Arthur Baker Classics Collection Coming

Influential '80s dance-music, hip-hop producer including 'Planet Rock' on compilation due in summer.

Arthur Baker, one of the most influential dance-music and hip-hop producers of the 1980s, will release a collection of his classic tracks this summer on Paul Oakenfold's Perfecto Records.

Among the influential cuts to be included on the Perfecto compilation, which is as yet untitled, are the seminal single "Planet Rock," a trope of Kraftwerk's "Trans Europe Express" recorded by Afrika Bambaataa + Soul Sonic Force in 1982, Rocker's Revenge's "Walking on Sunshine" and New Order's "Confusion," a 1983 club hit that crossed over to the American R&B chart. Baker said the compilation will also feature a second disc of his dance mix cuts from the '80s and '90s.

"It's all the stuff I'm known for, really," he said, adding that his music has been featured on a number of compilations, most notably Tommy Boy Records' four-volume 1998 collection The Perfect Beats, but that they were "never sort of mine."

In addition, Baker has completed more than a dozen songs for a solo album, The One That Got Away, which he said would be out in the fall. The record is heavy on collaborations with artists from across the musical spectrum, including Mogwai guitarist/singer Stuart Braithwaite, Primal Scream bassist Mani, former New Order bassist Peter Hook (a.k.a. Hooky), raunchy techno-punk queen Peaches, jazz legend Pharoah Sanders and members of UK power-pop trio Ash. The rhythm section of Roni Size's Reprazent crew, bassist Si John and drummer Rob Merrill play on three tracks. Baker described the songs, all of which he wrote or co-wrote, as quite diverse.

"It's danceable, it's punk, there's a sort of punky jazz thing," he said. "If you like Primal Scream's album [2000's XTRMNTR], Death in Vegas and that kinda stuff, you'll like this."

For the past three years, Baker has focused almost entirely on the new album — which will be his third solo full-length, following the largely unheralded Merge (1989) and Give in to the Rhythm (1991). He said he plays bass, harmonica and keyboards on it, in addition to doing all drum programming. Linking the seemingly disparate styles on The One, he said, was "actually, my relationship with my ex-girlfriend," although he rejected the notion that it was any sort of "rock opera."

The album's guest artists overlap in several intriguing combinations, including one track with Braithwaite on guitar, Mani on bass and Hook on another bass part, and a recently recorded track co-written with Adam Snyder — who played keyboards on Mercury Rev's 1998 LP, Deserter's Songs — which Baker said would feature Tindersticks singer Stuart Staples on vocals.

Baker's innovative use of electronic instruments and tape edits in hip-hop and his dance-oriented remixes of pop hits, such as Bruce Springsteen's "Dancing in the Dark" and Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun," helped pave the way for the development of a variety of future styles. They include the pervasive electro sound of the mid-'80s to the early Detroit techno rhythms of Cybotron and Derrick May.

"Put the Needle to the Record," another Baker cut he said would likely be featured on the collection (recorded in 1987 under the alias Criminal Element Orchestra), is widely considered the first hip-hop collage, having spawned similar "edits" by artists such as Double D & Steinski, Coldcut and Cut Chemist, not to mention the genre of turntablism as a whole.

Fresh off a trip to Cuba and back in London, his home for the last five years, Baker has decided to try to do his part to help end the U.S. embargo of Cuba, which he called "outrageous." He said a recent conversation with Moby may lead to a benefit music-event toward that goal, perhaps called Rock the Blockade, although no specific plans have been made. Baker was among the driving forces behind the 1985 collaborative "Sun City" anti-apartheid track and awareness project.

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