Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Barrio Ping Pong

Ironically whilst digging through a draw looking for an i-pod lead, I came across some rather dusty tapes.  One of them was a recording from a 1999 show on the now defunct GLR.  It was called 'Barrio' and was a 'Destination In' special featuring Ross Allen, Charlie Gillett and Ashley Beedle.  The trio of music enthusiasts took it in turns to play records that somehow linked to the previous one, with the loose theme being 'Barrio'.  During the show Luther Ingram's 'If Loving You is Wrong, I don't want to be right', was played and got the three speaking about the link between Country and Soul music.

During the conversation they mentioned Barney Hoskyns' book 'Say it One Time For the Broken hearted'.  I tracked down the book shortly after and must say it's a good read.  Concentrating mainly on the influences of country within black soul music, it also touches on the few black country singers.  It's good at explaining how these two cultural extremes came to be intertwined, which was mainly through working the land side by side and the church.

Allen went on to compile the much acclaimed 'Country Got Soul' compilations, which also lead to an original recording by some of the musicians featured on the compilations.  Produced by southern soul legend Dan Penn, the album 'Testifying - The Country Soul Revue', was a fine slice of southern soul, with heartfelt songs by artists that have experienced life rather than most of today's blinged out soul upstarts.  

Maybe it was bubbling in Ross' brain for a while or maybe the 'Barrio' conversation sparked it all off.  But it's nice to unearth a captured moment in time that's nearly ten years old.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Bunch Of Cuts!

In these times of the ever present 'crunch', one of Soho's more colourful salons had it's doors rudely shut for them recently. But fear not, the resilient barber's have regrouped and relocated.

Cuts was started in the early 80s by the recently deceased style icon, James Lebon and Steve Brooks. It was always known for it's cutting edge (pardon the pun) approach and developed it's fair share of cult styles, from the 'Boxer' cut of the 80's to the 'Buddha' in the 90's. Frequented by the likes of Goldie and Mark Moore, many the mover and shaker has been through cuts' doors for one of their trade mark scissor crops. Although it moved location a few times, it spent most of it's time on Soho's Frith Street.

The atmosphere was somewhat like a camp Desmond's at times, and at others more like an episode of Minder. Musicians and fashion designers would get their hair cut next to shifty geezers, while the salon would share a joke at a staff members expense, and the door would be a turnstile for Soho's panhandlers and eccentrics. Cuts was a refreshing answer to the chain salons with their herbal teas and expensive product ranges (whether the staff wanted it or not).

The sudden move seems apparently due to some bad management, but the staff banded together in record time to relocate and continue Cuts. Their new home is tucked away behind dean street and seems a lot swankier than their last, but minimal walls and stripped wooden beams aside it still seems to have the same chaotic charm as before. So with hopes of making it last and acquiring enough chairs for their clients, I wish them all good luck and urge you to pop along and experience the new Cuts.

Rush Rush to the Yale

I noticed something quite strange in the summer of 2006... house was back.
Maybe I'd been locked away for a a while, but it seemed what for so long was a dirty word and the scourge of every trendy night's musical policy, had suddenly leaped to the forefront of every DJ and faux celeb DJ's playlist! 

It had a few new names and a few new branches to the family tree, but whether dressed up as nu-electro or minimal techno it was house no doubt. The undeniable 4:4 beat was pounding through every East London venue, from skinny jeaned pubs to it's spiritual home in grotty warehouses. I was taken aback. Maybe we can thank people like soulwax for introducing festival goers to the cheap trickery and cheeky delight of banging away to a filtered beat and bass line, or maybe we can thank channel 4's skins for their portrayal of sexy young things lost in the pursuit of hedonism. But as I swigged on a warm can of larger, that I had seen someone hide at a party in a warehouse/work unit/living space, I couldn't help looking out at the 'raving' (another dirty word that's rejoined our vocabulary) hordes with curiosity. How did this happen?

If you go back 10 years to the same locations, you'd be hard pressed to find a flyer touting house, unless it was dressed up in a media friendly way to appease the clued up cool clubbers. To get away with playing house music of any derivative you'd have to first insert an excuse / explanation beforehand. Cue, 'deep', 'jazzy', 'Latin' and 'nu'! Yes these media savvy young things weren't going to get their combat trousers and latest fat Nike Airs dirty for just any musical genre. It had to be the latest (or the most old skoolest) hip hop, breakbeat, drum 'n' bass, eclectic beats out there. House was for the Sharon and Tracys that they'd left behind in the home counties, along with their Mum's chintzy guest room.

A worthy nod of exception goes to the South London swagger of Ross Allen, who delighted in introducing them to some 4:4 delights via the Filter records label. He was also one of the only DJ's at the time who could beat mix a varied box of records together, leaving others' worn out excuses about musical purity looking pretty poor in comparison. But I digress.

Maybe in this homogenised world, where the high street is quick to jump on fashion trends, information leaps around at light speed, people publish their opinions before thinking (ahem), and nothing is given time to grow and develop before it's plastered as yesterdays news on some blog, house is the only music fitting? There's no complicated dance steps, no real need to know about the music or it's rich history, there's not a very committed uniform to follow and it rarely has any social commentary to think about. Do the Secretsundaze and mulletovers owe their success to mediocrity? Where hipsters and suits rub shoulders on the dance floor, looking for a new brand of validation to make their lives seem cool and special, along with a bump of ket to add an edge to their dull antics.

Or maybe people have learnt from their pretensions, and look back in horror at their now irrelevant music collection and fashion mistakes. Maybe the so called Sharon and Tracys had it right all along? Don't get stuck in the kitchen talking about the influence of Coltrane on modern music, hoping you'll seem deep and get a snog. Get out on the dance floor and actually get a snog! House music woke people from their various musical tribes and injected some much needed FUN into their lives, and now it seems to have shaken them alive again!