mon 24/06/2024

Reissue CDs Weekly: Freedom Sounds, Marilyn Monroe, Modern Music, Samantha Fox | reviews, news & interviews

Reissue CDs Weekly: Freedom Sounds, Marilyn Monroe, Modern Music, Samantha Fox

Reissue CDs Weekly: Freedom Sounds, Marilyn Monroe, Modern Music, Samantha Fox

Obscurities triumph on reggae box set, a film icon's music, winning post-war blues 'n' boogie and Eighties' glamour girl sings

Trojan Presents Freedom Sounds, a Celebration of Jamaican MusicVarious Artists: Trojan Presents Freedom Sounds, a Celebration of Jamaican Music

Kieron Tyler

Three-and-a-half minutes in, a heavily reverbed drum suddenly rattles and the track heads off into outer space. Morse-code bass dominates, the hi-hat swishes and odd bits of the full instrumental track waft in and out. Something like a home fire alarm bleeps. “None Shall Escape the Judgement” begins normally enough, a mid-tempo two-step reggae shuffler with a swooning, devotional vocal from Johnny Clarke. But really, it's two songs in one, that second half the creation of sonic auteur King Tubby and originally the single's B-side. It’s probably the first time this startling track has been heard in this unified form on CD and it’s just one highlight of a 108-track, five-disc box set.

Freedom Sounds follows the Sound System box set, reviewed last month. Both are issued to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Jamaica’s independence. At first glance, Freedom Sounds looks like Sound System’s austere cousin: the packaging is less lavish, the photos in the 50-page book are not as striking. The box is smaller, more paperback- than album-sized. There are duplicates between the sets: Desmond Dekker’s “007 (Shanty Town)”, Althea & Donna’s “Uptown Top Ranking” and Toots & The Maytals “5446 (Was My Number)” among them. But most of Freedom Sounds’ content ranges from the less familiar to the obscure.

The tagline “Trojan Presents” is important. This is not a comp of that imprint, but a collection of tracks on labels whose catalogues are now owned by Universal Records and brought together under the (also Universal-owned) Trojan umbrella. Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff, Dennis Brown appear (the discs are themed – the well-knowns are mostly confined to the second disc, Jamaican Hits). Occasionally, the appearance of a famous name seems tangential – U Roy is here by dint of being co-billed with John Holt. Most of the content is vintage, and the few recent-ish tracks from Luciano and Beenie Man are sore thumbs. The accompanying book eschews the track-by-track or artist-by-artist approach and is, instead, an essay on the Jamaica, its context, history and music. Additional tracks can be accessed by registering with Trojan website. It’s keenly priced at around £30, but it’s the Grade-A surprises which set Freedom Sounds apart.

Marilyn Monroe Marilyn CollectorMarilyn Monroe: Marilyn Collector

Kieron Tyler

The 50th anniversary of Marilyn Monroe's premature death has brought a lot of casting back, mostly based on interpretation and what ifs. Thankfully, her films survive as a more tangible tribute. She didn’t just act, but sang too – which is where this CD comes in. Collecting musical moments from six films and placing them alongside her 1962 “Happy Birthday Mr. President” ode to JFK and a 1953 try-out for RCA Records makes this bare-bones package fascinating. The soundtrack songs have been lifted straight from the films, so sound a bit flat. Bus Stop’s “That Old Black Magic" is punctuated by dialogue and partly buried under noise from the action. “I Wanna be Loved by You” from Some Like it Hot still thrills, and there’s nothing at all wrong with her singing. From six years earlier, “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” (Gentleman Prefer Blondes) is the highlight. The two RCA cuts hint that, with the right arranger, she could have turned her pipes to the sort of material Julie London was pumping out. That, though, is another what if.

Modern Music – the First Year 1945Various Artists: Modern Music – The First Year 1945

Kieron Tyler

This comp of the 78s put out during the inaugural year of the Bihari Brothers’ LA-based label Modern Music is a revelation. The first Modern 10-inch to hit the shops was “Swingin’ the Boogie” by Hadda Brooks, an irresistible, kinetic romp. It's impossible not the be swept along. Joy comes from the speakers. Brooks – she was called “The Queen of the Boogie” – was a classical pianist really named Hadda Hopgood who Jules Bihari came across in a piano shop. Initially attracted by her glamour, he asked if she could play boogie. She could, and Modern was born. Howlin' Wolf, Elmore James and Etta James came to the label later, but this is how the seminal imprint started. Cherry-picking the best from the first year, all 25 cuts are a blast. There’s pre-Coasters humour and some double entendres. But mostly there’s the swinging, ebullient upbeat R&B, blues and boogie that preceded rock ‘n’ roll. The sound quality is uniformly great. Unreservedly recommended.

Samantha Fox Touch meSamantha Fox: Touch me

Kieron Tyler

Much more unlikely than Marilyn Monroe turning to music was the arrival of former topless model Samantha Fox in the Eighties’ pop charts. Touch Me is the first of her albums. The next three - Samantha Fox, I Wanna Have Some Fun and Just One Night – are also reissued. All are bulked out and have become double sets with tracks from singles, remixes, extended versions and instrumentals. These are definitive, but it’s probably more Samantha Fox than anyone needs or requires. 1986’s Touch Me (four extra versions of the title track and hit single are present) is good-to-OK dance pop with a huge debt to the then new-kid-on-the-block Madonna. Fox had wanted to be a singer before her newspaper career, but the layers of stabbing synths, metronomic rhythms that dominate and a generally synthetic production sheen make it hard to tell how much of a singer she was. The straightforward, peppy, melodic pop she was given (the fake rockabilly of “Hold on Tight” is a one off) wasn’t about whether or not she was a singer. It was enough that is was her. And with three further albums to come, clearly that was fine.

Watch Johnny Clarke perform “None Shall Escape the Judgement”

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