Sunday, 11 October 2009

1989 Black Box: Ride On Time

There are two things that everyone knows about Black Box and 'Ride On Time':

1. They were fronted by a very tall, very striking, black female vocalist (Catherine Quinol), who

2. Was outed as not actually singing a note on the song.


Yes, the vocal for 'Ride On Time' was sampled wholesale from Loleatta Holloway's 'Love Sensation' (who herself is actually singing 'Right On Time', though her rough Chicago accent flattened the 't' to a 'd'). In the cold light of day, it's hard to believe that anybody could have been suckered into believing that someone as stick thin as Quinol could have produced those primal, guttural sounds - hell, she couldn't even mime to them properly, especially that artificially savage and impossible key change stutter that falls in the middle of the recurring war cry.


But believe they did, and there was a genuine sense of outrage when the truth was discovered, which was so much grist to those over at the 'keep music real' mill (though they weren't tarred and feathered the way those Milli Vanilli boys were when they tried to pull the wool over the eyes of the public a few years hence. The way the folk over in America carried on you'd think they'd been exposed as faking the moon landings).


As for me, I couldn't give a toss. I've got no beef with sampling just as long as it's done with a bit of verve and imagination and not merely used as a crutch for those too talentless to come up with anything of merit by themselves (I'm looking at you here Mr Bunny). Oh, and make sure your sources are credited too.


And verve and imagination are qualities 'Ride On Time' has by the yard. Typical of the Italian House genre it sprang from, a strident electronic piano picks out a barrelhouse motif from an amplified New Orleans gin joint over a seventies bass driven disco thump that softens the blows to give the vocal space to beat it all into submission by grabbing your ears and yelling right in your face all the while. It's loud, brash, scary, exciting as hell and, when it's played at volume, will shake your windows and rattle your walls.


It's this force that carries 'Ride On Time' as surely as it carried that other essay in style over substance 'Relax', a headwind that blows over even the most reluctant in it's slipstream. Everytime I hear it's gallop, I picture that animated ball device bouncing over visually displayed lyrics to the rhythm of a song, landing on each syllable as it's stressed (something
Quinol could have done with to help her out). Except displaying the nonsensical cut and paste lyrics here would reveal 'Ride On Time' as offering nothing tangible at heart aside from loudly trumpeting it's own existence, and that loud trumpeting of squally vocal can be loosely translated as a scream of 'dance you fuckers!'.

But dance shmance - 'Ride On Time' proves that regardless of all those darned new fangled housey beats and stuff, there's nothing like a primal blues holler to get the juices of excitement flowing. And it's this mix of future and past that elevates ''Ride On Time' above the common herd.


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