The fact that McLaren didn't have much to do with this work isn't often debated. He blatantly stole from musicians of South African, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, as well as New York's World's Famous Supreme Team, Afrikaa Bambaata and the emerging hip-hop genre. In the time-honored rock music tradition, McLaren wanted to take the work of others, do something only slightly derivative with it, call it his own, and make a huge profit. As Robert Christgau writes: "Culture may be collective, but (in this culture) wealth ain't." On this album, McLaren's entrepreneurial genius is evident in two ways: 1) it was his idea to combine all these sounds into a new dance music, and 2) he hired Trevor Horn to do the combining.
But it's very easy to ignore McLaren altogether and just enjoy what Trevor Horn has given us here. And he's given us alot to enjoy - I think it's a fun listen from top-to-bottom. For all intents and purposes, this is the first Art of Noise album. The story goes that the first AoN album was recorded alongside Duck Rock and I have no idea of that's true, but it's an easy story to believe. Bonus points for utilizing the talents of Thomas Dolby and Keith Haring.
If you want more on McLaren (and can find a copy), pick up the book The Wicked Ways of Malcolm McLaren by Craig Bromberg (1989). As you can guess by the title, it's incredibly slanted against McLaren and his "ruthless methods," but helps you understand what was going on at the time. I'm not a big fan of McLaren's unethical business practices, but he sure did give us a lot of good music during my favorite decade.
Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: Did not chart
Tracks: The first time I heard this album, the DJ patter from the World's Famous guys bothered me, but now I kinda like it in a flashback/historical way. Buffalo Gals was the lead single, but not a hit in the US, charting only on the dance chart at #33. I've always liked that one, but these days I prefer the more AoN-type tracks, Obatala and Legba. Because of the similar South African "influences" (read: source material), some of the songs sound like something from Graceland, including Double Dutch, Punk It Up, and Jive My Baby. The final track, Duck For The Oyster, is easily skippable, but it's harmless fun and since you've come this far, you might as well finish it off. This could be the most disjunct concept album in history and somehow it works.
Personal Memory Associated with this CD: