It must have been 1982 when I was watching the aforementioned Night Flight cable program which, as we discussed, could show anything. The “Take Off” segment showed clips of a couple of videos by Jesse Rae; a Scot with an unexpected penchant for synth-funk. The clips of videos I saw that night have haunted me ever since and the records have been in my want lists for years. I can’t say I’ve ever seen them in a store.
Jesse Rae: D-E-S-I-R-E – UK – 12″ 
- Desire [12″ version]
- Sky Diver
“D-E-S-I-R-E” felt almost like Todd Rundgren at his funkiest fronting for DEVO. With Rae impressively emoting and ad-libbing for the duration of this incessant, upbeat grove. Which sort of made sense, Rae was another all-in-one studio wunderkind who, just like Rundgren often did, played every note on this track as well as co-produced it. And like Rundgren, he also directed the video, which also looked like the sort of thing that Rundgren also issued at the same time. Heavily steeped in bleeding edge video tech.
The backstory of Rae is fascinating. The Scot initially came to The States to work in the New York Stock Exchange as a runner, but he gravitated to studio work in Cleveland and Los Angeles. In CLE he ran into many P-Funk related artists such as Worrell and Roger Troutman and he struck up musical friendships that lasted for the rest of those artists’ lives.
The Space Cadets: The Space Cadets – US – LP 
- Let’s Pump It Up
- You Make Me Wanna Do It
- I Love What You’re Doing To Me
- Loveslave [Nose job]
- Make Me Funk [Fonkin’ Straight Ahead]
- I Might Be Crazy [But I Ain’t No Fool]
- Your Mother
1981 also saw Rae form a band with Worrell and other sessions dogs he was gigging with like Kevin Goins, and Nairobi Sailcat. They were called The Space Cadets and they had one album [reissued on the silver disc in 1999] on the Vanguard label. The cover art definitely references Pedro Bell’s cartoon funk covers from many a P-Funk release.
Jesse Rae: Rusha – US – 12″ 
- Desire [12″ version]
The next year he released a US 12″ with a new song on its A-side, as co-written with…Bernie Worrell! So it’s an insanely heavy funk groove! We could happily buy every record Mr. Worrell ever played on and that would be a noble goal.
1982 also saw Rae writing a hit for US soul band Odyssey with the track “Inside Out.” But at the time I never heard that, having left commercial radio behind. After we flash forward eight years, I would hear this smoky number in 1990 when Electribe 101 covered it on their crucial “Electribal Memories” album, where they performed it with lusciously downtempo electronics backing the incredible Billie Ray Martin. So obviously, Jesse Rae had the goods!
Jesse Rae: Over The Sea – UK – 12″ 
- Over The Sea
- Party Crackers
- Over The Sea [ext. inst. ver.]
The last song from the 80s I ran into is probably Rae’s calling card. The clip he made for “Over The Sea” [also co-written with Worrell] was one that got a reasonable amount of play on various outlets. It was there where Rae developed his highlander with claymore visual persona he’s had ever since. If you’ve ever heard Rae, chances are this was the occasion. It’s less funky than most of this other material, being more of a Synthpop persuasion.
What has been on my want list for many years now is the 2012 CD that Rae released with these and many other tracks in its playlist. Everything I mentioned here [except for the Space Cadets material] is present and accounted for. The tough part is sourcing one of these since the artist issued it on his own label in a run of 500 copies a decade ago. Copies over on this side of the Atlantic are hard to scare up, so I may have to pony up for international postage. If I ever want that stone cold groove of “Rusha” in my Record Cell, that is!
I don’t know, Monk. When I watch this video, I entertain thoughts of killing myself. I recorded it at a friends house who had HBO. Sorry for the horrid quality: https://youtu.be/nSeRoV3Yyx4
thxdave – Not surprised that you had that in your archives.
I have a vinyl copy of Jesse Rae’s 1987 LP The Thistle. Jolly amusing stuff.
I think the picture at the start of this article shows Rae in the Scottish Borders rather than the highlands – he stood for election in a Borders constituency at some point.
Robert Saunders – I noted that Mr. Rae had stood for election on two occasions, but ran out of time at my lunch hour [when I furiously type these posts] so I opted not to go down that intriguing rabbit hole. I even had to cut out mention of the “Worae” album! And pardon this American’s failure to recognize the correct district of Scotland in that photo.
As the song [almost] goes, “I’ve never been to Scotland…but I kind of like the music…”
Wow. This article was a welcome surprise! I am actually the guy behind Jesse Rae’s recent CD reissues, including ‘The Best O’ featured above.
I work directly with Jesse on all these and they came about because I am a huge fan since seeing the video to “Over The Sea” all those years ago.
So far we have released the afore mentioned ‘Best O’; ‘Funk Warrior’ (a collection of rare tracks); ‘The Thistle’ (Jesse’s first album expanded to a 2CD set with all the b-sides and loads of previously unreleased mixes); ‘Worae’ (a double CD of funk instrumentals recorded with the legendary Bernie Worrell) and ‘Global ’95’ (a 2CD version of Jesse’s ’97 ‘Compression’ album featuring Jesse’s original sequence and mix). All are limited but still available (apart from The Best O’).
The good news is I am a mere month away from a 10th anniversary reissue of The Best O’ CD that will feature improved audio throughout and re-designed artwork. Would love to send you a free copy when it’s out in return for a review here ;)
Dave Turner – ¡Gloryoski! Then it’s damned convenient that you started commenting here…uh, a fortnight ago! It’s not every day that the producer of a title I want just happens to hang around PPM, waiting for us to discuss it. So these titles [except for the Best O’] are all still available? Through your Discogs page looks like the point of distribution. Yow! You did the Tik + Tok volume [as well as “Worae”] in my want list as well? I need to send you an order! Even though the postage is a bear.
Life is full of strange coincidences! Certainly had no idea you’d mention Jesse Rae here. And yes, worked on the Tik & Tok release for the same reason as Jesse. Just had to get all that stuff out on CD. It’s certainly been popular and well received. There will be a Tim Dry double CD, ‘Retroject’, coming out soon too. Same time as Jesse’s ‘The Best O’ reissue.
So yes, everything I noted is still available and also on Ebay and Amazon in the UK (though Amazon is the pricier option due to their inbuilt postage rates). I try and do postage at cost only. None of the music I work with is designed to make me any profit, just to make it available for people and to further the talent and careers of those that made it :)
Dave Turner – So you are a non-profit label??! That is awe inspiring. This needs to grow into a collective of like minds.
Indeed. If I make back my costs I’m a happy man. Not exactly business-minded but I wanted this music on CD and no-one else was doing it. Especially with all the obscure bonus tracks and mixes. Got tired of waiting so stepped on up :)
All I can say is wow! First for your dissertation on Jesse Rae; I’ve been captivated by “Over The Sea” since I first saw the video 40 or so years ago. Great song and great video!!
With respect to the video I was pleased with its many scenes of lower Manhattan, Brooklyn Bridge, Times Square etc from the early 80’s. I am one of the lucky ones with possession of The Best O’ cd.
And the response from Dave Turner!! Miraculous!!
Put me on the waiting list for the 10th anniversary re-issue.
schwenko – I am so not shocked that you already have the “Best O'” Jesse Rae CD! I suspect that you have the best CD collection on the east coast [checks…] OMG! Your Discogs collection seems smaller [6K]??!! I know mine is not complete with many omissions. Please tell me yours is but a fraction of your full collection.
As far as Dave Turner goes… yeah! Small world, isn’t it?
Actually Discogs shows my collection as somewhat less than 5000. Which is about all she wrote.
Keep in mind that Discogs counts double cds and box sets as “single items” (I believe), so you could probably add 400 or 500 more there if counting actual disks. And I have a box of 50-75 cds which are not in the Discogs listings (mostly Japanese), and maybe 30 more cds that are duplicate purchases. So yes, less than 6000 seems right.
I know the “Over The Sea” video is on YouTube but I would love to see it on a dvd
There was actually a River Records CD reissue of ‘The Thistle’ album that has a bonus DVD that features “Over The Sea”, “The Thistle” and “Chainsaw”. No menu on it though and definitely not remastered video quality. Not much better than what’s on YouTube.
Thanks. It’s now on my Discogs wish list.
saw Jesse performing live a few years ago in Inverness (scotland for the geographical people amongst us) supporting Adam Ant on his Good, Mad And The Lovely Posse tour (2011 so definitely a few years ago). provided a good set and really got the crowd going for the main act (maybe continually telling the crowd that adam was due on soon was a bit too much). a good nostalgia gig though, songs that i hadn’t heard since the early 80s
lieutenant 030 – Welcome to the comments! I’d seen that Rae had opened for Adam Ant in recent years and that seems like a strong, fun pairing, so good on ‘yer for getting to see that! I only saw Adam [and Marco] in 1993, here in The States, but it was a corker of a gig.
So I take it you’re a male caucasian?
I only ever stumbled upon him via the On-U Crew connection on Compressed but rarely listen to the CD as I just can’t figure out if the sound was actually intended like this or if I got sort of mismastered copy…. Obviously this did not help to motivate me buying another copy or more.
slur – I ran out of time to also go into his connections with On-U Sound as well as the Sugarhill Records house talent. The weird thing about “Compressed” was that Jesse recorded it worldwide remotely via an ISDN line, which as these things went in the mid-90s allowed 64 KBps throughput, hence the album’s title. I’m guessing that accounted for the sonic fingerprint of that one! But it was bleeding edge technology that allowed musicians thousand of miles apart to record together for the first time.
Just to note – the album was actually called “Compression”, though on the ‘Global ’95’ remastered reissue(ish) the bonus disc is indeed called ‘Compressed’. And yes, it was all ISDN recorded live around the world with our Jesse in the Borders of Scotland singing remotely. So not a hi-tech studio environment but cutting edge tech back then and the first time it had ever been done.
Dave Turner – Aha. I got confused by the bonus disc on the reissue.
Yes indeed, it was an interesting concept but the outcome overshadowed it somehow due being soundwise a bit poor – is there any good remastered version or are the source recordings too shaby for that ?
‘Global ’95’ contains the best available sources and was remastered. Can’t be improved further.
The instrumental mix of Rusha, track 13 on the Thistle reissue is frankly the best thing I have heard in ages. Just found the music of Jesse recently, even though I am almost 50 and Scottish!
landlockeddown – Welcome to the comments! It’s never too late to find your Funk! Your Scot credentials are safe as you would have been <10 when the record came out! The point is you got there with Jesse!
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