Various Artists

Down To The Sea And Back

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In these computer-enhanced days anyone can build themselves an instantly ‘cool’ record collection via the click of a mouse, without even having to leave their homes. Record collecting wasn’t always like this. You had to put in the hours going through the racks in record stores, checking the ‘cheaps’ in second hand shops and being unable to walk past a charity shop without just having a quick peek in the cardboard box on the floor under the shelf of videos. Balearic Mike and Kelvin Andrews are two such record-buying enthusiasts who have built up vast and varied collections of music. Luckily for us they’re prepared to share their enthusiasm, selecting obscure favourites and secret weapons from their vinyl archives for this compilation. The set combines slinky disco, post-punk electronics, 70s pop, folkie meanderings, Balearic anthems, sing-along end-of-nighters and sleazy funk, and will have you checking the tracklisting to find out what the cuts are. And then re-checking to make sure it did say ‘The Osmonds’ and ‘The Sweet’...

'The first thing you need to know is there’s Balearic and there’s Balearic. The first one everyone with a Geography GCSE and Thomson’s 2010 holiday brochure will know, of course. The second is harder to define. It’s perhaps more of a state of mind among a certain type of man (you know the sort: mainly bearded, often with a paunch that says, 'I know where the bar is', possibly with long hair and maybe working in a library). Kelvin Andrews and Balearic Mike are two such men. It’s no surprise that they do, indeed, know where the bar is, but perhaps more pertinently for the task at hand, they also know where the location of all the good record stores, irrespective of whether they’re walking down Wilbraham Road in Chorlton (the magnificent King Bee) or on a romantic weekend with a lover in Prague (Music Antiquariat).

They’ve both got history, see. Kelvin Andrews has been a member of various nefarious outfits over the years, from teenrave sensations Candyflip, to Sure Is Pure, Sound 5 and, lately, Soul Mekanik (he also helped Robbie Williams write his last two albums, in his spare time, like). Balearic Mike has been around just as long, firstly as part of the LuvDup crew and then lately as resident disco expert behind the counter at Manchester’s Vinyl Exchange. As collectors and conoisseurs they are pretty much unrivalled.

Between then, they are purveyors of what semiologists like to call ‘Balearic music’, which, 25 years ago in the record boxes of DJ Alfredo in Ibiza’s Amnesia club meant everything from Simply Red and Sade to Liaisons Dangeureuses and Farley Jackmaster Funk. These days it could mean a sneaky Jamiroquai B-side or, more worryingly, a European 12" adorned with a bleached-blond man dressed as a Space Pirate. Or, in fact, the twelve tracks you’ll find nestling snugly together here like dwarves at a Playboy orgy.

If it means anything, the Balearic state of mind is simply anything, anything at all, that sounds good on a dancefloor or, as dance music writer Frank Tope once put it, 'pop music that sounds good on pills'. In the hands of Mike and Kelv that means The Osmonds’ "I, I, I", which thanks to its Maurice Gibb's production, was begging for a frisky massage and / or rediscovery. "This Man" by the inscrutably-named Phil & His Friend’s Band remained a conundrum wrapped inside a mystery on several Daniele Baldelli mixes for a good while before the disco Enigma Code was cracked (and its price soared even more preposterously than ever). It’s so good, it’s worth the money – so long as you can sneak the credit card statement past your missus’ gaze.

Of course, "Down To The Sea" is firstly about great music not necessarily rare vinyl and Al Usher’s "Lullaby For Robert" and Chicken Lips’ mix of "Flame" by Bell XI are both recent examples of this. Modern disco? Balearic? Who cares, they’re both brilliant nuggets of dancefloor gold. Also included is the Willow Band’s "Willowman", about which little is known beyond Shirley & Company’s Jesus Alvarez’s involvement and a vague rumour of Joe Bataan’s presence. What we do know for certain is it’s an utterly fantastic piece of Latin-soul that lights up dancefloors on Croatian boat parties as well as knees-ups in Stoke-on-Trent.

So let Mike and Kelv take you on a journey, whether it be via the contours of the rocky outcrops of the White Isle or lost on a scarcely navigable barge somewhere on the Manchester Ship Canal. It’s a voyage of discovery. A voyage, if you will, of metaphysical beards. But it’s also a voyage filled with love, good times and, moreover, great music. A voyage down to the sea… And back!' (Bill Brewster, March 2010)

STAFF COMMENTS

Philippa says: Two of our favourite customers dig through their record collections and pull out a bunch of Balearic / disco crackers. As essential as it gets!

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