TOTAL CONTRAST: ‘Total Contrast’ (Label: PTG Records, Vinyl Masterpiece )

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TOTAL CONTRAST: 'Total Contrast'

London-based soul duo, Total Contrast, began life in 1983 when singer, Robin Achampong, joined forces with keyboard player, Delroy Murray. The pair issued a self-produced single – the catchy, synth-driven, dance floor number ‘Be With You Tonight’ – on their own Total Contrast label and though it didn’t set the world on fire, it stimulated sufficient interest on the UK club scene to alert the A&R men at London Records, who promptly signed the duo in 1985. For their debut long player, the group enlisted the help of Scottish drummer-turned-producer, Steve Harvey (the same Steve Harvey who later relocated to California and went on to produce highly regarded records for Frank McComb, Ledisi, N’Dambi, Brigette, Donnie, and more recently, The Temptations). Back in 1985, though, Harvey was more reliant on programmed synthesisers and drum machines than he is now, as this album – reissued for the first time by the Dutch-based PTG/Vinyl Masterpiece label – attests. However, although the production values of ‘Total Contrast’ are unashamedly ’80s in character and dominated by that era’s computer technology – like sequenced synths and noisy, robotic Linn drums – the album hasn’t dated too badly. That’s because the songs are strong and often infectious while Robin Achampong’s passionate vocals offer a soulful counterpoint to Murray’s battery of crystalline keyboards. For this writer, back in the day the killer cut was always ‘What You Gonna Do About It’ and on listening to this excellent reissue, it still stands out above the other cuts: it boasts a great dance groove, a richly hypnotic chord sequence, sparkling keyboards and a tremendously catchy melody on the chorus. No wonder it was a chart entry on both sides of the Atlantic. It wasn’t the group’s biggest UK smash, though – that was ‘Takes A Little Time,’ another good tune, which is also present on this album, along with ‘Hit & Run,’ ‘How Many Reasons’ and the fine closing cut, ‘Entangled.’ Certainly, this album proved that British soul acts could give the Americans a run for their money in terms of soulfulness and quality – though that fact didn’t help the group’s fortunes, given that they parted company with London a couple of years later. What adds to the interest of this reissue is the presence of five bonus cuts, including the group’s pre-London indie release, ‘Be With You Tonight,’ plus ear-catching contemporaneous remixes of key album tracks. This, then, is a strong package and well-worth acquiring, especially if you’re an aficionado of ’80s home-grown soul. It’s available from
(CW) 4/5