First released back in 2004/2005, BBE Music’s ‘Virgin Ubiquity’ compilations of previously unreleased Roy Ayers cuts have become sought after collector’s items in their own right. At the time of their initial release it was somewhat mystifying that these lost recordings had evaded release for so long. At a time when CD deluxe editions were, if you’ll pardon the pun, ubiquitous, it was something of a marvel that such a large volume of cuts from Ayers’ most productive period had remained hidden for such a time.
Curated by BBE label boss Pete Adarkwah from Roy’s original tapes, the recordings featured on the two compilations date from 1976 to 1981, a period which begins with ‘Everybody Loves the Sunshine’ (Ayers’ most sampled track with over 140 documented samples and counting) and closes with Roy’s production of Sylvia Striplin’s ‘You Can’t Turn Me Away’ (another oft-sampled cut which found favour with Junior M.A.F.I.A., Erykah Badu and more than 20 others).
In between those two heavily sampled landmarks sit many of Ayers’ most recognisable cuts and productions, including ‘Running Away’ and RAMP’s ‘Daylight’ (both sampled by A Tribe Called Quest) and ‘Searching’ (sampled by Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth and Ed O.G. & Da Bulldogs among others).
The tracks on this compilation evoke that golden period but comprise entirely previously unreleased tracks. Some are previously unheard versions of songs which did see a full release (an alternative recording of 1975’s ‘Mystic Voyage’ for example), whilst others offer hints of better known material recorded at the time. Most, however, are entirely new (old) cuts: full tracks, largely with vocals that neither sound like demos nor cast offs.
Those reading the albums liner notes will see no shortage of familiar names among the Ubiquity personnel who appear on these archive recordings. Heavily sampled funky drummer Bernard Purdie and Edwin Birdsong (an artist whose solo material has been sampled by Daft Punk and De La Soul among others) are just two examples from this all star line up.
There is enough material across both volumes of ‘Virgin Ubiquity’ for 3 or 4 self-contained albums alone, so these recordings come from what is arguably the peak of Ayers’ recording career. Ayers himself says “at that time I was writing 30 to 40 songs per day-I was on a magnificent roll. It’s amazing, all these records that I never got round to releasing.”
Ayers also recgnises the manner in which Hip Hop was established new interest in this archive material and his back catalogue generally: “People love that old analog sound. Something aboutthat period of time turns people on. I suppose the sound is the reason why a lot of the Hip-Hoppers sample me, too.”
COMPETITION: BBE Music are offering 5 lucky readers the chance to win a pair these fantastic compilations on vinyl! To be in with a chance of winning, all you need to do is answer the following question:
“Roy Ayers’ ‘1977 track ‘Running Away’ was sampled in which classic track by A Tribe Called Quest?” [Clue: The answer can be found on WhoSampled!]
Email your answers to firstname.lastname@example.org with ‘Roy Ayers Competition’ in the subject heading. Entries must be received no later than 5pm (GMT) on 5th February 2020. Winners will be randomly selected from the correct answers and notified by email.