A bit on how I got onto Black Grape. When I bought the Michael Hutchence solo album (which I last reviewed) I came across the name Danny Saber ( Saber produced and play on much of Hutchence's record) and became intrigued by his production and wanted to know more about him. Saber had done alot of work with various artists but his biggest success was in the UK in the 1990's with Black Grape. I was interested in checking them out having already been impressed by Saber's production. I was also familiar with vocalist Shaun Ryder's work with the Happy Mondays. Which I like to an extent. They aren't my favorite band by any means but a few songs I've enjoyed. Anyway the Happy Mondays came from Manchester and aligned with Factory records home of Joy Division, New Order etc. In the late 80's early 90's rave/house music was getting big and Happy Mondays like Black Grape touched on that scene but added some other influences as well. However after 4 albums and Ryder's drug addiction, the Mondays fell apart. Ryder was expected to OD or something to most people in the music world. Black Grape was his response to all that.
He formed the group in the aftermath of the Mondays and got somewhat cleaned up. From there the group recorded it's debut and one truly great record. It' Great When You're Straight...Yeah came out in 1995 and was a hit in Britain and has as with most of Ryder's work obtained a cult following in America. I'm certain most of my friends have never heard of the group much less are familiar with it's work. Anyway it's not a record for everyone. It is trippy at points, chilled at others and straight up ecstasy filled bizarre at others. However I cannot get enough it's an intensely fun record. Danny Saber's production is quite good as it seems to conjure either a very sunny fun loving atmosphere or even a laid back club kind of vibe. Very much in tune with say the European dance clubs of Ibiza a la Cafe Del Mar.
Shaun Ryder can't sing if his life depended on it but he can come up with some witty and fun lyrics. Throughout the album it's tuneless, rapping and shouting that Ryder comes up with. That's ok because that's the point his delivery and flow is entertaining in and of itself. His best moments are his trades with rapper Kermit. Alot of the lyric content is full of drug references and utter nonsense. However they do manage to pull off some clever word play and references. Drugs are abound but so are literary and pop culture references it's all about fun and atmosphere and this record just had that in abundance. Musically the band has some good work as well. Drummer Ged Lynch is always funky and always fucking awesome whether driving up tempo like In the Name of the Father or laid back grooves like Big Day in the North. Emma Day's backing vocals on In the name of the Father is album's most soulful vocal and I rather it like contrasted with Ryder's out of tune voice. Danny Saber is the real hero though, besides production he does of a butt load of bass, guitar, keyboard and other instrumental work on the album. He essentially is the driving musical force of the group and he really should be praised for the atmospheric production and tight musicianship he displays. I recommend this record for a dance party, or to get high to but not for those looking for a deep emotional connection record. This record is all about in your face fun and if you can't deal with it you should leave the party.
My personal favorite tracks are In the Name of the Father, Kelly's Heroes, Reverend Black Grape, Tramazi Party, Big Day in the North, Shake Well Before Opening and Shake Your Money!! Shake Your Money is the best profane sing along I've heard in a long time!!!!