Classics: Coldcut feat. Robert Owens – Walk A Mile In My Shoes (Henrik Schwarz Remix) (Ninja Tune)
A French expression says: “Qui se ressemble s’assemble…” Something you would translate in English like: “Birds of a feather flock together!” Although I would tend to think one’s rather got to get this spiritually thinking. And eventually go for “Great minds think alike”. This being most likely where are to be found the protagonists of ‘Walk A Mile In My Shoes’. With its lyrics pretty much speakin’ for themselves as a matter of fact…
“If I could be you and you could be me for just one hour, if we could find a way to get inside each other’s minds. If you could see you through my eyes instead of your ego, I believe you’d be surprised to see that you’ve been blind. Walk a mile in my shoes (x2). And before you abuse, criticise and accuse, walk a mile in my shoes…”
Let’s just take a look at the origins of both Coldcut, Robert Owens and Henrik Schwarz. How many probablilities did they have to be meeting each other at first sight? I suppose they all made for themselves the lyrics of ‘Walk A Mile In My Shoes’. This givin’ birth to a composition of a rare beauty at the end. With German studio wizard Henrik Schwarz walkin’ in so to say the path of the Bauhaus art school. In other words, radically simplifying the forms in order to keep the essential. And, by that, highlight if not emphasise its various components. From Owens‘ one of a kind performance. To its symphonic elements around a kalimba.
I’ve come to establish a parallel a long time ago between Owens and Omar whom I’ve both met back in the day. This most likely because of their natural ability to make music theirs, whatever the genre may be. And, besides, Schwarz has also happened to rework a song by the likes of Omar. Itself being the equally vibrant ‘Feeling You’ on Mousse T‘s Peppermint Jam label back in 2012.
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“I’ve always been into Gospel voices. Robert had a religious background, although his sound was an exception to the rule for me. It didn’t come instantly though. As a matter of fact, Robert is like a wild horse. Unless you put up margins for him, he never can sing the same line the same way twice. I had to constantly sort of reframe him…” (Frankie Knuckles)
Here we have a statement that pretty much speaks for itself. And this by no one else but the one remembered as the Godfather Of House. Quite evocative of the inner strength/voice which had led Robert Owens to deliver some of the most vibrant vocal performances one can think of. Among those very rare to have stood the test of time. Being to the Chicago (House) scene what Arnold Jarvis happened to be to its NYC alter ego. And more widely being to House what Omar has become to the contemporary groove. With thanks to their unique voices and an undeniable eclectism…
A quick look at Robert Owens‘ discography (on Discogs) says it all. Or almost, as chances are great they may not have listed his entire repertoire. What we can read though is an inventory of 5 albums and 100+ singles. And, in the meantime, the fact that he’s been collaborating with some of the most talented producers since the second half of the 80’s.
As you may guess, Robert Owens grew up singin’ in church before exploring the facets of DJing. Eventually meeting Larry Heard by the middle of the 80’s. This resulting in the twosome givin’ birth to Fingers Inc. along with Ronnie Wilson. And subsequently releasing ‘Another Side’ back in 1988 on Jack Trax. A mythic album featuring timeless jewels such as ‘Mystery Of Love’, ‘Bring Down The Walls’ and ‘Mystery Friend’ to name a few.
Owens eventually engaged the upper gear the year after. This when joinin’ forces with Frankie Knuckles and a then unknown Satoshi Tomiie on the seminal ‘Tears’ (FFRR). Then makin’ his debut on Fourth & Broadway in 1990 with the abyssal ‘Visions’ co-produced by Frankie Knuckles and David Morales. The latter crafting on his own this time the syncopated ‘I’ll Be Your Friend’ which got released the year after on RCA.
He contributed to the recording of Larry Heard (Mr. Fingers)’s ‘Introduction’ album in 1992 on MCA. That same year seeing the release of the insanely vibrant ‘Too Much For Me’ without his consent. Launching his Musical Directions imprint while relocating in London, he delivered ‘Ordinary People’ with remixes courtesy of Booker T two years later. Eventually sharin’ the bill the year after with Michael Watford on the Marshall Jefferson produced ‘Come Together’…
In 2000, he landed his voice on Photek‘s blowing ‘Mine To Give’ with remix work by the likes of David Morales. Eventually colloaborating with other junglists – London Elektricity – with whom he released ‘My Dreams’ and ‘Different Drum’.
With Quentin Harris, he did ‘Always’ and soon after he came along with Coldcut on the abyssal ‘Walk A Mile In My Shoes’. He contributed to Atjazz‘s syncopated ‘Love Someone’ in 2007. Then he teamed up with Ron Trent on ‘Movin’ On’ then ‘Deep Down’. Meanwhile 2007 saw him sharing the bill with Gene Hunt on ‘Twilite People’. Then 2010 with DJ Spen on the deeply heartfelt ‘A Greater Love’.
He contributed more recently to Ralf GUM‘s ‘Fly Free’ (2013). And he also joined US Nu-Disco gurus Soul Clap on ‘Misty’ the year after. Not to mention Kenny Dope with whom he shared the bill that same year on ‘Bricks Down’. Or Compost Allstars (Beanfield, Christian Prommer, Roland Appel and Michael Reinboth) on ‘Good Day’. This in addition to Martello‘s ‘In The Beginning There Was House’ and Oscar P‘s ‘Thank You’ which we both welcomed as our Single Of The Week at the time.