The Good Ship Rediscovery: Ian Brown - Golden Greats

We all forget about the older stuff from time to time, in our quest to stay up to speed with the latest and greatest. But one should always respect their elders. So don’t forget about them, y’hear?

I shouldn't have to tell y'all who Ian Brown is, so I shan't. Seriously. I shouldn't. When the Crown Prince of Baggy needed to get his groove on post-cataclysmic band breakup, he did so in grand solo style. First came Unfinished Monkey Business, and then came the record I'm about to gush over, Golden Greats. The year was 2000 and Brown was in full-on electrodancereggaefunksoulbrother mode, taking the jams of the Stone Roses and seeing them even more groovy.

Golden Greats might take you a few listens to warm up to, especially if you've, shock of shocks, never been a fan of the Stone Roses (which is nigh on impossible). But just wait until about the Asian-infused intro of "Gettin' High" crashes into beefy beats and Brown's trademark, cocksure warbling. Fantastic. And hows about "Free My Way," with that almost Donovan-esque acoustic reverie at the start that suddenly takes a turn for the dark side? The groove is kicky, the vibe is excellent, and Brown is in rare form, as he is through most of the record.

"Set My Baby Free" has been a favorite for many a year, with its harsh yet melodic bleeping and relentless beat. "Hey, you ugly people/I want you to set my baby free," proclaims King Monkey as the gritty gray rhythms undulate this way and that. "When she turns to smile," Brown goes, "I light up from inside," which is probably one of my favorite lines of ever. Is it romantic? Chaotic? Probably a little of both. "Golden Gaze" is also brilliant, kaleidoscopic acoustic giving way to a wash of synth-play. It's a song with presence for miles, dark and almost intimidating.

"Dolphins Were Monkeys" takes on some of the loveable irreverence that so became the Stone Roses, all twisted violins and Brown getting all cracked storybook with his lyrics ("So now I'm caught in the middle/you're next to me/I swim with the fishes/you come from the sea/the dolphins were monkeys/that didn't like the land"). Perhaps Brown's take on evolution is a wee bit on the outer limits, but damned if this isn't a top quality little groove. "Neptune" actually sees Brown crooning about outer space, which is probably appropriate. The song is, as you might imagine, out of this world, charming and almost a bit on the loungey side.

It's hard to say exactly why I love Golden Greats so much. In a way it's because Brown had obviously grown up quite a bit when he recorded this record,and the youthful exuberance of the Stone Roses has been left behind for something older and maybe even wiser. It's also probably got something to do with how, stylistically, Brown is all over the place, though definitely leaning heavily on beats'n'grooves'n'synths. But above all, even though at times the record feels a bit dark, it's Ian Brown floating through space and time, my friends, and it's a heck of a ride.


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