CD reviews

CD REVIEW: Night Trains – Lovesick 1987-2017

Night Trains – Lovesick 1987-2017
(Acid Jazz AJXCD417. CD review by Mark McKergow)

This excellent compilation brings together tracks from Acid Jazz veterans Night Trains’ 30 years in the groove, from early sample-driven tracks through collaborations to driving soul-train versions of punky classics. Welcome survivors on the acid jazz road along with the likes of Snowboy and James Taylor, the beat has just kept on coming.

Night Trains is basically bassist and producer Hugh Brooker plus collaborators. The moniker goes back to 1987, when the Akai S900 sampler was the latest must-have gear and computers like Atari’s ST were revolutionising the ways in which anyone could build music by grabbing, cutting, pasting and looping. Acid Jazz impresario Eddie Piller was assembling material for the seminal Acid Jazz And Other Illicit Grooves LP which brought together avant-jazzers such as Keith Tippett with groove merchants, beat-busters and Jalal of the Last Poets.  Piller stumbled across a one-sided white label 12” of Open Channel D released by Brooker as The Night Trains and was impressed by its combination of rare groove and mod vibes with the dance sensibilities appearing at the time.

Open Channel D appears on this CD for its first release since 1987, along with Now We Have Rhythm, Brooker’s contribution to the Illicit Grooves collection, which still shimmers with hard-driving horn lines (trombone to the fore), sax soloing and echoes of S-Express in its hook. Night Trains went on to produce several LPs for Acid Jazz in the years that followed, highlights of which include club hit Lovesick (re-released many times) and trumpet-led Dance Of The Drunken Mantis (not seen for a long time). Brooker kept rebuilding his palette by drawing on different musicians through this period, and the result is a coherent body of work which keeps freshness and variety.

Brooker has gone on to produce, re-mix and DJ around the world. He has also kept Night Trains going, releasing ever-more driving tracks including a northern soul-ish take on the Stranglers’ No More Heroes in 2012 and 2015’s single Black Whip. The most recent material continues in this vein with Brooker continuing to cross over the decades, bringing a ’60s vibe and the vocals of former Belle Star Jennie Matthias to bear on Do Anything You Wanna Do, a hit for Eddie and the Hot Rods in the late 1970s.

The terrific thing about all this music is that it does, somehow, manage to retain a coherence despite the variety of sources, voices, soloists and technologies involved. This CD offers the chance to catch up on the story so far – a great deal of creativity in a handy and memorable collection.

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