Thursday, May 29, 2008

Strut Records and Funky Nassau - The Compass Point Story

Newly reactivated label Strut, a British imprint famous for its Disco Not Disco compilations amongst other tasty disco comps, has recently released “Funky Nassau: The Compass Point Story 1980–1986.” Out of commission since 2003, the German label and distributor, !K7 has breathed new life into it as a new partner in 2008.

Compass Point was a studio built by legendary Island Records owner Chris Blackwell. He founded the independent Island imprint in the late 50s and moved it to the UK in the early sixties after realizing the huge business possibilities in selling Jamaican music to the immigrant communities there. He soon began signing rock acts and shifted his reggae artists over to its now famous side label Trojan. However, in the early seventies it turned to reggae again, with the signing of Bob Marley and the Wailers.

This move back to Jamaican artists happened while the label was home to rock bands like Roxy Music and Traffic. Blackwell embraced variety, but had a bigger goal, and that was to operate a studio with the best musicians he could find. Compass Point on the Caribbean Island of Nassau, the realization of that aim, was the destination to which he attracted a slew of highly accomplished players, such as reggae rhythm section Sly and Robbie, French keyboardist, Wally Badarou, guitar player Mikey Chung and engineer Alex Sadkin.

Compass Point opened in 1977, but really hit its stride in 1980, and up til 1986 a vast catalog of cutting edge dance music emanated from the studio-- tracks that would be championed by djs such as Larry Levan and Tee Scott. Some of these songs are featured on this thirteen-track collection, including club gems like Gwen Guthrie’s “Padlock,” – in its Larry Levan remix form – Will Powers’ Paradise Garage standard, “Adventures In Success,” and “Genius Of Love,” by Tom Tom Club. These are accompanied by more leftfield rock tracks like “Born Under Punches by Talking Heads -- the opening track on their era defining album, Remain in Light and a dance floor staple for many New York djs, including re-edit king Danny Krivit -- and Ian Dury’s controversial “Spacticus Autisticus,” a quirky British, new wave song which rocked the floors in New York and Chicago clubs due to its unbeatable dub segment courtesy of Sly and Robbie.

In the midst of all this activity -- including Grace Jones’ groundbreaking Warm Leatherette and Nightclubbing albums – the studio was utilized by a rock who’s who, for example AC/DC, which recorded its classic LP Back In Black at Compass Point. However, this compilation remembers the group of players and engineers that Blackwell gathered to provide assistance to a long list of innovative recordings like Grace Jones’ “My Jamaican Guy;” and Francois Kevorkian’s remix of “Dance Sucker” by Scottish electro funkers, Set The Tone.

The booklet accompanying the compilation features photographs from the heyday of this creative epoch. In it are pictures of Talking Heads members hanging out with Sly & Robbie; Sadkin and Badarou kicking it with Joe Cocker; reggae legend Desmond Dekker with Robert Palmer; Tina Weymouth, of Talking Heads and Tom Tom Club, with her sisters, Laura and Lani, and Chaz Jankel with Laura during a little romantic spell. Jankel, part of Ian Dury’s band the Blockheads, was a solo artist in his own right, a fact that was demonstrated unequivocally when his song “Ai No Corrida,” was covered by Quincy Jones. Jankel and Laura’s track, “Whisper,” is included on this collection.

To inject the spirit of The Compass Point Story into the current music world would require a selection of tracks from ten labels. Therefore it isn’t an exercise in excessive nostalgia, but a tribute to an era of adventurism and daring in music; to the creativity, which was an essential requisite of the recordings and to the joy and sense of fun that made their way into cars, homes and clubs across the globe, right up until today. The collection is replete with excellent music and is a timely reminder of what came before and what can be realized in the future.

Also available on Strut/!K7 - Disco Not Disco: Post Punk, Electro & Leftfield Disco Classics - 1974-1986 and an Italo disco collection compiled by Stevie Kotey of Chicken Lips. Highly recommended.
Buy here!


1 comment:

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