Album Watch: Absolute On Power Drive

Friday, February 25, 2011

Most people sneer over greatest hits collections. The complaints range from, "It's never enough" to "It's not remastered" to "I have everything so why bother?" and back to "Most of these are remixes of the originals, I want the originals like I remembered, dammit!!."

I have to say that Scritti Politti's upcoming collection of hits is one of the better compilations as it's the perfect set to get a taste of Scritti and then discover more later. Discover more you shall, as Absolute: Best Of (which hits sellers next week), covers all of the smarty pants pop-soul that the group threw out in their hey-day in the mid-80's as well as covers material less traveled (such as their collaborative efforts with Shabba Ranks and Mos Def) from later efforts. Plus, greatest hits etiquette is present, as two strangers (aka brand new songs) pop on to just make things sound more current. Whatever, it's all about the hits...and there are a handful of them on here that are fun to explore and re-discover, especially if you have a sweet tooth for 80's synth-pop.

I have such a fondness for the British New Wave and Sophisti-Pop movements from the 80's and the transition that happened at that time, that getting into Scritti was no chore. Scritti fit into that genre mold when they released their second, and most famous effort from 1985, Cupid & Psyche '85. On Absolute, Cupid is the album given the most space, as five hits are present from the their monster hit single, "Perfect Way", to "Absolute", "Hypnotize", the Reggae infused, "The Word Girl", and my personal favorite, "Wood Beez (Pray Like Aretha Franklin)".

The album is sort of pretentious in some spots, yet it's so gooey, clean, funky, and infectious, that the braniac tactics and details just add to its charm. Cupid is actually one of my favorite albums of all-time, and once you can get past the acquired taste of Scritti's mastermind, Green Gartside's Michael Jackson on warm milk vocals, then the album is insanely enjoyable thanks to some production work by Arif Mardin. The residue of this album boils over on Chaka Khan's 1986 album, Destiny, which features the Scritti produced and written, "Love Of A Lifetime" and *surprise* Mardin on production.



Absolute also scrapes two tracks from the band's second (and last big seller) effort, 1988's Provision. Provision is even more purified than Cupid. It reminds me of when my mom forces me to use that Kool-Aid colored cleaning solution Fabuloso in the bathroom, where it makes everything too clean to the point where you're afraid of even walking in there to use anything. It's just really a brisk listening experience that you might be afraid of because the soul elements are buffed down. Still the fun isn't erased from it as it features some great guest appearances from Roger Troutman (from Zapp fame) on the snazzy, "Boom! There She Was" and Miles Davis beautifying the lovely, "Oh Patti (Don't Feel Sorry For Loverboy)". Strangely, "First Boy In This Town (Lovesick)" and "Best Thing Ever" (which found itself on Madonna's Who's That Girl soundtrack) aren't featured as they were notable joints from Provision...ah, oh, well, you can't have everything.



My Scritti listening sort of stops there, though I have heard bits and pieces of the group's 1982 punk-liberal debut, Songs To Remember ("The Sweetest Girl" is their most memorable from that set), and their collaborations with Mos Def and Shabba Ranks. Not that the rest was bad, it just wasn't my cup of green tea. I just really dig the spiffed up sterile soul they had going on in the 80's...and I like to keep it that way.

Hipster/indie bands of today have a lot to thank for Scritti (and their contemporaries like ABC, Johnny Hates Jazz, and Everything But The Girl...to name a few) as they effectively merged soul (and sometimes jazz) elements into a pop formula that was synth driven, contagious, and seemed more adult than the average pop teeny-bopper. Just that I think Green Gartside had a better appreciation for soul music and utilized it much more effectively. So if you're curious like the cat, Scritti's Absolute: The Best Of should be a great introduction and crash course into what the Sophisti-Pop movement was all about from one of it's better bands. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Before you comment remember...
1. Don't be rude!
2. Stay on topic of the post. If you don't stay on topic, either state "off-topic" or your comment will be deleted.
3. If you want to ask an off-topic question and don't see the proper post for it, please e-mail me about it.
4. Don't spam or promote your blog or service. Please e-mail me if you'd like an add to my blog list or need for me to update your blog's URL. If your blog is similar in subject to mine, you will be added to the list.
5. If you have any technical problems with the blog, please e-mail me.

When in doubt, e-mail me at jennifer@audiodivablog.com

Thank you :)