Just for the record: Township bubblegum hits the dancefloor

Lifestyle

Just for the record: Township bubblegum hits the dancefloor

A bi-weekly vinyl review

Andrew Donaldson

HOMEGROWN, ETC
Good to see a keen foreign interest in the music of our past. British label Soundways Records have done a fairly extensive dig into the playlists that rocked the townships back in the day to bring us the double LP compilation, Gumba Fire: Bubblegum Soul & Synth Boogie in 1980s South Africa. It’s a mixed bag of post-disco dance floor stompers, R&B and African pop – and, like it says on the box, it’s very synth-heavy.Tracks include Stimela’s Mind Games, Zoom’s Wayawaya, Zasha’s Hayi Ngodlame, General Peter Maringa's  Listen To Me, The Survivals’ My Brother and Ntombi Ndada’s Do You Trust Amajita?
AllMusic.com described the set thus: “It’s a well-chosen and important collection that serves the musicians involved quite well, gives fans of 1970s and 1980s African music something new to explore, and – most of all – is just a whole lot of fun to listen to.” Amen to that.
PADDY POWER
The legendary Irish blues guitarist Rory Gallagher’s entire solo catalogue was reissued on vinyl by Universal last Friday, the day before the Feast of St Patrick, and this includes all the albums he recorded for both Polydor and Chrysalis Records during the 1970s and 80s. They are Rory Gallagher, Deuce, Blueprint, Tattoo, Against The Grain, Calling Card, Photo-Finish, Top Priority, Jinx, Defender, Fresh Evidence and the posthumous, predominantly acoustic Wheels Within Wheels and Notes From San Fransisco. The critically acclaimed live albums Live in Europe, Irish Tour ’74 and Stage Struck are also reissued.Best of the bunch is Irish Tour ’74, which was recorded In concert halls in Belfast, Dublin and Cork at a time when very few performers, Irish or otherwise, considered touring the troubled island. Northern Ireland, in particular, was a no-go area, but Gallagher never turned his back on the province played some of his best-ever gigs there, and Irish Tour ’74 captures some of his finest known live recordings. Gallagher died in 1995, aged 47.
THE ESSENTIAL LIBRARYThe Wailers: Catch A Fire (Island, 1973)
Bob Marley’s superstardom was still some years away, but this was the album with which Island Records boss Chris Blackwell chose to introduce reggae to European ears. Most of his contemporaries thought he was mad; in the early 1970s, reggae was regarded by many industry types with a disdain that bordered on racism. Controversially, Blackwell had to “doctor” the album for a “rock” audience. Once he got the master tapes, which were recorded in Jamaica, he holed up in Island’s London studios with session musicians to give the album some “Western” polish. 
Blackwell also spent a fortune on the album’s cover. It was originally lavishly packaged as a giant Zippo cigarette lighter, with a hinged cover which opened to reveal the record. Mint copies of these originals (Island, ILPS 9241) are trading between R3,000 and R6,000 a copy. 
Later the album was reissued in a less ornate cover, one of which featured Marley smoking a giant spliff. He was now the focus of the group, and this time Catch A Fire was credited to “Bob Marley and The Wailers”, and it is this version that was rereleased by Universal in 2015 that is commonly available. 
In December 2016, Island rereleased the “Jamaican” version of the album (that is, without Blackwell’s overdubbing) in the original Zippo sleeve. Mint copies of these (Island PROT7012) are trading on discogs.com for between R2,000 and R3,000).
NEW RELEASES
Hard to believe that it’s been with us since 1998, but as part of its 20th anniversary celebrations, Fatboy Slim’s You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby is getting its first release on vinyl as part of BMG’s “Art of the Album” series. Fatboy Slim, aka former Housemartins member Norman Cook, is an inveterate record geek with an extensive knowledge of music and eclectic tastes. And didn’t it show in this seamless set of unexpected turns and twists, with huge hooks and great beats. A two-LP set, it’s released on 180g vinyl in a gatefold sleeve with extensive sleevenotes and other inserts.Think of I’m With Her as a bluegrass supergroup. They’re multi Grammy Award winners Sara Watkins, Sarah Jarosz and Aoife O’Donovan. Before coming together, they co-founded bands such as Nickel Creek and Crooked Still and collectively contributed to albums by Yo-Yo Ma, The Civil Wars, Kris Kristofferson, John Mayer, Alison Krauss, John Prine and many more. See You Around, their debut album, released by Rounder, was recorded at Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studios.Speaking of Prine, next month Oh Boy Records release the legendary singer-songwriter’s highly anticipated The Tree of Forgiveness, his first collection of new material since his 2005, Grammy-winning Fair and Square album. Collaborators include Brandi Carlile, Jason Isbell, and Amanda Shires. According to the promo people, Prine’s “arrangements may be simpler than on past efforts, yet his unique ability to distill complex emotions into everyday language remains fully intact”.Meshell Ndegeocello’s new album, Ventriloquism, released by Naive Pop, is a collection of 11 covers in which she pays tribute to her diverse influences, including George Clinton, Prince and even Sade. Expect, then, a fluid, late-night glide through funk and roots music with slaying slow jams and ballads. 
BURIED TREASURE
Copies of David Bowie’s 1974 album Diamond Dogs are widely available so the release hardly counts as rare. But the one you’re wanting has the so-called “genitals cover” artwork. It is by far the most sought after Bowie collectible, as well as one of the rarest records in the world. 
Record company RCA pulled this version, in which artist Guy Peellaert’s cover painting depicts Bowie as half-man, half-hound, and demanded that the genitals be censored. The album was then released with the offending privates of the back of the gatefold sleeve airbrushed from the artwork. Although never sold with this rare cover, some copies were released for promotional purposes. Near mint copies can fetch between $2,500 and $7,500. The dog’s bollocks, you could say.FURTHER ADVENTURES IN ANALOG
The cassette is making a comeback. According to the Times of London, supermarket chain Tesco has reportedly sold more than 20,000 units of the Groov-e Retro Shoebox cassette player in the past two years, with a 24% growth in the past year. Tesco’s audio buying manager, Dan Kirwin, said: “Customers have told us that they’re buying them to play old mixtapes, while parents are also using them to play their old story tapes to their kids.”
Last year, more than 80 albums by artists such as Jay-Z, Lana Del Rey and the White Stripes were released on cassette. The Times added: “The revival has not yet matched the renewed enthusiasm for vinyl, which resulted in sales of 4.1 million LPs last year.”

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