Saturday, August 16, 2008

Equatorial Heat

Perusing the record racks one morning in 1981, I was on the hunt for something that would lift my spirits. I was coming up empty. The lone employee stood behind the counter reading a magazine and bopping his head to a piece of vinyl that was playing when I came in. He was bopping for good reason. It was getting to me as well. It was muscular, and melodic and damn if it wasn't utterly infectious. "What the hell is that?" The counter guy held up the album cover. "Yeah, this is good," I said and went back to the racks. Song after song got to me until finally I asked, "Got any copies of it?" "I got five in this morning. I put it on and now I have two left. One's mine. So, yeah, I got one." I snagged it and played it for most of that week.

The Equators came and went in that first ska revival with little fanfare, but it wasn't their fault. Anyone that got a chance to hear Hot started bouncing up and down. It was one hell of a party record. The record went out of print in the mid-eighties and despite pleas from fans over the years it took until 2006 before it showed up and then only as a DL. (Beware - there's a 2002 recording that is not the same thing. It featured some original members and third wave ska revivalists covering the original album - it reeks.)

I still have my vinyl - its clicks and pops are as familiar as its beats and notes. It's grand and if you haven't heard it you have missed something special.

From All Music Guide:
Besides being one of the forgotten cast-offs of the Two Tone scene, The Equators were also one of the most neglected signings to the oh so hip in its day Stiff label. Listening to their music nowadays, one wonders just why they never hit big, their album Hot seems to have it all, epitomizing the breadth of the early Eighties UK scene - ska, reggae, rock and New Wave all rolled into one big, ebullient sound. But back then most Brits preferred their music pretty pure, and the band were just blending too many disparate styles into their sound for comfort. This seems to have worked against them in the Two Tone scene, where by rights they should have made their home, an all-Black counter-weight to the all-white Madness. But perhaps their biggest problem was simply they were just too accomplished for their own good.Keyboardist Rocky Bailey obviously had classical training, and isn't afraid to showboat it, lead guitarist Dennis Fletcher is proud he learned his licks listening to a blizzard of Seventies hardrock, lead vocalist Donald Bailey hankers towards American soul, while guesting trumpeter Dick Hanson apparently studied at the feet of American jazzmen not Jamaicans. So where were the Equators true musical roots - Jamaica, the UK, the US, the rock scene, the reggae sound systems, the jazz clubs, the UK discos, or beyond? So slick is their sound, it's impossible to tell, everything is given equal weight in the arrangements, the New Wave synths, Leo Bailey's frenetic ska beats and Cleveland Clarke's thumping bass, the searing guitar solos, the soul styled vocals, the jazzy horn. Where Did Johnny Go" exemplifies their approach, which takes its musical inspiration from "Johnny B. Goode", but served up in rollicking ska fashion, then kicks in the rock-abilly guitar solo, the song then simmers into a long grooved before fading into oblivion. The lyrics turn "Goode"s on their head, as tough guy Johnny bows out of the competition, and bolts for the hills. The infectious "Rescue Me" is even more of a musical smorgasbord, a ska-Wave hybrid that stirs in both classical and proggy keyboards, and smooth as silk vocals from Fletcher, who here takes the lead. "Age of 5" is a skinhead stomp, but the group can't stop from tinkering, and toss in smooth, lush smooth sections that would have the skins calling for their heads. "If You Need Me" is a lush synthi-love song delivered at break-neck pace. If the Equators had seemed less sure of themselves, one would have forgiven them these sins, and assumed that next time around they'd sort out a specific style and stick with it. Unfortunately, so evolved is their sound, change seemed unlikely, and the British public rejected them out of hand. In 1981, they were out of step, and out of time, a few years later they could have been wowing US college crowds across the nation, with their tight and startling hybrid musical style. And so, all that was left of Hot was a pile of ash, and this stunning original and exciting album disappeared without a track from the racks. So unique is it, that decades later it still sounds fresh, find it if you can, and try to convince your friends it's not a hot new band, but a 20+ year old dead one.

dl it here

Original track listing
1. Rescue Me 2:43 2. Age Of 5 4:06 3. If You Need Me 3:43 4. More Than A Person 4:00 5. Rankin' Discipline 3:21 6. Mr Copper 3:47 7. Nightmare 2:40 8.Where Did Johnny Go 3:49 9. There Is Someone 3:13 10. Learn My Lesson 2:49 11. Feelin' High 3:49

Also includes non-lp singles (not so good)
1. Baby Come Back (7" Version) 3:56 2. Baby Come Back (12" Version) 4:50 3. Georgy 2:49

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