Friday, 8 January 2016

Rude Bwoy Monty - Warp 9 Mr Zulu

Rude Bwoy Monty - Warp 9 Mr Zulu (Frontline Records, 1995)

I'm a geek. Even worse, I'm a sample geek. For instance, I can't hear Drake's 'Hotline Bling' without telling anyone in earshot where the organ riff comes from ('Why Can't We Live Together' by Timmy Thomas if you're interested). As well as regularly boring other people I also waste inordinate amounts of my own time on often fruitless searches for those unidentified samples that I just have to know. But it's all worth it when I find the source of a sample that I thought would remain forever buried.

Which brings us to 'Warp 9 Mr Zulu'. The track was often referred to as 'The Hawaiian Tune' instead of its official Star Trek referencing title thanks to the rather cheesy steel guitar intro. It was part of a trend in DnB at the time that saw producers such as DJ SS and Marvellous Cain go to some rather dubious sources for their intros on tunes such as 'The Lighter' and 'High Chaparral'. In Issue 6 of Knowledge, Rude Bwoy Monty even credits SS for inspiring his sample hunting:

"I'm looking to create a tune called "The Beast," laughs Monty. ""Mash Up" by DJ SS inspired me to look for some samples for it, but I couldn't find the right one. However, I did stumble across the Hawaiian theme and from there "Warp 9" was away."

While the intro has pretty much nothing else to do with the rest of the tune, it does make 'Warp 9' particularly memorable. It was a favourite of mine at the time and I'd always wondered where the sample was from but it was only after reading a comment Monty himself made on a youtube video of the track a few years ago that I really started searching in earnest for it:

"I bet pugwash back in the dayz whe i made this... he would neva find the sample on the front of this... 2 this day he was neva able to tell R.B.M"

I took this as a challenge and went to some lengths to locate the sample, listening to more Hawaiian music than one man ever should. I even emailed random Hawaiian steel guitar enthusiasts who I imagine were rather perplexed by the whole thing, but all to no avail. I eventually admitted defeat and got back to doing more worthwhile things searching for other samples.

Fast forward to late last year and the radio is on at work. BBC Radio 2's Pop Master quiz has reached the grand final and a contestant is asked to identify the group behind a 1970s instrumental track from a short excerpt. I immediately recognise the melody from 'Warp 9' and drop what I'm doing to listen. The contestant incorrectly guesses at Fleetwood Mac before the presenter Ken Bruce reveals the answer... Springwater with 'I Will Return'.

A very appropriate title for the first post on this blog in eighteen months. Only that's not the sample source. After listening to the whole track later, I realised 'Warp 9' must have sampled a cover of 'I Will Return'. And so the hunt started again. Unfortunately it seems 'I Will Return' has been covered a multitude of times with versions from James Last, The Shadows and Apollo 100 amongst many others, as well as the melody being used on Sarah Brightman's 'Storia d'Amore' and a vocal version in German entitled 'Du Weinst Um Mich' by Michael Holm. I listened to all of these. And it wasn't any of them.

It was frustrating being so close without having the answer, but then I had a brainwave. I searched for covers of 'Du Weinst Um Mich' and found another version. I clicked on the youtube video, holding my breath. It started playing and right away I knew it was the one. A bit slower, but obviously what Monty sampled for 'Warp 9'. It's part of Orchestra Leslie Carlton's 'Hits Instrumental' selection from a German LP called Super Stereo Hit Party, which also features the scintillating sounds of Dave Daffodil & His Honey Sax. If it wasn't for someone uploading it to youtube I doubt I would ever have found it, but I'm very happy to finally know.

As for the rest of 'Warp 9'... well that intro would have been wasted if the track wasn't up to scratch but of course Monty, with Pascal on engineering duties, delivers a huge tune with a gargantuan, oversized bassline that stomps around like an elephant on ecstacy. In other words it's not in any way subtle and does some serious damage. Drums using the Think and Sesame Street breaks accompany it with some Amen coming in underneath before the tune moves up a notch when the Amen takes over during the second half. Jump-up at its finest.

The track was remixed as 'Warp 10' for the Frontline/Ganja Records compilation Still Smokin with a much more obvious sample replacing the Hawaiian guitar - Bill Conti's 'Gonna Fly Now', otherwise known as the theme from Rocky. There was a dubplate version of 'Warp 10' though that retained some of 'I Will Return' with a snippet of the guitar appearing occasionally over the bassline. Hear a clip of that mix below, a shame it didn't get used for the LP:

Discogs link

Saturday, 21 June 2014

3 The Hardway - Smooth Operator

3 The Hardway - Smooth Operator (Dope Dragon, 1995)

Last week I looked at the 'Microphone Fiend' sampling 'Step Off' by Danny Breaks so today I thought I'd continue the Eric B & Rakim theme with an examination of this hip-hop infused tune from the Dope Dragon camp. 3 The Hardway was a collaborative name used by the Full Cycle nucleus of Roni Size, Krust and Die, no doubt inspired by the 70s Blaxploitation film which featured the three biggest black action stars of the era, Fred Williamson, Jim Brown and Jim Kelly. For subsequent releases the alias was shortened to 3 Way and after initially being reserved for Dope Dragon tunes it was later used for the Appreciation / Price Of Fame 12" on Full Cycle.

The tune opens with the familiar blaring horns from 'Cramp Your Style' by All The People, although they're probably sampled from 'I'm Still #1', the Boogie Down Production cut from which they are better known (head to DnB Blog for my breakdown of Goldie's 'Digital' which also samples this track). The horns alternate with the guitar loop from Eric B & Rakim's 'Microphone Fiend', originally from Average White Band's 'School Boy Crush', making for a cool, funky intro appropriate for Size, Krust and Die's chosen alias. A crashing Amen break is then deployed before Rakim's "A smooth operator operating correctly' line from 'Microphone Fiend' introduces a bassline that jabs and pounces like a heavyweight boxer. As well as the ubiquitous Amen the trio also make use of the Do The Do and Sesame Street breaks, while the bassline goes through a few mutations. Along with a foreboding keys loop straight from some 70s jazz funk, this variation helps keep the tune's intensity levels high throughout. Although the track is as rough and rugged as they come, the 'Smooth Operator' title is apt because this would be the perfect soundtrack to the exploits of a cool Shaft-like character in a modern update of the Blaxploitation genre. Top quality jump-up from Bristol's best.

Check out 'Smooth Operator' in this Bryan Gee set at Quest 'We Are The Law' from 1995:

Discogs link

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Danny Breaks - Step Off

Danny Breaks - Step Off (Droppin' Science, 1995)

"It's been a long time, I shouldn't have left you
Without a strong rhyme to step to"

These immortal words opened Eric B & Rakim's 'I Know You Got Soul', referencing the gap between the single and the duo's previous release. The sentiment could also apply to this blog, which has only been sporadically attended to in 2014; in fact it has been over two months since the previous post. Unfortunately life, work and if I'm honest, the Game Of Thrones boxset has got in the way of more frequent updates. However I'm going to try to dedicate a bit more time to this project over the next few months and I'm going to kick things off with this classic from Danny Breaks - I'm sorry I kept you.

Danny Breaks has also recently returned from a lengthy hiatus by putting out the superb Vaultron compilation, a double disc collection of classics previously only available on vinyl alongside some unreleased gems from the Droppin' Science archives - you can check out my break down of 'Volume 1 b (Dubplate Version)' over at DnB Blog. Additionally he has reissued some of his back catalogue on CD and digital, with The Outer Dimension and Another Dimension LPs just released on Monday and available from his Bandcamp page. You can also find the 2001 compilation Volumes there, which includes 'Step Off' along with nine other tunes from Droppin' Science's first ten volumes.

'Step Off' is a great example of Danny Breaks' sound as it incorporates elements from reggae, hip-hop and vintage sci-fi, all of which regularly crop up in his productions. The track features a sample of Rakim from 'Microphone Fiend' stating "Step Off" which appears in the intro over a fluttering bassline, reverbed drums, bleeps and a sound effect from The Official Adventures of Flash Gordon (also sampled in hip-hop tracks such as Schoolly D's 'P.S.K. - What Does It Mean?') before the Think break enters to up the energy levels. The drop brings in a wicked reggae style bassline while the introduction of some steppy Amen sees the track firing on all cylinders as the bass mows you down like a machine gun. There's even room in the middle for a bit of trippy flute. A powerful tour de force from one of the genre's finest breakbeat scientists.

Vaultron includes the Splash Remix of 'Step Off' which adds some 'Babylon'-esque dread vibes to the track while the original mix as previously mentioned is available on the Volumes compilation. Check it out in this excellent set from Kemistry & Storm at Dreamscape 19 on 27th May 1995:

Kemistry & Storm live @ Dreamscape 19 1995 by Ironman on Mixcloud

Discogs link