Heart strings pulling? Yes. Thought Provoking? Oh Yes. A undeniable, Modern Soul meets 80s dance classique masterpiece.
Reissues have become something of a curiosity of late, with many a crate digger, music lover or dedicated label focusing much of their efforts on the reincarnation of forgotten treasures. Some display this via the art of the edit, where tunes are slightly amended to draw in the crowds and get those feet moving. Some re-issue the expensive and highly sought after gems, records locally pressed and distributed that until now were only found in the hands of the most revered of collectors. Then we have the labels that draw focus to those records that never saw the light of day, or simply never materialised. Family Groove, Melodies International, Séance Centre, Edits & Dubs, etc etc, are just but a few of the many labels focusing on the back catalogues of intriguing geniuses, who due to the lack of the internet back then, had their music simply left to remain in a vacuum, to be appreciated one day and brought forth to a whole new generation of music lovers.
Kalita is one of those labels that has reissues some absolute pearls over the years. From Carrie Cleveland's Superb 'Looking Up' compilation, to Steel City Connections' 'Steel City Disco', to Bian Kou's epic 'NST Cophies', through to their latest, Stirling March's thumper 'Under Cover Lover', the label has groove and feeling running through its DNA. Reissues that are carefully curated, lovingly brought back to life, through discussions with the artists themselves, stories and and narratives are woven with the records that doesn't really exist with other albums or singles. Every release brings new life to the music, of which all of it is stellar, and perhaps none of them do it as much as Emerson, with this record, 'If You Need Me, Call Me'.
Conceived sometime in 1988, Emerson and his wife, Leora, wrote a series of songs that would make up the track list of the album. The lead single, 'Sending all my love out', a forward thinking, inspired drum orientated proto boogie tune, with its unusual vocal samples, was unfortunately the only aspect of the record to have much success, with the album faring poorly. This was coupled with Emerson tending to his ill wife, along with looking after his young son. The album ultimately was never released, due to all these aforementioned factors. Emerson comments in the notes that he wanted to release the record 'when we knew we could enjoy it', and boy does now seem the right time to do that. A dream of a record, one that just jumps from the needle through to the very heart and soul of it all. Inventive, creative, passionate and dripping with meaning at every corner, the sense of narrative is so strong throughout this whole record. The compositions are on another level, and just seem to inject such an invigorating feel into 80s music, which can boarder on questionable at times. This one just feels excessively timeless, a record that transcends its original context and into a realm of its own. A charm that resonates hard within this record cannot be denied, and this duo can now be rightly held in the annuals of superb groovers.
The opener, 'Why are you so cold?' sets the tone perfectly. The whole generation of funky groovers can be heard here, almost in a weirdly contemporary sense. Like looking back now, its hard to imagine how highly regarded this record would be if it was more well known in its own context. A soft, slow burner, with Emerson's lead voice soaring alongside synths to match, all on top of the grooviest of grooves. Drum patterns and bass lines create this bed for it all to overflow. The vocal work here is excellent, just so in sync with all that underneath, pfffhh they keep going and going. The range of his voice, just wow. This song just shows a sophistication that is not found easily during this era, and perhaps demonstrates the duos talent and vision as songwriters. Up next comes 'Sending all my love out', the original single release from 1988. Starting off with some emotive chords, the most eloquent of drums kicks in, upping the vibe immediately. Little vocal samples reverb around, before Emerson comes back in again, the vocals more toned down here, simplified to just a few lines. Making them all the more effective, the track just slaps hard, again the elements bringing together a total of great interest and intrigue. Simply glorious. Up next we have 'Noisy Neighbours'. The duo dip once again into the deep and sultry side of modern soul, electronic flavours grooving hard. The key work here is something to marvel, adding so much onto of a simple drum beat. The chorus here is particularly special, making you feel such a connection to Emerson's lament and frustrations at having neighbours who try to clamp down on their musical and creative endeavours. Sad almost, mostly due to the songs narrative and musical structure. In the end, its a beautiful song, a beautiful series of chords, the way they build and layer is hmmmmmm. Something else. The use of a conversation again adds the narrative here, which really comes across through every verse and line in this whole god damn album. To finish up side A, comes 'Raw Deals, Cocaine Kills'. Emerson mentioned he was inspired to write the lyrics to the song from seeing athletes abusing the substance. Like a much more pumped up and funky foil to Grandmaster Flash's 'White Lines', its an interesting social commentary on the dangers of the drugs, all told through the well spun and uplifting (weirdly) nature of their tunes.
Well well, what do we have next. 'If you need me, call me' is the game changer right here. Back to the slow burner, Emerson spins this melodic world full of love, acceptance and simply the notion of being there for someone. Its full of hope, and the tears can flow through this one. In a world where things are seemingly moving so quickly towards oblivion, this song rings true, not just for our friends, but for those in need. All over the place. The use of swirling synths, and the first obvious use of guitar bring another dynamic to the record, with this song drawing itself out to really hammer home its message. The spread of beautiful interludes allow for Emerson to fill the gaps between with his voice to full effect, showing both working so effortlessly in harmony. This could keep going on and on forever. A nice little phone call conversation comes in, indicating that he is reaching out for someone, but they don't want to talk. This then leads back into the chorus, a chiming, beautiful vocal line, 'if you need me, why don't you call?'! 'I guess they don't want to be bothered'. it's okay not to talk, but hey, we all get stronger through talking. We all get better through acknowledging each others issues, as Emerson laments 'the same thing could happen to you'. The use of dialogue alongside singing within this tune just continues that richness of narrative and variations through this, gorgeous and glorious. Up next comes the 'Sound Track', that feels like it was plucked from this decade and thrown back through time. A driving gem of a chune, this one brings the drums way up, the chords ploughing their way through, stabbing for days and days on end. The proper burst of energy we definitely needed. And it all sounds so fresh that it's still unripe. To finish up, we have the demo version of 'Sending all my love out', that is a bit more stripped back, the vocals less of a focus, with less quirky samples and vocal lines. But just as effective. To finish off, we have a prelude for 'Raw Deals', a weird and experimental slow affair compared to its bigger brother. The instrumental side is brought forth, with more space for solos and other elements to shine. In the first one, the message chimes forth, but here the instruments just do their thing to devastating effect. What an ender.
Storytelling was never really the aim with boogie or disco from the 80s. The focus was purely on the dance. But Emerson and Leora show here that this is very much possible. A masterful blend of soulful boogie, stripped back to focus purely on the harmonies and progressions, showing a couple pushing the boundaries of the genres. The context it was written within maybe didn't shine a light on it, but now we can place it within so many genres, its touch impossible to ignore from so many corners of contemporary music. The heart, the soul, the groove, the narrative, here is all so strong, so so strong. This has to be one of 2019's best records. Without a shadow of a doubt. Take a bow.
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