To many people he is largely known as Ian Dury's groovy sidekick in the Blockheads (an ongoing love affair). Jankel trod manfully into Dury's life during the collapse of Ian & The Kilburns and was at the Ian Dury & The Blockheads, acting as the mercurial Londoner's sidekick, songwriting partner and musical director. If Dury brought the rock and the roll to their music, then Jankel delivered the jazz and soul.
But there is another side to Jankel: that of songwriter and solo performer and thanks to cult club hits like 3,000,000 Synths and Glad To Know You underground dance hero. Working alongside studio wiz, Phlip Bagenal, who not only engineered many of his best works, and with whom he also founded Eastcote Studios, Jankel was responsible for some of best and most experimental dance records to come from these shores. Predictably, Jankel's work received much less attention than it deserved in the UK mainly because he was white and from London at a time when most dance music fans regarded anything that wasn't black and from a Bronx ghetto as somehow inferior.
Perversely, it was largely the championing of his work by African-American DJs in New York and Chicago in the 1980s that led to the re-evaluation of Jankel's work in Britain and the subsequent release of this excellent compilation.
Jankel's first solo collaboration was with veteran songwriter Kenny Young (who co-wrote Under The Boardwalk) whose lyrics had been inspired by a recent and controversial Japanese movie called Ai No Corrida. It eventually ended up in the hands of Quincy Jones, and it was enough to win a deal with A&M, which eventually yielded five albums (and, bizarrely, no hits). ). "I loved Ian dearly but he was very demanding and intense. I needed time to express my other musical ideas, which weren't so English; music that was more Latin and jazzed out."
Whatever Jankel's music lacked in commercial sales it certainly made up for in underground kudos. Glad To Know You, co-written with Ian Dury (and later covered by Kitty Grant), was a huge club hit in the USA, spending 6 weeks on top of the Billboard Hot 100. One of his final efforts as a major label artist was You're My Occupation, featuring Brenda Jones on vocals, the best song on his fifth (and unreleased) album, finally getting a proper release after over 20 years.
It was often on the 12-inch releases where Jankel could really let loose and have some fun (not least with some of the wacky song titles) and from where many of the tracks for this compilation are drawn. Rêve de Chèvre (Goat Dream) is a dubbed out version of Questionnaire, shorn of its melodic content, driven by a skeletal rhythm and plaintive piano figures, while the brilliant 3,000,000 Synths is an experiment in the unnecessary overuse of the Oberheim. To Woo Lady Kong is a jazzy reggae reading of Glad To Know You, with Chas's raucous organ added as a knowing lick on the fade out.
There is also a new song included on the set, Get Myself Together, which he only completed a matter of months ago. "That was totally recorded in my studio at home," enthuses Chas. "I was quite excited after I recorded it. It was interesting hearing it back to back with the older recordings because it really fits. It was inspired by working with Yam Who and Toni Rossano and people like that, who live in clubs and that's rubbed off on me."
Although most of the songs included here were recorded over 20 years ago it sounds strangely fresh as though the wheels of fashion have circled once more towards what we might call Chasworld. This is partially to do with how criminally underplayed and undervalued his solo work is but it also reflects the influences of a lot of the dance scene's young bucks. "There are a lot of acts out there now, guys like Mark Ronson and Groove Armada, who are essentially club acts performing with live bands and I suppose that's what I was doing all those years ago," he offers by way of explanation. "It's club-funk with a rock edge and that's where I was coming from, too." It is, we'd have to say, where he is still coming from a few decades and many grey hairs later.
Here we present Chas Jankel's major label career, spanning five albums, many 12-inch singles, some crazed studio experiments, a few laughs and several very good songs along the way. Glad to know you? You betcha.
Written by K. Young & C. Jankel.
Published by Lazylizard Music / Intersong Music ltd Heathwave Music
Lead Backing Vocals, Guitar, Piano, Bas, Oberheim, Percussion, Wahwah Trumpet: Mark Isham
Bass solo: Paul Westwood
Drums: Pete Van Hooke
Recorded & Mixed at the townhouse by Mick Glossop
TIRK031: My Occupation - The Music Of Chaz Jankel