By John Samson, 2003
For those of you who don’t know/remember, “Forces Favourites” was a radio programme for “tannie en sussie to stuur groete to boetie who was doing his bit op die grens. (Or in English for the benefit of our international readers a dedications programme for family to send greetings to the boys fighting on the borders of South Africa).
The ironically titled “Forces Favourites” compilation was an album put out in the 80’s with the support of the End Conscription Campaign and features some of the strongest political songs of the time.
The album opens with the upbeat jive punk “Pambere” by Mapantsula which is sung in Sotho (I think). The tune is great and the word Uhuru keeps cropping up every now and then.
The Aeroplanes “National Madness” follows and while the tune keeps the upbeat feel, the lyrics are biting (‘National madness, a curse on the land, Jesus is murdered by his own hand’). These 2 opening songs both feature some great brass sounds.
The feeling then changes as we move into the darker and at times sinister “Potential Mutiny” by Stan James and “Numbered Again” by the Facts. There is a bluesy sound underlying these sombre tracks.
The Cherry Faced Lurchers then dish up a slice of Van Morrison with “Shotdown in the Streets”. A great song that has dramatic musical pauses and then fairly flows to the point where the vocalist is rushing to get thewords out before the next pause. Van would have been proud of this song.
The Kalahari Surfers deliver a harsh synth sound to almost a march beat and features probably South Africa’s first white rapping. Samples of the kommandant shouting orders during the musical bridges are used to great effect.
The raw and punky “Whitey” by the Softies and “Don’t Believe” by In Simple English are both reminscent of the Ella Mental, especially the latter which feature a great vocal performance which if it isn’t Heather Mac, it sounds a lot like her.
“Too much resistance” by Nude Red opens with a superb sax sound. The songs is vibrant, tuneful yet has a punky/ska edge to it. This to me is the best song on the album and had it not been for it’s political message cold have been a hit.
The album ends with Roger Lucey’s “Spaces tell Stories” and the bohemian Jennifer Ferguson’s “Suburban Hum”. Both are tinged with anger, the latter alternating between smokey jazz and experimental jazz. More great sax work on this one.
Overall this a great collection of powerful tunes. The message is no longer relevant (or is it?) but it’s worth listening to for the music alone and sometimes it’s good to remember the bad times.
John Samson, SA Rock Digest Issue #81
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