China Black – Searching

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Release Date: July 94
Chart Position: 4

This is my second review of this song, having just spent an hour and a half to write a considerate and in my opinion, funny narrative of China Black’s “Searching”. I click the send button to get this gem off to Neggae Elder Gouldy, get up breath a sigh of relief, grab a beer to get ready for Game 4 of the NBA finals. I walk in from the garage, glance at the computer to see a message that says Facebook isn’t responding. A couple of mad clicks later, it’s gone, into the cyberworld dumpster. Great, typical, just my luck. I feel like Basil Fawlty right now getting ready to give his unreliable mini a damn good thrashing.
Anyway, I have 2 minutes before tip off so here we go again, the abbreviated version.
Great vocals, nice effort even if does go borderline R&B at stages.
Good background / bassline, blends in well.
It gets a little repetitive towards the end when we are singing “I’ve got a woman who loves me, baby” four times with no significant change of pace. Although, I sang it all four times but felt a little drained towards the end.
Put me down for a solid 7/10 using this reasoning for my points distribution
2 points, Malibu worthy, easy sipping and listening
2 points, my 2 year old Abi said she liked it and had a little dance to it
3 points for content and vocals
Peace out my Neggae brothers, later


What was it with the 90s and male duos? All over the gaff.
Lighthouse Family. McAlmont & Butler. PJ & Duncan. Robson & Jerome. Our very own Chaka and P-Dog. Brian & Tony Gold (more from them later). I honestly cannot name any male duos in the charts right now (maybe because there’s no TOTP any more) – can you? Answers in a tweet to @Modernings please kids.
China Black are another example of Bromance pop. They were our very own Charles & Eddie. Let’s just check those stats:

 Charles & Eddie China Black
One black guy, one non-black guy One black guy, one non-black guy
non-black guy has long hair non-black guy has long hair
black guy has short curly hair black guy has short curly hair
Had one really good song then spooned it Had one really good song then spooned it

But enough of that – let’s talk about the song.
Searching is at the MOR end of Neggae, but it is Neggae nonetheless. Typical of the early 90s, it has a thumping Soul II soul break and is accompained by THAT Funkadelic drum break as used on Kosmos, Safe from Harm and pretty much any mid-tempo groover between 1990 and 1995.
The bass and keys are what make this resolutely Neggae – joyous, sparse, bubbling and digital. It’s interesting that this was released in 92 and did nothing.; two years later with a Neggae-assisted breeze it shifts half a million copies; at least 3 of which sat in Casa del Synan.  Errol Reid’s voice is a delight here – jumping octaves, whispering and hollering but never overdoing it. What’s great about the song is its classic verse/chorus/middle eight structure – what lets it down is that it last for a minute too long.
What’s a shame then is that China Black didn’t hang around. Their follow-up releases Stars and Almost See You (Somewhere) were not Neggae and were frankly naff. They moved in a moribund soul direction when all the UK wanted was Neggae Neggae Neggae. They would have done well to heed the wise words of one A. Partridge regarding giving the people want they want:

Alan Partridge: [Opening a file] Right, OK. Shoestring, Taggart, Spender, Bergerac, Morse. What does that say to you about regional detective series?
Tony Hayers: There’s too many of them?
Alan Partridge: That’s one way of looking at it, another way of looking at it is, people like them, let’s make some more of them.

Like a Neggae Stone Roses, China Black got caught up in legal disputes that halted them from releasing ANYTHING for 3 years. Very sad. Incidentally, one of their last ever gigs was the Radio One roadshow in Eastbourne, and a 12 year old Jamie was present at Neggae’s very own Woodstock moment. It clearly had a Damascene effect on him – when he came home all he did for a week was watch Cool Runnings and drink Lilt.
 Score: A bittersweet 7/10 from me.

This week it’s the turn of Royally Approved Neggaeists China Black to come under the spotlight, Royally Approved because they were the favourite neggae band of Princess Diana who was a regular Choice FM listener. This British Act took their name from the ethnic origin of each of the two members, Simon Finn is British Chinese hence ‘China’ and Errol Reid who has Jamaican roots hence ‘Black’. That must have been one hell of a brainstorming session. I must confess I wasn’t a fan of this when it came out but I listen to it now and it’s surprisingly ok, am I mellowing with age or has my brain broken and I’ve lost all my critical faculties, whichever it is I’m going to sit back and enjoy the ride.
Lyrically this is a pretty straight forward tale of a man’s search for something missing in his life, but as the search goes on there’s a dawning realisation that he had what he’s been looking for all along, the love of a good woman. It’s the neggae equivalent of Willy Fogg, where during Willy’s race round the world he realised the real value of the adventure wasn’t winning the money at the end but winning the love of a good cat and the loyalty and friendship of those couple of berks Rigadon and Tico.
Musically it’s a bit of a mixed bag if I’m honest, the intro is like a budget Massive Attack, Candy Flip basically, weird. Then after around 40 seconds the neggae kicks in and everything’s irie. It then flipmodes between each for the remainder of the song, it’s a bit like the Yowbs have recorded a song with Heaven 17, I find it confusing and I’m not sure I like it.
The video starts off in a whacked out trippy manner, which could be confusing but is quickly explained by the presence of a bonzed out Lou Diamond Phillips playing one note on a synth, the boy’s got form for this kind of behaviour. Then Dwayne Chambers gets in on the act dressed in his Carlton Banks outfit jamming with his band, it all looks like great fun. Then it gets a bit sinister as it cuts to two girls, who’ve clearly been slipped something and dragged to a disused warehouse by four men, I’ve seen Crimewatch and this ain’t going to end well. The video then ends with one of the women closing her eyes to try and escape the chilling scene unfolding in front of her.
It’s a bit confused, a sort of neggae ‘Tears for Fears’, not sure about it, 5/10.

I was really excited about this particular review and been looking forward to it for a few weeks, so much that I missed the deadline for completing it on time; causing quite a stir at Neggae Towers I can tell you. For you avid followers out there I can tell you that I really am on thin ice now with the elders and feel I am on my last chance now!
Anyway……after listening to it a few times I am now a little confused by the whole thing.
Firstly the song is not as good as I remembered it. It is very formulaic and the base line sounds as if it is straight from the Casio SK-1 pre set menu; a tactic that would have been slaughtered by any other outfit. Yes it’s relevant, but I can’t pretend that I have never heard it before. It also goes almost nowhere and has very little development other than the break after the intro. So again a little disappointing.
However, I cannot ignore the significance of this track and the important part that it has played in my life and the movement in general. This is another very important stop for the Neg train picking up with it more and more non believers. This track was massive and I remember it playing in bars, clubs and other underage drinking establishments of the mid 90’s. Because of that it stirs up all kinds of fond memories of the summer including my real discovery of drinking and a long list of girls that did not want to talk to me.
Tough to call this one, but in the whole 8/10 I think is fair.

Searching by China Black is an absolute belter.
It truly is an epic slice of soul drenched Neggae. The opening keyboard melody, synths, optimistic bass line and a massive slow break tell you that this is going to be a feel good song. For the first 30 seconds however it could be a slow jam from any number of 90’s soul power houses. CoulourMeBad, The Pasadenas, or even Charles and Eddie. There is no indication that this is going to veer into a Neggae Banger until the Neggae Signature Drum in fill 2* kicks in and wham, dawn has broken.
I have nothing but memories of good times of this song, its an ode to Summer and the soulful bridge containing the “I’ve found a woman who loves me” gives the track a 3rd dimension just as you get to thinking its good enough.
I was lucky enough to catch China Black at the peak of their powers in the Summer of 94.
Being 12 years old in the Summer of July 94 I was still lucky enough to be going on summer Vacations with my Mum and Dad. Vince was earning on the market by this stage so had a valid excuse not to come on the Sun’s 9.50 holiday to Eastbourne and take top bunk.
If you haven’t been to Eastbourne it probably means your under 85 years old, or you don’t go on Sun 9.50 holidays. There wasn’t a great deal to do for a 12 year old. What’s worse is that I had a chin length Undercut and quite a demure frame for a twelve old boy. In green jeans and Sunglasses I looked quite androgynous. My dad did try to tell me this but I wasn’t having it. What did he know?!
This meant that much to my mums amusement any old Vera or Gladys would quite often approach me with an “excuse me young lady” when trying to get my attention. I was quite a stroppy little girl after 3 days of this so as a treat my mum decided to take me the Radio One Road Show.
All in all it was poxy, but it was free. Mark Goodyear creating audience participation out front, a host of other Radio 1 DJ’s no doubt participating in all sorts of wrong out back. Most of the acts were utter muck but somehow Radio One managed to book Carleen Anderson and China Black on the same day, this was all I wanted to see.
At the end of the day the acts were paraded in a press area to the side of one of the Radio one trucks to do autographs and photos for anyone who really felt they needed a memento of such a shambles of a concert. Yes , that included me. I got Autographs on a blue post-it pad I had on my person for some reason. I also got some photos of Carleen Anderson and numerous disposable camera snaps of the sides and back of the head of China Black’s Erol Reid. This was after gleefully shaking both his and the hands of the weird Chinese guy (who still scares me a little bit to this day). This was the highlight of my holiday and possibly my summer.
When September came around I went back to school. For some reason I thought it would be cool to show my mates how action packed my summer was. I brought in my post it note and some photos of a load of complete strangers clambering over a barrier. A clear photo of Carleen Anderson posing wasn’t enough too impress the hard lads in my class as nobody knew who she was.
“Yeah, look at this then…China Black!” I retorted. waggling a photo of the back of a tramline and the weird loooking fellow from CB who really did resemble a triad.
None of my mates believed that this was a photo of China Black, or that I had met them, so naturally I embellished the story in an unnatural attempt to make it more believable.
“It is China Black, I spoke to them and everything” I said.
One of my more stalwart chums replied: “Oh yeah, if you met em what are their first names?” As if Goodyear was on hand to make a formal introduction over a handshake and a mineral water.
I stalled for a moment, I was on the back foot, I needed something fast to back up a crap story, and there it was the worst porkie pie I ever got away with.. “Jimmy China and Johnny Black …..if you must know”.
There was an uncomfortable silence before my chums decided that they couldnt get a read on me and everyone decided that it was plausible. They accepted that the photos were in fact of China Black and parity was restored. I had in fact advanced in social status having been to a “gig” over the Summer. Albeit with my mum and dad and off the back of a holiday which my mum collected vouchers for.
For China Black however it was all downhill from here on out. They will always be known primarily for Searching. A classic piece of Neggae from Start to finish. If that was all they ever did however, there would be no need to embellish their own skills, as Searching has and will be enjoyed by many and for some years yet to come.
10 out of 10 from me
*Rights reserved by Yamaha



2 thoughts on “China Black – Searching

  1. This is a great song but it’s not neggae! How it can score more than Boom Shak A Lak is beyond me.

    Top site though, needless to say.

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