1001 South African Songs You Must Hear Before You Go Deaf

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Lifeline – Rabbitt

The Hits - Rabbitt

The Hits – Rabbitt

Rabbitt slowed things down a notch when they recorded this one. Their bigger hits such as ‘Charlie’ and ‘Locomotive Breath’, although not frenetic or particularly noisy, were certainly rockier affairs. But here we are in slow rock ballad mode. There are some aaahh’s underpinning the verses which are not that far away from the similar part on 10cc’s ‘I’m Not In Love’, but where 10cc keep it cool, Rabbitt do throw in some electric guitars every now and then to remind one that they knew how to handle an axe.

‘Lifeline’ really shows off the craftsmanship of Trevor Rabin and the boys when it came to putting a song together. The production is also slick, giving this love song a velvety feel as it seems to glide along on a cushion of air.

While their rockier numbers like ‘Charlie’, ‘Morning Light’ and ‘Locomotive Breath’ had chart success, ‘Lifeline’ prefers to hang around in the background, taking a slow seductive approach compared to the more ‘in your face’ sound of the hits. It showed another side of Rabbitt that I’m sure the girls loved just as much as their bouncier side.

Where to find it:
Boys Will Be Boys – Rabbitt (September 2006) RetroFresh, freshcd 153 (CD)
The Hits – Rabbitt (1996) Gallo, CDRED 602

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Saved – Chris Chameleon

Saved – Chris Chameleon

Shine - Chris Chameleon

Shine – Chris Chameleon

After Boo! finally called it a day, it was not too surprising to see Chris Chameleon changing colours from a lead singer into a solo artist. With a voice like his, it would be a crime for him not to be singing. His first solo album ‘Ek Herhaal Jou’ was an Afrikaans offering, but with his second, ‘Shine’, we saw the ever changing Chameleon switch into English.

In the addendum to the book ‘1 001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die’, they give the 10 001 songs (that’s 9 000 extra songs in case you misread the “0”s) you must hear for those, like me, who just can’t get enough of lists. In amongst the extra songs is ‘Saved’ by Chris Chameleon, so it’s not just me that says you should hear this.

And why should you? It’s nothing like the quirky Boo! you came to love. Nor is it the more serious and quieter affairs that one found on ‘Ek Herhaal Jou’. And it doen’t feature some of the vocal gymnastics that he can get up to. It is a straight forward pop rock song with a slightly heavy beat, a foreboding voice on the verse which soars on the chorus and production tighter than some of the trousers that Chris wears. Perhaps not the most interesting track that he has produced in his various guises, but it is a song bursting with pop sensibilities, great hooks and as always, a sublime vocal performance. It is yet another side to this everchanging national treasure.

Where to find it:
Shine – Chris Chameleon (2006), Rhythm Records, RR070

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Beautiful – Karen Zoid

Beautiful – Karen Zoid

Karen Zoid - Chasing The Sun

Karen Zoid – Chasing The Sun

South Africa’s first Afrikaans rock chick takes it a little calmer on this track from her second album ‘Chasing The Sun.’ She had fallen in love with Don Reinecke, the guitarist in her band and she penned this beautiful ballad to him. ‘Beautiful’ was not only a love song, but it also made us aware of the abilities of Zoid in that she could do more than just churn out rock classics. She had a softer side.

The song had an effect as Karen and Don married in 2004, the year after it was released. Sadly the marriage only lasted till 2010, but the music lives on. I am sure that many a couple have adopted this as ‘their song’ and perhaps it has been played at a number of weddings. With it Zoid showed that she was a talented songwriter and not a one album wonder.

Where to find it:
Chasing The Sun – Karen Zoid, Just Music, (2003), CDJUST171

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Lyrics:
You’re beautiful every time we touch
When you make me laugh, when you think too much
You’re beautiful without your clothes
Everybody knows your love for me, it shows

And it shines through, shines through
Everything we do
I need you, I need you
I want to swim across this crowded room
And whisper in your ear.

You’re beautiful, when you’re being polite
She just fell off her chair and you gave her a light
You’re beautiful in your ugly shoes
You know that I still hate them, but I can stand by you

Because you shine through, shine through
Everything I do
I need you, I need you

I want to shout it from a rooftop
Shout it out to the moon…

I write another bagatelle
’cause lately I’m beside myself
Take me to the stars, show me the room
in the corner of your heart
Take me on a trip
buy me a ticket for the plane
I want to see, I have to say…

You’re beautiful, you know it’s true
I could go black, I could go blue
You’re beautiful, there are no lies
Only the river, only the sky

I guess I do it to myself, I sometimes think that
I need help
You know one and one is two
It’s a different kind of you

My baby, I love you.
Baby, I love you.

(Written by Karen Zoid)

Hometalk – Mango Groove

Hometalk – Mango Groove

Mango Groove - Hometalk

Mango Groove – Hometalk

After the success of their eponymous debut album, the difficult second album loomed for Claire Johnson and her band. South African music history is littered with bands who made a great debut album, but then we never heard from them again. But this was not to be the case with Mango Groove. They produced another album of catchy dance tunes that had everyone dancing and tapping their feet to. The title track quickly told us that the Groovers were not a one album wonder and, with its sassy brassy sound, literally bounced up to the top of the Radio 702 charts.

Taking inspiration from the big bands of the 50’s, they are an unusually large group (11 people are pictured on the album cover), but they updated the 50s into the 80s and 90s with this ‘big’ sound. Claire Johnson’s vocals glide sexily over a large collection of instruments, including at different times saxophone, trumpet, xylophone, penny whistle, piano and there is even a tingling triangle. It is a smorgasbord of sounds thrown together into one giant party pot.

Where to find it:
Hometalk – Mango Groove (1990) Tusk, TUCD 14, TUCD (F) 14
Mango Groove – The Essential Mango Groove (2008), Gallo, CDREDD 694 (AN)

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Lovesong – Dolly Rockers

Lovesong – Dolly Rockers

The Dollyrockers - Heat

The Dollyrockers – Heat

Fronted by Greg Donnelly, the Dolly Rockers have been around since 1990, but their output has not been sporadic and not overly prolific. They released an EP called ‘Consume Me’ in 1992, then an album called ‘The Dolly Rockers’ in 1995, then, in a rush of creativity, they released ‘Glory Glory’ in 2002 and ‘The Heat’ the next year. However, what they’ve lacked in quantity, they surely made up for in quality. All their material has been top drawer stuff.

‘Lovesong’, from ‘The Heat’, does not do what it says on the tin as it is not a love song. It’s more about thinking about writing a love song. The lyrics go through a large number of topics that the writer of the song has never written one about (aeroplanes, going to hell and getting paid to name a few), then they continue, “I think I’ll write a song about love.” This is all sung in a sardonic edgy voice and set against menacing guitars and drums. It has all the great qualities of what is often referred to as indie (i.e. non-commercial) music – lyrics that run deeper than what they say, and a voice that doesn’t sound like anything you would hear on ‘SA Idols’.

The song topped the SA Rock Digest charts in February 2004. Brilliant stuff.

Where to find it:
Heat – Dolly Rockers, Huh Records, (2003)

When You Gonna Love Me – City Limits

When You Gonna Love Me – City Limits

City Limits

City Limits

City Limits produced one album that spawned 2 SA Top 20 hits. One was ‘Shouldn’t Fall In Love’, the other ‘When You Gonna Love Me’. The latter only managed to spend a week on the charts, peaking at number 20 and is slightly funky and a bit reggae-ish. As the title suggests, the song is a plea, and the vocals match that sentiment.

About half way through, there is an all too short jazzy sax interlude, perhaps trying to seduce the object of the song’s plea. The song finishes without the listener finding out if the singer ever gets the love he wants, but for one brief week in 1981 the song was the 20th most loved in the land.

The band consisted of Rick Wolff, Joe Alves, John Weddepohl, Chris Ghelakis and Neil McKellar, and based on the success of their debut, it is a little odd that we didn’t hear anything more from City Limits, however, most of the names mentioned above kept cropping up in the credits of other South African albums.

Written by C Ghelakis/C Angelopulo

Where To Find It:

City Limits [1980, Minc, MINC1010]

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Baby Song – Just Jinger

Baby Song – Just Jinger

Just Jinger - All Comes Round

Just Jinger – All Comes Round

Just Jinger were one of the biggest bands in SA during the late 90’s, early 00’s. Known for dynamic live shows and grungy rock tunes, ‘Baby Song’ which appeared on their debut album ‘All Comes Round’ starts off a little at odds with what one would expect. There is a funky jazzy feel to the song as the bass sort of shimmies over gently brushed drums while the guitar plucks out an almost reggae beat. A piano plunks along with Art Matthew’s gentle vocals, and you are wondering if this is really a Just Jinger track.

But then the chorus comes and the guitar starts to roar, Art start to growl and soar while the drums pound in that sort of laid back grunge style one associated with the Jingers. Looking back, it is becomes quite clear why Just Jinger went on to become so big. This is was a very strong track to feature on a debut album.

Where to find it:
All Comes RoundJust Jinger, BMG (1997), CDBSP 7011

Mama Tembu’s Wedding – Ipi ‘N Tombia

Mama Tembu’s Wedding – Ipi ‘N Tombia

The Warrior - Ipi N' Tombia

The Warrior – Ipi N’ Tombia

Back in the early 1970’s Bertha Egnos and her daughter Gail Lakier wrote a musical called ‘The Warrior’ which drew heavily on the joyous township music of the time. Margaret Singana took on the lead female vocals and the production garnered worldwide acclaim. When the music was committed to vinyl, Billy Forrest and Lofty Shulz did the production.

Ipi ‘N Tombia translates as ‘where are the girls’. The answer is that they are centre stage as Margaret Singana belts out the joyous wedding celebration song ‘Mama Tembu’s Wedding’. Miriam Makeba had popularised the Xhosa click in her song ‘Qongqothwane (aka The Click Song), and Ipi ‘N Tombia took it a step further by making the clicks part of the rhythm section of the song.

The song peaked at number 6 on the Springbok Top 20 early in 1975 and spent a total of 17 weeks on the chart and is still popular today, being used in school plays well into the 2000’s. And the kids seem to love dancing to it as much these days as we did back in the 70’s.

Where to find it:
The Warrior – Ipi ‘N Tombia, Gallo, (2001), CDRED 676
Lady Africa – Margaret Singana, Gallo (1996), CDRED603

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And I Reason – The Led

And I Reason – The Led

The Led - 8 Days

The Led – 8 Days

The Led were a 5 piece band that came out of the flourishing music scene of Stellenbosch in the late 90’s and early 00’s. A couple of their tracks appeared on the ‘Wingerd Rock’ series of CD’s which highlighted some of the emerging talent in that university town and included such luminaries as The Springbok Nude Girls.

However, they differed a bit from most of their contemporaries in that they featured a female vocalist in the shape of Skye Stevenson. Furthermore, all their songs were in English and they did not go down the blues or heavy rock route that was popular at that time. But they did make intriguing music.

‘And I Reason’ is a beautiful, if slightly melancholic, tune that seems to suck you into its troubled breast. Stevenson’s vocals float hauntingly over the top of guitars that are at times edgy, but build to swirling crescendos for the chorus. It’s a fragile, atmospheric song that deserved more attention than it got.

Where to find it:
8 Days – The Led, Rhythm Records, (2001), RR009

Psycho Christmas – Psycho Reptiles

Psycho Christmas – Psycho Reptiles

As kids we used to go round at Christmas time singing ‘While Shepherds Wash Their Socks By Night’ and ‘We three kinds of Orient are, one in a taxi one in a car, one on a scooter, blowing the hooter and smoking a rubber cigar.’ The Psycho Reptiles decided to do this sort of thing as adults. The result is the psychobilly Stars on 45 type mish-mash of differently worded seasonal tunes. It may be done with a joyful childishness, but somehow they get away with it.

So we have lines like ‘Rudolph the red nosed reindeer, couldn’t take it anymore, so Santa hired his cousin whose name was Theodore’ and ‘Good King Wenceslas lost his teeth on a piece of pudding, thought it was a sixpence, bit he bit into a shilling’ sung in a British punk accent to a background of thrashy guitars. You can also hear the sound of tongues in cheeks as you listen.

The Christmas themed song is not something that is very big amongst South African artists, so it was great to hear a local band attempt it and do so in such a joyous manner. It is arguably the best South African Christmas song ever. The Santa Sessions album on which this song finally made its CD debut, is well worth checking out. It features covers of well know Xmas tunes by SA artists included that well know one ‘Shoplifters Of The World Unite’ (done by Sugardrive)

Where to find it:
The Santa Sessions – November 2002, Sovereign/Sting

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