Kanye West
• The Drugs Don’t Work – The Verve

Over to you, dads…

* Yes, I know Cat Stevens sang it originally. But whose version is better known these days?

Bassekou Kouyate: Proud Fula Speaker

bassekouispeakfulaI Speak Fula is the name of the new album from Malian ngoni player and singer Bassekou Kouyate; the follow-up to his critically acclaimed 2007 debut, Segu Blue. I caught up with Bassekou while he was in London on a brief promo trip last week, and threw a few questions at him.

These days, it seems that if you’re into African music in any way, you’re inundated with artists from Mali. What is it about your country that’s made it so prominent musically overseas?

Bassekou: Well, Mali is a very rich country musically because it’s a multi-ethnic country, and every group has their own music. The Bambara, the Malinke, the Sarakole, so many others… each has their own music. It’s from that rich cultural heritage that we take our inspiration. That’s one of the factors that have made Mali such a rich country musically. And because our parents and ancestors have put in a lot of work, we haven’t even exploited everything yet.

So there’s more to come, then?

There is indeed! For example, on this album, I have called an elder musician, Dramane Ze Konate, who plays an instrument called an mpolon. He played it at Mali’s independence in 1960 for Modibo Keïta, our first president. He came and played that same instrument on the album so that people can hear it and discover it. It’s not an instrument that’s well known.

As far as your own musical journey goes, how did it all begin?

When I was young, grew up with my father, Moustapha Kouyate, who was a great ngoni player, and my mother Yakare Damba, who was a great singer. My father would give ngoni lessons to his children, and the girls would learn to sing as my mother did. There were many students in that group. I found playing the ngoni very easy, so I was easily bored because some of the other students were having a hard time learning how to repeat and repeat and repeat. So I lost interest and went off to play football.

One day at home, I was sitting in my room, just playing all the ngoni lessons we had learnt off by heart – all alone in my room. My father heard that and knocked on my door. He asked, ‘What are you playing? Are you by yourself?’ I said ‘yes.’ And he said, ‘As a child, you mustn’t sit in a dark room and play ngoni by yourself. Come outside.’ He said to my mother, ‘Don’t force him to play the ngoni anymore. There’s no point being angry; I can already tell that this child will be a great ngoni player one day.’

How do your own albums fit into this master plan to expose Mali music to the world?

I started with my debut album, Segu Blue – which I did so that people would know about the ngoni, and know about my region. Usually, when people think about the music of Africa, they associate it with the kora and the drums. I wanted to let people know that the ngoni exists, and that it was around even before the birth of Christ. It’s a very old instrument that was used in our region only, and I wanted to bring it out, so that people would know about it – and about my region… and to get to know Bassekou as well.

The story behind the title track is that in Mali, we have many ethnic groups; it’s a very multi-ethnic country. The song is the story of a young Bamana man who falls in love with a Peul (Fula) woman. One day, he called her over and said, ‘Really, I find you very beautiful.’ She said, ‘What? You find me beautiful? But you’re Bamana and I’m Peul!’ He replied, ‘But if you come with me to my room, you’ll find out that I speak Peul!’ basically, the title is a way of saying no to racism and making differences between peoples.

You also get a bit political on the album – mainly on the song ‘Jamana be Diya’…

That song isn’t really about politics in a strict sense, but it’s more about unity and peace. When there’s a war, innocents die; people get angry… it’s better to have unity and peace. We mention Barack Obama in the song, because people in the USA united behind him to let him become President – and he’s a black man as well. This song’s a way to say that democracy can be a good system.

There are also some very personal songs on the album – both very happy and very sad. On the sad end, there’s ‘Saro’…

Yes. Saro is my brother. There are five boys in my family – same mother, same father – and Saro was my youngest brother. He was always helping me a lot. When people came to record – for example, when Lucy Duran and Jerry Boys came to Mali to produce the album – he would bring them; take them to their hotel, run errands if they needed something from the market. He would drive, pick people up… he helped with so many things. And he never asked for anything in return.

One day, he was getting a camera for somebody. On the way back, he was hit by a car. He fell on his head and was bleeding, but instead of calling for an ambulance, the people who saw it went and picked his pockets, took his cell phone and left him there. It was only much later, after he’d lost a lot of blood that someone called for an ambulance to take him to the hospital. He was taken there; he had my card on him and also those of other family members, but no one called us. He died in the hospital and was taken to the morgue. Still nobody called us. All his cards were taken away and he was left there.

In the meantime, back at home everyone was wondering what had happened to him and why he hadn’t come back. He’d never done something like this before. Back at home, they’d left him some tea, some chicken… all the food was still there, untouched. Even t he television was still on. So we went looking for him. We went everywhere – the Police station, the hospital… in the hospital, some people said that he’d been there, but they couldn’t tell us anything. Maybe he wasn’t very ill; maybe he’s left – we don’t know where he is. So we continued searching until we found him at the morgue.

I just wanted to write a song – partly as a homage, and to thank him. At the same time, I wanted to use the song to let people know to wear helmets, and also to say to people that when someone has an accident, call the ambulance immediately – don’t pick the victim’s pocket! I don’t want this to happen to somebody else. I’ve also set up a foundation to let young people and children know how to act in these circumstances. It’s called the Saro foundation.

And on a happier note, there’s a song for your wife.

Yeah, Amy! (Amy Sacko) She’s a very kind, very beautiful woman. She’s supported me all this time, and has given me many children. We’ve never had any problems since we started living together. So the song is just to thank her, because she’s a kind, intelligent woman, beautiful and with a good heart.

From the Y Crate: Remy Shand

From the Y Crate, #15:
remy“The Way I Feel” by REMY SHAND (Motown)

This is one of my favourite soul albums of the past 10 years… and the guy responsible for it seems to have vanished without a trace! Clearly I’m not the only person who misses Remy; the What Happen to Remy Shand? (sic) Facebook group has 615 members. And I still haven’t quite figured the ins and outs of how Twitter works, but the fact that @WheresRemyShand? could find and follow me says a lot.

The first track I heard off this album was “Take a Message”. It was 2001; I was in a hotel room in Nashville, and had dozed off in the middle of a documentary about Tupac and Biggie on VH1. The next thing I recall was hearing a sound so awesome, I had to open my eyes and see where it was coming from. Even though I was watching the telly half asleep (or is that half awake? I guess it depends on how optimistic you are), I could tell that all the members of the band in the video I was seeing were the same person. I was also positive that the song I was hearing was one of the most beautiful I’d ever heard. When I’d fully woken up a couple of hours later, I googled the only two words I could remember from my new discovery: “Remy” and “Motown” (mostly to prove to myself that I hadn’t just dreamt the whole episode).

I eventually found a copy of the album, and several tracks from it became firm favourites. “Take A Message” and the psychedelic soul jam “Liberate” are on my iPod’s “Top 25 Most Played” playlist (I’m not going to argue with iTunes; if it says I like them that much, then obviously I do). “The Colour of Day”, “I met Your Mercy”, “Everlasting” – lovely tunes all. And the title track, of course…

If we’re doing the lazy, easy comparison thing, you could call Remy the Canadian Lewis Taylor. But whereas Lewis released half a dozen albums before calling it a day, Remy fell out of sight after just one. A couple of gigs were scheduled to take place at the Jazz Café in 2002; I turned up at the box office to buy a ticket, only to be told the gigs were off. And that was it. Eventually the website went, and now all we have left is a handful of Youtube clips – including a couple purportedly of tracks from a new album (they’re actually bonus tracks that appeared on the UK version of The Way I Feel, but not the US version).

Seriously, someone needs to find this guy and get him out of hiding. Give him whatever he wants and get at least one more album out of him.

A Night at the Castle

In my time, I’ve been to several gigs in Camden Town. Most of them, though, have been at the end of Parkway closest to Camden Town tube station – at the Jazz Café.

Tonight, I’m venturing further up the road. I’m going to the Dublin Castle – my first time visiting this pub which has a special place in British rock folklore. This is where Madness started their music career back in the late 70s. In the following decades, it’s been a launch pad for several indie bands who’ve gone on to greater things (and a few that haven’t).  Supergrass, Travis and the Cardigans are just a few of the many who played here in their early days. The band I’ve come here to see are playing their first ever gig and I’m hoping some of the fabled Dublin Castle stardust will rub off on them.

Before I go any further, I should declare an interest. This band once paid me to write about them. Well, sort of. That was three years ago, and they were a different band then. Back then, there were five of them; they were called CL6 (yes, I know I said there were five of them) and they were strictly soul boys. Now they’re down to three, they’re called The Glovz, and their sound is unashamedly pop.

DSC00076I have to admit I wasn’t 100% convinced by their choice of opening song, a cover of that “come fill my little world right up” song by The Feeling. But once they settled down into performing their own material, those doubts vanished. They have really crafted some fine pop tunes. ‘Beautiful’ is a merry romp reminiscent of ELO; ‘Starvin’’ and ‘So Special’ are joyously upbeat, and ‘Make It Work’ struck a chord with everyone in the room who’d ever had relationship problems (i.e. everyone). Great tunes all… and just as we were getting into it, the gig was over. But then, they were first on a bill of four acts…

The guys will be back round these parts next week. They entered a competition to win a slot supporting V.V. Brown on her nationwide tour, and have made it onto the shortlist. Next Thursday, they’ll battle it out with some other bands at another legendary Camden dive, the Barfly. They should do well – and no, they haven’t paid me to write that.

From the Y Crate: Elisha La’Verne

From the Y Crate, #14:
“I May Be Single” by ELISHA LAVERNE (Avex)

In the mid-90s, I was a music writer for the black arts mag Artrage. During this time, I witnessed a strange phenomenon: loads of British artists – the kind we’d use the ‘urban’ tag on today – were scoring huge success in Japan while they couldn’t get arrested back home. Some (such as CJ Lewis or Louchie Lou & Michie One) had had limited chart success in the UK, but most of them simply never registered on the radar.

Elisha fell into the latter category. When this came out in 1997, this Sarf London girl was the toast of Tokyo, with her face on several Japanese magazine covers. I remember interviewing her at the time and wondering how disconcerting it must be to be a household name thousands of miles away from home, yet virtually unknown in your own backyard. With this song, Elisha did the “I’m not a pathetic loner just because I haven’t got a man” thing years before Natasha Bedingfield debuted with “Single”. The guitar work on the remix is particularly sweet.

From the Y Crate: Unklejam

From the Y Crate,unklejam cd #13:
“Unklejam” by UNKLEJAM (Virgin)

Here’s another made-up music genre for you: ‘Electrosoul’. Take equal parts James Brown, Cameo, Prince and Imagination, throw in a handful of 80s synth-pop, give it a good shake and name the concoction after a George Clinton record. Et voila – Unklejam!

In a previous life, Bobby Joel Stearns had been a member of the ironically named Christian band thebandwithnoname. Towards the tail end of 2006, word started to spread that he’d linked up with two other singers – Adonistar and Tyson – to form Unklejam. “Love Ya”, Unklejam’s debut single, was released early in 2007.

Critics could argue that “Love Ya” was just an over-the-top swagger, and they’d be right. But it was a brilliant over-the-top swagger! There was no way you could ignore it; bold, loud and with all the subtlety of a JCB, never has a band announced its entry into the music scene with more cockiness. That year, the guys worked their butts off, supporting Nelly Furtado, John Legend and Justin Timberlake on their UK tours. In between those gigs, they released two more singles: “What am I Fighting For?” and “Stereo”.

So what went wrong?

Frankly, I haven’t a clue. I knew something was amiss when the album’s release date kept changing. As far as I know, it never did get a proper UK release; the lucky few who did manage to get their hands on copies are asking for silly money for them on Amazon (fortunately, I didn’t have to shell out too much for the one I bought).

The more I listen to the album, the more baffled I am as to why Virgin chose to sit on it. The three singles are there in their glory, along with another could-have-been hit,“Go”. For those who may have found the band’s brashness a bit much, they showed us their mellow, sensitive side on “Don’t Pass Me By”, “Cry” and “Daddy’s Genes”.

Unklejam may have disappeared, but their presence can still be felt here and there. A certain McDonald’s I used to frequent always seemed to have “Love Ya” on its PA system whenever I was in it. And the other day, I heard it in the background on one of those “young man who’s hopeless around women tries desperately hard to get a girlfriend” comedies on Channel 4. The videos for the three singles can easily be found on Youtube, along with a few of them performing the White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army” live (one of the best covers of that song that I’ve heard – and I’ve heard a few). Here’s hoping they don’t stay hidden too long.

From the Y Crate: Beats International

From the Y Crate, #12:
beatsint“The Sun Doesn’t Shine” by BEATS INTERNATIONAL (Go! Discs)

Norman Cook has recorded under many monikers in his long career – more successfully under some than others. Somewhere between Fatboy Slim and Freak Power, he released a couple of singles as Beats International. The wrong one became a huge hit. Well, to me, anyway. I never cared much for “Dub Be Good to Me” (never liked the SOS Band’s original much, either). But I did love this lickle reggae tune he released after it. Shame nobody else did…