If you like a bit of funk and disco – and more especially, if you're a DJ – the reality is that you won't find many local classics to fill your crates. That's not to say there's no gold to be had, but you'd be searching pretty hard for a copy of, say, the self-titled debut album by Tokoroa funk kings Collision. There are currently 56 names on the Discogs "want" list for that baby.
Some of the most sought-after tracks are disco takes from people remembered chiefly as pop artists, or funk excursions by rock bands. Record nerds speak in hushed tones of this or that break on an album track. But no one has ever pulled it all together – until now.
John Baker and Alan Perrott have done the job with Heed the Call: Soul, Funk, and Disco From Aotearoa 1973-1983, a wonderful 2LP set out on December 1.
The record opens with something suitably and spectacularly scarce: the 12" mix of Dalvanius and the Fascinations' slinky 'Voodoo Lady', hitherto available only on a promo 12" pressed up by Dalvanius's Australian label, Infinity.
That's followed by the righteous Commodores-style funk of Collision's 'You Can Dance' and probably my favourite track of the lot, Mark Williams' 'Disco Queen', where Collision are the backing band.
Williams' other 70s dancefloor classic, 'House for Sale' – possibly the only soul-disco tune that namechecks home appliances – is here too, and it's hard not to wonder what such a gifted artist might have achieved in a different environment.
Before he departed for Australia, Williams' two NZ number one singles, ‘Yesterday Was Just The Beginning of My Life’ and ‘It Doesn’t Matter Anymore’ were just good pop covers, crafted with EMI's in-house producer Alan Galbraith. Other artists here (Tina Cross, the Yandall Sisters) worked in a light-entertainment-oriented industry, Ticket and Larry Morris (whose grooving 'Who Do We Think We're Fooling?' is a highlight) were rock artists, Prince Tui Teka (here with 'Heed the Call', an unusual ballad with a remarkably loud and upfront breakbeat from the drummer) was from the showband tradition. For nearly everyone here, their funky stuff wasn't what they were best-known for, or was tucked away as album tracks.
Although foreign disco hits frequently made (and even topped) the New Zealand charts, there wasn't really a sense that such music could be made locally, nor many of the kind of clubs that would play it. I sometimes wonder if the presence of Heatwave's Eric Johns – the in-house engineer at Tandem Studios in Christchurch for several years in the late 70s and early 80s and a very sweet man – was something of a missed opportunity.
One track here was a bona fide hit: Golden Harvest's brilliant 'I Need Your Love':
But even they were a group of multiple musical identities and this disco-pop tune was quite a different business from their wilder, more intense club shows.
One other thing bears noting: this is largely Māori and Pasifika music, made even though it may not have suited the music business as it was then. That makes this compilation even more of a cultural achievement. I'll certainly be buying a copy myself.
You can pre-order Heed the Call on either double vinyl or CD from Flying Out or Southbound. Best not muck about if it's the vinyl you're after: there are only 1000 copies worldwide and only 300 allocated for New Zealand.
I dont know how it came over on TV, but last night's Vodafone New Zealand Music Awards were memorable and impressive in the room. Nearly every show since the awards moved to to Spark (formerly Vector) Arena has basically lost the back of the room by halfway through the evening, but that didn't happen last night. The show was tight, the performances were well-curated and even the jokes weren't bad. Well done, everyone.
Neil Finn has generously donated a guitar to the New Zealand Music Foundation and proceeds from its auction on Trade Me will be used to help the charity’s work with projects that use music in healthcare and with at-risk and vulnerable people and support its work providing emergency assistance and counselling to music people experiencing illness, distress and hardship.
It's quite a notable instrument: a Maton EBG 808 acoustic electric custom-made for Neil in 2004. It's the guitar he played in his tribute to Paul Hester at the 2005 Aria Awards and has also been used by Tim, Elroy and Liam Finn in the studio and in concert. It was built by Andy Allen, who now runs Maton's "custom shop", but predates the shop itself. Basically, this is a really interesting guitar with a nice story attached to it.
Here's an unexpected archive gem: Living Up to Their Name, a live Sneaky Feelings album recorded in 1987 at the Gluepot and pressed up on vinyl. It was sold at the band's recent tour shows and gets a wider release on Monday – unusually, only via this Discogs page.
Oscar Davies-Kay of Rackets has a new project, Water, that's less intense and more melodic than his old band's work. It's pretty cool and the new album, Enjoy, is a free download on Bandcamp. They also have this nice video of K Road scenes for the track 'Country Calls':
Something wild from Muzai Records: a cover of Technotronic's 'Pump Up the jam'. It's on Artery, the new album by Embedded Figures, aka Dunedinite Amber Skye:
I thought the official remix of Lorde's 'Homemade Dynamite' turned the original into the song it really wanted to be. And here's another cool take by the Dutch DJ Sem:
And an extended dancefloor edit of an old fave: Petko Turner takes on Beats International's 'Dub Be Good To Me' (free download):