Manchester’s Andy Carthy is best known for his whimsical, Sharpie-drawn doodles and the equally snazzy, jazzy music of Mr. Scruff. The culmination of two years of work, his latest album, Ninja Tuna (Ninja Tune), features collaborations with Quantic, Danny Breaks, Alice Russell, and Roots Manuva.
That’s all well and good for the recently established tea baron and English pie connoisseur, but he has another signature skill: the all-night DJ set. He often hauls lively stacks of Afrobeat, Latin funk, reggae grooves and soul-jazz gems across the Atlantic. Beaming in via Skype from his record den in Manchester, Carthy revealed to Flavorpill’s Tomas Palermo the five rare wax revelations that he considers his champion cuts.
1. Prince Buster “Islam” (Islam) I love the man’s music and he’s done so much. He had several labels, Islam being one of them. It’s not really a ska record, although the instrumentation is there. It’s like Afrobeat ska and it sounds very much like the Fela Kuti and Koola Lobitos album, which was recorded in LA. It’s got a kind of highlife thing to it, minor-key chords; it’s very propulsive, very lyrically similar to the Fela stuff as well. It’s great dance music but you can see how it paved the way for a lot of the conscious roots stuff. It’s completely unlike any other Prince Buster record I’ve heard!
2. Carlos Morgan “Shake Your Body” (Love Train) This is from Toronto and it’s a reggae cover of a Jackson’s tune. The difference is that it starts off with a standard disco beat with a 16-bar intro with crowd sounds and some kids having a chat the same way the Jacksons did on their version, then just before the first verse it switches via a reggae drum roll and drops 30 beats slower into a really nice jaunty reggae version. For a DJ it’s really good for changing the tempo and also just chucking in a little surprise. I find that unusual versions of classic tunes just make people wig out, especially [in this case] when everyone expects a disco tune.
3. Gustav Braun “Gustav Braun Plays For You Pop Jazz and Swing” (Opus) It’s a Czechoslovakian record from 1976 – from when that country existed. And the song I play of the album is called “Calling of the Rain,” which is another really off tune. I first heard my friend Gip from the Dig Collective in Leeds play this one. It kicks off with a cláve and then a shaker and this mad tom-tom riff comes in. It’s really fiery, almost like Latin rock. It almost sounds like “The Nervous Track” by Nuyorican Soul; it’s got a rolling rhythm and an unbelievable drum section, a fat brass section, rock-y guitar solos…When you have funky big band and its played well, it can be incredible – like Woody Herman and those people. This is one of those pieces of dance floor fire that’s never gone down badly.
4. Doc Severinsen “Brass Roots” (Dynaflex) This is another big band thing from 1971. I think he used to lead Johnny Carson’s band on TV. The tune is called “Good Medicine,” it’s quite similar to the last tune. It starts off with a bit of conga, then the shakers come in, fat drums, it’s very uptempo. It’s has a rude cláve bass line and really fiery brass stopping and starting, drum solos and a big fanfare at the end. You can play this after a banging house tune and it just lifts the roof off. It doesn’t sound wimpy compared to modern production, it sounds very fat and full of life.
5. The Bamboos of Jamaica “Move Girl” (Durium) It’s a killer funk tune from 1971 by a Jamaican band. The lead singer almost sounds like Toots [Hibbert]. Proper big brass section — it almost sounds like a TV band funk record because its very polished, but still big fat drums and fat bass. I’m obviously on some kind of TV band, library orchestra trip today. Everything I’ve pulled out seems to have that flavor. But yeah, this is a good heavy, slow dancefloor-filling club track!