1001 South African Songs You Must Hear Before You Go Deaf

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Archive for the tag “south african group”

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

Video:

Night Of The Long Knives – Face To Face

Night Of The Long Knives - Face To Face

Night Of The Long Knives – Face To Face

While Face To Face’s ‘Here We Are’ made the Radio 5, 702 and Capital 604 charts in 1984, ‘Night Of The Long Knives’ the follow up single did not manage to emulate that success. And it is a little surprising as this song was as strong as its predecessor. Yes, ‘Here We Are’ was a slower ballad and ‘Night Of The Long Knives’ is more upbeat, but it was still as fine a piece of New Romantic music to be made in South Africa as anything else from that time.

With their NewRo hairstyles and airbrushed album covers, Face To Face were set to be our own Duran Duran, but they disappeared after only the one album. They had the looks, and with ‘Night Of The Long Knives’ they had the sound. Pulsing electric drums, rocking synths, the odd bit of guitar thrown in for good measure and a strong vocal. They also threw in a few French lyrics (which may possibly be the only ones to appear on an original South African song – but don’t quote me on that).

It was perhaps the fact that ‘Night Of The Long Knives’ was the name given to a Nazi purge operation in 1934 that prevented the song from gaining too much airplay. Interestingly though, while ‘Here We Are’ was their big hit, it was ‘Night Of The Long Knives’ from their set at the 1985 Concert In The Park in aid of Operation Hunger that made it onto the album from the event.

Where to find it:
Face To Face – Face To Face (2010), Fresh Music, FRESHCD180

Video:

 

Concert in the Park version:

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

Video:

This Weekend – The Dynamics

This Weekend – The Dynamics

The Dynamics

The Dynamics

In the early eighties in the UK Ska music came to the fore with bands like Madness, The Specials and The Selecter. In South Africa we enjoyed this style of music, but it never really took off. Madness were about the only band of this genre to have chart success on our shores, and even then it was a bit limited. Similarly, our own, homegrown talent in the form of The Dynamics, did not get much play on the radio and, with hindsight, we were poorer for that.

‘This Weekend’ was from the bands first incarnation (1980 – 1981) and is a joyful organ ‘n’ sax romp that is as life affirming as a Friday night on the town. The song goes further into the weekend, even making the Sunday morning hangover sound like a blast (although I imagine not many would recommend a dose of this song as a cure for a babalas).

Being a multi-racial band, there is a definite township inflection to the sound not found in the other ska that was around, and the song is richer for this. There’s a sort of African jazzy sound in the fine print of the song, making it a highly dance-able to track. The CD reissue offers you a choice of the instrumental version, or one which has Ian Botha on vocals. While both are worth a spin, Botha’s slightly plummy singing and the lyrics add to the overall affect, making it the prefereable one to listen to.

The Dynamics were a politically aware band and had to endure the scrutiny of the apartheid government’s secret service (as the sleeve note the the CD describes them “Remember those creepy, moustached thugs in bad clothes and white socks who used sit on the front-row tables with untouched beers and those unmistakable dikbek faces that never smiled?” – some secret huh!). But ‘This Weekend’ is not a political song, it’s jol-injected jive. To quote the seelvenotes of the CD once more ‘Time to switch it on and jive – again’

Where to find it:
The Dynamics – The Dynmaics (2001) Retrofresh, freshcd 111

Green Green – Gecko Moon

Green Green – Gecko Moon

Gecko Moon

Gecko Moon

Most internet searches for Gecko Moon lead you to Bed & Breakfast places in South Africa. But one link will take you to The South African Rock Encyclopedia page for the only vinyl offering from this South African group. The band was formed by Ringo Madlingozi and Alan Cameron who had been together in a group called Peto.

‘Green Green’ is the opening track on the album and is a light, bouncy and decided catchy tune. It has an easy going reggae beat to it that sits somewhere between UB40 and a township. It is the latter influence that meant it didn’t get too much success on the white radio stations, but given the numerous other “cross-over” successes we saw in the 80s it is a bit of a mystery why this one did not get the exposure it deserved.

This song was not available on CD for a long time, eventually surfacing on the Gallo records ‘SA Party’ compilation, so now you can enjoy it in digital quality, but it is still worth getting your hands dirty and seeking out the old vinyl album ‘Gecko Moon’ for some other tasty treats from then and, if you like the sound of Ringo’s vocals, you can find some of his solo stuff on CD.

Where to find it:

Various Artists – SA Party – South Africa’s Greatest Hits, Gallo (2009), CTS 5028

Gecko Moon – Gecko Moon, PVB Music (1991), PVBC14

Video:

Eloise Concerto – Rouge

Eloise Concerto – Rouge

Rouge - Eloise Concerto

Rouge – Eloise Concerto

The song Eloise and the number 8 seem to have an affinity. In 1968 Barry Ryan took the song to number 2 in the UK and number 4 in the US. In 1986, punk group, The Damned, took a cover version to number 3. In between these two chartings of the song, Rouge, a South African group spearheaded by Zane Cronje, featuring John Weddepohl on vocals and, amongst others, Malie Kelly and Avril Stockley on backing vocals, released an epic concerto version in 1978.

Rouge’s version starts with a piano intro which, if you didn’t know what song they were covering, is not immediately recognisable as Eloise. But this all changes pretty quickly and you are into a pulsing disco version of Barry Ryan’s classic. The song is played through, then there is an instrumental interlude which combines the disco beats with a classical flavouring of piano and strings. The vocals then return, accompanied by brassy horns and soaring strings.

This epic and ambitious cover version clocks in at over 17 minutes and is one of the better examples of how disco covers of rock classics were popular in South Africa in the late 70’s.

Where to find it:
Disco Fever – Various, (1999), Gallo, CDREDD 627 (Out of print & difficult to find)

Disco Fever

Disco Fever

Videos:
Rouge:

Barry Ryan:

Damned:

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