Friday, November 30, 2012

Holy Grail Obviated!

For ages, one of my absolutely most wanted records was - like pretty much every other hip-hop enthusiast - Phase N Rhythm's "Hyperactive" 12". Growing up, I loved their big Tommy Boy single "Swollen Pockets;" it was one of those videos I was always dying Rap City/ Yo!/ Video Music Box to play again. And it blew my mind that their subsequent album never came out, and they were essentially a one-hit wonder.  So when I got older and found out that had a rare, earlier 12" from '88 on their own one-off indie label called Funky Tune Records, I was amped.  When I finally heard it online, and it was even better than "Swollen Pockets" my mind was blown.  But it was super rare, a very small run, most copies of which seem to have been lost or destroyed - after all, nobody had heard of them when they were trying to shop it at the time. And the fact that it wasn't just great but a Paul C.-associated production, meant that this was one of the most expensive, hard to obtain "holy grail" rap records of all time.  It might be the definitive one, in fact, that set the standard for what a hip-hop holy grail is. It was certainly at the top of my list.

But now I don't need it anymore.  I mean, I'd still like it as a collector's item. If anybody is reading this and no longer wants their copy, I'll happily take it off your hands.  Heh.  But the thing is, Chopped Herring Records has just rendered it obselete.

See, they didn't just reissue it - although they've done that.  Both songs from that 12" have been pressed up on a nice, new 12" that's can be ordered new for a nice 2-digit price, as opposed to the frightening four-digit cost of the original.  But they've gone and rendered it essentially obselete*. Not only did they go back to the original masters it to make it sound rich and clean; but because they did that (as opposed to just taking a rip of the old 12"), they were able to fix a major problem with the original pressing,

See, the original pressing played the song too fast - several BPMs higher than the way the song was supposed to sound.  Now, it's not bad - and it's not entirely inappropriate to have a song called "Hyperactive" play a little zippy - it certainly didn't hamper my love of the songs all these years.  But this new release, finally issuing the songs as they were supposed to be heard after so many years, does definitely sound better. It kinda took me one spin to get used to it, but I definitely prefer this version now.  I mean, it's not hugely different, but Phase's voice sounds noticeably more cool and natural.

You're never going to bother listening to the old version again.

But that's still not all!  They've also included a previously unreleased, never before heard Phase N Rhythm track record at the same time as "Hyperactive" and "Brainfood." And they've got the Dub version for it, too.  It's called "The Force Of the Matrix" and it's as funky and kick ass as you'd expect a lost Phase N Rhythm song to sound.  Crazy fresh beats, scratches, horn samples (of course!), and Phase has that same staccato yet smooth style he flexes on their other songs.  I'm talking serious rapgasm here!

As we've come to expect from Chopped Herring by now, it's a top notch presentation, with a fresh ticker cover and limited to 350 copies.  75 copies are pressed on a "Pearl mixed color" (whatever that looks like lol), 75 are pressed on a red/yellow mix, and the rest are your classic black.   If you're not a member of their new subscription plan, it's become even harder than before to secure a color copy, but at the end of the day, it's all about just having this magnificent record on wax. If anybody out there isn't deliriously happy with traditional, a black copy... remember, I'm here to take any of this stuff off your hands.  hehe

Postscript #1: If you're anything like me; you're wondering "what about their Tommy Boy stuff? I bet there's most, if not all, of a complete album they recorded for Tommy Boy, that never got released, too!  Well, CH as looked into it, and yes, that's true but... get ready to be saddened... all of those reels were destroyed in a flood, so the world will never get to here it. The DATs with "Force Of the Matrix" and the restored songs presented here are the sum total of the unreleased Phase N Rhythm music we'll ever get.

Postscript #2: Chopped Herring is running one of the coolest contests ever.   The titular "Matrix" of the song is actually a big medallion Phase used to rock when they performed back in the day.  Well, Chopped Herring actually has it and is giving it away to one randomly selected lucky soul who orders this 12" - the original, not a reproduction. I'm in the running, and so is anybody else who... wait a minute.  I take it all back!  Don't buy this record!  It sucks, just forget all about it.  Stay away; leave it for me!

*I say "essentially" because, strictly speaking, it is missing the Dub and Acapella mixes of "Brainfood" (those mixes are here for "Hyperactive" however), so if those are important to you, that is a legit reason to hang on to your original record.

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