The Cat Empire - Six Favourite Albums

Australian ska crew on evergreen classics...

Reviewed here, The Cat Empire’s latest album ‘Steal The Light’ finds the Australian ska-cum-funk crew on typically energetic form. Comprehensively catchy, it’s a fans-pleasing affair indeed.

With six studio collections to their name, the Melbourne-formed sextet is a relatively veteran act of its scene. But what favourite albums do its members – Jamshid ‘Jumps’ Khadiwhala, Ollie McGill, Harry Angus, Will Hull-Brown, Ryan Monro and Felix Riebl – return to with regularity? Wonder no more.

We guess this is a Foundations piece, really, albeit with an extra selection. No matter. We’ll call it something else. Because we can.

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Jamshid ‘Jumps’ Khadiwhala picks…

James Brown – ‘In The Jungle Groove’ (1986)

A big turning point in my early teens was when a friend gave me two albums. The first being this compilation of James Brown. An uncut introduction to The Minister of Super Heavyweight Funk! My first listen to this record drowned me in infectious grooves and heavy basslines – a few I had heard before, sampled in hip-hop music. I knew from that point on my love for drums and groove was cemented. To this day not many can carry a groove like James Brown did, an artist who has influenced so many genres of music and is repeatedly sampled. This album sent me on a quest to find funky music, and his entire catalogue is a blessing to anyone’s music collection.

James Brown – ‘It’s A New Day’, from ‘In The Jungle Groove’

Parliament – ‘Tear The Roof Off: 1974-1980’ (1993)

The second album received along with the James Brown set was this group of funkateers headed by none other than George Clinton. From the get-go you are introduced to the world of Dr Funkenstein and lured into his web of pure funk. This album, again a compilation, was a perfect introduction to the other side of funk. This kind of funk had synths, choirs of people singing, funny sounds, interludes, spaceships… to name a few of the ingredients. The comedic yet serious aspect to the lyrics gives the listener a musical experience that shakes your bones and rocks your mind. Clinton is another much-sampled artist today. Like George says: “funk is its own reward.”

Parliament-Funkadelic – ‘P-Funk Wants To Get Funked Up’, live in Houston, 1976

Fela Kuti and Afrika ‘70 – ‘Zombie’ (1976)

Hearing Fela Kuti was easily one of the best moments in my musical journey. For me his music is a perfect combination of everything I want to hear in music. Driving rhythm, percussion, hypnotic melodies and groove repetition. Zombie is Afrobeat, an unforgiving blend of jazz, highlife and funk music. This album originally contained only two songs, but these are no ordinary songs. Both run for over 12 minutes and are a journey to say the least. I love being lost in the heavy, deep melodies that Fela presents, giving you an almost trance-like experience. The combination of traditional music with the western funk of James Brown also led me on a quest to find more music like this from around the globe. And was I in for a big surprise…

Fela Kuti and Afrika ’70 – ‘Mister Follow Follow’, from ‘Zombie’

Various Artists – ‘Sofrito: Tropical Discotheque’ (2011)

This Strut-released set is the ultimate guide to tropical dancefloor music. And is easily one of my favourite compilations of all time. I could not stop listening to this album due to its incredible track selection from the Caribbean, Africa, Haiti, Colombia… Most of the songs are old original tunes most people would never find unless it was for this comp. The people behind Sofrito are Hugo Mendez, Frankie Francis and Lewis Heriz (artwork), known for their warehouse parties in London featuring an eclectic mix of tropical music dug out on their vinyl-hunting adventures. This music has a connection with old and new, something which is missing in a lot of today’s music. For any lovers of dance and tropical grooves, this is a must-have album and will not disappoint.

Frente Cumbiero – ‘Pitchito’, as featured on ‘Sofrito: Tropical Discotheque’

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From Harry Angus…

Chet Baker – Chet Baker Sings And Plays From The Film Let’s Get Lost’ (1987)

To my great surprise I still have not got around to seeing the film Let’s Get Lost, but this album has been with me since I was about 15 years old.

The front cover photograph shows, in black and white, an older and more battle-scarred version of the younger Chet, the guy who used to always comb his hair in photographs, or softly brush the skin of some supermodel’s neck with his lips. 

His trumpet style was always breathy and minimalist, but he lost all his teeth at some point and, by this stage in his life, had to learn to play even more breathily, and sparsely. His singing, too, which had always been soft, became a whisper so raw and gorgeous that it’s almost painful to listen to.

Anyway, the 12 songs on this record sound like a broken heart, but it’s very beautiful.

Chet Baker – ‘Imagination’, from ‘…Let’s Get Lost’

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From Oliver McGill…

Professor Longhair – ‘The Primo Collection’ (2009)

My favourite album without a speckle of doubt is Professor Longhair’s ‘The Primo Collection’. It is an album I randomly downloaded off iTunes and although I regret that I haven’t listened to any of Professor Longhair’s proper albums, this ‘best of’ has given me much inspiration over the last few weeks.

I particularly like the track ‘Baby Let Me Hold Your Hand’, where he emphasises the word “hand” with a characteristic drop on that note that makes me smile every time I hear it.

The band sounds like it was (and it probably was) recorded in a small room all together, with one microphone, in the wee hours of the morning. And the distant tinkling piano defines an era of jive music out of New Orleans that makes you want to groove your arse off.

Neil Young’s ‘Harvest’ is pretty cool too, but I'll talk about that some other time... So, too, Herbie Hancock’s ‘Crossings’.

Professor Longhair – ‘Baby Let Me Hold Your Hand’, as featured on ‘The Primo Collection’

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Find The Cat Empire online here

The band is the featured act in Clash's The Art Of Noise spot, in issue 87, on sale now

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