Nothing quite complements Thanksgiving like a marathon. No, not the challenging kind — a cultural marathon. Clunky holiday movies and such would be go-to marathon constituents, and some public radio stations have proven goodly enough to air This American Life marathons, but for this Podthinker, making Thanksgiving Thanksgiving meant going all the way to another country — to a country that doesn't even celebrate the holiday — for more than a little bit of that which really and truly merits thanks: old school.
In this context, the term "old school" carries a specific meaning. First, it refers to music. Second, it refers specifically to the "soul", "funk" and "R&B" fiefdoms on the great musical kingdom's map. Third, it refers more specifically to music released chiefly within the time period spanning from 1975 through 1985, as distinct from the "classic" soul of an earlier era or the "nu-soul" to follow. Fourth, it refers even more specifically to quite possibly the best music ever produced, which also happens to be the wheelhouse of Vinyl Morpher Dave, London club DJ and host of The Vinyl Morpher Show.
Since June, the Morpher has been regularly laying down two-hour mixes packed with old school, and it is these mixes — punctuated with his own enthusiastic commentary, which to the untrained American ear sounds almost exactly like the voice of Ricky Gervais' David Brent — that constituted the sonic background of your Podthinker's turkey-laden holiday. It was nonstop fat bass, smooth strings, electric keys, laid-back wah-wahing rhythm guitar and beats that don't come any more solid. Your Kashifs. Your Cheryl Lynns. Your The Times. And the experience couldn't have been replicated by merely firing up one of (rest assured, many) finely-calibrated Pandora old school stations, becase Morpher's presence is vital. He's nothing like the knowledge-free blowhards looking to chash their paychecks that litter the music radio spectrum; his love for old school is the real thing. When he declares that the track upon which he's about to drop the needle is an "absolute tune", as he very often does, he clearly means it from the bottom of his 808-beating heart. (This stuff delights not only Americans and Brits, but enthusiasts the world over, as is evidenced by the recorded messages from Germans and such woven into the program.)
But perhaps it's reductive to imply that The Vinyl Morpher Show is about the old school and the old school only. As much as that would suit your Podthinker, the Morpher diversifies, but he does so in a way that doesn't stray from his core mission of serving up a certain impressively dialed-in musical feel and flavor. Doing conscientious DJ duty, he's actually built sample mixes of every subgenre from which his program draws, including but not limited to Brit funk — no, seriously, it's really its own thing — 80s electro-funk and the soul of love. There's even some jazz tossed in the mix, though, of course, it's from the funkier corners of the realm: Herbie Hancock, Bob James, those types of guys.
This music, served straight up, would be more than enough, but the Morpher goes the extra mile with a couple regular features as well. In "Three from One", he spins three cuts from a single group or artist, often using the chance to put a spotlight on lesser-known acts. (Remember Central Line?) And the "Listener's Top Three" is pretty much self-explanatory. So here, Morpher, are Colin the Podthinker's top three old school cuts:
- The Whispers' "Keep on Lovin' Me"
- The Loose Ends' "Tell Me What You Want"
- Fonzi Thornton's "(Uh Oh) There Goes My Heart"
Let's hear 'em.
Running since: June 2008
Frequency: just about weekly
Archive available on iTunes: none (only available through a sluggish free filesharing service, alas)
[Podthinker Colin Marshall also listens to new jack swing, though it's a shame that Al B. Sure could never top In Effect Mode. Get him — Colin, not Al — at colinjmarshall at gmail or discuss Podthoughts on the forum here. Submit your own podcast for the next by-Max-Funsters column here.]