Monday, 9 July 2018

Williams Fairey Brass Band - Acid Brass (1997)

Picked up a classic charity shop find the other week.  And yep, it's exactly what the cover says - acid house anthems performed by a brass band.  This was the brainchild of London artist Jeremy Deller, who intended the project not to be a comic novelty, but a serious endeavour in drawing commonalities in British working class culture.  Deller went as far as including an elaborate flowchart in the CD booklet, with 'acid house' at one side and 'brass bands' at the other; the various links sometimes interesting, sometimes perhaps a bit spurious in driving his point home.  But enough sociocultural high-concept - as always, I'm more interested in the music.

Deller eventually found a brass band that were game for the challenge in Stockport's Williams Fairey Brass Band, formed in 1937 (I'm guessing this isn't the original lineup on Acid Brass).  Arranging Deller's chosen tracks was composer/arranger Rodney Newton, who also gets an interesting liner note about the challenges of the material, for instance, getting a group of brass band blokes to chant 'voodoo ray' in "low, guttural voices".  A live performance in Liverpool followed, seemingly well received by an audience of all ages.  A limited edition recording of the concert, also titled Acid Brass, was followed by this studio album.

So what does it sound like?  Well, to be honest, mostly like a cod-Mission Impossible/Austin Powers film score (What Time Is Love made me laugh out loud), but no less entertaining for that.  Newton does capture well the main themes and the tension-and-release of the originals, and purely from a melodic standpoint, A Guy Called Gerald's Voodoo Ray and 808 State's Pacific 202 sound lovely, proving their durability as highly original pieces of dance music.  The success of the arrangements can vary - I do like the tuned percussion (glock? marimba?) on those two tracks, and on Nitro Deluxe's Let's Get Brutal.  Derrick May's Strings Of Life doesn't translate quite as well, with its immortal string stabs rather weakly rendered - if anything, a testament to what a stunning work of genius the original was and still is.  Regardless, Acid Brass is a fun listen, especially in the summer sunshine.

mega / zippy

8 comments:

  1. You can't tell the difference between a glockenspiel and a marimba? Oh dear. That is not a good look, old chap.

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    1. Oh great, after the Paul Buckmaster/Buckminster Fuller mixup on the Miles Davis post, I'm now leaving in draft notes to myself. Wish this heatwave would piss off, and this head cold so that I can hear properly again.

      Should probably fix the Acid Brass writeup, but let's just let it stand for amusement value ;)

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  2. Hmmm. Well, I guess I can either say "cool down and get well soon", or - "nice save there, bud.". Maybe I'll just let both of those stand too. ;p

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    1. Cheers. Ears popping nicely today, so things are looking up. Who knows, on my next listen to Acid Brass I might decide it's the greatest album ever made.

      Apparently there's a sequel too - will keep an eye out!
      https://www.discogs.com/Fairey-Geneva-Brass-Band-Acid-Brass-2-In-Yer-Face/release/5840304

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  4. Oddly enough, I first heard this while watching Chris Morris' "Four Lions." My ears perked right up.

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    1. aw yes, good shout! Haven't watched that in years, it was hilarious, brilliant.

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