on 3 November 2001
Many see this as Scritti Politti's best record - and I'm one of them. Before discovering hip-hop Green was obsessed with the idea of writing Classics, and his formidable gifts allowed him to play around with different styles; what he brought was something totally new in his barrage of beat-poetry lyrics, often crammed into too small a space, but silkily and sweetly curled into place - this record takes his breathy vocal style from Cupid & Psyche and teams it with something more earthy, and to my mind more robust.
The songs are not easy to know straight away. You have to spend time with them. Often it's 5 or 6 listens and then something starts nagging at you.
"Asylums in Jerusalem" opens with a loping soul/reggae feel, hint of Stevie Wonder clavinet grooving. It sets the tone structurally, for there is no chorus, just an extended circular journey around on itself. "With his hammer and his popsicle, they put him in a hospital for good". An agile, shifting melody, but strangely hummable.
"Jacques Derrida" has a rushing, strumming Bob Dylan feel, "Faithless" goes gospel soul, and the infectious "Rock a Bye Blue" a loosely swinging, jazz ballad - no shortage of styles to try on.
For me there are two immortal moments. "Sex" is the first. Top driving funk, Green gets randy, a backing singer starts coo-ing for mercy, and a naughty bassline ranges around like wandering hands.
The second is the incredible "Gettin Havin and Holdin", just a beautiful lullaby, classic sentiments ("When a man loves a woman, he is happy"), and Green for once putting down his Penguin Nietsche to sound like he really means it.
This record has such a distinctive feel that ultimately you'll either love it or hate it. Give it ten listens minimum before you decide!
on 31 July 2006
I first had this on vinyl in 1982, when I was 13. I absolutely loved it.
Today my CD copy arrived, and I listened to it for the first time in years. What a truly fabulous set of songs. I have been transported back to my nasty little bedroom in the early 80s, listening to John Peel on headphones so my parents did not realise I was not asleep..!! (I note that 'Sweetest Girl' was in Peel's Festive 50 in 1981, and 'Asylums' and 'Faithless' in 1982. Very deservedly too).
A wonderful album, a true highlight of the 80s - this album kept me sane through my 'O' levels and beyond!!!
on 1 December 2001
'Songs to Remember' has finally been reissued- along with a recent feature looking at the alternate 80's in 'Uncut'- it provides evidence that that decade was a lot more than Duran & millennium lists, as depicted by blinkered TV-makers and inept 3rd rate celebrities. Nick Hornby's 'list culture' must be taken to task: nostalgia is the symptom of a dying culture...
This album is anything but nostalgia. It is evidence. It sounds great today- when 'The 'Sweetest Girl' ' is used in the film (that would have made better TV) 'Me Without You' you do debate whether 'Shipbuilding' was a better single in the cliched vacuous decade of legislated nostalgia...
'The 'Sweetest Girl'' is probably one of the best songs ever. Yes, up there with Lennon/McCartney, Dylan, Wonder, Buckley et al. The industrial/dub sounds that the sweetest song emanates from and the line "when the government falls/I wish I could tell"- proving that theoretical romance was the only option at transcending Thatcher's dark reign...This is a soul album, if Sam & Dave read Derrida. It is entryism; though has been pointed out elsewhere may have given rise to the banality of white soul (Wet Wet Wet, Sade, Michael Bolton). 'Asylums in Jerusalem' is a subtle-dub, with the 'sweetest voice' and is as good as any peak-period Stevie Wonder or Prince 1979-1988 (RIP)...1982 was a key year for the British album: Associates 'Sulk', Simple Minds 'New Gold Dream', ABC's 'The lexicon of Love'. The epic pop single was in mode: 'Say Hello, Wave Goodbye' & 'Torch' by Soft Cell prime examples. This album is fantastic, though it would be worth owning for 'The 'Sweetest Girl'' alone. Interesting that 'Lions After Slumber' bears a resemblance to Jack's 'My World vs. Your World': the latter being one of the few Brit bands as original as Scritti. Britpop?????? This and 'Cupid & Psyche 85' are vital (the latters 'The Word Girl', 'Wood Beez'& 'A Little Knowledge' are as divine); 'Provision' does contain 'Boom!There She Was' (predating Daft Punks disco vocoder, as 'Faithless' here) and Miles Davis on 'Oh Patti'. The latest, 'Anomie & Bonohmie' has its moments: 'First Goodbye', 'Ummm'. But this is the real deal and the best place to start. Songs to remember indeed.
Unavailable on shiny CD for years, decades even, I got reacquainted with this fantastic album recently having shamefully neglected my vinyl version.
I had forgotten about the soulful backing vocals, the wonderfully melodic double bass sound, the drifting sax, the sassy lyrics, the celestial vocals of Green, and the timelessness of the songs.
When I was 16 I played it to death. Now I'm 35 and doing it again. yes, A Slow Soul may have been better on the Asylums In Jerusalem 12", and yes perhaps the 12" version of Faithless should be on here, but they are minor quibbles only.
Trust me. Buy it.
on 29 January 2004
I personally came across “Scritti Politti” a.k.a. “Green Garside” when one of the tracks that makes up this classic album was included on the first tape given away free with the N.M.E. called “Rough Trade C81”, (which I still have) as you can probably gather it was a showcase for the acts that were signed to the “Rough Trade” record label at the time, the time being 1981, other acts that are on the tape where the likes of “The Beat”, Orange Juice”, Josef K, and “Subway Sect” to name a few of the artists that appear.
Side 1 of said tape started with what would turn out to be the last track on the album, yes the first track I heard was the “Dub” influenced song the “Sweetest Girl” this was enough of incentive for me to look for and buy the album when it became available, about 6 months later “Songs to Remember” became available, if my memory serves me correctly I had to buy the album in an independent record as the big shops like “Woolworth’s” and the like didn’t stock independent labels.
I had heard tracks such as the opener “Asylums In Jerusalem” that had a little hint of 50’s do-wop about it on radio 1’s “John Peel” show, what a difference from the first track I heard, more soul than dub, in fact all the tracks are nearly all different to each other.
One of my personal favourites being “Jacques Derrida” with its chorus of “I want it, I want it I want that too, B’baby it’s up to you, To find out somethin’ that you need to do, Because” it still sounds so funky with the guitar playing of “Green” punctuating the chorus.
The whole album is superb but another stand out track for me is the song “Rock-A-Boy Blue” with the sound of the double bass vibrating from the speakers along with the saxophone played in the minor under-pinning the middle 8 part, this is one of the albums that made the 80’s bearable this and ABC’s “Lexicon of Love” were a musical oasis in a dessert of music, get your hands on it today before it disappears again!..
on 27 January 2005
I first came across the name Scritti Politti a.k.a. Green Garside" when one of his tracks that makes up this classic album was included on the first tape given away free with the N.M.E. called "Rough Trade C81", (which I still have) as you can probably gather it was a showcase for the acts that were signed to the Rough Trade record label at the time, the time being 1981.
Other acts that are on the tape are the likes of The Beat, Orange Juice, Josef K, and Subway Sect to name a few of the artists that appeared.
Side 1 of the tape started with what would turn out to be the last track on the album, yes the first track I heard was the "Dub" influenced song the "Sweetest Girl" this was enough of incentive for me to look for and buy the album when it became available, about 6 months would pass before "Songs to Remember" became available, if my memory serves me correctly I had to buy the album in an independent record store as the big shops like "Woolworth's" and the like didn't stock independent labels at the time.
I first heard songs such as the opening track "Asylums In Jerusalem" that has hints of 50's do-wop about it on the late night John Peel Radio 1 show, what a difference from the first track I heard, this song has more soul than dub, in fact all the tracks on the album are different to each other.
One of my personal favourites on this album is "Jacques Derrida" with its chorus of "I want it, I want it I want that too, B'baby it's up to you, To find out somethin' that you need to do, Because" it still sounds really funky even today, with the choppy sounding guitar playing of Green punching out the chorus.
The whole collection is superb but another stand out track for me is the song "Rock-A-Boy Blue" with the sound of the double bass vibrating from the speakers along with the saxophone played in the minor under-pinning the middle 8 part, this is one of the albums that made the 80's bearable this and ABC's "Lexicon of Love" these albums where a musical oasis in a desert of music, grab a copy before it disappears again...
on 28 October 2004
Strange this, with the death of Peelie, I went back over all the songs he led me to. And even now, despite a huge change in my musical tastes, The Sweetest Girl is my all time favourite tune of all time. To my eternal shame I passed it off as a poem I wrote to both Joy Grimwood and Shirley Canfield, for all the good it did me! Listening to the whole album on vinyl, not withstanding the skips and jumps, almost all the songs really stand up as great tunes these days. Shame the 12" Faithless version isn't on this, but what a minor niggle. The real highlights are Asylums, Jacques Derrida and Lions but that is probably an injustice to the others. There's something about Green's voice that's both distant and close at the same time. One of only a few albums I can listen to all the way thru without having to skip any tracks along with Marvin's What's Going On and bizarrely (for readers of this review) SOS's It's Better To Travel and Matt Bianco's Whose Side Are You On! Buy it, it's cheap and you'll be very pleasantly surprised!!!!
on 14 November 2001
This is one of my favourite albums of all time. I would have liked the reissue to have included 12" versions (The 12" mix of Faithless is humongous - something like 10 minutes long - and the version of A Slow Soul on the the Asylums in Jerusalem single is far better than the album version with the sax noodling all over it).
One thing that's not often mentioned about the album is that it plays with the principles of deconstruction, by putting the parts of the creation of the music that would normally be hidden in full view: for example, the bit at the beginning of Sweetest Girl where Green is getting his note, which would normally have been cut out, the running of the lyricless guide vocal alongside the final vocal on Rock-a-boy Blue and the fact that the latter track is made from two completely different versions cut crudely together. There are other bits and pieces too.
on 9 April 2016
I have this on vinyl from back in the day & remember playing it to death. I've been listening to it again on CD after many years and have it on repeat. I have to agree that it's timeless. I can't get enough of this! I love all the different styles. It takes me back to summer in the 80's!
Originally released on Rough Trade in 1982, `Songs to Remember' was the debut album of Scritti Politti following a series of e.p.'s and singles now collected on the early compilation released in 2005. This was the transitional Scritti Politti, the principal member Green Gartside surrounding himself with new musicians including childhood hero Robert Wyatt - only Niall Jinks survives from the original DIY/squat/post-punk version of Scritti (he would exit shortly after). Following an infamous panic attack, Green abandoned live performance and was rumoured to have returned to his native Wales where he apparently wrote a book on jazz (???). He also became enamoured with Lover's Rock and the burgeoning hip-hop scene, abandoning the indie/post-punk climes he had been operating in and censuring the work of Pere Ubu (...which is fair enough if you heard them in the early 80s! - e.g. `Lonesome Cowboy Dave').
This album contains three key single releases - `The "Sweetest Girl"/'Lions After Slumber', `Asylums in Jerusalem/Jacques Derrida', and `Faithless' - though sadly the 12" version of the latter is not included (...which alone might justify another Scritti-compilation?). `The "Sweetest Girl" with its infamous punctuation suggesting Green isn't certain in the lyrics he is singing and that all is open to question. The "Sweetest Girl" starts off with a slightly industrial groove that reminds me of Throbbing Gristle, this gives way to a dubby, lover's rock vibe embellished with Wyatt's distinctive keyboard that reminds me a little of one of his finest moments, 1974's `Sea Song.' Gartside's lyrics focus on the theoretical - "the weakest link in any chain/I always want to find it/The strongest worlds in each belief/Find out what's behind it" - though the refrain "it's just loving, ooh loving" and references to the joys of walking in the park suggest love is more appealing that political engagement of the previous years. "When the government falls - I wish I could tell..." still sounds pertinent, Green perhaps choosing love and something above politics, something more mindful and soulful. `Lions After Slumber' was the flipside of The "Sweetest Girl" and is a philosophical rap concerning elements in Green's life, sounds like a list from his squat years and has a minor relative in the form of Jack's `My World vs. Your World.' Both tracks from this single also found their way onto the `early'-compilation.
Opening track `Asylums in Jerusalem' is another wonder, sort of prime Stevie Wonder with a sound that nods to both lover's rock and The Slits, it should be pointed out the backing vocals are great on this track (as they are throughout the album - remind me a bit of backing vocals on early Warren Zevon and Lou Reed's `Transformer'). Green nods to hip-hop for the first time, which would become a key influence on his following work, notably 1999's underrated `Anomie and Bonhomie' and current Run DMC-alluding single `The Boom Boom Bap.' The flipside of `Asylums...' was an ode to deconstructionist philosopher Jacques Derrida, who later became an acquaintance of Mr Gartside! It is kind of indie-skiffle, not far from the earlier-stuff, though with killer soulful vocals. `Faithless' meanwhile shows the use of keyboards, more gorgeous soul vocals and one of those sublime blue eyed soul moments - `Cupid & Psyche 85' came from here, particularly a track like `A Little Knowledge.'
The rest of the album is fine, though not amazing - `Songs to Remember' is a transitional album after all. `A Slow Soul' stands out and is as strong as a Dexys' track on `Don't Stand Me Down', while `Sex' is very of its time - though predicting the territory of FGTH, Madonna and Michael George. `Rock a Boy Blue' is fine and like a jazzier take on the avant-folk of the post-punk Scritti, though the soul inflections of `Gettin' Havin' & Holdin' sound a bit out of date now with many other people making post-modern nods to soul music.
`Songs to Remember' remains a fine album and could be seen as an example of the New Pop Paul Morley championed, I'd say it ranks alongside `Anomie' & `Cupid', though my favourite SP records are `early' and `White Bread, Black Beer.' Following this, Gartside would relocate to New York and record with Nile Rodgers (in a vault somewhere?), before signing to Virgin to pursue a pop dream that would climax with `Cupid & Psyche.' A key release of the 1980s and current Scritti play The "Sweetest Girl" - maybe they could add `Jacques Derrida' and `Asylums' to their set?