Pump up the reggae

12:31 am : Wednesday, 19 August 2015  |  ,

On my old site I used to provide a musical oddities section, which provided examples of the weird and wonderful. With that part of the site down for the moment, I am going to post examples on this blog. This can require an open mind, so as one Roy Wood once wrote in Melody Maker: Clean yer bloody ears out and listen!

This first installment of the Listening Post largely concerns reggae music, and we shall start off with the Eighties soul and reggae duo Colourbox. The outfit consisted of brothers Martyn and Steve Young, with the occasional vocal assistance of reggae singer Lorita Grahame. In 1986 they covered the Jacob Miller song Baby I Love You So in a heavy dub style. Recording, as they did, for the über-trendy indie label 4AD, the song features some obligatory, if a little incongruous fuzz guitar. Note the elephant-like parp at 1:58!

Colourbox - Baby I Love You So

A year later Colourbox would achieve a UK number one hit - in the form of the era-defining Pump Up The Volume. This happened as a result of a rather uneasy collaboration between the Young brothers and fellow 4AD band AR Kane - both of whom harboured a desire to record a dance single. Due to having diametrically opponent views when recording, the two bands would record separately their own ideas of what should constitute a dance record, and then swap the tapes over, and allow the other act to trowel on whatever was seen as fit.

The Colourbox brothers laid down the foundations for Pump Up The Volume - an irresistible dance groove with samples and scratching tossed in - which AR Kane then dressed with distorted guitar and feedback. Meanwhile, AR Kane recorded a track entitled Anitina (The First Time I See She Dance) - which demonstrated their traditional vision of "dream pop". This would then be given a smattering of heavy drum machine and Sigue Sigue Sputnik-style echo by Colourbox.

Naturally Pump Up The Volume - released under the acronym of M|A|R|R|S - would gain the airplay (and controversy, due to its unauthorised sampling of Stock Aitken Waterman's Roadblock), while Anitina was roundly ignored. The two tracks were so different in their delivery, so it is not surprising that the more commercial-sounding candidate would reign supreme. This however, leads us to rediscover this forgotten, yet mesmerising industrial dance effort from an arty-farty record label.

M|A|R|R|S - Anitina (The First Time I See She Dance)

Back to reggae proper, our next item comes courtesy of reggae keyboardist Bobby Kalphat. This one is of interest for many reasons:
  • It is based on the Dave Brubeck jazz classic Take Five.
  • It is played on the humble melodica.
  • When originally pressed, its label featured a most unfortunate misprint, with the song title Counter Punch rudely stated as C*nter Punch.
I know the melodica as an instrument was used extensively by American rock band The Hooters, and even used to beautiful effect on The Kane Gang's Closest Thing To Heaven, but it still manages to sound like a toy on this track!

Bobby Kalphat - Counter Punch

And we will finish with a second reggae interpretation of the song Take Five. Val Bennett, a Jamaican tenor saxophonist, recorded a single entitled The Russians Are Coming. Being a bit more true to Take Five than the Bobby Kalphat rendition, this song is perhaps best remembered in the UK as the theme to the Channel 4 educational programme The Secret Life of Machines.

Val Bennett - The Russians Are Coming

I hope you enjoyed this first installment of audio oddities. More will be provided in future posts.

Windows 10

11:36 pm : Saturday, 1 August 2015  |  , ,

Wednesday the 29th saw Windows 10 come out. I have been running it on my PC since Friday, and am so far impressed. The only issue so far is waking the computer from sleep mode. This sees the computer whirr into life but the monitor remaining black, which is only really cured by way of that dreaded reboot button. But that remains a minor issue - for the moment!

Back in October 2009 I posted about Windows 7. My experience of that was thoroughly positive. After getting it rather wrong in 2006 with the very beautiful, but downright slow and hungry Windows Vista, Windows 7 was to be a make-or-break for Microsoft. They certainly earned their make with that one.

Windows 8 reared its ugly head in 2012, and was not the same resounding success. Yes, tablets were coming to dominate, and touchscreens were becoming affordable, but old Joe Public was not best pleased with having the beloved Start button replaced by a screen that unfortunately resembled an AOL menu from 1996!

An update in the form of Windows 8.1 came a year later, but Microsoft just had to face the fact that people and businesses were not prepared to make the change to an operating system that was just a little too radical. There are a frightening number of businesses out there still getting by perfectly well with Windows XP, which dates way back to 2001. Banks too - the people who we entrust our money to - still using the Fisher-Price world of XP. That says so much about how bad Windows 8/8.1 is!

Following this disaster, Microsoft had to get it properly right, and this they did by skipping over the number nine. The start button and its associated menu has returned properly - now with the addition of the apps that debuted with version 8. The Facebook and Twitter apps are good and solid.

Also making its debut is Microsoft Edge - a slimmed-down browser intended to replace the infamous, hack-prone relic that was/is Internet Explorer. This new browser is light and very capable (and displays this blog without any issues), but whether it can overtake the likes of Chrome and Firefox remains to be seen. Will it "smoke the competition" like IE9 claimed to do in 2012? Hmmm...

Welcome to a more beautiful web - Internet Explorer commercial

Windows Media Centre has been removed, with Windows DVD Player serving as a replacement for DVD playback functionality.

Perhaps the greatest thing about Windows 10 is the fact that users of Windows 7, 8 or 8.1 can upgrade for the unbelievable price of free. I am guessing that come next year it will cost something in the region of $99/€99/£79, but it is jolly well hard to beat free. This could be the way to finally get us all on board and update our computers to something a little more up-to-date. Even all those sods over in China with their pirated copies of Windows XP? Time will tell!

For further reading, see also my post of Thursday 22 October 2009, entitled Windows 7.