lundi 11 octobre 2010

Freedom Williams - Groove Your Mind (1993)

So let's finish off the Freedom Williams story. If his previous single "Voice of Freedom" had got to no. 4 in the club charts, it only reached no. 74 in the Billboard charts, decidedly short of the success C&C had seen. The follow-up single, "Groove Your Mind" (a terrible name for a song, to be sure), showed that Freedom's career was nosediving fast, reaching only no. 33 on the club charts, a very poor show indeed.

Strangely though, it's not a bad track, although once again very obviously a Masters At Work production with a bit of silly rap attached. This time, Freedom's impressive flow - often so fast that you can't even make out what he's saying, not necessarily a bad thing - comes from the fact that the original was at a standard rap tempo and pitched to become a house track. This time though there's no Michael Watford, no India, and the song's definitely less catchy for a mainstream audience.

Nevertheless, Masters at Work came up trumps again, with three sterling mixes, and because of its lesser success, the song is much less well known than "Voice of Freedom". I decided to put the vocal and the dub together (even if the latter is more or less an instrumental of the former) and add on another dub at the end. Although then elements are basically the same, there's always something to keep your interest, and the fact that Freedom's rap only lasts a few minutes (out of the 19 minutes of my mix) is a bonus. Have a listen:

Once again, the track isn't available any more, so I don't feel bad about putting it up here, and although Freedom is still doing the rounds (with dodgy dance tracks), "Groove Your Mind" was his last decent single. The accompanying album in 1993 bombed. Big time. With a career essentially lasting just less than five years, from Nu Groove to C&C, his was a stellar rise and fall. As the man himself says, "being famous is easy, being a star... is a bitch". At least he doesn't have that to worry about any more.

dimanche 10 octobre 2010

Freedom Williams - Voice Of Freedom (1993)

Freedom Williams (Frederick Brandon Williams) was of course Clivilles & Cole's rapper for the C&C Music Project, plus a few remixes (like their epic Grace Jones remix). The three started collaborating in late 1980s with Seduction and The Crew on Vendetta. His combination is gruff monosyllabic rapping and bulging torso made him simple to listen to and great video fodder. In an era when MTV was still developing, that was important.

However, after C&C had had their moment in the limelight, it would seem that the happy threesome fell out. Or perhaps it was their falling out that helped bring C&C to an end? Either way, Clivilles doesn't seem pleased that Freedom continued touring under the C&C name, calling it "part of the biggest insult in the world". Yep, the biggest insult IN THE WORLD. Shocking.

Frankly, I would really really like to know whose bright idea it was to launch Freedom's solo career by pairing him up with Masters At Work. Williams' raps were always more rhyming dictionary than poetry, and Masters At Work had a profile that was voluntarily much more underground than Clivilles and Cole. I suspect that after years of successful pop-dance hits, he was in search of some real credibility with the house crowd. What a terrible idea.

Back in the day, I bought Voice of Freedom on 12" for 99p, a frequent record company ploy to get artists into the charts. The vinyl sleeve was a much more sparse, graphic affair than the CD packshot with lots of Freedom flesh and Freedom muscle, so as not to frighten the club kids. Both sleeves sport the XXXX symbol (check Free's pendant), but I'd be amazed if anyone really knew what it was supposed to mean.

And who would have believed that this oddball project was to to yield one of the best Masters At Work tracks ever? Michael Watford and India on backing vocals, a bit of Martin Luther King, and four very different mixes with Masters At Work making a very obvious effort, with careful programming, beautifully crafted effects and a simple, catchy melody.

Unfortunately Freedom himself seems a little burnt out and in need of inspiration, setting down a blunt and lazy C&C-style rap over a refined NY house track. Examples:

"Wall to wall the price is high, you might meet the type of guy or type of girl who'll rock your world and trade their diamonds for their pearls, leave you standing in a daze, kicking up their sexy ways, you might have to paraphrase, what you call the better days". If anyone has any idea what that's suppose to mean, then they have my respect. But it gets better:

"All in all there is no clue, if the sex is good take two, sometimes I don't know what to do, I might explode all over you, all over you, all over you...". Seemingly saucy, but ultimately meaningless.
Freedom does have a bit of an obsession with sex though. How about this for a chat up line? "Touch me where the sun don't shine. Will you be my concubine?" Guaranteed to get your face slapped in any club.

And the positively worst part is this triple whammy of awful cliché, simplistic rhyme and just plain nonsense: "Yes I've got to have your love, you've been sent from up above, you're the one I'm thinking of, if you push me can I shove?" IT'S JUST FRACKIN' TERRIBLE.

So how does he get away with it all? Well luckily, Freedom's very sure of himself, not afraid to put on a Jamaican accent at one point (one of my pet hates) and spout some nonsense about Ramses (perhaps he has some sort of pyramid fixation).

Nevertheless, the track really is so good that it can still be enjoyed it for what it is: a classic piece of house. All four mixes have great stuff in them, and I had a lot of fun putting them together, starting with the Chant mix, leading into the Bass Hit dub (with lots of Michael Watford) which then flows into the main mix which then leads into the amazing Jazzy mix. I also extended a few sections that I thought deserved to be longer. All very very danceable stuff (but sadly not a hit for Freedom). My fusion was a little tricky to do, but it flows really well and the result is nearly 21 minutes of classic Masters At Work, plus a few minutes of silly Freedom Williams. Have a listen, and click the download button if you'd like to keep a copy for yourself because - surprise surprise - Sony isn't in a rush to make it available digitally.

P.S. This was not the last time Freedom Williams and Masters At Work were to collaborate and produce - against all odds - some great music. More on that very soon...