Song: Out of the Blue
Band: Roxy Music
Country Life came out in 1974. Among its many stellar tracks was this sophisticated number oozing a cool, almost clinical sleekness, for which frontman Bryan Ferry shares songwriting credits along with the band’s guitarist, Phil Manzanera. This is 70s British so-called art rock at its glossy finest - svelte, assured, daring yet terribly stylized - a stream of glistening esoterica punctuated with raunch and flash, ending with a wild run of heavily flanged electric violin courtesy Edwin Jobson.
This cut exemplifies a particular era of the band’s history - shortly following the departure of Brian Eno (who would go on to forge a career as a hugely influential musical alchemist, collaborator and producer), and still 8 years away from the silken pop orchestration of Avalon. The band was beginning to hint at the abandonment of its more avant-garde roots, moving steadily towards something more conventionally cohesive and Ferry-dominated - an equally accomplished mode perhaps, one far more accessible to the masses. But here - on Out of The Blue? We’re perched on the knife edge of cool.
Song: Buggin’ Out
Band: A Tribe Called Quest
Style and pizazz for miles. A sinuous bass line and killer snare carries the load over which the Queens NYC boys rap out a positive flow in this driving, unstoppable tune. From their brilliant second album, The Low End Theory, this is confidently creative, decisive, smart-stepping rap with richly musical hooks… it comes across every bit as freshly immediate, insightful and relevant as it was back in 1991. This vital collective has always been about street smarts, a sense of humour and a compelling mastery of doing massive things with minimal elements. Straight-up vocal delivery and an infectious vibe - it’s pure forward momentum. I dare you to listen to this or We Got The Jazz (from the same disc) and not start to groove.
Song: I be Blowin’
Band: De La Soul (featuring Maceo Parker)
This sensuous instrumental hails from De La Soul’s third album, 1993’s Buhloone Mindstate. Here the brilliant Long Island hiphop act puts the rap aside and goes straight for an expansive, quietly exhilarating vibe. Flutes, and alto sax pulsate over a silky minimalist percussive stream - it’s jazz lounge before the term existed as a marketing schtick. A cut effortlessly sophisticated and chilled, thanks largely to Maceo Parker’s soulful contribution.