Yazz & Aswad – How Long

(video couldn’t be embedded – you can view here)
Release Date: July 93
Chart Position: 31

The Neggae scene is much like the dogging scene, you have to take the rough with the smooth and for every perfect orgasmic release, you have to take a few pre-cum stains on the windscreen along the way. Unfortunately this week’s single fits into the windscreen blemish category.  I haven’t heard this before but had my fingers crossed it wouldn’t be a cover of the Paul Carrack inspired Ace classic,  as soon as it started my heart sunk.
It’s more coffee table eggae, cynically manufactured neggae production with the vocals from a nostalgic, sentimental classic. I know Aswad paid their dues and all that, but this is them cashing in, and it’s a bland, insipid cash in at that. The vocals are decent, they can both sing but you can say that about a third of the X Factor contestants. I just can’t get any enthusiasm for this, maybe it’s S.A.D.S. or maybe it’s just the fact this is the neggae equivalent of being served up bread, rice and pasta as a meal, well boring mon.
Score: 3/10 – How long? 3 minutes and 56 seconds unfortunately.

I listened to this once and got lost halfway through as it fumbled around with a cigar lounge beat and an equally bad Yazz to go along with Aswad. Second time round I just couldn’t do it, turned it off and put on Shabba followed by some Jonny Gill acoustic sessions.
Yazz has a bit of Dawn Penn about her voice and that does my head in a little. Don’t get me wrong, I like Aswad but this is a shocker. It gets put into the Rick Astley postbox; ’nuff said about that.
Let’s move on to next week shall we and get into some Bitty McLean!
Score: 2/10 and already erased from my memory banks

So Yazz, famed for her ‘Only Way Is Up’ smash hit and other Dance, Funk and Christian influenced offerings teams up with Aswad. A partnership that initially I found strange until I did a bit more digging and it all started to make more sense. For her this was probably quite natural as it was going back to her father’s roots on the island. Aswad were involved with numerous other artists and did not seem too picky on who they managed to get into a studio with. But probably more relevant was the fact they were all part of the socialist elite and attended Holland Park School. If it was anything like my school, I can imagine the Aswad trio lining up single file every now and again, 50p in hand on the promise of a light fingering and a touch of boob behind the music hut at lunchtime. Not so often that it was considered weird but just enough to fuel a healthy little drug interest for her. Once the transaction was completed maybe the small talk took them to a place where they were all collaborating in the studio one day? Well I am actually glad they did.
I like this tune, it’s not a belter by any stretch of the imagination, but it was a fine offering that did nothing to harm either of their careers. In fact probably furthered their careers somewhat to the extent that Yazz no longer needed those 50ps and the Aswad boys could afford something a little more professional up town. The R&B influence helps the track along and gives it an edge over some of the other maybe more purist neggae tracks around at the time.
Just one suggestion from my side; maybe they called have called themselves Yazzwad? Might have offered a nice marketing angle?
Score: On balance I think a 6/10 is plenty from me on this one this week

I’ve a soft spot for this record for all the right reasons. OK, so it’s no Murder She Wrote or It’s Raining it’s Raining (both still to come), but it is a worthy addition to the Neggae canon. Firstly, if you glance down the Neggae Hot 90 you’ll see that this is the only real romantic duet on there. A lot of bromance, some standard Shabba style willy-waving, some novelty records, a few cash-ins, loads of covers, the odd gem, but no man-and-his-lady duets.
Another reason it’s great is that (to my ears) it touches on Lover’s Rock, that marvellous, overlooked strand of UK reggae from the late Sevs. The skittish electronic drums and digital bass produce a clean yet forceful sound that is very much a modernised version of its UK antecedent.
Aswad were of course no strangers to this. Like UB40, they were a FANTASTIC UK reggae outfit in the early 80s, and were renowned for the high quality variety of reggae they produced. Along with horn-heavy, ominous, Wailers style roots such as Warrior Charge, they also turned out lighter, romantic efforts such as 1982’s I Need you Love. I cannot stress how good this band were; and unlike UB40’s shocker from a few weeks earlier they come out of the Neggae era with their reputations intact.
Throw in Yazz to the mix and you’ve got a great little love song, plain and simple. Yasmin Evans soars gracefully over this record yet treats it with the respect it deserves. Some of her vocal flourishes are Whitneyesque; it’s a wonder she didn’t go on to greater things. Park alongside LSK in the file marked great crimes of British pop music. She sh*ts all over Annie Lennox that’s for sure.
There are a few criticisms. I think the song is a little over-produced, the riddim gets muted in the wash of synths. The instrumental break is a little meh. The great Lovers Rock of 77-83 has a stark, haunting quality to it that heightens the often melancholy melody. Drums are usually dubby, high in the mix and LIVE, so you can’t help but get your swerve on to it. Check out Carrol Thomson’s I’m so Sorry for an example. I wish ‘Yazzwad’ had gone all out on this one. It probably wouldn’t have charted, but man it would have sounded great.
Score: 7/10

At last. Our first entry from the London Based 80’s Reggae Juggernaut that is Aswad. Although a somewhat tepid entry into the Neggae era, better entries would follow from Brinsley Forde, Angus Gaye and Tony Robinson so I’m glad they’ve finally dipped a toe. The song itself is another Neggae cover. In my opinion, much like in the vein of UB40’s “I cant help falling in love with you“, its a brave call and a big ask to top the 1974 original from Ace. Does it go one better? Not for me it doesn’t.
The inclusion of Holland Park School chum and one hit wonder Yazz is a nice touch and offers light and shade in vocal variation. The Neggae feel is there, subtle island drums and off beat guitar riffs. However, when slowing a song down and Neggaefying, you have to produce something spectacular to keep the listener interested. By the time this one gets to the bridge a weird pan pipe kicks in. Reminds of the Patagonian who used to stand outside Woking Peacocks centre dressed in a wolf skin blowing his little lungs out to a Bontempi backing track. It got me thinking. I always thought he should team up with Michael the Bongo Man and Willie Nelson War Veteran to form some sort of Woking odd ball super group. Such a waste of raw street talent. They could have had Janice ( Michael’s stern faced wife/ minder) on crowd control, or perhaps she could act as some sort of “Bez” type dancer. Doing Parkour over benches and the war monument in the town square to keep the hoards of avid fans amused on a rain soaked Saturday afternoon. Sadly that’s where my interest in this song stopped. Even as covers go, its not the best in my opinion. Like Rod the Mod Stewart’s MOR 80’s “Sax Rawk” version and Barbara Mandrell’s 
Country offering before it, I think it falls down. If you want the best out of a bad bunch, Give Lipps Inc’s disco ditty a spin. Not quite Ace, but offers something different.
Score: How long? Too long and too slow. But an improvement on last week. 5 out of 10.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s