I have a Shakatak CD and I am not afraid to use it!


Now, I am the first to admit that noding about one of the most derided bands of the 'Jazz Funk' era (which for some music lovers is a derogatory term in itself) will not be particularly popular, and that a node about one of Shakatak's albums will probably be as well received as a review of an Engelbert Humperdink remix album (if one exists) and invite downvotes galore from those of my contemporaries who did not wear white socks in the eighties. Nevertheless, somebody has to do it, and as there are multiple Shakatak sized holes in the nodegel, its time to embrace the dark side and drag this controversial period of 1980's music back into the spotlight.


In the early eighties, Shakatak sold literally millions of albums. I know this is hard to fathom, but for some time, every better bar, hair salon and upper middle class club was grooving to the sounds of Roger Odell and his band of merry funkateers. By the time they released the Live! album, their previous five releases spend countless weeks (Nightbirds alone charted for 28 weeks in the UK top 50 album list) in the British charts and made them a household name in the western world, so it was time for a live album.

I remember driving 100 km to Cologne in 1986 to visit Germany's largest record store to check whether this album had made it into their vast import section (I wanted the japanese import version, which was apparently of higher audio quality and had an extra track(!) on it) and paid a humongous amount of money (for a high school student) to take this precious piece of vinyl home to my Thorens TD126 MkIII with the nice Ortofon pickup. And boy, did I love this. Recorded in front of ten thousand happy people in Tokyo there they were, my white socked heroes live and in action, playing all my favourite hits: Down on the Street, Invitations, Easier said then done and more. There was no DJ gig I wouldn't at least play three tracks of this album for many years to come.

Until the day my best friend sat on it in the car.

That must have been sometimes in the early nineties, and as I had to hide my forays into Jazz Funk from my fellow colleagues to not trigger their ridicule, I focused on Acid Jazz which sounds almost the same but does not feature white socks.

Last year, some cocaine riddled middle management A&R person at Universal Music must have had an brain explosion, as they re-released Live! on CD with 3 extra tracks, and as I had some credit at Amazon, the silver platter ended recently in my in-tray.

Well, what's it like?

Well, I don't know whether it was just the smoother sound of the vinyl, or something went terribly wrong during the remastering, but it sounds terrible: Sharpe's synths sound tinny, Anderson's bass is almost nowhere to hear, Roger Odell's drums sound compressed in a rather eighties way, and Mrs Saward's on stage antics (and acoustics) are rather embarrassing. Think electronic vibrato. Lots of it.

Then there's the musicianship: I don't know what they were on on that night in Tokyo, but the keyboard solos are seriously sloppy with shoddy fingerwork and the few drum solos are wooden and not particular inspiring (the tinny eighties snare sounds don't help). Listen to Jamiroquai's "Live in Verona" and - while principally the same style of music (just without white socks) - and you have the feeling that collection of twentysomethings has been playing together for years.

But there are redeeming features: the tunes are just so good that even the crummy recording, the embarrassing attempts at audience interaction and the lax attitude to musicianship can't hide that this was a band at the height of their confidence, with an adoring audience (and probably some mind altering substances on board), and a little spark manages to bridge the digital - real life border gorge.

My adorable significant other, dancing away on her seat on the drive home from work, thought she was listening to a crappy live recording of Matt Bianco.

Probably an apt observation, though I am sure that Matt Bianco didn't wear white socks.

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