Thursday, 7 February 2008

A GUY CALLED GERALD: Voodoo Ray


There had been other British house tunes prior to 1988, but none really venturing beyond the functional or the colourfully crass - no insult that latter, given that the crayon cheerfulness of things like D*Mob's "We Call It Acieed" was as vital to that year's climate as anything emanating from Detroit or Chicago - but "Voodoo Ray" (as with its unlikely Mancunian twin, "The Storm" by World of Twist) was the first one to suggest clouds beneath the yellow facade. It is assembled from the barest of elements; a subtly looped, not quite human, Eastern (Bloc?) voice, a fulsome but never quite settled 808 line and bitonally propulsive rhythms. Each comes in and out of focus and echo.


Then there is Peter Cook. When "Voodoo Ray" eventually crossed over into the UK singles chart in 1989 after a year and more of availability, Cook found himself back in the Top 40 for the first time since 1965. Gerald Simpson's sampler wasn't quite lavish enough to accommodate long samples; thus Cook's "voodoo rage" gets cut off to become "ray" and the happy accident changes music for the millionth time (there is no reliable evidence that Cook ever heard the track). But there is a deeper implication; the sample is taken from the Derek And Clive (Live) version of the venerable Cook/Moore "Bo Duddley" sketch - a piece which many of our more celebrated music writers would do well to revisit - a brilliant routine where two po-faced middle class white boys attempt to analyse sundry standard R&B lyrical tropes in the manner of Radio 3's old Critics' Forum (or BBC2's new-ish Newsnight Review), unwittingly patronising and entirely missing the point. "Voodoo Ray" seems to subvert this subversion further, to the point where the record becomes something of a reclamation of culture and meaning; the logical extension of what Cook and Moore were attacking. Though drizzly in its beats and aura, it nevertheless breaks free and turns into a hymn (especially when the thrilling topline turns bitonal towards the end); like this blog, it could theoretically go on forever, its acid rain turning into improbable blossoms.