MC 900 Ft Jesus – One Step Ahead of the Spider – 1994 – American Recordings

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The rumbling of storm clouds signify the  start of this truly odd piece of work. This is a CD I brought a few years ago but had on tape for years. A mate of  mine used to do a radio show and threw this one at me to listen to at the time. I recorded it. Kept it as a car cassette for years and finally bought it for pennies about 4-5 years ago.

Here we have a thoroughly unclassifiable album of music….or is it music. It is by degrees jazz, funk, electro, hip hop, spoken word, poetry, film music etc etc etc. MC 900 Ft Jesus or Mark Griffin was a Texan classically trained trumpet player turned rapper. He plainly has a love for Miles Davis and words. This was his last album and soon after this he withdrew from the music industry. It’s a shame because Mark Griffin is clearly someone with something very very different in his head.

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As I said the rumbling of storm clouds are heard as this album starts its sinister first track which sounds like a mangled road movie. You can see the end of ‘Vanishing Point’ in this title track; the eleven minute story of a girl driving out by the New Moon. You can feel the dust of ‘Two Lane Blacktop’ as the insistent repeating jazzy bass and drums support the telling of this sorry tale with a little free organ on the top. A minimalist drum solo fading away with the dark builds suspense and the bass struts back in to announce that things are going to get nasty ‘Fix the stare straight ahead’ and on ‘One very loud tick of the clock’ the mayhem of a car accident is recounted as ‘1000 startled crows erupted’

Now Mr Jesus doesn’t sing us these things. He tells stories. He is a poet. He is described as a rapper but this fella isn’t classic hip hop. Oh no. There is not a hint of street pretence here. This middle class white boy doesn’t speak of these things. No fast cars and fast girls. Well perhaps girl in a fast car but then throws her into the nearest hard object. He doesn’t have a classic rap style. He just says it. He sometimes says it through a megaphone. It’s sometimes fairly disturbing but  and sometimes intensely hilarious.

He dismantles a definite album theme immediately with a catchy piece of funky electro with a jazz flute solo in the middle in ‘But if you go’.

His next offering is another piece of funky electro but this time with an entirely daft vocal about ‘er gee whizz, if I only had a brain’

Then we are in repeated minimalist mode with ‘Stare and Stare’. Wah wah guitar and repetitive bass line go round and round until towards the end the guitar sounds like Frampton talk box at half speed. Very Odd

It is not until ‘Buried at Sea’ that we begin to hear his hip hop influences. The beat and sampled sax get you right in the mood for some ‘Rebirth of Cool’ style trip hip hop and….er… Mark gets his megaphone out and delivers almost one syllable at a time. Always contrary!

Time to change style again and you can now hear that he is a trumpeter and is rightly obsessed with Miles Davis. Bitches Brew/On the Corner funky saxophone back up Mark as he leads a one man tirade against you. The plainly obvious crazy guy. Mmmm look in a mirror MC.

‘Do not make the mistake of believing that I am the person speaking to you’ ‘Do not obviscate with science or other baloney sandwiches’ Please do not change colour when I am speaking to you’ and so on. Its a gas!

Gracious Pepe is a little slice of Spanish electro with add Marimba and Rhubarb is a load of industrial noises whilst a guy talks about the 1980 comedy piece ‘Rhubarb Rhubarb’. Yep. Of course it is

The real epic is the immense ‘Bills Dream’ in which Bill, a corpulent opinionated Ignatious J Reilly (Confederacy of Dunces) character yells at the TV on New Years Eve whilst the band emulate some of the best moments of ‘In a Silent Way’ That Miles feeling is really intense during this one. It should be the last track but that goes to Rhubarb with its storm clouds that now bring rain filling up already swollen puddles.

To be honest although I love this album for its sheer oddity, nonsense, smooth jazz sounds but something about it’s whole doesn’t quite work. The album hasn’t quite got enough strong tracks however I find this fact just underlines the whole contrary nature of it.  So if you want something truly original that you wont have heard before immediately find and listen to this album

Try this for starters

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