Various Artists – Latenighttales: Groove Armada

I swear I know this

This is so weird. And so good. I have no doubt that almost everyone that is even remotely my age will have the same strange experience when they listen to this compilation. It’s as if someone had somehow managed to send a probe to creep into my brain, a track detector probe that is able to access the music memory section up there and perform a super sneaky search for tracks that would a) have somehow made a lasting impression on me (preferably an emotional one), but b) for some strange reason have never made it to the active registry within this section that would enable me to name a tune and its artist within reasonable amounts of time (about three seconds).

It must be a super sophisticated device too, massively selective. It’s not satisfied with a slight sense of déjà écouté or a foreseeable selection of vaguely guessable one hit wonders. No, Sir. This thing picks out the best of the best of the best. It heightens the effect by tightening the rules even further, picking tracks that are certified classics, maybe even game-changing pieces, music that absolutely everyone should know but somehow isn’t able to identify beyond being flabbergasted while saying shit I should really be able to name that tune.

Okay, some tracks are a little easier to spot, probably because this crafty little detector has been equipped with a pity function that will allow you a moment of success or two to keep you motivated. Like when you get to the point when Bryan Ferry and his friends tell you that “Love Is The Drug”. Makes you feel you’re in the know. It even lets you have a moment of now that was way too easy, “Enjoy The Silence”, come on, even my mom would know that one. But even mom would agree that in a mix of songs like this it would be a crime to keep this one off the list.

Ah, such a clever little bugger. Dodges “Don’t You Want Me Baby” to pull “The Things That Dreams Are Made Of” from a slightly overlooked corner of your music memory. Such a cool choice, especially as an opener, the sound almost Super Human League, the lyrics a big part of the rediscovery here, “New York, ice cream, TV, travel, good times” or “Everybody needs love and adventure, everybody needs cash to spend”.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Listen to the tracks one by one and let yourself be baffled to the bone. Unless, of course, you know enough about music to be able to answer every single one million dollar question at the end of the show. Then you might know who Kitty Grant is. I’d be amazed. Never heard that name before, and even Discogs is unable to say anything about her. What’s even more bizarre: yes, I might have known that “this song”Glad To Know You” was originally sung by a guy, Chas Jankel, but the moment you listen to Kitty’s version it’s hers. Yeah, of course I know that song. But no, had no idea who sang it.

Okay, you might have had a clue about that one. But how about Max Berlin? Know who that is? Again, I didn’t. Who would have thought – he’s the brother of Cerrone. Yes, the French Euro Disco master. Listen to the original from 1987, stunning stuff, and then the version dug up here, the Joakim remix, and find yourself wondering where you might have heard this before. You know you have. And you’ll never know when or where. It’s just there, up in your had, has been there since the moment you walked through that bar, with that heightened sense of being in the right place.

It just goes on and on. The African Dream. “Makin’ A Living”. Created somewhere around the time when House Music was born. Call it a classic, an anthem, a milestone, it’s all of that, but no, you won’t know who The African Dream were. Lee Rodriguez and Steven John Craden. They should be named. Just like Midlake. Of course I don’t know these guys. Their music is what I would associate with Steely Dan. Maybe CSN&Y even, listening to the original of “Roscoe”. Someone wrote it’s the “kind of song worth stopping everything for”. I actually like the remix on this compilation even more. Supplied by Beyond The Wizards Sleeve, another act I didn’t know. But I’ll be damned if I haven’t heard this one before. Or maybe it’s just that hint of the “M.A.S.H.” theme that lets me think I have.

Who are Liquid People? Peter Bjorn and John? Ace? No clue, sorry. I’d flunk on every single question. Liquid People created this slightly melancholic House thing called “Son Of Dragon”, and you will know the little synth riff and the romantic strings, from the beach, from a sunrise somewhere, a beautiful evening when it was okay to be a little sentimental and in the moment. Peter Bjorn and John? You might know them from “Young Folks”, you know, the whistle song, hit single back in 2005. But that really doesn’t fit in here. “The Chills” sure does. And by the time you get to this point you will look at every song like something you have heard before. Even if you haven’t. Oh, and Ace? Another song that sounds like someone would have loved to be Steely Dan and ended up somewhere close to Chris Rea, but turned out this absolute classic, “How Long”, one of these songs that you like even though you don’t like that kind of music, that you find cool in spite of lead vocals that are anything but that. Monstrously catchy stuff.

Talking about Chris Rea. He’s here too. And that’s really really close to a cringe moment. I bet the Groove Armada guys were snickering when they put this one on the list. Really? “Josephine”? Goodness, you may think, why not Chris de Burgh? When I was listening to the album and I got to this point I was sure that my wife would peek around the corner and check whether I was really serious about this. It didn’t happen. It’s the “French Edit”, a version that leaves out most of the cringy stuff. Which means – almost no Chris Rea. But oh, the schmaltz… it’s even extended when Pop Idol winner Will Young croons his way through “Friday’s Child” in an Andy Cato remix that fits right in the middle between George Michael and Lisa Stansfield. The sun would have to shine a lot more and the Margaritas would need to flow continuously, but then it might just work, even on me.

Thank God for Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell to put this into perspective with tons of Soul and vocal genius. Or Finley Quaye for putting our minds in a different space with some Dub and Reggae. And Groove Armada themselves who somehow persuade Gary Numan to come down to the beach bar and hang out. “Are Friends Electric?” These friends are eclectic.

Did I forget something? Oh, damn, yes, I did! The buzzer! Another easy guess towards the end of the compilation. Bouncy drums, double handclaps, unusually happy bass … BUZZZ “Close To Me”! The Cure! Applause, applause, you guessed it in less than three seconds. But yes, it belongs here.

Actually, everything belongs here. The whole collection, just the way it is. To put this compilation out on vinyl after all is a wonderful idea. Everyone is talking about AI these days. I am absolutely certain that no AI on this planet could have compiled this. Groove Armada can.

Release for review:

Buy the vinyl re-release online: Click
Get it on Bandcamp: Click
If sold out, get it on Discogs: Click