- Audio CD (28 Feb. 2011)
- Number of Discs: 1
- Format: CD
- Label: EMI
- ASIN: B003A7I4YO
- Other Editions: Audio CD | Vinyl | MP3 Download
- Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 12,345 in CDs & Vinyl (See Top 100 in CDs & Vinyl)
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Absolute is the first ever, career-spanning collection of works and music by Scritti Politti – including two new and exclusive tracks. This collection includes tracks from all four albums, Songs to Remember, Cupid & Psyche, Provision, and Anomie and Bonhomie.
The two new, exclusive tracks are “A Day Late and a Dollar Short” and “A Place We Both Belong” – the first to be released/co-written with long-time collaborator, David Gamson, since Anomie and Bonhomie.
As Green Gartside enjoys another lengthy hiatus between albums, this first career-spanning retrospective in Scritti Politti’s 34-year stint plugs a gap, picking tracks from those sparse decades and throwing in a couple of new ones to sweeten the deal. And Scritti were always about sugaring the pill; candy-cute vocals and light-as-air pop-funk arrangements did a great job of smuggling big ideas and smart wordplay into the charts, at least in the mid-80s. But Gartside could never stick around long enough to keep any momentum going.
Unlike Scritti’s own career, Absolute starts with the hits. Five in a row from second album Cupid & Psyche 85, beginning with the fizzing, punning Wood Beez (Pray Like Aretha Franklin), through the sly lovers rock of The Word Girl and onto US top 10 smash Perfect Way. These are startling examples of immaculate, state-of-the-art 80s pop, produced by soul backroom legend Arif Mardin and honed to perfection by Gartside and then-colleagues David Gamson and Fred Maher, and they opened doors that the Camden squat collective of eight years earlier couldn’t have hoped to barge.
With Mardin’s approval and Gartside’s timing, Scritti found acceptance with the sort of R&B legends they were hoping to ape, leading to writing songs for Chaka Khan and the extraordinary domino effect of having Miles Davis first cover one of their numbers and then guest on one. That song is Oh Patti (Don’t Feel Sorry for Loverboy), a marriage of soft jazz and blue-eyed soul that followed Cupid & Psyche then and here, the first song off 1988’s troubled Provision. Gartside had made outlandish leaps, but recognition was too much for him and he shrank from it, holing himself up in his native Wales for the next decade or so.
Absolute’s odd sequencing jumps straight to his re-emergence in 1999 with the hip hop/delicate pop-soul hybrid of Anomie & Bonhomie, here represented by four tracks that have aged far better than low-key approval at the time might have suggested. It’s strange too that it should have greater presence than 1982’s Songs to Remember, which makes do with three tracks, including the deathless, Robert Wyatt-assisted dub-pop of The ‘Sweetest Girl’ and signature Scritti tune Jacques Derrida, finding romance in philosophical tract.
Absolute has extras to offer the completists, including meaty sleeve-notes from pop scholar Simon Reynolds, who’d already lovingly chronicled Scritti’s formative years in his Rip It Up And Start Again. Two new tracks are worked up with classic-period partner David Gamson: A Place We Both Belong and Day Late and a Dollar Short are a lush ballad and spry funk bounce respectively, and ample proof there’s life in the impossibly youthful old dog yet. As he averages seven years between albums, you should grab any Gartside you can get.
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Top customer reviews
I am also disappointed they did not include "Boom Boom Bap" from his 2006 comeback, as that is a real corker, or the classic "Faithless", but resorted to too many tracks from "BonHomie" for my taste.
Finally "Perfect Way" seems very loud compared to its surroundings, as if the compiler hadn't listened to the full album.
That all seems very negative, but I guess you can reprogram the tracks chronologically if you want (with or without "Skank"), and none of this really detracts from the brilliance of the man when on form! Hence 4 stars.
I really hope Green does some more albums, whether more poppy (like the two newer 'demo' tracks with David from 2007) or acoustic like his last album, as he still knows how to write and sing a good toon.
What's good is getting the 7" versions of the 'Cupid & Psyche '85' hits and it makes sense to start the album with these. What is not so good is the way it unfolds from then on. Not including 'First Boy...' from 'Provision' is ridiculous. Not including the stand alone 1991 single 'Take Me In Your Arms' is a mistake. Bothering with the diabolical 'Skank Bloc Bologna' does nothing more than show how important it is for artists to be given the chance to develop. The inclusion of 'Umm' & 'Die Alone' from the 'A & B' album and 'Jacques Derrida' from 'Songs To Remember' is a waste of CD space that could have been better utilized by some 'White Bread, Black Beer.' As for the two 'new' (2007) tracks, 'A Day Late And A Dollar Short' is a worthy addition while 'A Place We Both Belong' is pleasant but unremarkable.
Obviously this is a Virgin Records-only release and no deal was struck with Rough Trade to include songs from White Bread, Black Beer (my assumption) even though Songs To Remember was originally a Rough Trade release (now through Virgin) and such a deal could have resulted in added sales for Rough Trade.
Why not a thicker booklet with a photo montage really taking us down memory lane?
Why no liner notes from Green?
Why not an accompanying DVD of the videos?
The answer/s? Virgin Records "don't work that hard, not for love..." and so we Scritti fans are left "drowning in (our) teardrops."
I expect that if it had purely been singles then it would have exceeded 80 minutes of one disc, and if compiling a 'best of' Scritti, then 160 minutes of music would have been a stretch (there are only 6 full length albums to select from).
Frustratingly, as it is biased towards the hit singles, the one most obvious omission is 'Absolute' - the version on this disc is the remastered ALBUM track not the single version (the single is 3.53 long - I tried a vinyl to digital transfer a long time ago). Presumably the single version has been lost in Virgin's archives. Also, the various non-album singles could have been here (presumably those tapes are lost too?) except the ghastly cover version 'She's A Woman' which has dated very badly.
Enough of the negativity - this is still a wonderful collection of many of the highlights of Green's writing, from the punky-reggae collision to the smooth pop and cerebral 1980's, to the logical progession of rap for the Anomie album, and two new tracks finding Green's higher register maturing into a soothing near-crooner voice. Sadly no contributions from White Bread Black Beer though.
Starting with the singles from Cupid & Psyche 85, the nice thing is that they are presented as the single versions which is great as I know all Scritti fans know the album versions backwards!
Provision's singles are up next although First Boy In This Town is not here for some reason which is a bit of a shame as it's one of my personal favourites.
Then we are served up several tracks from 1999's Anomie and Bonhomie, two of which were never singles (Die Alone and Brushed With Oil) but still sound great.
Next up are the early singles from Songs to Remember followed by the duet with Shabba Ranks (She's A Woman) and finally the two new tracks. Day Late & A Dollar Short is very current but also at the same time very reminiscent of a Cupid & Psyche era Scritti track. A Place We Both Belong is more mellow but still a welcome addition.
Overall the album demonstrates the versatility of Green Gartside and remind us of what an under appreciated genius he is/was.
My one criticism is a few gems were omitted: First Boy In This Town, Take Me In Your Arms And Love Me and I Don't Know Why I Love You.
Buy the album and search for the other tracks!
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Most recent customer reviews
Scritti Politti-Absolute (Album)
Absolute unites the core highlights of the career of Welsh wizard, Green...Read more
Such variety in the songs chosen here which gives anyone a good starting point to seek out more Scritti loveliness...Read more
I've enjoyed Green Gartside's collaborations with BEF over the years.