Best Dressed Chicken in Town, eh?
Sometimes an album cover can read one thing, and say another. In the case of reggae music’s Dr Alimantado, the album title suggests a finely turned out chicken, yet on inspection you’ll notice: a. A serious lack of chickens. And b. That no one is even close to being the “best dressed” anything. In fact, it’s safe to say that everyone is remarkably badly dressed. Of the two main men on the cover, the first (Dr Alimantado, on the left) hasn’t bothered putting his shoes on properly, his flies are undone, and his denim jacket is draping strangely from his left arm. His friend in the street is in the midst of a seasonal confusion, with an outfit suggesting that it’s hot enough for a short sleeved shirt, yet cold enough for a thick woolly hat. It’s wardrobe decisions like that which will forever confuse the throbbing brains at Interestment towers. Like those people who wear scarves with t-shirts – what are they trying to say? No matter, it’s a great great record, and here’s a track from it…
Jimmy Cliff, Many Rivers to Cross
It’s Thursday, the official day of love. And not just the good kind of love – the love that involves all the massages, the licking, and the erections – we also celebrate the other kind of love. The love that punches you right in the underpants, rips your beating heart from your chest are hurls it into a pot of bubbling chip fat. Yeah, that’s right, the crippling kind. Here, the wonderful Jimmy Cliff soothes his own broken heart with a song about soldiering onwards and upwards against the odds.
Apparently this guy died… or something
No doubt the next seven or eight months are going to be taken up with newspapers really trying to figure out a few Jackson mysteries. How did he die? Did he really monkey around with those kids? Did he actually do it with a woman to make babies? All questions that we can’t answer, so we won’t be wasting your time by even remotely trying. When it comes to Jackson, we know two things: 1. Waking up with the man must, even just for a nanosecond, have given you a glimpse into what it’s like to be Ronald McDonald’s wife. And 2. These are the four best cover versions of MJ classics…
1. Billie Jean, Shinehead
A slower version of the classic song about a deranged stalker, this one even features a big doff of the cap to spaghetti westerns. A brilliant reggae track. Just brilliant.
2. Thriller, Ian Brown
Ian Brown has never had the most syrupy voice in the world, but his drawling monotone somehow works when singing Thriller. An unexpected masterpiece.
3. Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough, Derrick Laro and Trinity
Another reggae interpretation of a Jackson classic – this time Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough from Off The Wall. This very nearly, but not quite, improves on the original. Excellent.
4. Human Nature, Miles Davies
A few rock versions almost took fourth spot, but in the end we plumped for this Miles Davis trumpet version of Human Nature. Not because it’s particularly good, but because it’s Miles Davis doing Michael Jackson. Yes, Miles Davis doing Michael Jackson. That’s Miles Davis doing Michael Jackson. The legendary trumpeter Miles Davis doing Michael Jackson…
A sign of the times…
Anyone who’s ever had the joy of partaking in some of the country’s many benefit options should feel a warm breeze of recognition for this, the greatest of the UB40 albums. The cover is an exact copy of an Unemployment Benefit Attendance Card from back in 1980. Being that it was the beginning of the Thatcher era – when rich people were rewarded with neon wine bars, and poor people with AIDS, heroin and canal bridges – much of the country would have been familiar with this particular document. This obviously makes the sleeve a massive political gesture, and also a nod backwards at where the band were when they started hoiking their curious brand of UK Reggae around Birmingham. Owners of the original record will tell you that the sleeve is also fashioned from a strange cardboard material, which might make it seem authentic, but also means that it can be mistaken for actual post. A bold move, UB40. Below is the best track from the album…
Not including a certain legend…
As a gentleman, you are expected to coat yourself in a luxuriant mane of soft fur, and talk as if your testicles are the size of grapefuits, swinging heavily around your knees. That, we are told, if what it takes to be a man. Hence, whenever you see groups of tough guys in a pub/bar, the accompanying sound will often be a rumbling deep hum, like thunder rolling in from the east. It’s weird, and frankly unnecessary – especially given that some men can casually step up to a mic and allow their natural pitch to soar through the airwaves without a care in the world. Prince is a long time master of the falsetto, but even his macho flexing couldn’t budge this little gang of real men. Our top four reads thusly…
1. Curtis Mayfield
One of soul music’s finest, Curtis would often soar up to womanly notes, yet the hard hitting political nature of his songs kept his vibe firmly in the manly camp. A fine figure of a gent, and sorely missed.
Hegarty, the guy behind Antony and The Johnsons, is an intriguing man/woman/man, with a voice not a thousand miles away from Nina Simone at times. He could shatter glass, he’s that excellent.
3. Junior Murvin
If you’re going to have one track that defines and overshadows the rest of your career, then it might as well be Police and Thieves. It’s an amazing Lee Scratch Perry produced track, and finds Murvin singing like a mouse in a helium balloon. And to great effect.
4. Jimmy Somerville
Somerville’s success was built on singing a bit like Sylvester, but a more hysterical white Scottish version. At times, his frantic squealing was quite remarkable. As below.
Musical Youth Live
It’s easy to forget how good Musical Youth were. A gang of kids from Birmingham, they won a Best New Artist Grammy in 1984. The Beatles won the same award in the 1960s. Above is a great live show.
Aswad, Roots Rocking
On the subject of drummers that sing, Drummie Zeb from Aswad certainly deserves a mention as well. As a band, Aswad were far better than their smash hit Don’t Turn Around suggested. An excellent, excellent reggae group.