Ranking Trevor & Trinity – “Three Piece Chicken & Chips” (1978)

In general, I find I can’t go wrong with random reggae and dub purchases. So this 1978 split release featuring Ranking Trevor and Trinity was a no-brainer for $10 today over at my local haunt, Vortex.

My copy is on blue vinyl and appears identical to the black vinyl original posted on Discogs other than the color of the vinyl and labels. Is it also period from 1978, or some kind of re-release or something unofficial? I don’t know… The quality and wear of the jacket certainly appear dated, and it looks to be a punch-out based on the hole in the upper right, something I wouldn’t expect to see on a bootleg or unofficial version. But I can’t be sure. Not that it matters, because these are some great jams.

Each artist contributes five track to the record and most of them have at least some dub influence, though overall Ranking Trevor’s stuff feels like it’s more heavily dubbed than does Trinity’s. Trinity’s “Judgement Day” borrows heavily from The Temptations’ “Get Ready”, though the samples could come from a different version since so many artists have covered that song over the years. Sly and Robbie contribute bass and drums to some of the tracks, and all in all Three Piece Chicken & Chips is a solid slow burner, one perfect for chilling.

Shakti – “Forbidden Dreams / The Awakening” 12″ (1988)

Shakti was a brief side-detour by Praga Khan and writer/producer Chris Inger. They released the “Forbidden Dreams / The Awakening” 12″ in 1988, but ultimately the project went by the wayside as Khan focused on the increasing popularity of Lords of Acid. I found this 12″ over at Seattle’s Georgetown Records, where for whatever reason they seem to constantly have amazing 1980s Euro-techno-electro-weirdo stuff in the New Arrivals bins, which always trips me out, because I never seem to find this stuff in other Seattle-area stores.

Anyway… let’s spin some Shakti. “Forbidden Dreams” is slow and sultry, with early 1980s beats and synths occasionally punctuated by some snappy industrial-esque percussion. The vocals remind me a bit of the much later “Justify My Love” by Madonna, though most of the track is about the music and not the singing with the vocal work relegated to background sounds as opposed to actual lyrics. When Jade 4U does sing, though, it’s with an almost spoken cadence, deep and smoky.

“The Awakening” takes things down a darker path. The BPM rate is higher and the beats have a bit of a jungle feel to them. We don’t have Jade 4U on this side to give us some balance, so this one is all about the driving beats, with the occasional horn or synth to give it some texture. The vocals, when they appear, are low and effects-laden, giving them an industrial tone that presents an interesting juxtaposition with the music.

I enjoyed this Shakti 12″, especially “Forbidden Dreams” which will certainly lead to me searching out some of Jade 4U’s other music, because her voice is captivating.

Август – “Демон” (1987)

For those of you of a certain age (probably about 40 and older) who grew up in a certain part of the globe (Western Europe and the US and Canada), you remember the us-versus-them of the Cold War. There was still a Berlin Wall, and NATO troops faced those of the Warsaw Pact in a passive-aggressive stand-off. Nuclear annihilation was a distinct possibility, and we all just kind of accepted it and went on about our business. But there was always that strange fascination with the USSR and the other communist nations of Eastern Europe, that the people lived similar yet very different lives from us, a certain sense of “otherness”.

Sometime during high school in the late 1980s I found a copy of the Red Wave compilation, a collection of rock songs from four different Russian bands. The music was allegedly smuggled out of Leningrad and brought to the west, where of course someone made some money off of it. But the idea that there were some rock bands trying to keep it real in the face of some pretty long odds and in the face of government oppression was fascinating to me. Even though the wall came down and Cold War is technically over (unfortunately today the saber-rattling is just as real) and our Russian friends live lives much more similar to our own, though also quite different in many ways, I still have that strange fascination with the people and their society. That’s why this copy of the 1987 metal album Демон (Demon in English) by the Russian band Август (August) caught my eye the other day over at Daybreak Records. What kind of metal was being made in Russia before the fall of communism?

It turns out it’s a bit of metal-lite. But we have to keep in mind this was the 1980s, so in many ways Демон resembles many of the other mainstream acts of the era, bands like Scorpions and Whitesnake and Dokken. Sometimes it rocks out like on “Ночь”, while at others it drifts into the soaring types of ballads so popular in the day, with the lonely, searching guitars and chimes on “Осень”. If you like your metal 80s style, you’ll likely enjoy Демон, if for no other reason than it’s an intriguing cultural artifact.

The band is still alive and well as near as I can tell, and they even have all the songs from Демон posted for you to listen to HERE.

The Bollock Brothers – “Never Mind The Bollocks 1983” (1983)

So the other day I picked up a 12″ record by The Bollock Brothers. It was decent, but what caught my attention was learning that in 1983 they covered the entirety of the Sex Pistols’ Never Mind The Bollocks, but did it in a kind of electro style. I’m not sure if this is advanced or overt, but either way it was interesting. And lo and behold, what did I come across the other day at Silver Platters? The new re-release of Never Mind The Bollocks 1983 on pink vinyl. How could I say no?

Never Mind The Bollocks 1983 is primarily electronic, both in the percussion and the use of synths. Vocally it’s somewhat true to the original, sneeringly half-spoken-half-sung in a way that isn’t at all pretty but does convey a certain attitude. It’s a weird juxtaposition, one all the more odd because of how familiar the source material is, the sterility of the music coupled with the passive-aggressive signing. Some songs like “No Feeling” are straight-up new wave, while others have more of an edge to them. Sonically it wanders around a bit, sometimes a little Devo-ish, others like something that would have appeared on an episode of Sprockets. (♠)

As if the album concept wasn’t weird enough, Never Mind The Bollocks 1983 is also notable for its inclusion of Jimmy Lydon and Michael Fagan. Lydon was the brother of Sex Pistols lead singer John Lydon, aka Johnny Rotten, so that bit makes sense. Fagan is a more unique character, having become famous in the UK for breaking into Buckingham Palace not once but twice, the second time making it all the way into the Queen’s bedroom, which woke her up. Needless to say, this was a bit of a scandal, since that kind of thing isn’t supposed to happen. So of course The Bollock Brothers had him sing “God Save The Queen,” because why wouldn’t you? This feels a bit more overt than advanced to me, but I’m open to being wrong on that.

I’m guessing the appeal of this one is a bit limited, but it has it’s place, and it’s surprisingly good. You can check out Fagan’s version of the Pistols’ most famous song below and decide for yourself.

(♠) Now is ze time on Sprockets ven ve dance!

Mark Stewart + Maffia – “Learning To Cope With Cowardice” (1983)

I bought this album solely because it was on On-U Sound.

I was not disappointed.

Mark Stewart is the Mark Stewart of The Pop Group fame, and Learning To Cope With Cowardice is his first post-The Pop Group solo LP. All the On-U trademarks are here on this album that can best be described as dub post-punk – dark, echoey, and sampling from other On-U artists like Gary Clail, Learning To Cope With Confidence is an experimental ride, some songs like the title track danceable, while others such as “Liberty City” are avant-garde weirdness. Most of it, in fact veers off to the strange side, which isn’t a value judgement so much a statement of fact. And if it’s possible, the B side is even more dubby than the A!

I need to spend some time digging a little further into the On-U catalog so I know what artists to be on the lookout for, because every time I buy on of the label’s albums I come away happy.