It has been fifteen years since SMITH & MIGHTY released their first single "Anyone". One and a half decades later, the Bristol based duo can proudly look back at their oeuvre. Appropriately named "Retrospective", the new SMITH & MIGHTY CD presents their finest tracks, early releases, rarities as well as recent recordings by Rob Smith and Ray Mighty.
The "Bristol Sound" was largely influenced by the music and productions by SMITH & MIGHTY. It all started with their Three Stripe Sound System in the early 80’s. Championing a unique mix of funk, rap, reggae and dub the name Three Stripe quickly became a name for quality. Their own productions soon followed. In 1987, SMITH & MIGHTY released a few Burt Bacharach cover versions, "Anyone (Who Had A Heart)" ("Anyone"), and later "Walk On By" ("Walk On"). With these tracks, marked by low frequency basslines, soulful vocals and deep arrangements, SMITH & MIGHTY laid down the blueprint for the releases that followed from the British coast town, such as the debut single "Any Love" by Massive Attack. After a rather unlucky deal with London Records, SMITH & MIGHTY released their first official album in 1995, titled "Bass Is Maternal" on their own label More Rockers. During the euphoria for drum’n’bass in 1998, SMITH & MIGHTY finally had their international breakthrough. A fantastic set at Radio 1’s "Essential Mix" catapulted the Bristol outfit into the front row. The following release of their "DJ Kicks" for !K7 which in large part is made of their own productions raised the buzz to global proportions. SMITH & MIGHTY’s DJ tour which followed showcased their vast musical range and received enthusiastic responses in Germany, England, France, Japan and the USA.
The large musical spectrum SMITH & MIGHTY covered for their first releases also shaped their first album for !K7, "Big World, Small World", which was released early 2000. Contrary to the dark and apocalyptic sound sketches by Tricky, Massive Attack and Portishead, SMITH & MIGHTY remained true to the original spirit of Bristol. With their mix of hip hop, reggae and soul and their deep love for dub, SMITH & MIGHTY produced a classic album. Following the huge success of "Big World, Small World", !K7 re-released "Bass Is Maternal" in summer 2000 which helped to re-raise awareness for the first masterpiece by SMITH & MIGHTY. The album eventually entered the German album charts. Two years later, the album "Life Is…" was released on !K7, which highlighted further excursions into the realms of dubbed out, rhythmically versatile, urban soul.
After three albums and a dozen of 12" singles, it’s now about time for a "Best Of" compilation by the former More Rockers. On "Retrospective" one finds the biggest tunes by SMITH & MIGHTY, rare gems and floor burners. Like the first two tracks, who until recently were very hard to get: "Come On Back" is an impossible to find Bristol classic featuring the legendary singer Carlton. In 1990, Carlton released the album "The Call Is Strong", which by many music critics is considered more important than "Blue Lines" by Massive Attack. Even Daddy G, one of the heads of Massive Attack, said in an interview that "..it was Carlton who made THE Bristol record". The song was produced by Three Stripe, a.k.a. SMITH & MIGHTY. The same for "Wishing On A Star", a long lost Bristol anthem, which originally charted in 1989 in the front rows of the UK top 100. The track was performed by Fresh 4 who originally consisted of well-known UK DJs and producers DJ Krust, DJ Suv (later together with DJ Die and Roni Size part of the "Full Cyle" crew), Judge and Flynn (who later went on to form the UK drum’n’bass outfit "Flynn and Flora"). This song, which was personally signed by Richard Branson for Virgin, illustrates the many personal connections that have shaped the music coming from Bristol in the recent two decades.
Most notably "Retrospective" shows how timeless the sound by SMITH & MIGHTY remains. Though many of the songs were born in the mixing desk of SMITH & MIGHTY more than one and a half decades ago, their sound endures. Whether it’s the entrancing Burt Bacharach cover version of "Walk On By" ("Walk On"), the dubby drum’n’bass monster "Down In Rwanda" or the skanking 2002 dancefloor smasher "B-Line Fi Blow" – this "Best Of" selection is an essential compilation for every serious collection of electronic dance music. No doubt, "Retrospective" by SMITH & MIGHTY can be filed right next to albums like "The Call Is Strong" by Carlton, "Blue Lines" by Massive Attack, "Dummy" by Portishead, "Maxinquaye" by Tricky or Roni Size & Reprazent’s "New Forms".