Albums You Must Own Number 15 – Very Mercenary by The Herbaliser
The first time I heard The Herbaliser was when I heard their track Who’s the realest? on the FSUK4 compilation that came out in 1999. I loved the mix of funk and brass and hip-hop samples and immediately went out and bought the CD of the album that it came from, Very Mercenary, which had been released earlier that year on the ever-reliable Ninja Tune records.
The Herbaliser is the brainchild of Jake Wherry and Ollie Teeba, who unlike most hip-hop acts decided to use a live band to perform their funk and jazz sample based music out on tour. When the time came to record Very Mercenary The Herbaliser live band was an integral part of the setup.
Very Mercenary is The Herbaliser‘s third album and as an introduction to what the band does is nigh-on perfect. There are 16 tracks including an Intro and 2 short skits, out of these, 6 contain rap vocals from a variety of UK and American rappers. The most famous at the time was The Dream Warriors (Road of many signs), but Roots Manuva (Starlight) is probably the most familiar name to most people nowadays.
There are also 2 tracks featuring female rapper What? What?, now known as Jean Grae (Mission Improbable & Let it go) who has also featured on 3 other Herbaliser albums and showcases her vocal talents to full force on this album.
The remaining intrumental tracks contain a mix of styles. There is the aforementioned Who’s the realest?, which seems to be DJ Ollie Teeba‘s baby, all scratches and samples tangled together with one of the funkiest beats you will hear. Moon Sequence with the brass and bleeps is a very atmospheric head-nodder.
The Missing Suitcase is one of the standout tunes of the album and is very reminiscent of a 70s cop film, you can just imagine it soundtracking the car chase from The French Connection. This is also one of the best tunes that they do live. Hear The Missing Suitcase on the video below
As a testament to the legacy of this album, it recently hit its order threshold on http://www.beatdelete.com/ and was repressed on high quality 2 x LP.
I have been lucky enough to see The Herbaliser live on several occasions, at both festivals and their own shows and they never disappoint. The combination of live band, scratching and samples plus the odd track with either rap or sung vocals is fantastic.
If you like a bit of funk, soul and hip-hop I definitely recommend The Herbaliser, who released their 7th LP in 2012 on their own label after spending several years with Ninja Tune.
Review by Nick Rayman