Thursday, November 12, 2009

Let Me Upgrade You: Electromix Volume II

Another monster electro selection from the vaults. I'm posting the full length versions, but I've ordered the tracks with a sweet ten track mix in mind. Enjoy...

1. The Micronawtz - (I Can Do It...You Can Do It) Letzmurph Acrossdasurf (Club Mix Dub Version)

The second 12" release on the seminal New York label Tuff City, this primitive slice of electro was written by Barry Michael Cooper, who would go on to achieve fame as the screenwriter of New Jack City (which starred Ice-T). It's truly notable for being mixed by Afrika Bambaataa, credited on the flip as "The Peacemaker" for the role he played in bringing together warring gangs in NYC in late 1970s. It's a curious track but very influential - the cartoon voices would later be all the rage on the electro scene - and I love the simple, childlike melody.

Find it on Old School Rarities: The Electro Jams

2. Warp 9 - Light Years Away

I'd only really heard 'Nunk' by Warp 9, but I've really been getting into them lately. Blending synth-pop, smooth soul and galactic funk together they made some of the catchiest, poppiest electro around. Their first album, 'It's a Beat Wave', was released in 1983 by Prism Records. 'Light Years Away' was the third single from the album and was produced by John 'Jellybean' Benitez, who ended up working with Madonna.

Find it on Warp 9: It's a Beat Wave

3. Xena - On the Upside (Dub Version)

Electro-heads like myself will know the original version of this corker from 'Electro 2' - a properly uplifting number, bursting with lyrical positivity from Lisa Fischer (a Grammy award-winning vocalist who worked with Luther Vandross). It was produced by the same team behind Shannon's 'Let the Music Play' (another fave of mine). I'm posting the 'Dub Version' so you can check the production work in all its glory. As the dude on discogs says: "If you happen to be playing a gay Italo party this will set your mix on fire." Exactly.

Find it on Emergency Records 12"

4. Debbie Deb - When I Hear Music (12" Club Mix)

Debbie Deb was discovered by the mighty Pretty Tony (best-known for his production work as Freestyle - his track 'Don't Stop the Rock' was recently used by Cadbury's on that ad where the kids waggled their eyebrows). She co-wrote the catchy electro-pop smash 'When I Hear Music' with Tony and it was a massive club hit that still endures to this day (both Diplo and Craze put it on their Fabric.Live mix albums). Her story is a sad one - on the chubby side, the record company would often hire imposters, Milli Vanilli-style, to pose as her for live PAs and wouldn't put her on the cover of her records. Her confidence crushed, she faded into obscurity. It's not all bad though - Gwen Stafani often bigs up Deb, Janet Jackson covered another of her hits, 'Lookout Weekend', and she is part of a freestyle revival show with artists like Lisa Lisa, The Cover Girls and Shannon.

Find it on Street Jams: Electric Funk Volume 2

5. World Class Wreckin' Cru - Juice

It's common knowledge now that Dr Dre (NWA, Eminen) was once a member of this rap ensemble, who enjoyed dressing up in shiny gold suits and wearing make-up. They also made some pretty decent music, including this pioneering West Coast electro thumper with some industrial-strength heavy breathing, vocodered vocals, a melody reminscient of the Airwolf theme tune and some nifty scratching. Pure Eighties gold.

Find it on Street Jams: Electric Funk Volume 4

6. Jamie Jupitor - Computer Power

A protégé of the Egyptian Lover (see below), Jamie Jupitor has traded off this one track for his entire career, which perhaps gives an indication of how good it is. But it was written, produced and arranged by the Egyptian one, who also did the artwork, so I'm not quite where Jupitor fits in. I'm guessing his is the distopian voice that proclaims: "Computers are the future world, we program for the boys and girls, there's nothing we don't understand, we're smarter than the normal man...Computer power!"

Find it on Street Jams: Electric Funk Volume 4

7. Newcleus - Jam On It (Instrumental)

As much as I love the original of this, I've listened to it to death. So to avoid overkill, here's the 9-minute instrumental mix with that awesome keyboard line that Nightmares on Wax sampled on 'I'm For Real' in all its glory. Newcleus were skilled producers - a fact often overshadowed by their penchant for outlandish costumes and helium vocal gimmicks. To me, this is one of the best pieces of music to come out of the era.

Find it on Sunnyview Records 12"

8. Egyptian Lover - Dubb Girls (The Ultimate Mix)

The Barry White of electro works himself into a reet lather over all the "pretty, pretty girls" (are those sirens at the beginning the sound of an ambulance come to cart EL off to hospital after panting himself towards a coronary?) in this outstanding dub mix of one of his finest tracks. He overdoes it a bit on the old sampler but I'd let him off anything - his beat production skills are out of this world. A legend.

Find it on Egyptian Empire Records 12"

9. 19th Fleet - Star Raid (Dub Version)

I don't know a huge amount about this track. The vocal mix was on 'Electro 10', which was one of the best in the series so that probably explains why I'm so fond of it. Electro artists of the Eighties were completely obsessed with space travel and the future (as this ten track selection amply demonstrates), though it all seems rather quaint now. It changes hands for silly amounts of money these days so is obviously well regarded and extremely rare.

Find it on Midnight Sun Records 12"

10. Cli-N-Tel - 2030

Another future-predictin' slice of electro greatness, this time from Cli-N-Tel who was a cohort of Dre's in the World Class Wreckin' Cru. This banger was released on the Unknown DJ's Techno Hop label in 1986 and imagines a futuristic world where alien computers rule over human beings.

Find it on The Best of Techno Hop Volume One