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Thursday 16 November 2023

Brothers, Sisters...

Every Wednesday for the last five weeks my friend Stevie at the Charity Chic blog has posted songs under the title Brothers, Sisters... and every Wednesday morning when I open up the internet and see his posts I hear this running through my head...

'Brothers, sisters, one day we will be free/ From fighting, violence, people crying in the streets...'

The warm pulse of bass and 125bpm drum track follow, running through my mind, the tom tom fill at the end of the 8th bar crash in, the synth strings start to play, the Roland handclaps and cowbells dink in and I'm swept away by Joe Smooth's 1987 single. Promised Land was/ is the song that, as much as any, suggested house music was an open invitation to all, that the dancefloor was a place of inclusivity and openness, where colour, sexuality and differences were swept away by the power of dance music. 

Promised Land

In 1987 Joe Smooth was on tour in Europe with Farley 'Jackmaster' Funk and was blown away by the way European audiences had taken to house music. He wrote the song inspired by this and wanting to capture something of the spirit of Motown's classic singles, music as a call for unity and brotherhood/ sisterhood. 

'As we walk hand in hand/ Sisters, brothers, we'll make it to the promised land...'

The song was re- released in 1988 and 1989 and as the tide of history turned in Eastern Europe and then South Africa, Promised Land seemed to offer a soundtrack to those events. Lyrically it can't help but reflect Martin Luther King's famous I Have Reached The Promised Land speech too, the one he gave in Memphis the day before he was assassinated. The utopian dream of early house music. 

As a song it's a tempting one to cover, dance floor friendly, with two rousing chords, a pumping bassline capable of moving feet and vocals that provide a warm, misty eyed glow. Paul Weller caught the house music bug at the tail end of The Style Council and recorded a cover in 1989. The Style Council's cover is exactly the sort of thing mods in the late 80s should be doing, Paul and Mick on twin pianos, all slicked back hair and loafers while Dee C Lee stomps and dances centre stage. It was their final single- the house inspired album Paul presented to Polydor was the end of the road for them. 

In 2006 Findlay Brown covered Promised Land. Findlay's laid back, dreamily nostalgic and melancholic music was based in folk, ambient and pop- his cover of Promised Land was released as a single with a variety of mixes, versions and edits in 2010 including this one by French producer/ DJ Pilooski. 

Promised Land (Pilooski Edit)


Charity Chic said...

Happy to take any credit that's going Adam!

Charity Chic said...

I find myself singing the sadly topical "Brothers,Sisters, we don't need that Fascist Groove Thang"

Swiss Adam said...

All too topical CC