There’s been a load of brilliant compilations lately but Strut have linked up with DJ History to keep ahead of the games on some mighty fine gems from a decade of experimentation.
I must admit, I wasn’t sure whether I was in Disco Discharge: Disco Classics meltdown, retro Future Disco with ZE Records heritage or but when I first got this compilation, I thought it was incredible – and I still do; a must purchase album at all costs.
Please excuse my ignorance but John Morales meant nothing to me before his BBE album came out but now he’s even higher than Larry Lavan and Walter Gibbons in my book. And we’ve got another champion of Fly Global Music in Bob Blank.
“Who!” that I hear you say. Now don’t get confused, this isn’t a twisted typo of Richard Hell’s pioneering punk exploits in NYC – this is the lesser known Disco producer Bob Blank that DJ History have re-discovered and it’s about time he get some proper exposure.
Now if the Voidoids’ ‘Blank Generation’ was at the one extreme of mid-70s NYC nitelife, you could say ZE Records was in the middle (don’t forget the recent compilation ZE 30 (ZE Records 1979-2009) that was released on STRUT at the end of last year), The Blank Generation (Blank Tapes NYC 1975-1985) would be at the other end and/or joining the circle.
Well, how could that be? The answer is that Mr. Blank’s label (Blank Tapes) was as open minded as the diverse New York musicians that made the city so exciting during this period. Blank arguably produced one of the first disco records a year before setting up the label but any jazz fan is going to go into raptures on seeing Sun Ra on the track listing and guitarist James Blood Ulmer (Blank himself started out as a guitarist in ’73 before moving into production).
The Ra track ‘Where Pathway’s Meet’ is an instrumental that has none of the vocal profanities of ‘Nuclear War’ (which I’m proud to say I played at the January Jazz Chronicles Session) but has the heady mix of jazz big band, free-jazz piano, heavy percussion and a leftfield guitar riff that together is a wholly perfect tune. It’s a new one on me and I’m on the hunt for more Sun Ra on Blank Tapes.
Back to James Blood Ulmer, back in the 80s Rough Trade released an absolute classic in ‘We All Live In America’ that’s as close to jazz-punk perfection as you can get (X-Ray Spex and the like were a mere stepping stone to JBU)
Also on the retro tip, I owned up in the ZE 30 (ZE Records 1979-2009) a fan of James White and the Lydia Lunch, and Lunch’s ‘A Cruise To The Moon’ is sans vocals and sounds more like the Sun Ra track!
And whilst on the subject of ZE 30 (ZE Records 1979-2009), that compilation contained the track by the Aural Exciters (‘Maladie D’ Amore’) and this compilation ends with another, this time a jazzy nite-time sleaze-vibe dub thing (cutting edge then, just as sexy now – even more avantguarde than the Sun Ra track!).
And talking of big tracks, one of the big ‘surprise’ compilations of last year (another late entry was the John Morales comp of M+M mixes and he’s at it again in a funky (near Ital)-disco ‘Itching For Love’.
Fonda Rae’s hits the ‘anthem’ button with ‘Over Like A Fat Rat’ and if you think there’s no big names one this album, whilst Gladys Knight might be known for her Georgia connections, in NYC, Walter Gibbons is far bigger on the disco mix front and although I don’t know the original of ‘It’s A Better Than Good Time’ this mix is better than a good time (huge strings, jazz horn and pumping beat – class).
The CD comes with an interview with Blank (and there’s a surprise “where are they now story” with that one) and rare photos from his own archive.
There must be more to come as hot disco producers like Patrick Adams, August Darnell and Arthur Russell apparently all recorded at Blank’s Studios along with Latin producer Tito Rodriguez (check out the Charanga 76 track!)
So you get the idea, fantastic compilation that’s as varied as the musical knowledge of DJ History’s Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton and as this is their first compilation for Strut, the next can’t be too far off as they were born for this labour of love; and I’ll be forever grateful as I’m off to wax the van with Lola!
Reviewed: Various – Bob Blank: The Blank Generation (Blank Tapes NYC 1975-1985) (Strut) Cat. No: STRUT053CD Release date: 2nd February 2010
1 Debby Blackwell – One You Got Me Going (6:35)
2 Charanga 76 – Music Trance (5:03)
3 Milton Hamilton – Crystalized (3:35)
4. Sun Ra – Where Pathways Meet (6:29)
5. The Necessaries – State Of Art (3:40)
6. Lydia Lunch – A Cruise To The Moon (3:53)
7 James Blood Ulmer – Jazz Is The Teacher, Funk Is The Preacher (4:22)
8 Bumblebee Unlimited – I Got A Big Bee (7:52)
9 Mikki – Itching For Love (M+M Mix) (7:12)
10 Fonda Rae – Over Like A Fat Rat (8:06)
11 Gladys Knight – It’s A Better Than Good Time (Walter Gibbons Mix) (6:52)
12 Lola – Wax The Van (Jon’s Dub) (7:16)
13 Aural Exciters – Emile (Night Rate) (6:43)