On 28th February Virgin Records will release the first-ever career-spanning collection by one of the truly original and creative pop talents to emerge from the ashes of the post-punk era, Scritti Politti.
Taking their name from the political writings (Scritti Politici) of Italian Marxist theorist Antonio Gramsci, Scritti Politti was conceived in a Camden squat in 1978 as an experimental collective. Their first single, ‘Skank Bloc Bolonga’, financed by Rough Trade and released on their own St. Pancras label, dealt with the themes of Gramsci’s ‘historic bloc’ and the radical events that were occurring at the time in the Italian city of Bologna. After one more single, a year later, realising that the post-punk scene was descending into a musical ghetto and, ironically, increasing conservatism, after a sojourn to South Wales, singer and songwriter Green Gartside emerged with a singular vision: to embrace pop and infiltrate the mainstream whilst retaining the cerebral and subversive influences that had fuelled the band’s work so far.
The result was the debut of Green’s ethereal falsetto on the lovers-rock-meets-new-pop, ‘The “Sweetest Girl’” (later covered by Madness), which featured one of Green’s musical heroes, Robert Wyatt, on piano. Following its appearance on a cassette given away by the NME, the single sent ripples through the industry and, after the release of the 1982 album Songs To Remember (UK chart position #12) - which also included the skewed funk single ‘Asylums In Jerusalem’ and ‘Jacques Derrida’, a pop song about the French philosopher – Scritti signed to Virgin Records.
With a passion for the sounds emerging from New York, particularly hip hop, Green moved to the city in 1983 and began working with keyboard player David Gamson and drummer Fred Maher. The resulting album, Cupid & Psyche 85, was produced by the legendary producer Arif Mardin who had worked with, amongst many other greats of the 20th Century, Aretha Franklin, lending perfect symmetry to the album’s first single, ‘Wood Beez (Pray Like Aretha Franklin)’. The album and single charted at #5 and #10 respectively in the UK. Four more singles - all of which are included on this compilation - ‘Absolute’ (UK #17), ‘Hypnotise’, ‘The Word Girl’ (UK #6) and ‘Perfect Way’ (US #11), were also released from the album.
Their 1988 UK #13 single ‘Oh Patti (Don’t Feel Sorry For Loverboy)’, was a sublime single featuring a mesmerising trumpet solo from jazz genius Miles Davis (who himself covered Scritti’s ‘Perfect Way’). The single was taken from their third album, Provision (UK #8), which also featured legendary musician Roger Troutman on the single ‘Boom! There She Was’.
Following the 1991 Top 20 single ‘She’s a Woman’ – a cover of The Beatles’ song, featuring guest vocals from Shabba Ranks – Green took an 11-year break from releasing music. Upon his return in 1999, Scritti released the universally acclaimed, hip hop-influenced album Anomie and Bonhomie, which featured guests Mos Def and Lee Majors (‘Tinseltown To The Boogiedown’), and Grammy-nominated musician Meshell Ndegeocello (who played bass on the album and rapped on ‘Die Alone’).
Absolute stands as a testament to the unique vision of Green Gartside and Scritti Politti: a distillation of sugar-coated pop, lover’s rock, soul and hip hop, soundtracking a sophisticated critique of love and consumerism.
In keeping with Green’s ever-evolving oeuvre, Absolute also debuts two new and exclusive tracks – the first to be released/co-written with long-time collaborator David Gamson since Anomie and Bonhomie - ‘A Day Late & A Dollar Short’ and ‘A Place We Both Belong’.
1. Wood Beez (Pray Like Aretha Franklin)
3. The Word Girl
4. Perfect Way
6. Oh Patti (Don’t Feel Sorry For Loverboy)
7. Boom! There She Was
9. Tinseltown To The Boogiedown
10. Die Alone
11. Brushed With Oil, Dusted With Powder
12. Skank Bloc Bolonga
13. The “Sweetest Girl”
14. Asylums In Jerusalem
15. Jacques Derrida
16. She’s A Woman
17. A Day Late & A Dollar Short*
18. A Place We Both Belong*