The debut album
, released in 1996 on Cheeky Records
This album came as something of a surprise when it was released. We had all heard the amazing single, Insomnia, and on the basis of that were expecting an entire album of ecstasy-fuelled dance-music, with Maxi Jazz’s trademark voice rapping beautiful thoughts over pounding drums.
Thankfully, we were wrong.
Not that there aren’t plenty of pounding drums on this record. There are a couple of tracks which aim to get the dancefloor moving, and when Faithless decide they want to get things pumping, they certainly do. But if you are expecting a whole album of house music, you’re going to be sadly disappointed.
- Don’t Leave
- Salva Mea
- If Lovin’ You is Wrong
- Dirty Ol’ Man
- Baseball Cap
- Drifting Away
(The album is now available with an extra 2 tracks, remixes of Salve Mea
Before looking at the tracks in more detail, I should point out that I love this album. Not everyone does. I just read the Amazon.co.uk review of it, and they clearly don’t feel the same way. As always, listen and make up your own mind.
The first track on the first album from Faithless, and as such it was important to set the tone. And set it they did. From very spacey beginnings, the track grows into a funky little house number, and continues to build while Maxi Jazz preaches a sermon to the dancefloor… The backing vocals (So slow, it's gotta be, slow) come from Dido, Rollo's sister. According to Dido, her payment for contributions to the album took the form of one curry dinner. She's not complaining though, since her brother helped produce her first album (presumably also for free).
My name is G.O.D, the Grand Oral Disseminator
This track could not be more different to Reverence. Most of it consists of only a sampled acoustic guitar and Jamie Catto's voice, forming a beautiful, yet extremely simple, love song. I first heard this song 6 years ago now, and I still can’t hear it without getting goosebumps.
Packin your bags like people in the movies do…
Opera? In house music? You can almost picture the confused expression on the record label executives face… However, Faithless managed to convince them, and the result is another bangin’ house anthem, with an incredibly powerful female vocal line, sung in an operatic style.
If Lovin’ you is wrong
..And then things slow right down to a sexy grind… Maxi Jazz provides the vocals again over this track, with the music coming from a more traditional bluesy line-up of 'real' instruments. Very sexy indeed…
Lord, this is gonna last all night, if lovin’ you is wrong, I don’t wanna be right…
Still with ‘real’ instruments, Faithless start crooning away on this traditional love song about a girl who’s left her man behind.
You’ve been out on the tiles, winnin’ the smiles of men of low persuasion…
The hit singleTM. This is the track that catapulted Faithless to fame, and for me it remains the greatest track they’ve ever written. There were two reasons for this songs success. First, the amazingly catchy synth-hook, which even the most hopeless dancer could jump about to, and could be repeated endlessly without getting dull, so long as Sister Bliss was busy tweaking the dials. Secondly, the lyrics, from Maxi Jazz, were simply brilliant. Dealing with (possibly drug-enduced) insomnia, the words were both witty and completely fitting for a couple of thousand people jumping about the dancefloor out of their minds on amphetamines…
I only smoke weed when I need to…
Dirty Ol’ Man
More cleverly crafted lyrics, using the image of a dirty old man as a metaphor for big cities everywhere. The music treads a tight rope here between cheesy pop and hip hop, but manages to keep its balance.
..some call me London, I’m also known as New York…
A beautifully chilled out track with Dido contributing the lead vocal. Spaced out, electronically influenced, but not as hectic as Salva Mea or Insomnia.
I don’t care about the ozone layer, I wouldn’t notice if it wasn’t there…
Just to show they’re not all about drugs and partying, Faithless come out with this morality tale, set to a funky hip hop backing. The lyrics tell the story of a 14 year old boy (Maxi Jazz) being beaten up for his baseball cap, but learning to control his anger and accept non-violence as a solution
So try and listen hard before you fall into the trap, of making war over a baseball cap…
Relax. It’s all over…
Although I cannot confirm this, this album probably represents the entirety of Faithless's work up until this point. I saw them live in 1996, and although they played for over an hour, the crowd forced them to do two or three encores – Faithless had to repeat tracks (admittedly, remixing them as they went…), simply because they did not have enough material to play a longer set.
Disclaimer: The album has some very special, personal memories for me. I fell in love for the first time to Don’t Leave, I took my first pill to Insomnia, and I once spent 72 hours locked in a darkened room with only two friends, a large supply of narcotics, and the Reverence/Irreverence double album… It is possible my ability to view the album objectively may have been impaired. Still, I urge you to listen to it. Whatever you might think, there is no doubt that this is a surprising album.