The Tramp's Jukebox Puri: Mathar (Knows Best)

Unbelievable. That's the only way to describe the fact that The Tramp hasn't cranked up his jukebox since last September. To be honest, the chance encounter with that hideous rock'n'roll jukebox during the same month's TATTGOC outing to Sibbo's Delhi Dhabba was enough to make me wheel my machine into a cupboard and forget about it. It's taken until now to recover from not only the 50s soundtrack of that night but also from the substandard meal that was served up to half the crew.

But now, with the dust sheet removed, a bit of spit and polish and new needle fitted, it's time to plug the Wurlitzer in and serve up a tasty dose of Indian-themed music to pass the time until the next curry outing. A 20p piece has been fed into the beast, the numbers have been tapped in, the vinyl has hit spindle and the needle is about to drop on ... Mathar.

I fully expect Mathar to be familiar to all our readers here at TATTGOC. The track was everywhere during the mid-90s Acid Jazz era and was, quite frankly, somewhat overexposed. Having not heard the track in years it recently popped up on an excellent CD of Brendan Lynch re-edits which was compiled for me by fellow TATTGOCer, and famed muso, Lime Pickle. Upon relistening to the number, and then reading up a little on its history, it became an obvious candidate for the Jukebox Puri treatment. So here we go ...

The version of Mathar most people will be familiar with was first released in 1993 by Indian Vibes on the French label Yellow Productions before being picked up and widely released by Virgin, first in 1994 and then again in 1998. Indian Vibes was actually a pseudonym of ex-The Jam/Style Council mod rocker Paul Weller. The recording of Mathar by Weller roughly coincided with his teaming up with Brendan Lynch who produced the Modfather's successful self-titled solo album and is credited with expanding Weller's sound into the emerging acid jazz scene. Popularised by DJs such as Gilles Peterson, acid jazz fused more traditional jazz/funk sounds with dance music, bringing jazz to a new, younger audience.

Featuring Weller on the electric sitar, Mathar is actually a cover of a much earlier jazz recording, also called Mathar, laid down by short-lived jazz outfit The Dave Pike Set in 1969. American jazz artist Pike moved over to Europe in the 1960s and formed The Dave Pike Set with a group of European artists and recorded the album Noisy Silence, Gentle Noise. Described as a "further exploration into funky jazz with brilliant guitar work and Indian influences" the standout track, and the one for which the album is most famous, is our very own Mathar. All very well and good, I hear you say, but what are the differences? To be honest, there aren't that many ...

Both versions start off slowly, a solo sitar twanging hypnotically away before the main track kicks in. The Indian Vibes cover version drops the original's acoustic guitar and adds a significantly beefed up drum track (the drums on the Dave Pike Set version sound very low in the mix, although they're still undeniably dynamite). The original version then veers dangerously close to noodly jazz wank in the middle before thankfully coming to its senses and steering back to the good stuff before completely losing the listener's interest (which, it doesn't). Mercifully, Indian Vibes only vaguely begins to noodle before remembering the lessons from the past and getting back into the groove. Below you'll find both versions for your listening pleasure, to compare and contrast. The Indian Vibes version gets my vote for the awesome psychedelic video that went with the track. Those that know the The Tramp well know how much I like things to be wigged out – and this cosmic video certainly does the job and gets the thumbs up from me. That said, Dave Pike looks like a very suave Lucifer there, just chilling with his vibraphone ...

The Dave Pike Set – Mathar:

video

Indian Vibes – Mathar:

video

So there we have it, two awesome versions of one great track. And if you'd like to have a standalone version of the original, click the link below.

The Dave Pike Set - Mathar

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