Artist: The Herbaliser
Title: Herbal Tonic (Best Of)
Label: Ninja Tune / Rough Trade
Welcome please, the Herbaliser. One of the key acts if not the key act of the middle ten years of Ninja Tune’s two decade journey, from 1995’s debut Remedies until their last album for Ninja, 2005’s Take London, Jake Wherry and Ollie Teeba used their time with Ninja Tune to effortlessly combine their love of hip hop, funk, jazz and sixties film soundtracks into a widescreen, musical approach to the beat that was as raw as it was intelligent.
From the old skool referencing “Gadget Funk,” through the spy theme atmospherics of “The Missing Suitcase,” the cartoon psychedelia of the previously unreleased “March of the Dead Things,” and the epic reach of both “Stranded On Earth” (from 2008’s Same as It Never Was on !K7) and the beautiful “A Song For Mary,” Herbal Tonic shows the musical mastery that a pair of hip hop heads from South West London developed.
Their choice of musical collaborators also shows their love for and understanding of the craft of rapping. From Jean Grae (formerly What What), who worked with them across five of their albums – and who they plucked from relative obscurity in the mid-nineties New York underground – to the likes of MF Doom and Roots Manuva (long before either was a cool name to drop), all of the Herbaliser’s choices show a love for a characterful, distinctive voice as well as rock solid technique (a modus operandi which also served them well when choosing the remarkable Seaming To to vocal the title track to 2002’s “Something Wicked This Way Comes”).
The third string to the Herbaliser bow is, of course, their live show. Not content with being great DJs, and once again long before the trend for dance acts going ‘live,’ Wherry and Teeba put together a crack group of musicians (many with a strong background in jazz and soul) to bring their recordings into full-on technicolor, three dimensional life. The results were so stunning tha the band have recorded two live albums, represented here by excellent versions of “Mr Chombee Has The Flaw” and “Ginger Jumps The Fence.”
The package is rounded out by a remarkable DJ Food remix, “Mrs Chombee Takes The Plunge,” lovingly pieced together by PC, sometime schoolmate of Wherry. It rounds out the picture this compilation draws of the Herbaliser because there is also a “family” element to their world view, a gang of unruly musical miscreants who started out dreaming of New York and ended up helping to build a New London.
1 Gadget Funk
2 Nah’ Mean Nah’m Sayin’ (ft. Jean Grae)
3 The Missing Suitcase
4 The Blend (ft. What What aka Jean Grae)
5 Starlight (ft. Roots Manuva) 05:08
6 A Song For Mary
7 Mr Chombee Has The Flaw (from Session 2)
8 Something Wicked (ft. Seaming To)
9 Mrs Chombee Takes The Plunge (PC Remix)
10 The Sensual Woman
11 It Ain’t Nuttin’ (ft. MF Doom)
12 Tea & Beer (ft. Jean Grae)
13 Ginger Jumps The Fence (from session 1)
14 March of the Dead Things (previously unreleased) 04:04
15 Stranded On Earth 04:50
VERSTÄRKER – 030 3198803-0 Fax.: 030 3198803-20, Dieffenbachstr. 33, 10967 Berlin