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Various Artists

Hearts For Sale! Girl Group Sounds USA 1961-1967

    “Hearts For Sale” is the fifth and latest in our series of 12-inch vinyl albums spotlighting the US girl group sound of the 1960s. The collection opens with ‘Street Dance’ by Bonnie Jean, a little-known must-have for collectors of the genre, with Darlene Love and the Blossoms clearly audible on background vocals. Issued on Lew Bedell’s Doré label, this exciting faux-live deck in the style of Shirley Ellis’ ‘The Nitty Gritty’ was written by Guy Hemric and Jerry Styner, a hip team known for supplying songs for the soundtracks of B movies such as Muscle Beach Party and Thunder Alley.

    The Hollywood-based Doré imprint is also the source of ‘You Really Never Know Till It’s Over’ by the Vel-Vetts (which shares a backing track with the Superbs’ ‘I Was Born When You Kissed Me’), ‘One Way Street’ by the Swans, a soulful update of the Teddy Bears’ ‘To Know Him Is To Love Him’ by the Darlings and – featuring lead vocals by Sheilah Page, a former member of groups such as the Bermudas, Becky & the Lollipops, the Majorettes, Joanne & the Triangles and Beverly & the Motor Scooters – ‘He’s Groovy’ by the Front Page & Her.

    Other highlights include the Sweethearts’ Supremes-influenced ‘No More Tears’, the sophisticated slowie ‘Lonely Girl’ by the Lovettes (that’s them on the front sleeve), ‘My Heart Tells Me So’ by the Del-Phis (an early incarnation of Martha & the Vandellas) and the Fran-Cettes’ terrific recording of ‘Heart For Sale’. As with the earlier volumes in the series, the album comes with a fully-illustrated inner bag featuring a 2,500-word track commentary by compiler Mick Patrick. 


    Side One
    1. Street Dance – Bonnie Jean
    2. That's No Way To Spend My Time - The Pen Etts
    3. Boy Trouble - The Rev-Lons
    4. I Can Tell (I'm Losing Your Love) – Lena Calhoun & The Emotions
    5. You Really Never Know Till It's Over – The Vel-Vetts
    6. Heart For Sale - The Fran-Cettes
    7. One Way Street - The Swans
    Side Two
    1. No More Tears - The Sweethearts
    2. To Know Him Is To Love Him - The Darlings
    3. Boy You Move Me - Joan Moody
    4. Lonely Girl - The Lovettes
    5. My Heart Tells Me So (Aka I Know It's You) – The Del-Phis
    6. Surfers Memories - The Fashions
    7. He's Groovy - The Front Page & Her 

    Various Artists

    Latin Freestyle: New York / Miami 1983-1992

      Latin Freestyle was a dizzying, passionate, ultra-modern music. It was the aural equivalent of a can of thirst-quenching Quatro or a Spanish Harlem dance-off, and it became the electronically constructed bridge between disco and house.

      Freestyle grew out of the electro sound of the early 80s, combined clean staccato rhythms with morse code synth hooks, and topped them off with emotive, usually female, frequently Latina vocals. There was plenty more going on besides: proto-house piano lines, Cuban percussion, high emotion and synth hooks to die for.

      Put together and annotated by Bob Stanley (who also compiled the acclaimed “The Daisy Age” and “Fell From The Sun”), “Latin Freestyle” is the first compilation to cover the whole gamut of Freestyle from its early 80s breakthrough to its early 90s revival. So many classics… Lisa Lisa made the UK top ten with the 808 joy of ‘I Wonder If I Take You Home’. Stacey Q’s cosmically great ‘Two Of Hearts’ came out in 1986, while 1987 saw the likes of Company B’s ‘Fascinated’ and Exposé’s ‘Point Of No Return’ become huge UK club hits.

      Today, Freestyle is a scene with a solid collector’s market, and rarities like Janelle’s ‘Don’t Be Shy’ sell for hundreds of dollars. It’s a classic summer soundtrack, finally condensed in one Ace Records compilation – “Latin Freestyle”.


      1. Point Of No Return - Expose
      2. Don't Be Shy (vocal/radio Mix) - Janelle
      3. Lover Girl - Meg
      4. Two Of Hearts (12'' Version) - Stacey Q
      5. Together Forever (radio Edit) - Lisette Melendez
      6. I Wonder If I Take You Home – Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam With Full Force
      7. When I Hear Music - Debbie Deb
      8. Let's Go (Radio Version) - Nocera
      9. Funky Little Beat - Connie
      10. Show Me - Cover Girls
      11. Nightime - Pretty Poison
      12. Fascinated (12'' Version) - Company B
      13. Dreamin' - Will To Power
      14. Baby Talk - Alisha
      15. Take Me In Your Arms - Lil Suzy
      16. Thief Of Heart - Cynthia 

      Various Artists

      Tribal Rites Of The New Saturday Night Brooklyn Disco 1974-5

        • Before there was Saturday Night Fever there was underground disco. DJs across America went out and found the music to play; dancers went out and found the clubs. At this point, in the early seventies, the disco was the venue and not a genre of music.

        • By the time Nik Cohn’s short story Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night was published by New York magazine in June 1976, disco was the biggest genre of music on the charts and was about to get bigger still, becoming an all-enveloping cultural phenomenon. Cohn sold the film rights to Robert Stigwood, and his classic club yarn became Saturday Night Fever.

        • “Tribal Rites Of The New Saturday Night” is the soundtrack to Cohn’s story, where disco began; a 1975 score for the underground clubs of Brooklyn and Queens that played R&B, soul and Latin beats to people who lived for the weekend.

        • Bob Stanley has put this collection together, sourcing what was actually played in Brooklyn discos in 1974 and 1975. Only a few specific records were mentioned in Cohn’s feature, but two of them – Ben E King’s ‘Supernatural Thing Part 1’ and Harold Melvin’s ‘Wake Up Everybody’ - were cosmically great and both are included here, alongside underground favourites like Moment Of Truth’s Four Tops-like ‘Helplessly’ and Gloria Scott’s Barry White-produced modern soul classic ‘Just As Long As We’re Together’. Ivano Fossati’s incredible ‘Night Of The Wolf’ has fans in northern soul, disco and prog circles.

        • Without Cohn’s original story, it’s quite possible that disco would have remained an underground phenomenon – “Tribal Rites Of The New Saturday Night” paints a scene in full flower. Saturday Night Fever would eventually, if unintentionally, wreck the underground nature of this scene, and clubs like Studio 54 would destroy the democracy of the party, but for two or three years the scene was largely undocumented and magical. This album is the sound of disco before it was captured.


        Side One
        1. Helplessly - Moment Of Truth
        2. After You've Had Your Fling - The Intrepids
        3. Welcome To The Club - Blue Magic
        4. I Can't Move No Mountains - Margie Joseph
        5. Supernatural Thing Part 1 - Ben E King
        Side Two
        1. Mellow Me - Faith, Hope & Charity
        2. Georgia's After Hours - Richard "Popcorn" Wylie
        3. Date With The Rain - Eddie Kendricks
        4. Just As Long As We're Together - Gloria Scott
        5. Wendy Is Gone - Ronnie Mcneir
        6. Got To Get You Back - Sons Of Robin Stone
        Side Three
        1. Night Of The Wolf (Tema Del Lupo) - Ivano Fossati
        2. Good Things Don't Last Forever – Ecstasy, Passion & Pain
        3. Tell Me What You Want - Jimmy Ruffin
        4. Keep It Up - Betty Everett
        5. Free & Easy - Satyr
        6. Each Morning I Wake Up - Major Harris
        Side Four
        1. It's The Same Old Story - Act I
        2. You Can't Hide Love - Creative Source
        3. The Whole Damn World Is Going Crazy – John Gary Williams
        4. If That's The Way You Feel - White Heat
        5. Wake Up Everybody - Harold Melvin And The Bluenotes 

        Various Artists

        28 Little Bangers From Richard Hawley's Jukebox

          • Ace Records is thrilled to be working with seminal singer-songwriter, toast of this year's Olivier Awards and all-round Sheffield legend Richard Hawley on this, the first volume of a compilation series of some of his favourite singles. This is a selection of 28 7''s that Richard has collected on his travels around the globe, through friends, family, collectors, word of mouth, thrift shop finds, pub jukebox gems and everything in between. Richard refers to the glue that joins these selections together as 'Little Bangers' as they are all mini hand grenades; bright lights that explode and fizzle out, some big names, some rarities, some lost souls, some obscurities, some by artists he actively enjoys knowing almost nothing about other than they want to get him on his feet and dance. Many are garage instrumentals, exposing the guitar-line as lead melody and the art of telling a story without lyrics.

          • As Richard puts it, 'I’m fascinated by the 7-inch single because of the discipline of it. A 7-inch single can only contain a certain amount of information... So, you have to learn the discipline of cramming all that information and craft into a short space of time. If you imagine this album as a piece of bacon, there’s absolutely no fat on it at all. It’s just juicy meat. There aren’t flabby recordings, they are very nimble.'

          • We're extra proud that the Hendrix Estate have allowed us to include Curtis Knight & The Squires' ferocious and never previously licensed 'Hornet's Nest' which naturally we proudly kick off with. We feature the five-minutes-plus long version that has never been released before. The pace never slackens, taking in the Shadows, Link Wray, the Troggs, the Champs, Jimmy Gordon and so many more besides. It's joyful, it's relentless, and you can listen to it on repeat for a thousand miles.

          To give Richard the last word: 'My advice to everybody, is keep on the surfboard, motherfucker. These records have kept me on my surfboard for decades, you know what I’m saying?'


          SIDE ONE
          1. HORNET'S NEST –
          Curtis Knight & The Squires Feat. Jimi Hendrix
          2. NASTY - The Time Keepers
          3. PATH THROUGH THE FOREST - The Factory
          4. GET ON THIS PLANE - The Premiers
          5. SCOTCH ON THE SOCKS - The Shadows
          6. QUASIMOTO - The Road Runners
          7. LAZY REBEL - Twangy Rebels
          SIDE TWO
          1. SWINGING DRUMS - Ronny Kae
          2. CUTTIN' OUT - Rockin’ Ronald & The Rebels
          3. HONKY - The Ho-Dads
          4. BLACK NIGHT - Cheryl Thompson
          5. LONG LINE RIDER - Bobby Darin
          6. POPPIN' POPEYE - Link Wray
          7. HOT-ROD - King Curtis
          SIDE THREE
          1. FEELS LIKE A WOMAN - The Troggs
          2. CUTTIN' OUT - The Pirates
          3. WHERE YOU GONNA GO - Art Guy
          4. NEB'S TUNE - Ahab & The Wailers
          5. BUZZZZZZ - Jimmy Gordon
          6. JUNGLE WALK - The Dyna-Sores
          7. SURFIN' & SWINGIN' - Les Brown Jr
          SIDE FOUR
          1. TAHITI - Jimmy & Stan
          2. BAWANA JINDE - Al Duncan
          3. DEAD END PART 1 - The Executioners
          4. REQUIEM FOR LOVE - Bobbie Gentry & Jody Reynolds
          5. 3/4 MASH - The Champs
          6. EL GATO - The Chandelles
          7. IT’S NOTHING TO ME – Sanford Clark

          Candi Staton

          I'm Just A Prisoner - 2023 Reissue

            • With Candi Staton hitting the UK to play the Love Supreme festival over the weekend of 30th June/2nd July, Ace records is delighted to reissue her debut LP, which has been out-of-print on vinyl for decades.

            • “I’m Just A Prisoner” was released in 1970 and remains a definitive slice of Southern soul. Recorded at Rick Hall’s legendary FAME studio in Muscle Shoals, “I’m Just A Prisoner” pulled together five tracks – ‘I’d Rather Be An Old Man’s Sweetheart (Than A Young Man’s Fool)’, ‘I’m Just A Prisoner (Of Your Good Lovin’)’, ‘Evidence’, ‘You Don’t Love Me No More’ and ‘Sweet Feeling’ - that had appeared as A and B-sides on early singles issued in 1969 and 1970. These were augmented by another five tracks recorded specifically for the album; ‘Someone You Use’, ‘Get It When I Want It’, ‘Do Your Duty’, ‘That’s How Strong My Love Is’ and ‘Another Man’s Woman, Another Woman’s Man’. Like Southern fried chicken, this music is essential food for your ears.

            • This new edition includes an inner sleeve featuring a new interview with Candi conducted by Ace Records’ Ian Shirley about this magical stage of her career as well as photos from the period.

            TRACK LISTING

            Side One
            1. Someone You Use
            2. I'd Rather Be An Old Man's Sweetheart (than A Young Man's Fool)
            3. You Don't Love Me No More
            4. Evidence
            5. Sweet Feeling
            Side Two
            1. Do Your Duty
            2. That's How Strong My Love Is
            3. I'm Just A Prisoner (of Your Good Lovin')
            4. Another Man's Woman, Another Woman's Man
            5. Get It When I Want It 

            Various Artists

            Bob Stanley / Pete Wiggs Present Winter Of Discontent

              There was plenty of genuine discontent in Britain at the tail end of the 1970s, and it had little to do with bin strikes or dark rumours about overflowing morgues. In the world of popular music, the most liberating after-effect of the Sex Pistols was that anyone with something to say now felt they could make a 7” single. “Winter Of Discontent” is the sound of truly DIY music, made by people who maybe hadn’t written a song until a day or two before they went into the studio. It’s spontaneous and genuinely free in a way the British music scene has rarely been before or since.

              “Winter of Discontent” has been compiled by Saint Etienne’s Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs, the latest in their highly acclaimed series of albums that includes “The Daisy Age”, “Fell From The Sun” and “English Weather” ("really compelling and immersive: it’s a pleasure to lose yourself in it" - Alexis Petridis, the Guardian). The era's bigger DIY names (Scritti Politti, TV Personalities, the Fall) and the lesser-known (Exhibit A, Digital Dinosaurs, Frankie’s Crew) are side by side on “Winter Of Discontent”. Mark Perry’s Sniffin’ Glue command – “Here’s one chord, here’s another, now start a band” – was amplified by the Mekons and the Raincoats, whose music shared a little of punk’s volume, speed and distortion, but all of its obliqueness and irreverence.

              The discontent was with society as a whole. No subject matter was taboo: oppressive maleness (Scritti Politti); deluded Britishness (TV Personalities); gender stereotypes (Raincoats, Androids of Mu); nihilistic youth (Fatal Microbes); alcoholism (Thin Yoghurts); self-doubt and pacifism (Zounds). The band names (Thin Yoghurts!) and those of individual members (Andrew Lunchbox!) had enough daftness to avoid any accusations of solemnity.

              “Winter Of Discontent” is the definitive compilation of the UK DIY scene, and a beacon in grim times. 

              TRACK LISTING

              SIDE ONE
              1. WHERE WERE YOU? – The Mekons
              2. VIOLENCE GROWS – Fatal Microbes
              3. THE TERRAPLANE FIXATION – Animals & Men
              4. WORK – Blue Orchids
              5. SMALL HOURS – Karl’s Empty Body
              6. SOMEBODY – Frankie’s Crew
              SIDE TWO
              1. CONFIDENCE – Scritti Politti
              2. DRINK PROBLEM – Thin Yoghurts
              3. LOW FLYING AIRCRAFT – Anne Bean & Paul Burwell
              4. BROW BEATEN – Performing Ferret Band
              5. NO FORGETTING – The Manchester Mekon
              6. FAIRYTALE IN THE SUPERMARKET – The Raincoats
              SIDE THREE
              1. CAN’T CHEAT KARMA – Zounds
              2. BORED HOUSEWIVES – Androids Of Mu
              3. IN MY AREA (Take 2) – The Fall
              4. THE SIDEWAYS MAN – The Digital Dinosaurs
              5. ATTITUDES – The Good Missionaries
              6. THE WINDOW’S BROKEN – Human Cabbages
              SIDE FOUR
              1. KING AND COUNTRY – Television Personalities
              2. IN THE NIGHT – Exhibit ‘A’
              3. NUDES - Performing Ferret Band
              4. DIFFERENT STORY – Tarzan 5
              5. THE RED PULLOVER – The Gynaecologists
              6. PRODUCTION LINE – The Door And The Window

              Various Artists

              Guerrilla Girls! She-Punks & Beyond 1975-2016

                “Guerrilla Girls!”, Ace Records’ much-anticipated first release of 2023, takes us on a thrilling ride from punk’s mid-70s origins, via the left-field post-punk groups, jangly female combos, grunge bands and vigilante Riot Grrrls of the 80s and 90s, to the she-punk bands of recent years – a five-decade alternative to the macho hegemony of rock.

                The collection highlights songs that emerged out of a dynamic underculture of female creative expression. What unites the featured artists is a healthy disregard for the way the music industry ties up its female performers into pretty, neo-liberal packages. From Patti Smith, universal mother of the punk movement, to the Bags, Bikini Kill and Skinny Girl Diet, this music is anti-A&R. Including lesser-known names such as San Francisco street punk Mary Monday and London-based experimentalists pragVec, it shows that, rather than being a few novelty bands existing on the margins, these performers represent a stronger, more three-dimensional version of the female experience.

                Glorious resistance was on display in the first wave of UK female-fronted punk bands. Poly Styrene’s charged vocals on X-Ray Spex’s ‘Iama Poseur’, for instance, were a deliberate refusal to be a pretty punkette. With 15 year-old Lora Logic on saxophone, X-Ray Spex epitomised a fearless, self-defined agency that was at odds with the pastel shades and flowery, submissive Laura Ashley version of 1970s girlhood. By the early 80s, there was a hugely vibrant scene propelled by the diverse rhythms and voices of post-punk feminism. Lora Logic had left X-Ray Spex to form the interweaving textures of Essential Logic, the Mo-dettes mangled ska and off-kilter pop, and Birmingham band Au Pairs sliced political rigour into their lyrics and funky guitar work.

                Some female artists took that elemental energy into pop, creating pop-punk with a twist. We’ve Got A Fuzzbox And We’re Gonna Use It!! made a statement on music technology and female power with a cheeky play on words. Their song ‘Rules And Regulations’ shows that what Guerrilla Girls do well is debunking – taking genres of popular song and turning them inside out – like the way the Pandoras and the Pussywillows would amp up the driving beat and high vocals of the 60s girl group style, and subvert it with a DIY garage element.

                In its fanzine culture, use of montage and DIY music, 90s Riot Grrrl bands such as Bikini Kill and Bratmobile drew direct inspiration from 70s punk, articulated through the prism of Third Wave feminism. Too often, Riot Grrrl gigs were invaded by men intent on heckling “the enemy”. Liz Naylor, manager of British Riot Grrrl band Huggy Bear, says that their concerts became war zones. From the US grunge and Riot Grrrl scenes emerged more female instrumentalists, with bands such as L7 and Babes In Toyland proving that it was possible to recruit cutting-edge drummers, bass players and guitarists. Lori Barbero, whose relentless power drumming is a major element of Babes In Toyland, took the one instrument that has been a staple of male rock’n’roll and made it her muse.

                In the 2000s a new generation of girl-punk bands drew on the Riot Grrrl underculture to form their own sound. London trio the Tuts refashioned C86, Riot Grrrl and lush dream pop on songs like the ironically titled ‘Let Go Of The Past’, while the Regrettes injected shots of ska and doo wop into their explosive West Coast pop-punk. What began with Patti Smith and 70s punk has grown into a vast, spikey infrastructure of girl music. Many take inspiration from their foremothers, like Skinny Girl Diet whose vigilante feminism and punk distortion has been championed in return by Viv Albertine of the Slits. As long as these female artists stay aware of their musical vision and what they are trying to express – in a sense, A&R themselves – the underculture will continue to grow and flower. And this “Guerrilla Girls!” compilation is a celebration of that power.

                The back sleeve of the release features a scene-setting introductory essay by Lucy O’Brien (author of She Bop: The Definitive History Of Women In Popular Music). Each of the two discs come in a swanky inner bag containing a track commentary by compiler Mick Patrick (Ace Records’ long-serving champion of female artists of all persuasions) and exclusive interviews with many of the featured artists by Vim Renault and Lene Cortina (founders of the Punk Girl Diaries webzine).

                TRACK LISTING

                SIDE ONE
                1. GLORIA: In Excelsis Deo / Gloria (Version) - Patti Smith
                2. SURVIVE - The Bags
                3. IAMA POSEUR - X-Ray Spex
                4. I GAVE MY PUNK JACKET TO RICKIE - Mary Monday & The Bitches
                5. I DIDN’T HAVE THE NERVE TO SAY NO - Blondie
                6. YOU’RE A MILLION - The Raincoats
                SIDE TWO
                1. POPCORN BOY (WADDLE YA DO?) - Essential Logic
                2. EXPERT - PragVEC
                3. MY CHERRY IS IN SHERRY - Ludus
                4. KRAY TWINS - Mo-Dettes
                5. EARTHBEAT - The Slits
                6. DAS AH RIOT - Bush Tetras
                SIDE THREE
                1. BITCHEN SUMMER (SPEEDWAY) - Bangles
                2. SHAKEDOWN - Au Pairs
                3. IT’S ABOUT TIME - The Pandoras
                4. COME ON NOW - The Pussywillows
                5. RULES AND REGULATIONS - We’ve Got A Fuzzbox And We’re Gonna Use It!!
                6. HER JAZZ - Huggy Bear
                7. BRUISE VIOLET - Babes In Toyland
                SIDE FOUR
                1. REBEL GIRL - Bikini Kill
                2. PRETEND WE’RE DEAD - L7
                3. WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU - Bratmobile
                4. LET GO OF THE PAST - The Tuts
                5. HOT - The Regrettes
                6. SILVER SPOONS – Skinny Girl Diet

                Various Artists

                Bob Stanley & Pete Wiggs Present Occasional Rain

                  It's the day after the 60s. You turn on the radio and there is news about John leaving the Beatles – or will Paul be the first to jump? There is insecurity and uncertainty. The rain filters into the post-psychedelic, pre-progressive sound; in times of upheaval, you always notice bad weather.

                  "Occasional Rain" is the sequel to Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs’ highly successful "English Weather" collection ("Really compelling and immersive: it’s a pleasure to lose yourself in it" - Alexis Petridis, the Guardian). This is the sound of young bands experimenting in a period of flux, feeling for a new direction, exploring jazz and folk – as many songs are led by mellotron, piano and flute as they are by guitar. Lyrically, there are two themes that crop up regularly: the search for a home that isn’t there anymore – the certainties of the optimistic 60s, the physical reality of terraced streets – and the rain. For the former, there’s Cressida’s gentle, keening ‘Home And Where I Long To Be’, while Duncan Browne’s shape-shifting ‘Ragged Rain Life’ feels like a decent summary of Britain in both 1970 and 2020.

                  "Occasional Rain" puts the era’s bigger names (Traffic, Yes, Moody Blues) and the lesser known (Mandy More, Shape Of The Rain, Tonton Macoute) side by side. Like its predecessor "English Weather", it evokes the turn of the new decade, a beautiful state of fuzzy confusion, and the feel of a wet Saturday afternoon at the dawn of the 70s spent flicking through the racks, wondering whether to buy the new Tull album or maybe take a chance on that Christine Harwood album in the bargain bin (go on, you won’t regret it).

                  TRACK LISTING

                  1. HIDDEN TREASURE - Traffic
                  2. RAGGED RAIN LIFE - Duncan Browne
                  3. HOME AND WHERE I LONG TO BE - Cressida
                  4. LEIT MOTIF - Keith West
                  5. NIGHT TIME - Skin Alley
                  6. ONCE UPON A TIME - Clouds
                  7. COME WITH ME TO JESUS - Mandy More
                  8. OUT AND IN (SINGLE VERSION) - Moody Blues
                  9. WASTING MY TIME - Shape Of The Rain
                  10. NUTMEG, BITTER SUITE - Granny's Intentions
                  11. SWEETNESS - Yes
                  12. STATION SONG PLATFORM TWO – Pete Brown And Piblokto!
                  13. FREEFALL - Argent
                  14. I KNOW THAT I'M DREAMING - Exchange & Mart
                  15. POSTCARDS OF SCARBOROUGH – Michael Chapman
                  16. QUESTION OF TIME - Christine Harwood
                  17. THE CASTLE - 'Igginbottom
                  18. WINDY BAKER STREET - Andrew Leigh
                  19. FLYING SOUTH IN WINTER - Tonton Macoute
                  20. INNOCENCE OF A CHILD - Catherine Howe
                  21. WATERLOW - Mott The Hoople

                  It wasn’t really a movement, barely even a moment, but the Daisy Age was an ethos that briefly permeated pop, R&B and hip hop. The name was coined by Long Island trio De La Soul; they claimed D.A.I.S.Y. stood for “da inner sound, y’all”, but then De La Soul said a lot of things. Playfulness and good humour were central to their 1989 debut album, which cast a long, multi-coloured shadow. The 90s, it promised, would be a lot easier going than the 80s.

                  In Britain, the timing for De La Soul’s “3 Feet High And Rising” couldn’t have been better. The acid house explosion of 1988 would lead to a radical breaking down of musical barriers in 1989. Just 18 months earlier, snobbery had been so rife that Bomb The Bass’ ‘Beat Dis’ was faked as a US import (pressed in the States, then imported back) to get club play; by the summer of ’89, however, something as previously unhip as Chris Rea’s ‘Josephine’ could become a dancefloor hit and indie veterans Primal Scream would be reborn as space-seeking Sun Ra initiates and still taken seriously. Ecstasy was largely responsible, of course, and its associated look – loose clothing, dayglo colours, smiley faces – chimed with the positivity of rising New York rap acts the Jungle Brothers and De La Soul, both at the heart of a growing collective called Native Tongues.

                  What was so new about De La Soul’s sound? Previously, sample material for hip hop had been almost exclusively taken from 60s and 70s soul and funk, especially from James Brown and his extended family – Bobby Byrd, Maceo Parker, Lyn Collins, the stuff of purists. The freewheeling collage of “3 Feet High And Rising” gleefully raided the non-U catalogues of Billy Joel and Hall & Oates; soul heroes Wilson Pickett and the Mad Lads were now abutting such unlikely material as the Turtles’ ‘You Showed Me’ and French Linguaphone lessons. The Invitations’ sweet, Drifters-like ‘Written On The Wall’ provided the hook for De La Soul’s first single ‘Plug Tunin’’ which, along with follow-up ‘Potholes In My Lawn’, referenced “the daisy age”. With the album including a cover of Bob Dorough’s ‘Three Is The Magic Number’ from Schoolhouse Rock – a song every American kid knew from Sunday morning TV – the essence of Sesame Street was everywhere.

                  By 1989 hip hop had made major inroads in Britain with rock fans (via Run DMC) and pubescent teens (the Beastie Boys), while NME writers had voted Public Enemy’s “It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back” the best album of 1988. Still, it had an air of exclusivity, with Tim Westwood its mirthless UK gatekeeper. De La Soul were also fans of Public Enemy, the Beastie Boys and Run DMC; they were fans in general, and threw their love of music into the blender, giving more time to melodies and mind-expanding samples while most contemporary rap records still revolved around the biggest sounding beats.

                  Above all, De La Soul were welcoming. They had grown up with their parents’ eclectic musical taste, a TV culture grab bag, and black radio stations that played Hall & Oates and Steely Dan alongside the Spinners and Brass Construction. They had also attended the same high school as producer and Stetsasonic member Prince Paul who, intimidatingly, was two years above them. He knew their faces but it wasn’t until he heard a demo of ‘Plug Tunin’’ that he realised they were all on the same wavelength; working with their rough sketch, Paul added a sample from Billy Joel’s ‘Stiletto’ into the mix.

                  In 1990, the third Native Tongues act to release an album was A Tribe Called Quest, and “People’s Instinctive Travels And The Paths Of Rhythm” was heavily indebted to “3 Feet High”’s airy nature. The Native Tongues’ charismatic aura spread west to the Bay Area’s similarly minded Hieroglyphics crew (Del Tha Funkeé Homosapien, Souls Of Mischief); Canada’s Dream Warriors used the “3 Feet High” colour palette and, borrowing Count Basie and Quincy Jones riffs, scored a brace of major UK hits; Naughty By Nature were mentored by Native Tongues heroine Queen Latifah, while Londoner Monie Love was also adopted by the collective, resulting in her Grammy-nominated ‘It’s A Shame (My Sister)’.

                  A Tribe Called Quest’s second album, “The Low End Theory”, would pick up the baton, giving a platform for and inspiration to Leaders Of The New School (who included future superstar Busta Rhymes) and the abstract technique of Brand Nubian. Meanwhile, the Jungle Brothers’ second album, “Done By The Forces Of Nature”, was in essence a concept album about Africa, fusing hip hop with jazz, doo wop, soul, Harlem – a new direction for the Native Tongues, away from ‘Multiplication Rock’, bubble writing and the gently psychedelic.

                  As hip hop rapidly became a bigger commercial concern, rights owners smelt money and – for the rest of the 90s – made sample clearance unfeasibly expensive. Robbed of their pick-and-mix approach, some Daisy Age-era acts moved towards consciousness and a jazz-leaning live feel, which down the line would lead to the rise of Arrested Development, and beyond them the Fugees and the Roots; meanwhile, on the West Coast, the gut-churning violence and misogyny of Dr Dre’s “The Chronic” took rap to a whole new commercial level. Neither direction, sadly, would involve much use of Sesame Street, Turtles samples, or magic numbers.

                  Britain wasn’t on its own in having a thoroughly miserable 1973: O Lucky Man! and Badlands both found a great year to premiere; Watergate brought America to a new low. But America didn’t still have back-to-backs and outside bogs. Tens of thousands of Britons were still housed in wartime pre-fabs. The bright new colours of the post-war Festival of Britain and Harold Wilson's talk in the 60s of the “white heat of technology” now seemed very distant as strikes, inflation, and food and oil shortages laid Britain low. What had gone wrong? And what did pop music have to say about it?

                  Many of the year’s biggest acts had set out on their particular journeys in the most idealistic years of the 60s (Yes, Genesis, the Moody Blues) and still held traces of that era’s promise. For acts such as Bowie and Roxy Music who had emerged in the new decade, one way out of the British malaise was to look into the future, embracing modernism and the space age beyond, a world of electric boots and mohair suits. Another was to draw heavily on the revered 50s, retreating to rock’s unsullied roots while remaining ostensibly current – Wizzard, Mott The Hoople and even the Rubettes managed to reshape the 50s to their own ends, much as Springsteen did in the States, although beyond them lay Showaddywaddy, Shakin’ Stevens, and a sickly nosedive into nostalgic yearning.

                  This left a small rump of acts diligently soundtracking Britain’s present, not with a wagging finger but a fuzzy guitar, a primitive synthesiser, and a pitch-black sense of humour. Quite often these records were cut in home studios – many featured the same basic synth (just the one) that Roxy’s Eno and Hawkwind’s DikMik used; the guitarists still played blues progressions picked up from the Stones; and they sometimes touched on glam – the era’s brightest, newest noise – found inspiration in its disposability and its energy, but didn’t have the luxury of a Chinn and Chapman or a Mickie Most to sprinkle fairy dust on their final mix. And outside the studio door were the strikes, the cuts, economic chaos, teenage wasteland – these musicians created music that, intentionally or not, echoed their surroundings. It wasn’t glam, but it emerged from what Robin Carmody has called “the glamour of defeat, the glory of obliteration”.

                  The songs on “Three Day Week” amplified the noise of a country still unable to forget the war, even as it watched the progressive post-war consensus disintegrating. We hear shrugs and cynicism, laughter through gritted teeth. Comparing it to the richness of records made just five or six years earlier, you might think musical instruments had been rationed, and that everyone has one eye on the clock, cutting corners to get the recording finished before the next power cut. You picture engineers in donkey jackets, with a brazier by the mixing desk. You hear odd electronic explosions, quacks and squiggles. The pub piano is predominant, with its brown ale, Blitz-spirit, grin-and-bear-it jollity. And under many of these tracks is a barely concealed frustration (sexualised on the Troggs’ ‘I’m On Fire’) and even anger (how else to read ‘Urban Guerrilla’, or the howling and the hand grenade at the end of Stud Leather’s ‘Cut Loose’?). Think of “Three Day Week” as an extended, musical Play For Today.

                  The Three Day Week itself – which only lasted eight weeks, but was the nadir of a four-year-long depression – had been a result of the Tory government’s limit on pay rises in October 1973 and the miners strike that followed. Back at the start of 1972 the miners had struck for higher pay and won, averting Prime Minister Edward Heath’s threat to introduce a three day week in manufacturing and industry to hold on to energy reserves. By late 1973, though, the miners had slipped from top of the industrial wages league to 18th. Amid strikes by civil servants, medical staff, railway and dock workers, the miners went on strike again. The Three Day Week proper lasted from New Year’s Day to 7 March 1974. TV shut down at 10:30. Power cuts and blackouts in homes across Britain meant the sales of candles and torches soared. Old soldiers tutted. The Army were on standby. And, nine months later, there was a spike in the birth rate.

                  For the younger generation, however, the Three Day Week is not remembered as a period of woe. Power cuts were fun! Who wouldn’t like the idea of a three day week? More time to play! It was also easy for kids to confuse pop culture and politics when the Prime Minister was Ted Heath and the leader of Britain’s biggest union, the TGWU, was Jack Jones. Even the TUC’s leader Vic Feather sounded like the bassist from a RAK act. There is also the folk memory of the period being a high-water mark for the power of trade unions, who seemingly always struck for higher pay and won, a dreamtime for many on the left. The second miners strike brought down the Tory government – what a time to be alive! Margaret Thatcher was only education secretary at this point, the hated “milk snatcher”, and no one had a crystal ball to see what the Tory reaction might be several years down the line.

                  The records on this collection were almost all released as 45s, sent to shops in cost-cutting plain white paper bags, and – thanks to the oil shortage caused by the Arab-Israeli conflict – pressed on thinner vinyl than you’d have had ten years earlier. On every level, they felt as if they were being recorded and released under wartime restrictions. Many of these tracks were B-sides, recorded in haste, with no commercial forethought or relevance to the A-side, because, as Peter Shelley recalls, “You’d made the wild assumption that no one would ever play it”.

                  Why did the music end up sounding this way? There had been a general sense of decline in Britain since the turn of the decade – not only in industry but in film, art, fashion, and in people’s expectations. You could trace its roots further back to 1968, when the collapse of the Ronan Point tower block in East London sounded a death knell for modernist dreams. Or to 1967, a year for which Swinging London has prevailed in popular memory over Cathy Come Home, but which should be remembered for the devaluation of the pound and the capital's nationalistic dock strikes as much as Alexandra Palace’s 14 Hour Technicolour Dream. By 1972, everything new – be it a brick wall or a terylene suit – was a shade of brown or orange, and the smell of sweat and odour-hugging man-made fabrics (not only clothes but carpets and curtains) was dominant. The worsted mills of Bradford and cotton mills of Manchester were fast disappearing, and the mix of wet wool, chimney smoke and boiled cabbage that Shena Mackay recalled being London’s olfactory default in the 60s had been replaced by weeks-old fag smoke, BO, and something plasticky you couldn’t put your finger on.

                  Few of the songs on “Three Day Week” are politically direct: the Edgar Broughton Band had been Ladbroke Grove rabble rousers at the tail end of the 60s, but their ambitions sound entirely blunted on the monochrome hopelessness of ‘Homes Fit For Heroes’; Phil Cordell’s ‘Londonderry’ is diffuse, but it was an odd place to single out for a song title in 1973; Pheon Bear appears to be losing the will to live even as he shouts himself hoarse on ‘War Against War’. The ambivalence of the Strawbs on ‘Part Of The Union’ – a #2 hit – is entirely in keeping with the pub humour and shrugging cynicism of the era. So there is a little agitation here, but there is plenty of gleeful irreverence. One more drink? What have we got to lose? The government’s on its knees and we might all be out of work tomorrow. Quick, somebody, get on the piano before the lights go out again.

                  BOB STANLEY.

                  By mid-1968 there was a growing consensus that something had gone horribly wrong with the American dream. The nation’s youth had loudly made their feelings clear, but now the older, pre-Beatles generations began to look at the country – with urban riots, Vietnam, and the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy – and wonder what the hell was happening. This album includes rare classics (The Beach Boys’ ‘Fourth Of July’), lost masterpieces (Roy Orbison’s seven-minute ‘Southbound Jericho Parkway’), and forgotten gems by some of the biggest names in the business (Elvis Presley’s ‘Clean Up Your Own Back Yard’).

                  Reactions to America’s existential crisis ranged in subject matter from divorce (Frank Sinatra’s ‘The Train’) and the break-up of the nuclear family (The Four Seasons’ ‘Saturday’s Father’), to eulogies for fallen heroes (Dion’s ‘Abraham Martin and John’), sympathy for Vietnam vets (Johnny Tillotson’s ‘Welfare Hero’), the church’s institutional racism (Eartha Kitt’s intense ‘Paint Me Black Angels’), and even questioning the ethics of the space programme (Bing Crosby’s terrific ‘What Do We Do With The World’).

                  Compiled by Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs, State Of The Union follows on from their highly acclaimed English Weather and Paris In The Spring compilations. With clear parallels between today's fractured country and the USA fifty years ago, this is a fascinating condensation of what Americans were thinking when they turned on the TV, or the radio, or simply walked down Main Street in 1968.

                  TRACK LISTING

                  1. CLEAN UP YOUR OWN BACK YARD - Elvis Presley
                  2. BRAND NEW DAY - Della Reese
                  3. ABRAHAM, MARTIN AND JOHN - Dion
                  4. THE TRAIN - Frank Sinatra
                  5. SATURDAY'S FATHER - The 4 Seasons
                  6. 4TH OF JULY - The Beach Boys
                  7. WINE IN THE WIND - Anita Kerr & The Anita Kerr Singers
                  8. WHAT DO WE DO WITH THE WORLD? - Bing Crosby
                  9. LORD OF THE MANOR - The Everly Brothers
                  10. HITCHHIKER - The Four Preps
                  11. PAINT AMERICA LOVE - Lou Christie
                  12. MR BUSINESSMAN - Ray Stevens
                  13. PAINT ME BLACK ANGELS - Eartha Kitt
                  14. SOUTHBOUND JERICHO PARKWAY - Roy Orbison
                  15. QUESTIONS - Bobby Darin
                  16. THIS CRAZY WORLD - Paul Anka
                  17. TAKE A LETTER MARIA - Mel Torme
                  18. CHERRYSTONES - Eugene McDaniels
                  19. SOME PEOPLE SLEEP - The Tokens
                  20. CARDBOARD CALIFORNIA - Buddy Greco
                  21. DO YOU BELIEVE THIS TOWN - Dean Martin
                  22. WELFARE HERO - Johnny Tillotson
                  23. SAVE THE CHILDREN - Teresa Brewer
                  24. REVOLUTION - The Brothers Four

                  “Paris In The Spring” is a collection of the new music, put together by Saint Etienne’s Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs, that emerged from France between 1968 and the mid-70s, an extraordinary blend of several previously independent strains – French chanson and yé-yé, American jazz and funk, British chamber pop – shot through with the era’s underlying mixture of optimism, uncertainty and darkness. This is the first collection of its kind, released on the 50th anniversary of the Paris uprising.

                  Serge Gainsbourg – a jazz pianist with a chanson past and a pop present – was in a position to play a key role in soundtracking France in flux over the next five years. His “Histoire de Melody Nelson”, with its heavily atmospheric arrangements by Jean-Claude Vannier, was the acme of this new, unsettling French sound. “Paris In The Spring” includes other equally dazzling Vannier arrangements (for Léonie) and Gainsbourg compositions (for Jane Birkin and Mireille Darc).

                  Prior to 1968, 60s French pop had been dominated by yé-yé, the country’s unique brand of upbeat pop, a world of primary colours, minijupes and discothèques (a French invention, after all). Its stars either faded fast after May ’68 or adapted to the new era: Jacques Dutronc (‘Le Métaphore’) and France Gall (‘Chanson Pour Que Tu M’aimes un Peu’) discovered a moody side they had previously kept hidden, while Françoise Hardy released the Brazilian-influenced, after-hours classic “La Question”, from which we have picked ‘Viens’.

                  New bands like Triangle emerged, influenced by Soft Machine and Gong who became regulars on the Paris club scene. French library music from Janko Nilovic and film soundtracks (François De Roubaix, Karl-Heinz Schäfer) reflected the era’s edginess. All are represented on “Paris In The Spring”, making it a continental cousin to Stanley and Wiggs’s hugely popular 2017 Ace compilation “English Weather”

                  TRACK LISTING

                  1. LA VICTIME - Karl Heinz Schäfer
                  2. HÉLICOPTÈRE - Mireille Darc
                  3. LES AVENTURES EXTRAORDINAIRES D'UN BILLET DE BANQUE - Bernard Lavilliers
                  4. ROSES AND REVOLVERS - Janko Nilovic
                  5. L'ELU - Ilous & Decuyper
                  6. LA METAPHORE - Jacques Dutronc
                  7. DOMMAGE QUE TU SOIS MORT - Brigitte Fontaine
                  8. LES GARDE VIOLENT AU SECOURS DU ROI - Jean-Claude Vannier
                  9. LOOKING FOR YOU - Nino Ferrer
                  10. CHANSON D'UN JOUR D'HIVER - Cortex
                  11. VIENS - Françoise Hardy
                  12. COULEURS - Léonie
                  13. LESLIE SIMONE - William Sheller
                  14. LITANIES - Triangle
                  15. BALEINES - François De Roubaix
                  16. ENCORE LUI - Jane Birkin
                  17. EVELYNE - Serge Gainsbourg
                  18. LE BAL DES LAZES - Michel Polnareff
                  19. LILETH - Léonie
                  20. YSTOR - Ys
                  21. CHANSON POUR QUE TU M'AIMES UN PEU - France Gall
                  22. LA VICTIME - Karl Heinz Schäfer
                  23. LA CHANSON D'HÉLÈNE - Romy Schneider & Michel Piccoli

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