Classic House Series – Episode #7 – Praise You – Fatboy Slim

Norman Cook a.k.a. Fatboy Slim a.k.a. Pizzaman a.k.a The Brighton Port Authority a.k.a. at least 15 other aliases has in the past described himself as “A big silly guy who makes big silly records.”  This description is no more evident than in one of his most timeless and revered productions, 1999’s Praise You.

Best-known under his Fatboy Slim guise, when Cook dropped this onto the world it truly was something unlike what had ever been heard before.  Not a house track per se, this sample-heavy gem (very sample-heavy as we shall see below) is considered to be one of the best tunes of the 90’s and a defining staple of the “Big Beat” genre that was enjoying huge success at the time thanks to Slim’s album “You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby” (whose title is a direct reference to the single) and the funky break-beat centered efforts of Chemical Brothers, The Crystal Method, and Daft Punk.

Norman Cook has been producing some of the biggest tracks around since 1985 when he joined The Housemartins with friend Paul Heaton.  He followed this up with a string of successful solo and collaborative releases and enjoyed some chart success under his Pizzaman alias with Trippin’ On Sunshine, Sex On The Streets, and Happiness, the latter being notably featured in a UK fruit juice commercial for the Del Monte Foods Corporation.

In 1996, Cook adopted the new pseudonym Fatboy Slim under which he has achieved his biggest success.  His first LP under this guise “Better Living Through Chemistry” contained the UK Top-40 hit Everybody Needs a 303 and set the tone for his sophomore album, which received critical and commercial acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic.  The second album continued to focus on sample-heavy, breakbeat-oriented production and contained one of Cook’s other best-known productions, The Rockafeller Skank.  Cook has stated that in order to clear the samples to release this track, he has had to release 100% of the track royalties to the sampled artists, meaning Cook receives no royalties himself, but the exposure he received must certainly be considered a worthwhile trade-off.

And speaking of samples, Praise You contains no less than six as identified through sample credits and sample spotters.  The main vocal hook came courtesy of the intro to Take Yo’ Praise from 70’s soul singer Camille Yarbrough and yes, that is indeed part of the theme to “Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids” running through the song’s bridge.  Throw in at least four other samples from the likes of the Steve Miller Band, a test LP called Sessions from JBL, and even a funky guitar lick from “Mickey Mouse Disco” (yes, you read that right, I even had a copy back in the day!), and Cook’s signature beats, editing and acid lines and you’ve got a cornacopia of sounds that come together to form one of the funkiest and most unique sounding tunes ever made.  You can check out the full list of sampled tunes (that we know of) on this page on www.whosampled.com to see how the track was composed.

Of course, every great track needs a great video.  Enter acclaimed director, producer and actor Spike Jonze, whose resume includes music videos for the likes of Daft Punk, Chemical Brothers, Weezer and Beastie Boys (may you rest in peace, MCA), the Academy Award winning films “Being John Malkovich“, “AdaptationandWhere the Wild Things Are“, and serving as the co-creator and producer of MTV’s Jackass.

Jonze took a guerilla-style approach to filming involving a choreographed dance routine outside of a movie theatre in Westwood, California.  Jonze himself stars as the leader of the fictitious Torrance Community Dance Troupe and even features a cameo from Cook himself, notably at the end of the clip.  I don’t believe words can really do the clip justice, so I invite you to check out the video posted above.  You won’t be sorry.  The clip went on to win three awards at the 1999 MTV Video Music Awards including Breakthrough Video, Best Direction and Best Choreography.  Filmed for approximately $800.00, the video is a great early example of the “flash mob” phenomenon currently sweeping YouTube before the term was even coined and is heralded to this day as one of the best and most unique music videos ever made.

Combine the genius of Cook’s ability to layer all of the diverse samples together to create a funky, feel-good tune and the genius of Jonze’s vision for the video and you have one of the most enduring representations of the avant-garde approach that typified the Big Beat sound of the time and a video that has influenced dozens of directors through to this day.  I pulled this one out at a private party I did just last week and smiles instantly appeared on most of the faces of the people in attendance.

To Mr. Cook and Mr. Jonze:  please continue to take yo’ praise right through to this day.  You deserve it like you should.

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It Shall Be(Original Mix) – Shawn Austin

Well folks, things are going beautifully here at thekeytothehouse with well over 300 page views and nearly 60 page views of our Eric Prydz presents:  Pryda review alone!  I appreciate all the support and remain grateful and humbled by it.  In that regard, I hope you all will enjoy the new track I finished up this past weekend called “It Shall Be”.  It’s a funky, techy, at times minimal tune, and I hope fans and DJs alike will give it a spin and, please, let me know how you feel about it!!!

It is available for free download and so far, has been getting a great response.  Big thanks to my Twitter superfan Frank Sinop for his compliments and for consistently supporting the blog.  Please leave your comments below on on Soundcloud and you can check out all my tunes at www.soundcloud.com/shawnaustinmusic.

Again, many thanks to all of you for the love and support.  You are always welcome in this house!

Classic House Series, Episode #6 – Let Me Show You – K-Klass

One word to describe this one back in the day:  CHOON!!!

This was one of the gems that used to keep me glued to Chris Sheppard’s Pirate Radio shows during the mid-90’s.  The main reason:  THAT PIANO LINE!!!  “Piano-house”, as it is sometimes called, had its share of moments, but this was the big one for me.  “Let Me Show You” was one of those tracks that started with a burst of energy and it simply doesn’t let up over the course of the tune.

The group known as K-Klass consists of Andy Williams, Carl Thomas, Russ Morgan, and Paul Roberts.  Williams and Thomas met Morgan and Roberts at La Hacienda in Manchester during the 80’s and decided to team up to make some house tracks.  Their gear was very basic, an SH-101 and a Tandy mixer, but this didn’t stop them from making some of the best house music of the early 90s.  The group’s first hit, “Rhythm is a Mystery”, reached number three on the UK singles chart and “Let Me Show You” hit number 13 in 1993.  Since then, they have gone on to release a slew of well received singles and albums, worked with the Pet Shop Boys on their album “Bilingual” and have produced top-notch remixes for the likes of Candi Staton, Rosie Gaines and a classic remix of “I Hate That I Love You” from Rihanna and Ne-Yo.  That one is a personal fave and you should definitely check it out if you haven’t already.

“Let Me Show You” became a rave anthem and a subsequent crossover success.  It is a beautiful combination of a high-energy rhythm section, some powerful synth stabs, vocals from frequent K-Klass collaborator Bobbi Depasois, and the piano hook that sucked people in and never let go.  Many times have I seen a dancefloor scream and raise their hands to the air when the hook comes in and an explosion of madness when the drop comes.  K-Klass remixed and re-released the single in 1999 with a new club mix that has a speed-garage vibe and certainly can hold its own against the original.  However, it is still the original that I find myself reaching for when it’s time to give a party a good kick in the pants.

This is no doubt a seminal tune from the early-90s house era and one that deserves to be pulled out time and again for some pure dancefloor madness.