29 July 2006

'sfunny how different genres have different 'signature' formats: Rock gets the long-player album, maybe with a gatefold sleeve. Pop exists on 7" vinyl, sometimes with those funny little clip in discs that meant it can be played on conventional decks or a jukebox. Punk gets 7" discs as well - but maybe with a crap paper sleeve rather than a glossy one. Chicago House sits best on 12" white label imports. (On reflection, I think there's something about the anonymity of some music packaging that makes it feel more authentic to me. A kind of puritanical focus purely on sound - the loss of other frippery somehow making the experience reek less of marketed consumption). 80's indie, as far as I'm concerned, only exists on Maxell C90 cassettes. Reggae, on the other hand, doesn't have a format at all. No-one 'owns' reggae. It's just something that happens when sufficiently large sets of speakers congregate together...

In this model, where does the compilation album sit? Let's face it, when Mum and Dad drive off and students are left to arrange their little room in halls to showcase their right on, but ironic, pop zeitgeist credibility, they never put compilation albums at the front of the pile do they? Compilations reek too much of 'Ibiza Rave Nite Klub Mix '97' and bargain bins on garage forecourts. You don't need all those dance trax in one continuous mix do you? Nah, got 'em all on import months ago mate.... There's something just too easy about compilations. 'Superstition' is a great record (just shut up...right?) - so of course, I got it on vinyl - track six on 'Talking Book' - have I buggery - haven't got a record player - mine's on something called 'Now That's What I Call Funky -37' or whatever.... I run a Doctor Who blog - I don't need the credibility....

Even worse is the compilation tape: - A hand crafted declaration of love to some girl you fancy at work. So casually tossed their way : 'Oh yeah, was doing a tape, thought you'd like a copy', but reeking of self-conscious effort. Will she spot the ironic inclusion of track four? Does she get pre-80's Stevie Wonder or has Ebony & Ivory soiled the legacy?..... yuck..... you can almost feeling the greasy keen-ness slithering off them....

But dance music would be dead without them: I still own about forty 'super hardcore mental techno' tapes given to me by a student years ago. Do any of these tracks have an existence outside of compilations? Did any folk actually buy and cherish these tracks as individuals? Difficult to imagine. It's certainly the case that most of my experience of a whole variety of dance genres is entirely restricted to compilations, but hey, as I said, it's OK for me to own up to this stuff these days.

Now I know many of you just sneak over here for the free Mp3's and don't like to get too conversational, (I'll put you out of your misery now - there ain't gonna be one) but stop and answer me this: What is, out there, the pinnacle of credible compilation albums? One that goes beyond the quality of the individual tracks and somehow, by the sheer act of juxtaposing them on one album, takes it all onto another level?

I was wondering about that NME C86 thing, and I also maintain a sneaking admiration for the CNT Label's 'They Shall Not Pass' which proves that electro gothdom, barking like a dog and slagging off Thatcher could be a surprisingly appealing combination.

So, over to you.......


(Oh and, if you did come looking for MP3's - why not head over to the inspired Dalston Oxfam Shop - you wanna download compilations, they got compilations..)

9 comments:

Dem said...

Hurrah for Lazarus blogging!

Dem said...

There are a number of types of credible comps for me. The first type is the retrospective label specific sampler so for instance a Chess sampler released in the late 80s on thick vinyl with Sonny Boy Williamson, Etta James, Chuck Berry, Little Walter etc. Sun did one as well and I've seen Rough Trade ones too.

The second type is like the first but not retrospective, of material 'current' at the time of release. I'm thinking specifically of a couple of Cooking Vinyl compilations and a Talkin Loud one.

The third type are compilations that come free on the cover of Folk Roots magazine - I only buy it when I see them on the front and they introduce me to so much brilliant stuff I'd never heard of before.

The last and best type are the special event comps celebrating a band and/or album with cover version of the album/band's material. I own two of these - one was an album of Johnny Cash covers called 'Til Things Are Brighter, in aid of the Terrence Higgins Trust, released late 80s and featuring the likes of Mary Mary from Gaye Bykers On Acid doing Boy Named Sue and Marc Almond doing Man in Black, the other was The Smiths is Dead, a remake of The Queen Is Dead with cover versions the best of which was Billy Bragg doing Never Had No-one Ever. Something I heard at a mates but never owned and which also loosely fits into this category is an album of Disney covers including one by Tom Waits but I can't remember the song now. I'm v tired so sorry if this is a boring meander through memories of my lost vinyl...

Molly Bloom said...

Oooh, I tell you what..that Disney album is a masterpiece. The cover of 'Drip, Drip, Drip little April Showers' is a masterpiece and one of my fave covers ever. Natalie M is wonderful on it.

I've got (you'll probably laugh at me for this) a compilation CD that I've kept for years called 'You can All Join in '94' and I don't know why...I still listen to it...mostly for a marvellous cover of 'We have all the time in the world' by My Bloody Valentine. And 'Material with William Burroughs' - Words of Advice. The Orb - Powers of Dub. Jah Wobble's Invaders of the Heart - Angels and some other stuff. I just like it.

As for the compilation present from a boy/girl...you made me smile with that. I've got a couple of cassettes that (I didn't realise at the time) were screaming at me. I won't go into the titles...but someone was round my house the other week and just laughed so loudly...I was like, 'What are you talking about?' and then he read them out to me....and it all clicked into place. Lovely stuff. He was just looking at me going, 'What you didn't realise?' So naive. So naive. Although, I do think that they do summon up memories of people and places. But people always seemed to (in those days) stick something long in the middle because they ran out of their 'best' records. So, you'd get Stairway to Heaven obliquely thrown in. Groan.

kek-w said...

Didn't Sun Ra do "Pink Elephants on Parade" from Dumbo...? Was that on that Disney comp. or did I just make that up?

Loki said...

no, i think i posted that track somewhere on here awhile ago - certainly meant to - lovely version...

Molly Bloom said...

Oooh, where's that post on 'Pink Elephants'? I've got to hear that.

I've got that 'Electro' record too.

Ed said...

I kinda rate Lenny Kaye's Nuggets compilation, which someone lent me a couple of years ago, and has now been re-released, including on vinyl.
Soul Jazz have put out some good ones, including Don Letts' 'Dread Meets Punk Rocker Uptown' which is great reggae stuff (and the sorta sequal,'Dread meets Hip Hoppers downtown' is good too.) They put out a post-punk comp in 2002 including Human League, Slits, 23 Skidoo etc.. (might sound obvious now, but this is pre-House of Jealous Lovers and Franz Ferdinad et al), and a great one of Brazilian Post Ounk called 'The Sexual Life Of the Savages.' If you buy a compilation, it does need to have good liner notes, otherwise the music may speak for itself, but it sometimes is good to have it contextualised.

kempernorton said...

Surely loki must mention the mighty and much-loved ( and faintly naff) shamanarchy in the UK compilation...Psychic TV , Astralasia, Spiral Tribe...etc.
i really jumped in here to relay my astonishment to loki at the news that our friend N has a girlfriend.The world's gone crazy.
And yes , seeing as its the holidays I'll try and do a proper post soon. Honest.

Loki said...

Ed....all of those Soul Jazz compilations worked really well... carefully put together, good packaging, choices that extended as well as blended...

Kemper... that is amazing news put me in an excellent mood...and you're deadright about the Shamanarchy compilation... it is brilliantly cheesy and wonderful - the Bill and Ted samples etc - I (we!!) spent a singificant portion of my trippy life listening to that and it's certainly more than the sum of its parts...right down to the ready mixed tracklist... none of the tracks really make sense on their own and i wouldn't dream of playing it in any other order

a post on this album very soon, I think... i'll just have to find the CD....

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