Thursday, November 5, 2015

Big Audio Dynamite - This Is Big Audio Dynamite

This month marks the thirtieth anniversary of This Is Big Audio Dynamite, the debut album from Big Audio Dynamite. The group was created by former Clash guitarist/vocalist Mick Jones. The group included Dan Donovan (keyboards), Don Letts (vocals and sound effects), Greg Roberts (drums and backing vocals) and Leo Williams (bass). This 1985 release went to number 103 on the US Billboard Album chart (with a thirty-five week total run), number 27 in the UK and number 8 in New Zealand.

Side one starts with "Medicine Show", a song that makes reference to old-time travelling medicine shows that sold tonics and cure-alls to uneducated residents of towns. It applies the concept to modern times and politics in foreign lands. As the third single, it went to number 29 in the UK and number 42 on the US Billboard Dance chart. The track samples dialog from four movies: Clint Eastwood's A Fistful of Dollars, Eli Wallach's The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, James Coburn's Duck, You Sucker! and finally The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.

"Sony" is an uptempo dance track that shines a critical light on life in Eastern mega-cities like Tokyo, the home of the title-mentioned technology company.

The second single "E=MC2" reached number 47 in Australia, number 37 on the US Billboard Dance chart, number 18 in New Zealand, and number 11 in both Ireland and the UK. This one features samples from the 1970 film Performance, a British crime drama that starred Mick Jagger and James Fox.

"The Bottom Line", the album's lead single, rose to number 97 in the UK, number 38 in New Zealand, number 34 in Australia, and number 33 on the US Billboard Dance charts. I find the guitar riffs very powerful here, especially when punctuated with the drum riffs.

Side two opens with "A Party", a political piece set to a bouncy dance beat that ends with a tribal-rap.

"Sudden Impact!" celebrates a lifestyle of over-indulgence and decadence. It is built upon a very funky groove.

"Stone Thames" keeps the party going. This time, scratch sound-effects are employed.

The record closes out with purposefully pessimistic jam "BAD".

While I was familiar with some of these tracks from college radio and time out at the dance clubs back in the 80's, I really hadn't heard the whole This Is Big Audio Dynamite until a few years back. My older brother is a huge fan of the Clash, and he happens to have this one on CD. Of course, I like the focus here on danceable music as well as the generous amount of creative sampling that was used, something that was still relatively fresh and new by the middle of the decade.

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