vendredi 23 avril 2010

Utah Saints - What Can You Do For Me (1993)

One of things I loved about CD singles in the nineties was the difference between UK and US releases, the promise of more track, the surprise of new mixes.

In 1991, Utah Saints were having success in the UK with What Can you Do For Me. Based around three cheeky samples (There Must Be An Angel the Eurythmics, Gwen Guthrie's Ain't Nothin' Goin' On But The Rent and Don't Stop Me Now from Queen which didn't clear for the final official version) it was a bit cheap but insanely catchy, plumbing into a scene that major companies were having problems exploiting. A subsequent album release kept the momentum going, and it was obvious that release abroad was also necessary.

But what do you do if you're a product manager in New York with a rave product to sell, and no-one in America knows what rave is? No problem, just have remixed into New York garage!

So far, pretty standard stuff. Remixing has always been partly about catering the sound of a release to suit your market, or several markets, and in this case David Morales was brought in to make What Can you Do For Me palatable to the club kids, an essential tactic to get some buzz going. The Eurythmics sample stayed, the Queen sample was re-sung (by a woman! with an exaggerated English accent!), but why make do with just a sample of Gwen Guthrie when you can have... Gwen Guthrie herself!

And it is here that marketing cynicism met artistic genius. Guthrie came in and recorded expanded new vocals especially for the remixes. Re-booted and boosted with a garage house sound, this was no longer a track: it was a proper song. And it worked wonderfully. Morales had made things more melodic, peppered the soft vocals with some hard percussion, judiciously used the samples, and the whole thing gelled. Two years after the UK single release, what was a crusty bandwagon-jumper had become a NY club monster!

The U.S. single contained three Morales mixes (there were a couple more on the promo 12") as well as a so-called trancey mix by someone else, but I've always had a soft spot for the latter, so I decided to put it together with Morales' 10-minute Klub mix and make a fifteen-minute marathon! It was fairly tricky, as the two mixes aren't exactly at the same speed, nor do they use the same elements. In the end I extended the end of the Morales mix in order to help it blend in better, and the result isn't half bad. You can have a listen here...

Utah Saints are still going, although their sample-based novelty singles got very boring very quickly. If you have a look at YouTube, you'll be able to see them making twats of themselves back in the day on Top of The Pops (pretending to play instruments. Hilarious), and flogging their dead horse at festivals even now. It's strange to think that after recording new vocals in 1993, Gwen Guthrie was to die from uterine cancer just six years later, age 48. Shame.

You can download Utah Saints -What Can You Do For Me (Klub mix / A Trance for the Saints fist fusion) by clicking the button on the player above. Enjoy!

(P.S. Needless to say, these remixes are now imposisble to buy except second hand, another example of wasted back catalogue lingering in limbo...)

mardi 6 avril 2010

EVE - Groove of Love (1994)

I think we can safely say that EVE was never meant to be a quality act. For a start, their name is a rather forced acronym of Ebony Vibe Everlasting. Plus, they were very obviously riding on En Vogue's coat tails and not doing it with very much class; their tracks were available as either anaemic R&B or remixed to destruction into cheesy piano house. It was not good.

Calling a song Groove of Love does not inspire confidence either, and the original version is indeed a sopping wet mess. I mean they even sing "on and on, until the break of dawn". Check out this steaming pile of cliché:

The good news? From this epic train wreck of monumentally cynical proportions came... a rather good remix! With the melody re-sung at house speed (something he often did with Mariah Carey), Morales made an excellent if near-cheesy house track that starts off with lashings of vaguely dodgy piano and then veers off halfway through into more interesting, even surprising dubby territory. There's a bit that starts at 7'29" that gives me goose pimples. How mad is that? Anyway, great stuff.

The bad news? Morales' original mix of 11 minutes was inexplicably edited down - or rather hacked apart - to under 10 minutes for the CD-single release. The intro no longer had the right number of bars, didn't start on the right beat. The passage from vocal to dub had been reduced making it sound tacked on, unnatural. It's amazing what some hasty editing in the mastering studio can do to ruin the feel of a song.

So I reconstructed it. Not a mammoth job, but it now sounds - to me - a lot more organic. Why they couldn't just leave the full version on the CD, I don't know. I can see the point of reducing a track from 10 minutes to 4 for single release or radio play, but 11 minutes to 9, and making a hash of it? Just stupid.

EVE released one more single after this one and disappeared, thankfully. If you can sing, why sing crap? They got what they deserved.

You can download my slight re-jig of
Groove of Love by four women who made fools of themselves and didn't make any money, here (14MB).