[…continued from last post]
“Be Not Afraid” was the sort of song title that, when you get right down to it, never wears out its welcome in the world. The band boldly handed the reins of this song to Khaled, who was among the most popular singers in Algeria and the Arabic music market. The major performer in the Raï genre that was prevalent in the 80s-00s.
His ululating vocal opened the track like a Muezzin calling the faithful to prayer. Then the driving polyrhythm that would propel the densely textured song for its seven minutes began looping. I’d swear that I heard that rhythm before, and it didn’t take long for the light bulb to turn on. The electric “Help Me Somebody” from “My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts” sported the same drum loop; albeit slightly faster. It was a bit slower here but drop the right bass line in it and bingo! Compare and contrast below.
The track spotlighted Khaled first but as it progressed throughout its running time all of the players who were at the heart of this powerful number got a chance to solo for a few bars, Jazz style, before the track circled back for its climax. Barbara Snow’s trumpet solo was first out of the gate, followed by piano and guitar when the song cut back for the drop. Then the prize-winning bass solo from Mick Anker took it home as it drove to the heart of its climax. Through it all the tension was expertly built up and released by Khaled’s vocal. Stunning work!
After that it was time for The Blow Monkeys to rejoin the party. “If You Love Somebody” was included on the “Springtime For The World” EP but it was not ostensibly the A-side. A real squandering of resources, as the chilled out Acid Jazz screamed “hit single” as it balanced house beats with a Jazzy insouciance that was infectious. And Dr. Robert’s lyrics were an upbeat and euphoric love song that belonged on the airwaves. As much as he can pen a cogent political lyric, he’s equally at home with more timeless sentiments. The vibe solo was an unexpected treat, as was Brian Bethell’s Jazz guitar solo that followed. Dr. Robert wasn’t shy about calling in the reserved for guitar when he knew his limitations, and Brian Bethell [ex-Nine Below Zero, The Truth] would find himself playing alongside Dr. Robert with and without The Blow Monkeys for a decade.
With The Blow Monkeys re-established on the first track on side two, it was time to once more steer the album off of the expected path. “La Passionara” was an instrumental marked by bell-like synths, and percussive loops over which flamenco guitar courtesy of Simon Watson [who was a manager more than a musician] dominated the Ibizia chill out vibe that the song legitimately owned. The seasoning of 808 fills and the killer foghorn synth hook added just enough technological mojo to give this one a vibe that insured that it soon went from B-side for “Springtime For the World” to being the second single [and final] issued from the album, though it failed to trouble the charts.
Another [almost] missed opportunity came with the euphoric House chug of “Let The People Dance.” Amazingly, only France had the insight to release this one as a single, but the politically pointed lyrics served to transport us back into The Blow Monkeys’ unique wheelhouse where dance music and politics go on like House on fire. The lyric opened with the optimistic couplet: “15,000 people, dance the night away, the one hope that I have is that they, rule one day.”
Next: …Dust And Fruit
“La Passionara” was a CD-single I picked up before I had the album and I thought it was just a wonderful breath of fresh air. To this day it is the song I remember most vividly from the album, though the Khaled track was also mesmerising for exactly the reason you mention — the lifted section from My Life …