Goldie’s The Journey Man & The Return Of The Alchemist
June 16th sees the release of the brand new and highly anticipated album by Breakbeat/Jungle original Goldie. To celebrate, Simon Tucker looks back at the life of Goldie and explores how he became an icon and what we are to expect from the new album.
Goldie shouldn’t exist. For decades the working classes have been told to know their place in the system. They are to be factory fodder. Victims of systematic mental and physical abuse and poorly educated due to lack of funding for their schools, they are simply NOT MEANT TO SUCCEED. Nowadays the term “voice of the working classes and anti-establishment” has been sabotaged by the far-right and people who actually have no idea what it is like to struggle day-to-day are now claiming to be the heroes of the underclass. The age-old game of divide and conquer is forever present. It is spewed out by media outlets to keep us locked down looking to blame others for our ills.
The arts is one area where these people will always lose.
Since the birth of time humans, regardless of stature or incoming have fought with intelligence and courage to break out of their immediate society created prisons. Blues musicians told their stories and thanks to the invention of recording technology others, not in the same situation, were able to gain an understanding and insight into what it was like to be an African-American in such harsh times. Jazz (more of which later), Soul, Rock and Roll, Punk and Hip-Hop all told stories, created outlets, escape routes and actual political and spiritual change. Then we had electronic music. One of the most diverse, progressive, influential and inclusive genres ever to have been birthed, electronic music spawned movements across the globe and gave a voice to the disenfranchised and forgotten. Into this world stepped Goldie…
Clifford Joseph Price should never have amounted to anything. Mixed race, his youth spent in the brutal care system, Price should have just been another statistic yet what he had was a drive to succeed, a steely determination to do something better with his life. The first steps into becoming Goldie occurs with Price’s discovery of graffiti art. A hard working natural (innate talent only succeeds if added to a will to graft and improve) Goldie gained respect and admiration within the graffiti world which in turn gave him a ticket out of his surroundings and sent him to New York and Miami. New York was mecca for the graffiti artist as it was ground zero for hip-hop culture so for a young Brit to be accepted there must have been a wild confidence boost and validation for the young Goldie. A piece of the puzzle was added.
Returning to the UK and discovering the blossoming Jungle/Breakbeat scene via his relationship with DJ Kemistry, Goldie found a movement where he was able to take what he had learned in the graffiti discipline and apply it to music. The first example proper of Goldie’s unique skill and originality came in the form of the now seminal 1992 12″ ‘Terminator’ (released under the moniker Metalheads). ‘Terminator’ was a bona fide game changer. With its unique “time stretching” sound it caused a huge stir not only among those in the Breakbeat scene but journalists looking to discover a unique and refreshing voice in the music world. This would be the first of many moments in Goldie’s career where he would help change the face of an entire genre. Next came the ‘Angel’ 12″ which laid bare the ingrained musicality in Goldie’s soul and then came Timeless….
Timeless remains definitive. A romantic and rare trip into the beauty of true soul music siphoned through the prism of electronica, Timeless still sounds ahead of its time and is where the final piece of the puzzle slots in truly birthing Goldie. As with all landmark albums the creator of said work often gets lumbered with the unhealthy weight of expectancy and relentless pressure to follow up a classic with another straight away. Only few succeed and whilst Goldie’s follow up (1998’s Saturnz Return) was not wholly embraced by those who had jumped on board after Timeless looking back with the benefit of hindsight it remains a remarkably complex and bold album. Saturnz Return contains the one hour long symphonic howl of Mother which remains as visceral as on its original release. A primal scream as noteworthy and as effective as John Lennon’s own song of the same name. Mother also displays Goldie’s talent for composition and his grasp of classical works which, when the world at the time was more concerned with hits hits hits, again reveals his level of confidence in his ability and his burning desire to create the music he wanted without bowing down to any outside pressures.
One other vital aspect of Saturnz Return which makes it many ways just as an important is the artists who appear on the album. People like Noel Gallagher and KRS-One make star turns but the marquee appearance is by David Bowie. This is where Goldie went from being the influenced, into the influencer. Not only would Goldie co-write the song Truth with Bowie but he would influence the Dame’s album Earthling (Bowie had visited the now famous Metalheadz nights at the celebrated Blue Note club) which has aged rather well.
It is here where you got a sense that some of the pieces of the Goldie jigsaw started to fall away. Forays into acting, reality television, and a developing cocaine addiction seemed to distract Goldie and take him away from his muse. The constant thought pieces and revisiting of Timeless by the press and changing musical landscape must have been a hard burden to bare for someone who had spent their life looking forwards not backwards. Outside of his celebrated DJ sets you could have easily have been forgiving for thinking Goldie’s moment had passed. The flame that burnt so bright was in danger of being blown out but like all successful working class people, the drive and determination still burned in his stomach it just needed setting free.
The first signs that Goldie was embarking on a new and interesting chapter in his career came rather ironically via a reality TV show. 2008’s Maestro saw Goldie learn the craft of conducting and what was immediately apparent was his gift for art composition was one of the most important factors into what had made his music so revolutionary. Goldie painted music, layering textures and nuance which suited the world of classical music. The pieces were being put back together…
2011 saw another reality show reintroduce Goldie’s creativity to the UK population. Goldie’s Band – By Royal Appointment. In the show Goldie led a team of musical experts on a journey to discover young talented musicians and coach them for a performance at Buckingham Palace. Not only did the show give us a glimpse of the more thoughtful side of Goldie’s character and his passion for helping young people, it also served as the first step to June’s The Journey Man album as the show featured the talents of Natalie Duncan and Kwabs who would both go onto work with Goldie.
Before getting to next month’s release of The Journey Man, Goldie has been hiding clues to what it will sound like in plain sight. His 2014 Masterpiece collection for Ministry of Sound showed us his influences which ranged from UK bass culture ( Soul II Soul) to jazz (Terry Callier) , reggae (Junior Murvin) and even guitar bands (Radiohead). These were the musical side of the Goldie jigsaw. They would prove vital in the forming of The Journey Man’s sound and aesthetic. Then we had the Timeless shows were Goldie enlisted the Heritage Orchestra to fully emphasise the symphonic aspect of that album and to serve as a kind of line drawn through that part of his career. A clearing of the slate ready for a new chapter. Follow this up with the wonderful Broken Man single featuring Kwabs, which showed us a move away from straight-forward breakbeat structure into more classic-style songwriting, and in his own personal life, stability and a spiritual awareness/serenity, and you are left with a in-depth road map of The Journey Man.
The Journey Man sees Goldie snatch the often derided “concept album” back away from shuddering memories of prog-rock wankery. It is an album that is created with the sole purpose of being listened to cover to cover. To take individual pieces away from it would be removing a piece of the authors own psyche. It is a tapestry of influences and innovations that will beguile, astonish and excite anyone willing to commit to it (and you have to fully commit as it spans sixteen tracks and runs for one hour and forty nine minutes…just like a feature length film). This is not just a collection of singles stuck together, this is pure concept. We were given the wonderful single I Adore You (Goldie vs Ulterior Motive) in the run up to the albums release and this may have created assumptions to the albums overall sound but this is just a feint. A glorious slight of hand because when listened to in the context of the rest of the album, I Adore You is more a loving look back at the foundations of its creator. It is fresh and joyous but to expect much of the same from the rest of The Journey Man who be ill advised.
The Journey Man opens with Horizons and it is here where Goldie reveals his true intentions. If you took Horizons on its own and just listened to it as a single it would be perfectly acceptable. A sunshine trip of positivity with soul and jazz flourishes that skip along pleasantly enough though you may feel it a bit lightweight for someone of Goldie’s talent. Listened to in the context of the whole album and its true motive becomes apparent. Horizons is a pre-credits sequence. A laying out of themes and narrative devices that will reemerge throughout the album. It is a a scene setting song that surrounds us in the right way creating the correct mindset for you to enjoy the rest of the album.
With the following Prism and Mountains we are taken passed the opening titles into the beginning of The Journey Man’s tales with the former bursting forward on stretched sci-fi drum and bass, otherworldly yet familiar, the first glimpse of the Goldie that we have known and loved for the past twenty plus years. His way with sound design is unparalleled in the world of electronica as he manages to make the alien sound identifiable and take us deep within ourselves as the track is serene and pretty yet with a slight grit in its DNA that adds a sense of slight unease. No journey is purely plain sailing and Prism makes it clear that there will be plenty of ups and downs along the way.
Mountains is the first real sharp left turn on the album as we are thrown into torch-song soul ballad, more trip-hop than hip-hop. It lounges and purrs, snaking along before standing up on its back feet and marching forwards with confidence. Lyrically we are given modern nursery rhyme-like couplets that serves as an insight into the mind of its author. Someone who is deeply in love but never falling into the stale and tired tropes of modern love songs. Mountains explains that love is difficult. It can be a challenge but with the right person every step on the path however steep is worth taking. As the song rides out on a bed of starling diving strings and a cyclical classical guitar riff spins around and round we are placed gently on the shoreline glowing with that glow only real love and passion can provide.
Handbrake on, sharp pull down on the steering wheel and Goldie, with his teeth flashing in that recognizable smile spins us from the countryside into the pumping vein of New York in the seventies and eighties with Castaway. Here is Goldie the artist, chest puffed out proclaiming his talents as he enters the USA from the UK full of the confidence of youth. Braggadocio and charm light up Castaway and is another reminder that we are traveling through the various elements that go into the character that is Goldie. Castaway is Goldie not giving a single flying fuck what people think of him and what expectations are laid upon this album. This is the first moment where he makes you chose between bailing out early or sticking on the track for the rest of the ride.
The Mirrored River returns to the more soulful sounds of Prism before we hit the first “peak” on the album with I Think of You. This is the moment Goldie creates a hymn for the Blue Note club and those heady Metalheadz nights. I think of you is deep, snarling, rolling and completely enthralling. It is a nasty (pronounced narsty) track that bubbles up inside with a dangerously effective groove, whispered ghostly vocals that echo and echo like sounds did when quality ecstasy was being sold and acid swallowed up your mind. The balancing act between homage and new creation is executed to perfection here and I Think Of You will not only bring back memories of nights in your youth when nights stretched eternal but it also makes you believe you can still go out there and create new memories whatever your age. I Think Of You contains the line “I just want you to listen” which is the entire albums manifesto. Goldie is telling us that with The Journey Man he is letting us in to his soul, memories, DNA. It’s his message to those original Metalheadz from the Blue Note days that he still thinks of them and remembers them with nothing but love and affection.
I Adore You then makes it grand appearance before we are brought into the jazz world of Truth which is a reworking of the track Goldie wrote with Bowie for Saturnz Return. The Scott Walker-goes-ambient original is here transformed into a lounge-soul ballad. Beautiful, tear-jerking and deeply moving this version, which features the vocals of Jose James is a much needed nestle back down on comfy ground after the preceding one-two of I Think Of You and I Adore You. The “for beast is the colour of my mood” line still plays havoc with the mind.
So thus far The Journey Man has delivered neo-soul, classic drum and bass, and crystalline ballads. Now we get to Redemption. The beating, kicking, screaming heart of the entire album. Redemption is epic. Epic is scope, in length, in structure and in intent. It is a masterclass in song composition as it is basically three suites which ebb and flow with each part being distinct and intoxicating. As the track emerges we are presented a bed of drums and bass rhythms but as each couple of bars roll along another slight texture is added making the song get fuller and fuller. Brighter and denser before we reach a point where the music is crushing down on you and you didn’t even notice it happening. Once Redemption gets to a point where you think Goldie has boxed himself into a corner he pulls a quick switch and we are sent into a middle section which is ambient then oppressive and ominous. You get a sense things are going to get twisted and as time signatures slowly change without you really noticing a bass drum kicks in and we are ripped from our current location to New York’s The Loft or Detroit for the birth of techno. Inhibitions are thrown off and it’s time to get your head down, grit your teeth and get crazy on the dancefloor. Redemption is the culmination of everything Goldie has done in the past, stirred in a paint pot and thrown against the side of a subway train. A glorious trip. .
From the theatrics of Redemption to the soul bearing we go with The Ballad Celeste. Whatever impressions you may have got from the Goldie you have seen on TV or behind the decks, The Ballad Celeste is where all that is stripped away and we see Clifford Price. A man who has been through some very dark times but has come out the other side. With the help of his wife (and a passion for Bikram Yoga) Goldie has managed to conquer many of his demons and The Ballad Celeste is where he allows us to peek inside his home, his heart and his marriage to Mika Wassenaar Price. With lyrics like “Let go of all your sorrow/I’ll be wrapped around you/Treat me like your pillow” you are given a very rare insight into a couples home as one serves as a rock for the other to lean on. Anyone who has suffered with addiction issues and has come out the other side (even if a few slips have occurred) with their partner or family still standing by them will instantly recognise these feelings.
Tu Viens Avec Moi? (Are You Coming With Me?) is slight, jazz cut that brings to mind the work of Sade and Goldie favourite Terry Callier and This Is Not A Love Song pulls us into a smoky, late night jazz club where the chanteuse reigns supreme. Again Goldie can’t resist pulling a few surprises out and while the song casually sashays around, he is being playful adding weird distortion to the background vocals and slight glitch electronics to give the piece a film-noir almost Blade Runner feel.
The River Mirrored sees Goldie take the original and give it a grittier, more acidic twist whilst still managing to retain the soulful and meditative qualities of the original (the sample of running water ends the song on a very blissful note).
As we turn onto the final stretch of the album. The epilogue, the concluding chapter, Goldie takes us into more familiar territory with Triangle, an addictive slice of breakbeat that contains elements that are woozy and have the capacity to bend the mind. Little feint touches that add to an atmosphere of addictive chaos and love of the sweat covered walls of clubs around the UK.
Tomorrow’s Not Today is a subtle and gorgeous slice of breakbeat soul which oozes positivity and contentment. The piano that plays throughout is hypnotic and sincere and could easily be separated from the main track and used as a solo piece.gorgeous slice of breakbeat soul which oozes positivity and contentment. The piano that plays throughout is hypnotic and sincere and could easily be separated from the main track and used as a solo piece.
The main film concludes, the credits now roll and over it we get Run Run Run. This is an epilogue, a tying up of everything that has proceeded it. The lyrics serve as a tool for Goldie to tell his loved ones thanks for all that they have done for him. For his fans for sticking by him and as sound life advice for everyone out there. Go live your life, chase your dreams, conquer your fears and love love love anyone willing to give you the same in return.n.
The Journey Man is not just an album. It is a diary. It is a science lab’s results for the tests of someones genetic code. It is a testament to the power of love, the people we surround ourselves with and the connections we make. It is unashamed to tell you that even on the brightest of days shadows will be cast but it is within you have the power to face these shadows with confidence. It is an album born out of the grime of the Bronx, the serenity of the yoga studio, the sunshine of Thailand, and the darkness of a club. It will no doubt prove to be an album that splits opinion. Many will just wish for a retread of old ground. Many still look at electronic music as disposable, to be enjoyed whilst off your head on a Saturday night yet there are others…those who recognise the fact that electronic music and the communities it has built have been a great factor in social and political changes. It is an art form worth celebrating and preserving now more so than ever with clubs up and down the country being closed on an almost daily basis. Electronic music is more than just bass. When done right it is a celebration of all the great musical genres of the past. It is a celebration of the best of human kind.
Finally, The Journey Man is more than just a Goldie album. It is a Clifford Price album. It is thirty-odd years of inspiration and influence solidified into one whole. It is an experience and it is one that the author of it can be very proud of indeed.
The Journey Man will be released on June 16th via Cooking Vinyl / Metalheadz.
Goldie will be touring the UK with the Heritage Orchestra Ensemble this November. Full dates and details can be found here
Cooking Vinyl can be found via their website.