Imagine if you started a record label and named it after a song or group or whatever that you loved more than anything. Next, imagine how excited you would be to have the opportunity to release a record by the artist/group in question. If it were me, I'd be dancing on the ceiling! I suspect that the kids behind Soft Power Records are pogoing 24-7 in disbelief at releasing the debut solo 7" by Helen Marnie from Ladytron whose song"Soft Power"gave their label its name. Of course, these things can go slightly awry. I'm sure Alan McGee was infeasibly chuffed to release a single by The Creation ("Creation" had the catalogue number CRE200 but is nowhere to be seen on YouTube) but the record itself was an amiable plodder that didn't match their 60s recordings for pop art brilliance. Luckily for Soft Power, the Marnie single is a belter. Had it been released in another era, teenagers would have heard it on Saturday morning TV, dashed to Woolworth's to exchange their pocket money for it before sprinting home to obsess over its dreamy melody, singing along till they were hoarse. It's "With Every Heartbeat" brilliant. It's "Hunting High and Low" brilliant. It could single-handedly rekindle my interest in heartfelt machine-age pop music. There are only 500 copies of the 7" vinyl - 200 clear for pledgers/300 black for non-pledgers - so some urgency in buying is required!
Soft Power's previous vinyl release was this entirely successful foray into cute, disco-ready pop:
In the year of Daft Punk's "Get Lucky" and the (welcome!) festival ubiquity of Nile Rodgers and his current incarnation of Chic,it should have been a smash. The sound of young Dublin is liquid and effortlessly funky! I'm glad Soft Power isn't afraid of pure, chart-friendly pop.
Back when I was feeling my way around the vast world of soul music from the 60s, I bought a fair number of second hand or cheap Goldmine Soul Supply cds. Their quality (and sometimes the quality of their mastering) was variable but through them I came to some real treasures which I still adore to this day. Helene Smith's crisp, hot-stepping "Thrills and Chills"(from "Way With The Girls: 30 Northern Soul Girl Group Classics") is one of the very best of them. Until Saturday, however, I'd never heard any other songs she recorded. Her 5 contributions, one of which is a slightly better mastered version of"Thrills and Chills", to Numero Group's "Eccentric Soul: The Deep City Label" are all of such quality that I feel a bit negligent/silly for not seeking them out before now. Of the 'new' songs, the majestically sung"I Am Controlled By Your Love" is the one which has clung on the tightest with its slightly creepy lyrics telling a tale of a pretty unhealthy relationship:
My heart can’t beat, baby Unless you tell it to My eyes can’t see, baby Unless you tell them to There are things I should do But I know it’s just no use Cos I’m controlled by your love I’m controlled by your love Oh, yes I am Mmmm, hmmm
Now I can’t breathe, baby Unless you tell me to And I can’t speak, baby Unless you tell me to It sounds strange, this I know But it’s really, really so Cos I’m controlled by your love I’m controlled by your love Oh, yes I am Mmmm, hmmm
Anything I say or do Means nothing to me I’m controlled by your love And that’s plain to see But I’m proud to be controlled Proud to be controlled by your love Mmmm, hmmm
My heart can’t beat, baby Unless you tell it to My eyes can’t see, baby Unless you tell them to It sounds strange, this I know But it’s really, really so Cos I’m controlled by your love I’m controlled by your love Oh, yes I am
What an arresting intro! How exciting to learn that Helene Smith's career in music should be remembered for more than just her Northern Soul classic even if she does, bizarrely, add a 't' to the end of each 'unless' - it really is eccentric soul, I guess! As with Numero Group's recent Dynamic Label overview, the Deep City round-up is strong from first to last. Ordinarily, a work as luminous and dramatic as Betty Wright's "Paralyzed" would be a certain stand-out on a soul compilation. On Eccentric Soul 007, however, it's just one in a procession of heart-stopping moments.
Everett True's at times cranky, at times over-ecstatic Collapse Board site is always worth a visit; it always sparks a discussion at they very least. Last November his 'Song of the Day' was by Los Cripis. In many ways they're the archetypal Everett True group: predominantly female, musically ragged but sweet-voiced and with an irreverent spark. Excitingly, their European tour is rolling through Glasgow this Wednesday when they play Stereo with Seconds. By all accounts Seconds are well worth seeing, too, with Joan Sweeney from Aggi Doom/The Royal We etc. whipping the songs into shape like some Scottish Siouxsie Sioux. Unfortunately, I don't have any Los Cripis vinyl - hopefully they'll have some for sale (they have a tour 7"!) at their show - so I'll probably set the right mood by blasting those precociously peppy Emily's Sassy Lime records from the mid-90s. Which, of course, means this MASTERPIECE of high school pop will be played on repeat. Heady days!
Imagine being the soul loving Numero Group employee who happened upon the The Young Souls' "Quit Waiting For Tomorrow To Come" and "Puppet On A String" lurking on tapes from a dusty box marked 'unreleased'. Their heart must've been thumping like a Tour de France cyclist's midway through a mountain stage climb! Both songs are sung so elegantly and their arrangements so classy and uncluttered that I'll be endlessly flipping the 7" on which they now appear in a vain attempt to figure out which one I love more.
Over the last few years I've become seriously enamoured with the guitar playing of Rachel Aggs. With Sacred Pawsand before that with Trash Kit (amongst others!),she's carved a series of guitar lines into my memory and prompted many an awkward dance move. Her latest group, SHOPPING, is set to do likewise with both sides of their recent 7" for Milk Records benefiting from particularly incisive, dancefloor-honed examples of her craft. Roll back the carpet and jerk it out like yr at some Thatcher-era youth club disco and the awkward kid by the stereo just sullenly slammed in his new Bush Tetras cassette!
When Ghost Box finally started releasing 7" vinyl via their Study Series I was delighted and jumped on the first few. Somehow, though, after maybe 4 or 5 releases, they quietly stopped finding their way into my record bags. There was no real reason for this. The quality didn't drop noticeably and they continued to look great thanks to Julian House's consistently brilliant graphic designs. With the release of the ninth volume - Listening Center's "Titoli" - I'm happy to be back in the Study Series fold once more. Comparisons with Birmingham's slightly overlooked but sorely missed Plone are accurate. There's a similar sense of wonder spiked with just a little melancholy to that group's bakelite mini-symphonies. It's ideal music for this half-summer, really. Time now to look back and see what I missed when my ears were turned elsewhere, I think.