Record Review: Scritti Politti/Shabba Ranks – She’s A Woman

Virgin | JPN | CD5 | 1991 | VJCP-14024

Scritti Politti/Shabba Ranks: She’s A Woman JPN CD5 [1991]

  1. She’s A Woman
  2. She’s A Woman [The Apollo 440 Remix]
  3. She’s A Woman [The William Orbit Remix]
  4. Wood Beez [Pray Like Aretha Franklin] [Version]

B.E.F. + Scritti Politti

It had been three years since the curiously tepid “Provision” and nothing had been heard of by Scritti Politti. Since it had taken Scritti four years [an eternity in those devil-may-care-days] to follow up “Songs To Remember” with “Cupid + Psyche ’85” [and another three for “Provision”] we twigged to the fact that Green Gartside might not be in a rush to make these albums.  I saw the video on MTV’s “International Hour” and I swear that it was credited to the second B.E.F. album, which had yet to materialize. Of course, when it did, the song with Green was “I Don’t Know Why I Love You [But I Love You]” instead of the Beatles chestnut that I’d seen earlier on a video.

So when I got that second B.E.F. album, I was on the hunt for this non-LP single. Brother, was it hard to source in those pre-internet days. I had to rely on ads in Goldmine or catalogs sent to me and I finally found a source for the Japanese CD5 of this [at the time I never would have bought vinyl!] and mail ordered it for probably on the order of $20 or so. The disc retailed for ¥1400 which was about $14 then [and has only slipped to $13 in the intervening 28 years!] and with dealer markup… yeah. Twenty dollars sounds pretty likely.

Shabba Ranks was a thing, then

This single was a pretty wild teamup between the eternally fey Green Gartside and the earthy masculinity of Shabba Ranks; then an up-and-coming dancehall reggae artist. The music was programmed and performed by Green with production shared by Martyn Ware of B.E.F. [with cohort Ian Craig Marsh also programming]. The music bed was a zingy, electro hip hop melange punctuated by percussive samples of vocal soundbites forming deep hooks within the track. Green carried the lyrics while Shabba daubed his toasting all over the frothy electric confection. It pulsated with electricity and if the track had a flavor, it would be a 9-volt battery on the tip of the tongue. I’m for anything that can rehabilitate the music of The Beatles to make me interested, and the focused single mix at 3:29 was a thing of beauty as it percolated with the sort of hyperactivity that made “Cupid + Psyche ’85” so arresting.

Apollo 440 was a bit of a thing in the 90s. The dance collective was the next group that Noko formed after Luxuria bit the dust in the late 90s. They spent the first few years remixing tracks before making their albums further down the line. Here they produced a dubbed out mix featuring almost none of Green’s vocals; leaving the party to Shabba Ranks. They served up a drone-ier, bleep-ier music bed with drum and tambourine loops high in the mix. The electro elements were excised but the vocal samples bursting like popcorn throughout the track were retained. It was over halfway into the modest 5:54 remix when scant hints of Green’s vocal finally appeared in the song.

While I usually have great love for William Orbit remixes, the one here was curiously flat. I like that he ramped up the electro synth action, but the clattery rhythm track used was a little tired. And the Hammond organ samples were a real turn off. But if you pine to hear the sugary tones of Green Gartside, this one delivers more than the previous mix. The whole thing comes closer to a dub mix, which considering the reggae in the tune’s DNA, seems to make sense on the face of it. But neither of the remixes would stand in the way of the definitive 7” mix up front here.

The design by Keith Breeden leaned very heavily on then new 8-bit paint programs for a decidedly low-res look to the gaudy artwork. It looks like various elements have been composited in Photoshop 1.0 on a Mac; possibly after being generated in an 8-bit Amiga paint program. There are smooth vignettes dropped into low-res shapes that clearly point to Photoshop being involved.

The last part of the trilogy

I think that I finally found this single in 1994 or 1994, but even at the time I had no idea that Green had released another non-LP Scritti Politti single the same year with another dancehall reggae artist. It was not until the late 90s that I discovered that there was another cover single of “Take Me In Your Arms And Love Me,” an old Gladys Knight hit. It came in very similar Keith Breeden artwork and the CD5 also featured “She’s A Woman!” This one is so scarce I have still not managed to source a copy in 20+ years of looking.

Since the team on that single is exactly the same on all three of Scritti Politti’s B.E.F. produced cover versions of 1991, I assume that these were all recorded for the “Music Of Quality + Distinction Vol. II” project and the Stevie Wonder cover got the nod for that album and the other two tracks were released concurrently as stand along Scritti Politti singles. Since “I Don’t Know Why I Love You [But I Love You]” and “She’s A Woman” are pretty ace covers, I’m guessing that “Take Me In Your Arms And Love Me” will also pass muster… if I ever find a copy.

– 30 –

 

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | media design • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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12 Responses to Record Review: Scritti Politti/Shabba Ranks – She’s A Woman

  1. jsd says:

    I love “she’s a woman”. “Take me in your arms” might be even better. You can judge for yourself here. https://youtu.be/wPanudF7X6I

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      jsd – But which mix is your pick? The remixes aren’t terrible, and in the 90s they certainly could have been! The original mix just gets the Scritti energy that I respond to flowing most copiously.

      Like

      • jsd says:

        Original mixes all the way. I’m not into the other ones and I’m a big fan of 90s dance music. They just aren’t that interesting to me.

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  2. Forgot about these singles! So much fun. Take Me In Your Arms isn’t so hard to find on Discogs… https://www.discogs.com/sell/list?master_id=65379&ev=mb

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Jeramy Shatan – Yeah, but then I have to have the money to buy it! Not to mention the postage! That’s where it all crumbles for me. I’m trying to spend less – much less – on music this year. So far I have only dropped about $320 in the first half-year on music. That’s encouraging, but it’s actually in the middle of my spending trends for the last nine years, according to this blog.

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  3. Tim says:

    If you like William Orbit mixes there’s a couple out there of Love My Way by The Psychadelic Furs.
    They’re legit releases, one is more song length and the other seems more like a sketch. They sound pretty much like what you’d expect them to.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Tim – Actually, those were on the second single from the “Orbit” solo album with Peta Nikolich on vocals. Not a bad album, but a noticeable step down from Torch Song. I don’t have the 12” single of “Love My Way” as it’s hard to find. It’s on the want list though.

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      • Tim says:

        One of mine I remember was off of a William Orbit ”hits” cd that I bought and the other was a mp3 download that I found on Amazon during one of my “let’s try some creative searches and see what we find” sessions for cherry-picking mp3s.
        Re the parent thread, sorry, lost me at Shaggy. You’re more devoted to the bands that you love than I am.

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  4. Echorich says:

    I’ve always maintained a bit of ambivalence with regard to She’s A Woman. Part of that comes from it being a Beatles track, I fully take that on, but I never felt it really moved the needle forward all that much for Green. I have come to appreciate the production and the sense of fun the cover engenders, but I am MUCH more a fan of I Don’t Know Why I Love You and Take Me In Your Arms And Love Me. IDKWILY is the real highlight of MOQD2 for me. There is a beautiful tenderness he brings to the song. TMIYAALM is just a gorgeous celebration of a song.

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    • krimmena says:

      I agree about the tenderness Green brings to it. And a vulnerability too, which transcends gender and self-obsession. He always seemed grown up to me. Happy to share my spare copy of the CD if you want it …

      Like

    • postpunkmonk says:

      Echorich – The Kraftwerk “Robots” quote in the middle eight of IDKWILY was brilliant, cheeky fun. You have a point thin that The Beatles were no match for the pen of Stevie Wonder. For a guy as sharp as Green, covering The Beatles was slumming.

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