Presents: MUSIC OF QUALITY AND DISTINCTION vol 1. From the NME 10th April 1982
|What keeps our suspicious minds hanging on in this all-night ball of confusion if not: the eternal return of pop? The most refreshing news all year is that pop isn't a series of sartorial flashes in the dark after all, but a cyclic process! To see the flux of pop stilled (if only momentarily) by two leading practitioners is a major boost to the concept of permanence. And since 'PENTHOUSE AND PAVEMENT' was the most intelligent dance record since BOWIE... |
Let's have an alternative singles review.
1. TINA TURNER, 'BALL OF CONFUSION': A dynamic transformation of the Whitfield/Temps psychedelic pulp protest; both the BEF's programing and the Beggar's horn blast are superbly discilined, giving the song an acute, infrangible menace that the original sacrifced in it's fuzzy overkill. Tina has nothing on Dennis Edwards' final scream, though, which is one of the all-time great moments of soul music.
2. BILLY MACKENZIE, 'SECRET LIFE OF ARABIA': This is too determined by the demands of funk. 'Breeze' Mckreith's guitar and Jo Dworniak's bass lack the essential swing and flow of Alomar, Davis and Murray on the original, making it rather wooden and hardboiled. A pure gift to Billy, whose aesthetic, I would guess, prbably derived from this one record more than from anything else, and who now sings it with an untraaelled hysteria Bowie would never dare attempt.
3. PAUL JONES, 'THERE'S A GHOST IN MY HOUSE': The attempt to obtain the classic Benny Benjamin Tamla snare roll from a lindrum meets with unfortunate consequences, and this particular song, out of all the Motown classics of the 70s, this was the most successful dance record, really does need a criper, zippier beat. In fact, it demands a rhythmic fill between beats that the synthesiser simply can't supply. So with these cardboard-box drums, it sounds a bit like Showaddy's brand of rock and roll. PaulJones isn't much better either.
4. PAULA YATES, 'THESE BOOTS ARE MADE FOR WALKING': Surprisingly one of the week's best-producers MARTYN WARE and IAN CRAIG MARSH turn Lee Hazelwood's curious anthem into a flip, funky novelty worthy of Jonathan King. Paula's puff-powdered tweet giggles down from a little pockrt of echo above Jo Dworniak's marvellous double bass, mellotronic plucked strings and a macho, Morricone-style "boots walk!" chant reminiscent of the intro to 'HEIGHT OF THE FIGHTING'. The burst of horns after her final "ready boots" is, incidentally, a great pastiche of the equivalent break on 'River deep, mountain high'.
5. GARY GLITTER, 'SUSPICIOUS MINDS': Reunited with the original Glitter Band(the first time they've actually played on vinyl together!), this is the tackiest, crudest arrangement of the song imaginable, with the boys chanting "caught in a trap" as though it were a football slogan! interesting that it should appear at the same time as Candi Staton's painful reworking of the song with Dave Crawford on Sugarhill. However, nothing beats Waylon Jennings' version.
6. BERNIE NOLAN, 'YOU KEEP ME HANGING ON': Frankly, this is appalling. MARTYN WARE's very run of the mill disco beat fails to lull one away from the realisation that Ms Nolan is singing the entire song flat. Moreover, when it reaches that miraculous break on the Supremes record-"and there ain't nothin' I can do about it..."-the inflexibility of electronics, as against those almost psychedelic motown guitars, speaks for itself.
7. GLENN GREGORY, 'WICHITA LINEMAN': The elder Glen's original is subtler by far, less anxiously melancholy and thereby the more discretely despondent. I must stree that this has little or nothing to do with the revised electronc form of this, but everything to do with its innate insipidity. I really find it hard to believe there wasn't a better voice in the Sheffield area than GG's. WARE and MARSH attempt to grace the song with a mystery it doesn't reqire and the result is sadly stilted. Campell's subdued yearning-in the line " I need you more than want you", for example becomes through his interpreter listless and opaque.
8. SANDIE SHAW, 'ANYONE WHO HAD A HEART': The fact that Dionne Warwike's Anyone is very nearly my favourite pop balled of all time inevitably prejudices my approach to Sandie's rendition. But where the original's miracle is its ecstatic succinctness and restraint, not only does Sandie go over the top but the instrumental sound, dragging and plodding from the awkward opening of Nick Plytas' piano, fails to match her. The record only picks up with the piano-hopping runaway rush of its last thirty seconds. I hate to think what Bacharach would have made of this dead, leaden beat, but Sandie was never that great a singer anyway. You only have to hold this up to Dusty Springfield's 'Just Dont Know What To Do With Myself' to see what a white girl can do with Bacharach.