Week 7: Madness
I’m off on vacation with the family, but I just couldn’t stay away from this place…which actually is kinda scary. My best explanation to this is that I’m still in a way too celebratory mood – especially after receiving some nice gifts for the 4BB anniversary…like this rare treat from Chris Rich that I’ve been after for a long time! Thanks a million!
It was actually our friend Cosmo that got me re-intrigued after (1) reminding me of the albums existence (I gave up the search years ago), and (2) adding the crate digger rumour that Prince’s dad allegedly had something to do with this album (nah, don’t think so…and Cosmo actually said: “Don’t quote me on this!”) – and finally (3) the somewhat extraordinary sums of money changing hands for a copy of the album!
So what’s all the fuss about? Well, it’s Madcliff’s self-titled album from 1977! So who’s Madcliff? Apart from the collectors buzz (“It’s super rare AND super dope!”) I didn’t know much…like nothing at all. But after a first listen to the entire album I had at a hunch!
On Discogs.com they had some information, some minor clues – but it was enough to have me going the extra mile to follow up that initial hunch! According to them the album was released on Guiness Records (GNS-36084) in 1977 – and that it was produced by White Noise and engineered by someone called Punky Standell! And then they linked the name White Noise to the english experimental electronica pioneers, formed already in 1968, with the same name…in itself a quite interesting story, but in this case a dead end. The Punky Standell clue was much better, but I didn’t realize that until later.
So just to be sure, I asked Chris to go back down in the crates to double check the back cover for more details, but there wasn’t any…just the name of the producer and the engineer – well, that and the fact that all songs were penned by a certain Chris “Madcliff” Hills! That’s when it dawned on me that White Noise was just an alias for Chris Hills longtime longtime collaborator and best buddy Danny Weiss, and that Madcliff really was a proto-Players Association! And add to that – two tracks on the Madcliff album are also featured on the Players Association self-titled debut album from 1977…now I knew for sure!
Before we go on, check out Chris Hills AMG bio!
But the bio don’t give the full story on the album itself. And since that story is nowhere to be found (if someone out there knows, please let us know), we have to do some guessing…
The album was released in 1977, the same year that Chris had a short affair with Sylvia Robinson’s All Platinum label – but only resulted in one single 45 release. Later that same year Chris was back at Vanguard Records where The Players Association’s debut album was released. So my best guess is that the Madcliff album is the material that Chris recorded for a full length album at Sylvia’s All Platinum…but after some dispute with the label (Sylvia was a tough lady to handle) he went independent with the material at Guiness Records and had to lay low on the credits…that’s why Danny Weiss, who probably still was under contract with Vanguard, had to use the pseudoym White Noise! But enough with the guesswork…
Whatever the story is, the Madcliff album won’t disappoint you – it really is both super rare and super dope! Even though the album sometimes feel like a demo – definitely rougher than the polished sound of The Players Association – it’s still offers more depth and variation than many of their later albums, where they mostly concentrated on doing covers of others material. All the songs are, as I mentioned earlier, penned by Chris (and probably Danny) and it’s a great mix of jazzy dancefloor grooves, funky disco workouts and soulful ballads.
There’s the beta-versions of “Goin’ To the Disco” and “I Like It”, but cuts like the opener “What The People Say About Love” and the closer “You Can Make The Change” are even more interesting…along with the beautiful acoustic “Steal You Away” and the sweet “Just Another Woman”! But to me the stand-out track is the fantastic “It Takes A Little Time”, showcasing Chris very special vocals. Have a listen! (Incidentally it’s both Chris and Cosmo’s favourite as well!)
Now start the search for your own vinyl copy – somebody got lucky recently, laying their hands on it for a mere $239! Big thanks to Chris for this wonderful contribution – and a special shoutout to Cosmo for instigating the quest! Peace! :¬)
NOTE: We got a comment about a week after the original post from The Soul Walk giving the most feasible explanation to the mystery above:
“First up, thanks! I always loved the Chris Hills Everything is Everything albums, but had no idea anything here was related. I’ve heard that Guinness was actually a label set up as a tax scam…releases made to never sell but to offset profits from successful releases. Tiger Lilly was the same way as I understand it. They all have strange covers that have little to do with the music, and very simple one color back covers with basically no info. I’ve also heard that Guinness was connected to the owner of Roulette records, who apparently did a host of shady stuff throughout his career. I have a handful of records on this label, including some weird rock and even a country record. They are of varying levels of polish. The Newban joint is pretty polished, as is the James Conwell record. On the other hand the Tommy Dougherty record is a bit uneven, and about half of the Nashville Depoe record sounds like a gritty demo. Maybe I’m just a pessimist, but I wonder if Sylvia Robinson leaked the material. Or did Vanguard swipe some early material by The Player’s Association to offset taxes?”