Chart for stowaways – May 2020

May saw Pet Shop Boys dominating the charts, with I don’t wanna climbing to the top of the singles and Hotspot holding onto the albums for the whole month. Meanwhile, Florian Schneider‘s untimely death saw Kraftwerk turning up all over the single and album charts.

Here’s the album chart for 16th May:

  1. Pet Shop Boys – Hotspot
  2. The Beloved – Where it Is
  3. Kraftwerk – 3-D Der Katalog
  4. Sparks – Past Tense – The Best Of
  5. Everything But The Girl – Temperamental
  6. Chicane – Behind the Sun
  7. Kraftwerk – Die Mensch-Maschine
  8. 1 Giant Leap – 1 Giant Leap
  9. Kraftwerk – Trans Europa Express
  10. Kraftwerk – Computerwelt

Greatest Hits – Vol. 10

A couple of times a year, I like to take a little breather and highlight some of the reviews that you might have missed on this blog in the past. Here are my choices this time. Enjoy!

If you enjoyed that, why not check out Volume 9, here?

Artist of the Week – Faithless

Rolling way back into the prehistory of this blog, we find a radio show called Music for the Masses, which ran in its second incarnation from late 2004 to 2005. Here’s another Artist of the Week from that show, and my apologies again for any problems with what’s written below.

The Faithless story goes back to 1995. After no success as a record company boss, Rollo, responsible for releasing the debut Felix track Don’t You Want Me, was starting to make his name as a producer and remixer. He joined up with then renowned DJ and remixer Sister Bliss, folk guitarist Jamie Catto, and Buddhist Maxi Jazz to become one of the most bizarre but best loved dance groups of the last decade.

The debut album Reverence was recorded in an astonishing 17 days back in 1995, providing a springboard for many music careers, not least that of Rollo‘s younger sister Dido, who provided vocals from the start.

After several false starts, Reverence finally became a hit at the start of 1997, spawning the massive hits Insomnia and Salva Mea. The second album, the less chaotic but also eclectic Sunday 8pm, was released in late 1998, and included only one substantial hit, the euphoric God is a DJ.

After a break of three years, the third album Outrospective followed in mid-2001. It gave the group a number of further minor hits, as well as the huge smash hits We Come 1 and One Step Too Far, both of which broke into the top ten. The third album also marked a turning point, as, after shedding members with each album, they worked once again with the now-infamous Dido, who has now appeared on every Faithless album to date.

Also worth mentioning at this point is Jamie Catto‘s project, the seminal 1 Giant Leap album. Probably only widely known for the hit My Culture, this is a fantastic album, and definitely something we should play a lot more often on the show.

The fourth Faithless album No Roots was released last year. It contained some of Maxi Jazz‘s most insightful lyrics to date, but I would argue that despite its tremendous success, being their first number one album, it is one of their less good albums. However, it included the wonderful Mass Destruction, and also spawned an instrumental spin-off album Everything Will Be Alright Tomorrow, even if the hits were a little thin on the ground this time around, I Want More scraping into the top thirty, and Miss U Less See U More, admittedly only a vinyl release, only making number 106.

However, we are now at  a turning point for the band. As always, the live juggernaut rolls on, crushing every venue they visit, and April will see the release of their Greatest Hits album, Faithless Forever (sic). Still no news on exactly what the track listing will be, but it’s probably safe to say that all the hits will be on there… and we’re going to play three of them tonight on the show.

Music for the Masses 39 – 7 May 2005

For the final run of Music for the Masses, from April to May 2005, I had secured the coveted Saturday night slot, building people up to a stomping night out in Leeds. Or alternatively helping them to revise for their exams. Or potentially neither; it was rather difficult to tell. But looking through the playlist, I can see a slightly more uptempo seam running through the show, culminating with the Electromix at the end of the show.

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Show 39: Sat 7 May 2005, from 6:00pm-8:00pm

Broadcast on LSR FM, online only. Artist of the week: The Shamen.

  • Morcheeba – World Looking In
  • Erasure – Here I Go Impossible Again
  • 1 Giant Leap feat. Robbie Williams & Maxi Jazz – My Culture
  • Mylo – In My Arms (Sharam Jey Remix)
  • The Shamen – Comin’ On (Beatmasters Mix)
  • Sylver – Make It
  • Aurora – Ordinary World
  • BT – Orbitus Terrarium
  • Kraftwerk – Aérodynamik
  • The Shamen – MK2A
  • Depeche Mode – Freelove (Live) [The Live Bit]
  • Stereo MCs – Connected
  • Technique – Sun is Shining
  • Felix – Don’t You Want Me
  • Yello feat. Stina Nordenstam – To the Sea
  • New Order – Jetstream (Arthur Baker Remix)
  • The Shamen – Indica
  • Binar – The Truth Sets Us Free
  • Talk Talk – Talk Talk
  • Mirwais feat. Craig Wedren – Miss You [Electromix]
  • Elektric Music – Lifestyle (Radio-Style) [Electromix]
  • Front Line Assembly – Everything Must Perish [Electromix]
  • Fluke – Absurd
  • Bent – The Waters Deep

The Electromix feature from this show still exists, and will be included on a future Playlist for stowaways.

Beginner’s guide to 1 Giant Leap

Initially an intriguing side-project to travel the world, recording the music from each location, and merging it all together into a strange mixture of different genres, Jamie Catto‘s 1 Giant Leap project has produced two truly fascinating albums.

Key moments

You may well remember the collaboration with Robbie Williams and Maxi Jazz, My Culture, or the follow-up Braided Hair.

Where to start

Start with the eponymous debut (2002) – in particular, The Way You Dream with Michael Stipe is an essential listen.

What to buy

That just leaves the second album What About Me? (2009), which is a little harder to get hold of. Copies are available on import. You could try the DVDs too, if you’re really feeling like something different.

Don’t bother with

The singles – they don’t add anything particular that you don’t have already.

Hidden treasure

All the treasure is on the two albums – they’re all you need.

For stowaways

1 Giant Leap – 1 Giant Leap

For me, the surprise hit of 2002 was 1 Giant Leap‘s debut album. Without warning, Jamie Catto, formerly of Faithless, and Duncan Bridgeman disappeared and travelled around the world, working variously with established western artists, stars of what I hesitatingly call “world music,” and less well known names, mixing together their vocals, instrumentation, atmosphere, and also (on the DVD, for this was also a “video album”) the visuals.

Being a mix of sounds from all over the world, it contains instruments and vocal styles that are almost totally alien to me, so I won’t try and describe the sound too much. But Dunya Salam, which opens the album, is gloriously atmospheric, with a deep synth sound, acoustic stylings, and what, if I had to guess, I would assume was a vocal from west Africa (having checked, Baaba Maal is indeed from Senegal).

The second track was also the first single, the brilliant My Culture, featuring vocals from Catto’s former band mate Maxi Jazz, and also Robbie Williams. The lyrics – particularly those delivered by Maxi Jazz – are typically expressive and evocative. With all the bits put together it somehow didn’t work too amazingly as a four minute pop song, but within the context of the album it works brilliantly.

“Only silence remains,” says the sample at the start of my favourite track The Way You Dream. The eastern stylings of the introduction gradually build over a few minutes into something very powerful. Without warning, it’s then Michael Stipe of R.E.M. who turns up to deliver the lead vocal.

I’m not sure I ever really appreciated quite how good a vocalist Stipe is, and he’s in extremely good company on this album. Also performing on this track, for example, is Asha Bhosle, as in Brimful of Asha, the 1997 hit from Cornershop. And the many other things which I should feel ashamed for not knowing her for.

If I had one criticism, it’s that all the geographical cross-mixing can make the album can feel a little disjointed in places. In the context of the “one world” theme of the album, the jump to Ma’ Africa is entirely logical, but the African gospel-style vocals of The Mahotella Queens could come as a bit of a surprise if you weren’t expecting it.

Next up is the second single, the slightly more complete but less catchy Braided Hair, with vocals from Speech and Neneh Cherry from off of the 1990s, which leads into the Maori sound of Ta Moko, with its incredibly moving spoken word introduction. Before you know it this has seamlessly passed the baton onto Bushes to kick off the second half of the album, and Baaba Maal is back with us again.

This is an album which definitely works best listened to in one go, without ever using the skip button, and while everyone will find quieter moments within it, the seventy minutes of music comes together to form something quite exceptional.

Bushes is possibly the darkest track on the album, with sudden unexpected industrial samples and moments of feedback, but in no way is it out of place. Passion, with its tropical conch-shell style percussion and a vocal from Michael Franti is excellent too, as it builds into a huge percussive crescendo. Daphne is tucked away a little unfair towards the end where you might forget it, but is great too.

Of the later tracks, All Alone (On Eilean Shona) is my personal favourite. Eilean Shona, the tiny tidal island on a Scottish loch, with its population of two somehow seems an entirely apt place to set this song. The vocals are fantastic, and the rather unexpected African vocal which turns up half way through does nothing to detract from the deep Celtic atmosphere. We are all of the same tribe, no matter what our background.

Racing Away features a welcome lead vocal appearance from the fantastic Horace Andy, and then already we’re onto the final track Ghosts. The vocal this time is performed by Eddi Reader, and finally, softly, gently, the album comes to a close in beautiful fashion, evoking the ghosts that haunt all of us. Sorry, I’m not sure why I suddenly went all philosophical there.

If, like me, you enjoy a bit of “world music” mixed with electronics, you’re going to get a lot out of this album. There’s really very little to criticise on here – every track brings something, even if it just adds to the general atmosphere.

Incidentally, the review above is for the album, because over a decade later I still haven’t got round to buying the video version yet – if I ever do, you will be able to read about it here.

You can find 1 Giant Leap at all major retailers as a CD or DVD. We previously reviewed the second album What About Me? here.

1 Giant Leap – What About Me?

Pinning down exactly what 1 Giant Leap are isn’t easy. Their eponymous debut album / video-album 1 Giant Leap (2002) was groundbreaking, and featured the likes of Maxi Jazz, Robbie Williams, Michael Stipe, and others, alongside vocalists and musicians from all over the world. On the same tracks.

Once you’ve got the hang of all of that, the opening track on their second album What About Me?, a piece entitled Come to the Edge, makes a lot more sense. Kicking off with a spoken philosophical sample, it then mixes instrumentation and vocals from all over the world, despite only lasting a couple of minutes.

The first proper song Each Step Moves Us On is a little anticlimactic after that opening track and everything that came before it. After a wait of seven years (it was released five years ago this week) this second album was a very long time coming. This time it overflowed onto two discs, becoming a slightly bloated double album, again with a video version for those with the patience.

Maxi Jazz (you’ll remember him from Faithless) turns up for the brilliant How Can I Be a Better Friend to You?, the first of a number of tracks which really hit all of 1 Giant Leap‘s trademarks – there are great vocals, some fun exploratory musical backing, and in general some great songs.

There then follows a whole string of them – There’s Nothing Wrong with Me, Wounded in All the Right Places, and I Have Seen Trouble, featuring mainly African and Middle Eastern influences, with vocals from the likes of kd lang and Michael Stipe from R.E.M.

My favourite track on the first disc is probably the haunting Spanish sound of Solita Sin Solidad, featuring a vocal from Lila Downs but perhaps more remarkably Carlos Santana from The Mighty Boosh on guitar. The rest of the first disc is less remarkable, although the vocal ramblings complete with clicks in Serenity Prayer are a treat to hear.

Disc two opens with Under a Stormy Sky / I’ve Been Away, which features Maxi Jazz again to liven things up, as well as Michael Franti, Eddi Reader, and some other friends. The Farsi rap half way through from Haale is really rather special. The second track What I Need is Something Different is rather brilliant too.

My favourite track on the second half of this album is the driving beat of The Truth is Changing. Apart from a great vocal from former pop idol Will Young, there’s just something very catchy and compelling about it. Similarly Arrival features an appearance from former God Alanis Morissette, and is a very enjoyable track indeed.

Otherwise the second disc has a few less interesting moments, such as the confusing Freedom, or Forgive Me and the last proper track Set Me Free. The closing dub version of What I Need is Something Different is a welcome inclusion.

As a rule I’m not a huge fan of double albums – I think there should always be a good reason for allowing a release to spill over the eighty minute mark. And I’m not sure that reason exists here, apart from the fact that a lot of very talented people put a lot of work in. Even so, it might have benefitted from a little pruning here and there.

But it was definitely worth the seven year wait, and also the work involved in tracking down a copy of the album – when it’s good, it’s every bit as good as the first album, and even when it’s not so great, it’s still a fascinating listen.

Unfortunately What About Me? isn’t the easiest album to get hold of – the DVD is available through Amazon here, but I’ve only ever managed to find the album as an Australian import. But it’s worth the effort!

March 2014 for stowaways

Well well well, how time flies when you’re having fun. We’ve finished with the BRIT Awards for another year, and there’s nothing anywhere near as flamboyant to cover for the time being, so normal service must resume.

Well, not quite… here are the highlights for March…

  • I told you about the Beginner’s guides already, which kick off in earnest this Saturday and will continue until we’re all thoroughly sick of them
  • The reviews are back! You’ve already had Delerium and Saint Etienne, and Front Line Assembly, I Monster, and plenty of others will follow in the next few weeks
  • The oldies are back too! After Zero 7 last week, we continue with Client, 1 Giant Leap, Röyksopp, and more
  • Plus the previews, live highlights, charts, and everything else you’d expect around here!

The oldies chart

Here’s a chart of the most listened to albums on my playlists in the last five years, which were released prior to 2003. Too complicated? OK, these are the top 20 oldies for stowaways:

  1. Kraftwerk – The Mix (1991)
  2. The Beloved – X (1996)
  3. Espiritu – Another Life (1997)
  4. Depeche Mode – Violator (1990)
  5. Röyksopp – Melody AM (2001)
  6. Manu Chao – Próxima Estación… Esperanza (2001)
  7. Everything But the Girl – Walking Wounded (1996)
  8. Massive Attack – Blue Lines (1991)
  9. Saint Etienne – Tiger Bay (1994)
  10. Alabama 3 – Exile on Coldharbour Lane (1997)
  11. Delerium – Karma (1997)
  12. 1 Giant Leap – 1 Giant Leap (2001)
  13. Delerium – Poem (2000)
  14. Alpinestars – Basic (2000)
  15. Kraftwerk – Trans Europa Express (1977)
  16. Kraftwerk – Die Mensch-Maschine (1978)
  17. Depeche Mode – Songs of Faith and Devotion (1993)
  18. Gotan Project – La Revancha del Tango (2001)
  19. Zoot Woman – Living in a Magazine (2001)
  20. Apollo 440 – Electro Glide in Blue (1997)