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.

The Human League – Don’t You Want Me 1995

Before we broke up for our extended winter holidays, the last oldie we looked at was The Human League‘s classic album Dare. Somehow it seems appropriate to follow that up by looking at how the album was treated subsequently.

Looking back now, it’s hard to conceive a time when The Human League weren’t regarded as the grandparents of the modern pop song. But everything about the 1995 version of their Greatest Hits seems to scream “we were told to do this by our record company”. In fairness, it’s actually a vast improvement on the original 1988 version, flipping the tracks into a better order, adding two tracks from Octopus, and also gaining the brilliant non-album track Stay with Me Tonight.

But remixing Don’t You Want Me with contemporary versions by massive mid-nineties euro-dance names? A good idea, or a travesty? Let’s find out…

I want to make it clear at this point that I do have some respect for Red Jerry. A lot of his mixes are pretty good. It was he, after all, who founded the label Hooj Choons, which some years later would give us the excellent mixes of The Things That Dreams are Made Of. His take on Don’t You Want Me, however, is far from good. I can only assume that he was asked to complete this mix during a five minute toilet break between other projects, because I can really think of absolutely nothing good to say about it. His additional “Don’t you want me, do-do’nt you want me” section is awful, and frankly the fade is the best thing about it.

Then comes a mix by Snap! (as in, “I’m as serious as cancer when I say rhythm is a dancer,” which is surely the best lyric of all time). Their mix is very marginally less awful, but it does mess with the arrangement by starting with the chorus, which is an odd decision to say the least. It also bears an uncanny resemblance to Rhythm is a Dancer, particularly the absolutely awful middle section in which the “I guess it’s just what I must do” line is steadily faded out as Phil Oakey gets faded back in. It is this version which closes the reissued Greatest Hits collection, which must be a tad irritating for any self-respecting League fan.

The UK release of the single then generously gives you extended versions of the Red Jerry and Snap! mixes, while the Dutch version gives you an Oliver Lieb mix which I can’t comment on as I don’t have a copy. The extended versions barely scratch six minutes each, which suggests to me that even the people doing the mixes were getting bored of them. Can you seriously imagine any of these mixes ever being played in a club? Really?

The penultimate track, and honestly the saving grace of the whole bunch, is surprisingly Red Jerry‘s dub mix. Freed from the shackles of having to destroy a classic eighties anthem, he was able to construct a relatively decent euro-dance track which perhaps unsurprisingly is not unlike Felix‘s Don’t You Want Me. It barely even mentions the words “don’t you want me” and is considerably better for it.

Finally, you get a reminder of the original 1981 version, and everything is OK again. But, all in all, to answer my original question, I think it’s fair to say that this single is definitely a travesty, and let’s never mention it again.

If you want to buy a copy of this single, [sarcastic comment removed! Basic message is: don’t bother unless you’re an ultra-completist.]