Barry Adamson – The Negro Inside Me (Mute Records EP, 1993)

Barry Adamson 'The Negro Inside Me' CD artwork

mute records | lp/cd stumm120 | 19/10/1993

Barry Adamson‘s 1993’s Paul ‘PK’ Kendall-produced 6-track The Negro Inside Me begins with a burst of spiralling horns before rushing headlong into an up-tempo Hammond organ versus James Bond jazz-funk groove; built around a recording of what appears to be Adamson’s publicist or manager trying to run through a list of engagements, interviews and appointments, at around three minutes, the track breaks down into a latin-edged cymbal-intensive percussion rhythm, before rebuilding and gathering greater momentum. ‘The Snowball Effect’ appears to be the most appropriate name for this rolling, energetic track.

‘Dead Heat’, with its varied collection of headcleaner scratched record samples, electronic noises and slow-mo hip-hop breaks wouldn’t have sounded out of place on a Massive Attack album. However, the orchestral textures piano motifs give this a totally different atmosphere from anything that Bristol collective could muster.

The outstanding ‘Busted (Michaelangelo Version)’, built around layers of percussive hip-hoppery and organ flourishes, sounds just like a gangster TV show soundtrack with its car-chase saxophone melodies and sparse and funky wah-wah guitar, Starting with some soulful female vocal textures, ‘Cold Black Preach’ gradually develops into a filmic, atmospheric work with an amazing bassline and urgent hip-hop breaks.

Re-setting and re-positioning an old song should not be slapdash; pop music is littered with failed, miserable attempts to do just that. Thankfully, Adamson’s revisioning of the simultaneously cheesy and sexual ‘Je T’Aime… Moi Non Plus’ – like his version of ‘These Boots Are Made For Walking’ with Anita Lane – is somehow respectful, taking the core melody and song structure of the original and adding a steady, bass-heavy groove. A duet with Louise Ness (with language training by regular Mute chanteuse Pascale Fuillée / Pascale Fuillée-Kendall), the vocals are somehow more coherent and loaded with barely hidden sexual desire than the Serge Gainsbourg original.

This 30-minute mini-LP closes with ‘A Perfectly Natural Union’, a slow and lounge-y piece of café jazz for piano and vibes, with Adamson’s double bass walking alongside at a steady, lazy pace. Sounding a little like the ‘Gallery’ muzak on Tony Hart’s kids TV shows, ‘A Perfectly Natural Union’ is the perfect chilled-out conclusion to this excellent release.

The title of this release always intrigued me. Unlike his other releases (which bear a sense of lightness and humour), it seems, on first examination, strangely serious. However the music itself is characteristically upbeat, and a glance at Adamson’s face in Polly Borland’s photo on the cover tells you that this isn’t meant to be taken too seriously, so sit back and let the good vibes toll…

Track listing:

A1. / 1. The Snowball Effect
A2. / 2. Dead Heat
A3. / 3. Busted (Michaelangelo Version)
B1. / 4. Cold Black Preach
B2. / 5. Je T’Aime… Moi Non Plus
B3. / 6. A Perfectly Natural Union

First published 2003; edited 2014

(c) 2014 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence

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