Second up in our series of Staff Picks from the Mr Bongo catalogue is Marketing Master, Matt Neale. Matt picked Atmosfear 'Dancing in Outer Space', and here's why...
Atmosfear 'Dancing In Outer Space' is a Jazz-Funk anthem that after its release in 1979 went on to become a true underground classic.
It almost made the top 40 singles chart here in the UK (went top 50), but it was in the underground clubs across the world were it really found a home. Embraced in the States and championed in such clubs as the legendary Paradise Garage, it is a record that most people will know when heard, but what many people probably don't realise is that Atmosfear were a British group. Formed in 1979, they consisted of bassist, and keyboardist Lester J. Batchelor, drummer Ray Johnson, guitarist Andy Sojka, saxophonist Stewart Cawthorne, and producer Jerry Pike.
I only discovered their origins after I delved deeper into their back catalogue which was released on the excellent Elite Record label (run by Andy Sojka from Atmosfear). Although they didn't have another hit on the scale of Dancing in Outer Space, they did continue to make tracks that resonated in the underground, and their discography is one to check.
Check this classic from the band which was also remixed by Dimitri From Paris back in the 90s.
I guess like many people of my generation (early 30's), my personal introduction to the track was via Masters At Work, and their remixes released on Disorient in 1997.
MAW can do no wrong in my opinion and their respectful but masterful remixes resulted in a 12" that rarely leaves my box. The original track has THAT instantaneously recognisable hook, a funky as hell wobbly bass bridge and a genuinely unique other worldly sound; MAW kept these elements, but their beefing up of the percussion and added spoken word (allegedly by a friend of Kenny Dope rather than a pro) just gave the track a little something extra in my opinion. Taking on a classic such as this must have been a daunting task, but it got the blessing of Sojka and went on to sell well into five figures of 12" vinyl at the time. Below you can see the guys at the Mr Bongo record store Poland Street, left to right > Dave Bongo, Louie Vega, Kenny Dope Dope Dope, Andy Sojka (Atmosfear).
Dave Mr Bongo attended at times the sessions where MAW worked on their remixes (there were several produced), and I always enjoyed the stories he tells of those times. LATE night recording, huge Chinese food orders, and being there when Kenny Dope received and premiered the legendary 4Hero remix of Nuyorican Soul 'Black Gold of The Sun'.
As you can imagine he described the atmosphere as electric and he got to witness two seminal moments in recent dance music history. All that aside, the original version of Dancing in Outer Space is a personal favourite from the Mr Bongo catalogue, and if you are looking for a better British Jazz-Funk record, there isn't one (maybe Level 42 'Starchild', but only maybe).