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Scritti Politti



Scritti Politti - Absolute - 2011 - Virgin

There is no easy and clean way to anthologize Scritti Politti. Within a couple years of surfacing, Green Gartside and his shifting array of associates switched from scrawny and inscrutable post-punk to pristine and R&B-laced sophisti-pop. Scritti vanished for a decade, reappeared in the late ‘90s with a tentative misfire, and then, after a seven-year absence, came back again with an understated, vaguely singer/songwriter-y gem. Absolute focuses on the Virgin albums -- 1985’s Cupid & Psyche (a masterpiece), 1988’s Provision, and 1999’s Anomie & Bonhomie -- and frontloads the material from them, which takes up over two-thirds of the disc. After that, it gets a bit random, with post-punk era highlight “Skank Bloc Bologna,” three highlights from 1982’s Songs to Remember, the 1991 non-album single “She’s a Woman” (a Beatles cover, featuring Shabba Ranks), and two new burbling electro-pop numbers. It’s neither a straightforward singles comp nor a thorough collection of highlights, but it’s somewhere in between and makes for a representative introduction. © Andy Kellman © 2011 Rovi Corporation. All Rights Reserved http://www.allmusic.com/album/absolute-the-best-of-scritti-politti-r1785167/review

For the sleeve of their first single, 1979's "4 A Sides", Scritti Politti opted not for a picture but instead showed a breakdown of costs-- every element of the record's production itemized. This kind of fascination with and demystification of the rock process seems like an orthodox post-punk move, very of its time. But it also revealed for the first time one of the unifying threads in Scritti's career-- an idea that things become more interesting when they're broken down, and that what's on the surface can reveal that stuff, not obfuscate it. As breakthrough single "The 'Sweetest Girl'" put it, "The strongest words in each belief/ Find out what's behind them." Of course in 1979 the idea that a motley of squat-dwelling politicos like Scritti Politti might have a breakthrough single-- let alone a three-decade career and a best of package like Absolute-- would have been preposterous. The motor for this compilation, as its title and lopsided sequencing makes quite clear, is Scritti's string of singles from their Cupid and Psyche 85 album, produced by Arif Mardin. Most were hits in Britain, and "Perfect Way" made them brief stars in America too. But even after a string of 80s revivals, nothing sounds quite like them. It's that Scritti principle again, break things up and they get more interesting. This is pop exploded, fractured and rebuilt as a mosaic where almost every beat seems to have a different sound from the one before. Hi-hats, triangles, drum pads of every kind flicker across the mix for a second or two then never reappear. In fact the tracks hold together only thanks to Green Gartside's deceptively light voice and sweet melodic touch, making songs like "Hypnotize" and "Wood Beez" into exhilarating sculptures rather than a swingers party for drum presets. Green Gartside's journey-- from post-punk ideologue to minor pop princeling, then into productive obscurity-- is so interesting that a chronological overview seems an obvious choice for a best of. So, perhaps inevitably, Absolute is no such thing. After seducing you with mid-80s glitz, it bounces forward to 1999's hip-hop influenced comeback, then returns to the post-punk source before finishing with new material. This hopscotch approach can work oddly well, bringing out commonalities as well as differences-- when the gossamer "Brushed With Oil, Dusted With Powder" jumps into the similarly mazy but far starker "Skank Bloc Bologna", for instance. But frontloading the candyfloss brings disadvantages too. "Oh Patti (Don't Feel Sorry For Loverboy)", their slickest but also saddest song, gets lost in the sugar rush. "Oh Patti" boasts a gorgeously ornamental Miles Davis horn solo, and because Scritti Politti turns so much on Green Gartside's vision and intelligence it's easy to overlook what a fine collaborator he is, with an ability to find just the right partner to make a good track special. There are song-transforming turns here from Robert Wyatt, Shabba Ranks, and Mos Def, the latter on two tracks from 1999's Anomie And Bonhomie. Here Gartside's presence is more spectral, his voice like perfume over a hip-pop fusion which has aged surprisingly well. These experiments worked because Gartside's concern for how a track's components fit also includes his knowing when to drop into the background. But it's a shame that Absolute misses the finest result of Gartside's passion for hip-hop, 2006's "The Boom Boom Bap", a love letter to the genre which is also one of Scritti's most enchanting tracks. To represent 21st century Scritti we instead get two enjoyable unreleased tracks, the fruit of a recent reunion with 80s collaborator Dave Gamson. "Day Late And A Dollar Short" finds Green draping himself delightfully over Britney-esque mecha-pop. "A Place We Both Belong" matches a soul-searching Gartside vocal to an R&B slow jam bump. This grappling with modern pop could herald an intriguing new direction, or it could be a dead end like 1991's brief go at pop-ragga (represented here by "She's a Woman"). With Scritti Politti, you never quite know. But no matter what Green Gartside's next step it's good to hear him still so engaged with current music. He is a publically smart, well-read guy-- a rarity in pop then and now-- and it's easy to focus on a band's intellectual side when one of their most infectious and witty songs is called "Jacques Derrida". But Green's gift wasn't just to namedrop continental philosophy. Starting with "The 'Sweetest Girl'" he found an emotional translation of it within pop, building catchy songs out of curiosity and doubt, taking the collapse of certainties and turning it into heartbreak. For all its erratic sequencing and missing pieces, Absolute is a joy: It works as a collection of often thrilling singles, but it also succeeds as a history of Green Gartside's open-- minded approach to pop, and of his love of it. By & © Tom Ewing; March 10, 2011 8.8 Best New Reissue © 2011 Pitchfork Media Inc. All rights reserved http://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/15175-absolute/

As Green Gartside enjoys another lengthy hiatus between albums, this first career-spanning retrospective in Scritti Politti’s 34-year stint plugs a gap, picking tracks from those sparse decades and throwing in a couple of new ones to sweeten the deal. And Scritti were always about sugaring the pill; candy-cute vocals and light-as-air pop-funk arrangements did a great job of smuggling big ideas and smart wordplay into the charts, at least in the mid-80s. But Gartside could never stick around long enough to keep any momentum going. Unlike Scritti’s own career, Absolute starts with the hits. Five in a row from second album Cupid & Psyche 85, beginning with the fizzing, punning Wood Beez (Pray Like Aretha Franklin), through the sly lovers rock of The Word Girl and onto US top 10 smash Perfect Way. These are startling examples of immaculate, state-of-the-art 80s pop, produced by soul backroom legend Arif Mardin and honed to perfection by Gartside and then-colleagues David Gamson and Fred Maher, and they opened doors that the Camden squat collective of eight years earlier couldn’t have hoped to barge. With Mardin’s approval and Gartside’s timing, Scritti found acceptance with the sort of R&B legends they were hoping to ape, leading to writing songs for Chaka Khan and the extraordinary domino effect of having Miles Davis first cover one of their numbers and then guest on one. That song is Oh Patti (Don’t Feel Sorry for Loverboy), a marriage of soft jazz and blue-eyed soul that followed Cupid & Psyche then and here, the first song off 1988’s troubled Provision. Gartside had made outlandish leaps, but recognition was too much for him and he shrank from it, holing himself up in his native Wales for the next decade or so. Absolute’s odd sequencing jumps straight to his re-emergence in 1999 with the hip hop/delicate pop-soul hybrid of Anomie & Bonhomie, here represented by four tracks that have aged far better than low-key approval at the time might have suggested. It’s strange too that it should have greater presence than 1982’s Songs to Remember, which makes do with three tracks, including the deathless, Robert Wyatt-assisted dub-pop of The ‘Sweetest Girl’ and signature Scritti tune Jacques Derrida, finding romance in philosophical tract. Absolute has extras to offer the completists, including meaty sleeve-notes from pop scholar Simon Reynolds, who’d already lovingly chronicled Scritti’s formative years in his Rip It Up And Start Again. Two new tracks are worked up with classic-period partner David Gamson: A Place We Both Belong and Day Late and a Dollar Short are a lush ballad and spry funk bounce respectively, and ample proof there’s life in the impossibly youthful old dog yet. As he averages seven years between albums, you should grab any Gartside you can get. [from the BBC Review "The hits, and newies prove there’s life in the impossibly youthful old dog yet". by Matthew Horton 2011-04-05 http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/reviews/446m]

'Absolute' is a career-spanning compilation album by the unique and highly original Scritti Politti. The album includes the band's first single, 'Skank Bloc Bolonga', as well as hits from the albums 'Songs To Remember', 'Cupid & Psyche', 'Provision', 'Anomie and Bonhomie', plus the new tracks, 'Day Late and a Dollar Short' and 'A Place We Both Belong'. Scritti Politti have never been easy to categorize. The band's music is a progressive mix of electronica, synth-pop, funk, jazz-pop, reggae, soul, R&B, and hip-hop. Led by Welsh singer/songwriter Green Gartside, Scritti Politti have never been prolific in their musical output, but albums like "Cupid & Psyche 85", and "Anomie & Bonhomie" are works of genius, displaying a musical inventiveness and intelligence comparable to bands like the Blue Nile, Prefab Sprout, and The High Llamas. This album is VHR by A.O.O.F.C. It is worth buying the original CD to appreciate the sonic quality of the tracks. Scritti Politti's "Songs To Remember" album is @ SCRIPOL/S2R [All tracks @ 192 Kbps: File Size = 115 Mb]

TRACKS / COMPOSERS

1. Wood Beez (Pray Like Aretha Franklin) (7" Version) - Green Gartside 3:35
2. Absolute - Green Gartside 4:23
3. The Word Girl (Flesh And Blood) (Edit) - David Gamson, Green Gartside 3:19
4. Perfect Way - David Gamson, Green Gartside 4:03
5. Hypnotize (Short Version) - David Gamson, Green Gartside 3:35
6. Oh Patti (Don't Feel Sorry For Loverboy) - David Gamson, Green Gartside 4:23
7. Boom! There She Was (US Mix) - David Gamson, Green Gartside 4:17
8. Umm - Green Gartside, Lee Majors 4:13
9. Tinseltown To The Boogiedown (Radio Edit) - Green Gartside, Lee Majors, Mos Def 4:04
10. Die Alone - Green Gartside 4:23
11. Brushed With Oil, Dusted With Powder - Green Gartside 5:51
12. Skank Bloc Bologna - Green Gartside, Nial Jinks, Tom Morley 5:51
13. The Sweetest Girl (2001 Digital Remaster) - Green Gartside 6:18
14. Asylums In Jerusalem (2001 Digital Remaster) - Green Gartside 3:15
15. Jacques Derrida (2001 Digital Remaster) - Green Gartside 5:01
16. She's A Woman (Little Way Different 7") - John Lennon & Paul McCartney 3:24
17. A Day Late And A Dollar Short - David Gamson, Green Gartside 3:14
18. A Place We Both Belong - David Gamson, Green Gartside 3:10

MUSICIANS

Green Gartside - Guitar, Keyboards, E-Bow, Noise, Vocals, Background Vocals
Dan Huff, Paul Jackson, Jr., Allan Murphy, Nick Moroch, Wendy Melvoin, Allen Cato - Guitar
Will Lee, Nial Jinks, Marcus Miller, Me'Shell Ndegéocello, Joe Cang, David Dyson - Bass
David Gamson, Robbie Buchanan, David Frank, Mike Macevoy, Robert Wyatt - Keyboards
Tom Morley, Abe Laboriel, Fred Maher, Jr., Ju Ju House, Steve Ferrone - Drums
Bashiri Johnson - Percussion
Miles Davis - Trumpet
Steve Pigott, Paul Riser - String Arrangements
Shabba Ranks, Mos Def, Lee Majors, Mae McKenna, Lorenza Johnson, Jimahl, Jackie Challenor - Vocals
Tawatha Agee, Rory Dodd, BJ Nelson, Fonzi Thornton, Eric Troyer - Background Vocals

BIO

Scritti Politti is the primary vehicle for Welsh singer/songwriter Green Gartside. Few figures in pop music can claim Gartside's distinctive credentials: an artist who began in London's subcutaneous underground in the late '70s but ultimately rose to the top of the U.K. pop charts, a serious devotee of linguistic structuralism who can hold his own in a conversation with his friend, arch deconstructionist Jacques Derrida, and a handsome, dreamy-eyed gentleman who has, in the opinion of one critic, "a voice that's eternally 14 years old" yet nonetheless stands six foot six in his stocking feet. Gartside grew up in South Wales, a brainy underachiever and, in his teen years, a member of the Young Communist League. Through the League he met future Scritti Politti bassist Nial Jinks. Gartside earned a scholarship to Leeds Art College, where he made the acquaintance of Scritti's future drummer, Tom Morley. In June 1978 Gartside and Morley dropped out of school and took up a flat in London, and Gartside invited Jinks to come out and join them. Inspired by the example of another little-known English group of that time, Desperate Bicycles, Scritti Politti made their first record when they were barely three months old, hand printing the covers and rubber-stamping the labels themselves. This record, Skank Bloc Bologna, sold a surprising 2,500 copies in this handmade edition. Afterward, Rough Trade took it over, ultimately moving about 15,000 copies of the title. Although listed as a member of the group on records and in photographs, Matthew Kay was the band's business manager and had little to contribute to Scritti Politti's music. At this stage, Scritti Politti's sound was scrappy, taut, and forthrightly experimental in style, utilizing abrupt changes, rhythmic displacements, and gritty and discordant harmonies tempered by Gartside's sweet vocalizing of impenetrably obscure lyrics, vaguely political in sense but temporal and abstract in meaning. Yet there was something catchy about what they were doing that stuck with the listener, and Rough Trade in particular was very excited about it. In quick succession, Rough Trade released the 12" EP 4 A-Sides (also known as Pre-Langue EP) and a four-track single of Scritti Politti's second Peel Session. The band was then added to a U.K. tour featuring Gang of Four and Joy Division, but Gartside was consumed by stage fright and anxiety, leading to his first heart attack at age 23. After completing the tour, Gartside decided to take a year off from music and returned to South Wales to refresh himself. When Gartside returned, it was a with a new Scritti Politti sound, now centered in pop but still retaining the obscure lyrical elements. A demo track, "The Sweetest Girl," was issued on a giveaway cassette in conjunction with an issue of NME, and it soon proved extremely popular in England. While the finished single of "The Sweetest Girl" did not appear for several months, sapping some of the momentum gained by the pre-release, the follow-up album, Songs to Remember, was issued to considerable critical acclaim in September 1981. The album made it to number one on the U.K. independent album chart and number six on the main U.K. pop chart. By this time, however, the band had fallen apart, and the last original member, drummer Tom Morley, departed that November. Gartside once again took time out to review his position, and in the meantime a bidding war began among major labels for his talents. Gartside had spent some time in New York on holiday during the making of Songs to Remember and had met another aspiring Rough Trade songwriter, David Gamson, who in turn introduced him to the drummer from Material, Fred Maher. They began to record as Scritti Politti in 1983 in sessions produced by Nile Rodgers, but Gartside decided, rightly, that Rough Trade didn't have the kind of budget that could support the type of pop music that he was then interested in pursuing. With Gartside and Rough Trade parting ways, the Rodgers-produced sessions never saw the light of day. After negotiating with various labels, including Atlantic Records, Gartside finally settled on an offer made by Virgin. Then he, Gamson, and Maher began slowly recording the group of singles that ultimately made up Cupid & Psyche 85. Cupid & Psyche 85, released in June of 1985, was a landmark album in many respects. No prior pop album had integrated the techniques of sampling and sequencing to such a great degree, and the technology of that time was both expensive to use and barely up to the task Scritti Politti demanded of it. Gartside's typically high-flown verbiage was as evident here as anywhere, but you didn't need to understand what he sang in order to enjoy the music. Certain songs are dialogues between Gartside and a female singer; as such, "A Little Knowledge" is a rare pop song that retains the characteristics of a mini-tragedy. Likewise, the bonus track of "Flesh and Blood," featuring Jamaican rapper Ann Swinton, sounds remarkably fresh and contemporary 20 years on. But the big hits from Cupid & Psyche 85 were "Wood Beez" and "The Word Girl" in the U.K., and "The Perfect Way" in the U.S., which reached number 11 in the Billboard Hot 100 and got heavy rotation on MTV. Not many albums from smack in the middle of the "Big '80s" can be said to possess the quality of timelessness, but Cupid & Psyche 85 most certainly does. The innovative aspects of Cupid & Psyche 85 were not lost on other musicians, who absorbed the technological lessons therein so quickly that few, if any, critics stopped to take note of where these ideas originally came from. After touring and promoting Cupid & Psyche 85, Gartside took some time off to work with other artists, notably Chaka Khan. Scritti Politti returned in 1988 with a new album, Provision, of which the intended hit, "Boom! There She Was," featured the talents of the late Roger Troutman. Provision found favor in the U.K., but had no effect whatsoever in the U.S., and worse, Gartside was personally unhappy with the album. By this time Gartside's stage fright had caused him to abandon live performance altogether, and the only promotional outlet for him was to do a grueling round of local talk shows answering dumb questions from interviewers who hadn't the slightest clue about Gartside or his work. Disgusted with music as a whole, Gartside dropped from sight again, and this time he did so for nearly a decade. Released in 1999, Anomie & Bonhomie marked Gartside and Scritti Politti's return to music, and it shows that he had by no means lost touch with current trends, working with rappers Mos Def and Jimahl and extending the Scritti Politti compass to include a full-blown hip-hop sound. It was a fine comeback effort, but received only a lukewarm response from the public. White Bread Black Beer, recorded entirely by Gartside, followed seven years later and had the benefit of closely tailing a wave of newfound interest in his career. (Rough Trade had released the Early compilation in 2005.) One can only hope that Gartside can keep at it, as while bands may come and bands may go, there is only one Green Gartside, a popular artist of rare integrity, poetry, and intelligence. © Uncle Dave Lewis © 2011 Rovi Corporation. All Rights Reserved http://www.allmusic.com/artist/scritti-politti-p5381/biography