Various ‘Change the Beat. The Celluloid Record Story 1980-1987’ 2CD (Celluloid/Strut) 4/5

Celluloid records was the brainchild of Parisian-based Jean Karakos who spent most of the 1970s co-running specialist French record shops
and the jazz label BYG and this creative individual had a truly catholic approach to music in general which is rare in an industry largely driven by financial gain. However, an early 1980s trip to New York where he met eclectic musician Bill Laswell and it was this encounter and the resulting musical discoveries of the emerging New York underground scene that led to the creation of the Celluloid label and some of the early productions released which tended towards the last vestiges of new wave. By the mid-1980s these included a myriad of styles from the disco not disco/mutant disco sounds of Modern Guy and ‘Electriques Sylvie’ with Material’s classic dance number ‘I’m the one’ and the emerging rap beats of Fab Five Freddy and ‘Change the Beat’ and Grandmaster D. St and ‘Home of hip-hop’.

Possibly one criticism that one could make of the label is that there was never a truly distinctive sound that characterised the label in the way that other dance-related labels such as Salsoul or Prelude had. That was simply not the point in the case of Celluloid. Eclecticism was a virtue and should be cherished at all costs. Thus on this lengthy anthology the dub-soaked reggae of Winston Edwards and Blackbeard on ‘Downing Street Rock’, a rare British participation sits cheek by jowel with French wannabee new romantic Nini Raviolette and ‘Suis-je normale?’ Celluloid was ahead of the game in its coverage of African music, especially the fusion of electronic dancefloor beats with more traditional African instrumentation and has not yet received its full due for promoting the new centre of African music that Paris had become by the mid-late 1980s. Here Manu Dibangu’s seminal dancefloor burner ‘Abele dance’ and Touré Kinda’s Senegalese pop effort ‘Amadou Tilo’ are included and Mandingo’s ‘Harima’ typified the cross-fertilisation of musical styles that Celluloid positively encouraged. It is a pity there are not more examples of the African-oriented output are in evidence, but digital fans will have the davantage of hearing Fela drummer Tony Allen performing as part of B Side on ‘So hot’. Occasional revamping of previously cult musicians surfaced on the label and the Last Poets, who were arguably the pioneering group behind a more politically-driven form of rap, are represented in their 1980s manifestation with ‘Mean machine chant/mean machine’ and even Cream’s Ginger Baker managed to get a look in with ‘Dust to dust’. As to be expected with a label that prided itself on its 12″ single output, the versions here come in their full elongated form and represent terrific value for money if you are a musical devotee who has an open-minded approach to the dance-driven side of the music industry. The downloaded version features additional numbers from Grandmaster D.St, Shango and even a single of Jimi Hendrix. Tim Stenhouse

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