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Rae & Christian - Northern Sulphuric Soul CD [Grand Central]
Rae & Christian - Northern Sulphuric Soul CD [Grand Central]
Tracklist:

1. Divine Sounds
2. Anything You Want (featuring Qball and Curt Cazal)
3. Swan Song (For A Nation) (featuring Veba)
4. Now I Lay Me Down (featuring YZ)
5. The Hush (with Sharleen Spiteri)
6. All I Ask (featuring Veba)
7. Swimming Pool
8. Fool
9. Catch A Rude Awakening
10. Play On (Grand Central)
11. Bring The Drama
12. Flip The Mic (featuring Jeru The Damaja)
13. Spellbound (featuring Veba)
14. Time To Shine
15. The Bacalau
16. Premonition
DJ Mark Rae and studio wizard Steve Christian of Fat City records shop in Manchester have over the years become renowned producers and have now re-released their seminal second LP with a few new tracks included in there to spice up the flavour of the old recipe. The re-issue CD kicks off with the seriously funky and bongoified 70's film trackesque Divine Sounds. A funky instrumental with several recurring samples one from Do Or Die - Bed Stud by Divine Sounds. It is a cut and paste job of the highest order and should have any dance floor rocking. Throughout episodes of scratching divide up the track and add some element of spontaneity and variety, not to mention including all the elements too.

Anything You Want opens with a seriously grimy vocal sample. The track reduces the pace somewhat and features Curt Cazal who was first brought to my attention when he collaborated with other Fat City associated production crew - the Funky Fresh Few. The lazy offering utilises a sample from The Next Level by the Alkaholics and embodies elements of I Love You More Than You Know by Lydia Pense & Cold Blood and the aforementioned vocal sample is combined with religious type chants low in the mix, sloppy drums and a gentle bass line for a thoroughly relaxing vibe. Swan Song (For A Nation) has a similar downbeat feel, and with its typically Manchester (Happy Mondays) drums, possibly a re-chop of Funky Drummer. It has a touch of Enya or other floaty vocalist as this track features Veba a singer who fits the sample from Only Love Is Worth This Pain by Joe McDonald.

Now I Lay Me Down is only the second more straight up Hop Hop track. It features the vocals of old skool head YZ, who again drops over a another laid back backing. This makes for a slightly energy lacking delivery and the whole track is a bit downbeat and could have done with more energy, especially when the serious topics of the lyrics are looked into. YZ comments on all sorts of religious issues. The main track which got most of the press the first time around was probably the collaboration with Sharleen Spiteri - The Hush. This is a very accessible track which is really very much a Texas tune with the drums beefed up a bit. The main sample being culled from Mary Miles by Blood Sweat & Tears, but this time played in at 45rpm rather than its intended 33. Texas over the years have shown how they like to get busy with Hip Hop acts, but for me Sharleen's voice is just not suited to this LP or type of music, yet when seen within the whole of the release it sort of fits.

All I Ask sees Veba return for the second of her offerings and another semi-pop, but still funky and soulful ballads. This time the producers flip up World Called Love originally performed by Brian & Brenda Hussell. Swimming Pool sees Rae & Christian return to an instrumental vibe, possibly something which I feel they do better than the vocal based tracks. The mellow of this is remarkable as is the complex sequencing which allows the track to evolve and breathe as it plays on.

Fool features Veba again, but the pace is picked up for a Chemical Brothers type hard running track. Veba drops in a more soulful manner to her previous offerings and although this is in stark contrast with the backing I feel she sounds better for the added emotion and energy. For me though she is too clean and opera like and I'd rather more emotion.

Another dope but laid back instrumental, Catch A Rude Awakening follows. In this Rae & Christian hook up vocal cuts from Guage of the Cella Dwellas and a sample from How You Want It We Got It by the Jungle Brothers. A hand clapping type snare track keeps the track moving along with the occasional guitar stab. Play On (Grand Central) is the third of the few straight up Hip Hop tracks and features more original heads - the Jungle Brothers. Play On has the feel of an old JBs track and whilst it doesn't pretend to pander to modern flavours it still sounds solid today.

Bring The Drama verges on the edge of being a long skit. It is a nice enough beat, but it hardly develops across its duration, only the cuts saving this from monotony. Rae & Christian have hooked up some seriously big names for their guest appearances and Flip The Mic features another major name from a few years ago - Jeru Tha Damaja. To make him feel at home there are samples from his own track How I'm Living, but use is also made of Miss Vicki and Champolue by Gerry Mulligan. Here Jeru rides effortlessly over the funky pianos and bass. Some of these tracks seem to lack a live feel which could be due to the distance between the producers and the vocalists and maybe could partly be due to the lining up of the accapellas against the beats. Whilst something can be in time, it is possible that it could be n time, but in another position and therefore introduce more riding of the rhythm.

Spellbound is a beautifully composed beat. It has all the right sounds in the right place. Windy flutes float across a great break from Trying To Get That Feeling Again performed by Hubert Laws. Veba once again drops her stuff and so seems to me Mark & Steve's preferred vocalist.

The last three tracks are the extra mixes added for this re-release and they seem to zoom past as the rest of the record did. Time To Shine opens with a set of bongos and menacing piano before the big sounding orchestration builds up. The beat is suitably big. 'Make your time mine, make your time shine' is the repeated vocal hook. Again very big beat sounding and danceable, but it will probably get mixed out before the full five minutes eleven seconds is up.

The Bacalau flips up the old Who Stole The Cookies drum sounds and combines them with a pleasant enough vibe sounds. Various abstract noises are incorporated along with the main keyboard riff. This would definitely be a great track to cut up two copies of! To round of what has been quite a satisfactory LP if a touch too dance and pop oriented Premonition is the final instrumental. Woodblocks and shakers start the track off which fills with bongos and the sounds of an orchestra pit warming up. As the tempo rises the drums kick in and the stab when combined with the hypnotic keys give a touch of a house feel.

The album is so good because despite having all these strange bedfellows all combined on one piece of wax the whole project somehow is held together, and because of the disparate elements I would have thought that many would find something of appeal included in here.
 

Grand Central Discography :: Grand Central Article

Intro Early Doors:
1979-1985
False Dawn:
1985-1990
Underground Years:
1990-1995
The Renaissance:
1995- 2000
The Future:
2000 & Beyond
Artists &
Discographies

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