Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Before I pack up the computer and ship it on its way to New Hampshire, how about a few new downloads via a trip into the wayback machine?

Lidell Townsell was in the right place at the right time: that place being Chicago, and that time being the late '80s and early '90s, when house music from there was exploding in a big way - and making a dent on the pop charts. In the early '90s (it seems so long ago), before radio was quite as sliced-and-diced-formatted as it is now, dance records actually got played on Top 40 radio. Townsell's "Nu Nu" was one of those records, creeping into the lower reaches of Billboard's top 40 in 1992. It's a nearly perfect house/pop crossover record, sacrificing none of its jump-up Chi-town house flavor while still fitting into a trad 4-minute pop song structure. I apologize for the awkward way the song cuts off (it was taken from a mix disc), but not for the fine quality of "Nu Nu."

Anyone else remember Rock Over London? It was a nationally syndicated Westwood One program in the '80s which brought U.K. imports to American audiences months before they reached these shores. From The Alarm to UB40 and Smiths singles, they covered it all - even Enya! But there may be no artist I discovered via ROL who was more of a find than Tanita Tikaram. A 19-year-old singer-songwriter who was doing it a full decade before the Lilith explosion (and without all the pretense; she was naturally serious), Tikaram was akin to, say, Dido with talent (and without the dance background). With songwriting comparable at its best to Joan Armatrading, and blessed with a smoky, seriously jazz-club voice (I'd love to hear her do Billie Holiday), Tikaram was a can't-miss, who didn't miss in the U.K. and Europe. In the U.S., however, she was criminally undernoticed (if not underrated). "Twist In My Sobriety" so impressed no less a pop authority as the Pet Shop Boys that they had Liza - yes, that Liza - cover it on Results, the album they masterminded for her the following year. Her version, however, isn't even close to a patch on the original. I mean, Tikaram's "Sobriety" features a cor anglais!

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