Now here’s a curiousity. Ten perfect pop songs, yet only two drummers playing one track each.
That’s not to say you can’t hear the work of other drummers on Fine Young Cannibal’s The Raw And The Cooked. You can, but it’s the art of sampling that is deliciously executed.
According to whosampled.com, there’s the work of two top drummers on a couple of stand-out songs on this 1988 long-player – if an album just 35 minutes long could be called a long-player.
Clyde Stubblefield’s break in James Brown’s The Funky Drummer proved the basis for I’m Not The Man I Used To Be, while Hal Blaine’s beat from Gloria Jones’ Tainted Love was used for Good Thing.
The remainder of the drum sounds are programmed by David Steele, the bassist, who co-founded the band after leaving The Beat.
So, why is this included in my list of ‘drumming albums’?
Because there’s a subtlety, an intelligence in the use of the samples, which goes for the programming, too.
The unmistakeable snare and bass sound in the opening track, She Drives Me Crazy, was, in turn, sampled nine times. It’s a statement of intent, a background for a deceptively catchy bassline, stark guitar chords and singer Roland Gift’s distinctive voice. It never lets up in its percussive persistence, building layer by layer to the fade. The sound is a key element of the album’s appeal.
Good Thing cranks it up with a feelgood factor of Spinal Tap proportions, going all the way to 11. Jools Holland’s piano is used percussively to back up the sample of Blaine, along with handclaps, Steele’s bassline and guitarist Andy Cox’s short stabbing chords.
The achingly beautiful I’m Not The Man I Used To Be pairs that most famous of sampled beats with Andy Cox’s noodling guitar, and Steele’s Hammondesque keys. It’s busy yet sparse at the same time; the whole is definitely greater than the sum of its parts.
I’m Not Satisfied repeats the formula of She Drives Me Crazy, with a simple and steady beat allowing a brighter vocal line, with backing singers and keyboards centre stage.
And then we come to Tell Me What, a throwback to the 1960s, with Martin Parry at the helm on a real set of drums. It’s Sam Cooke meets Marvin Gaye, a lovely nostalgic stroll with the tinkling of the ivories for a sound so different to anything thus far. Parry’s work here is simple and understated – spot on the money.
Don’t Look Back lifts the pace with more simplicity to the beat, It’s Okay (It’s Alright) continues the by now trademark programmed drum sound of the opener, while Don’t Let It Get You Down is percussively the one weak link on the album for me.
As Hard As It Is proves an irresistible pairing of noodling guitar, driving bass and sensitively played drums. Jenny Jones was the tub-thumper with the golden touch and, rumour had it that she was slated to play more of a part on the album until Steele caught her reading a copy of The Sun. That was it, out she went and Steele took on percussive duties, finishing with a suitably simple approach to the cover version of The Buzzcock’s Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve).
This fine album possibly wouldn’t have been the same without that approach.