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Black Grape - It’s Great When You’re Straight... Yeah: Deluxe Ed. album review

Expanded reissue for Shaun Ryder’s post-Happy Mondays masterpiece

Black Grape It’s Great When You’re Straight Yeah album cover

Released in 1995, this, Black Grape’s debut, was a gleeful explosion of profane, raucous, promiscuous funk-punk hedonism that felt like a defiant counter-blast to Britpop’s dubious brand of selective nostalgia.

After Happy Mondays imploded, Shaun Ryder and Bez proved lightning could strike twice, scoring a platinum album with help from ex-Ruthless Rap Assassin Paul ‘Kermit’ Leveridge, former Paris Angels guitarist Paul ‘Wags’ Wagstaff and others. Their pop reign was shorter than the Mondays’, but it left a big dent, earning a string of Top 10 singles.

Two decades later, It’s Great When You’re Straight … Yeah has lost little of its combustible, groove-driven, rowdy charm. Ryder and Kermit’s sharp lyrical skills are especially striking, trading surreal wordplay and half-borrowed lines from hymns, adverts, football chants and classic rock songs on the party-bouncer In The Name Of The Father and the slinky Stones-y Shake Your Money. Mixing rap, reggae, hard rock, funk and punk elements, Black Grape sound at times like a Salford version of the multicultural melting-pot collectives fronted by George Clinton or Sly Stone.

The bonus material on this three-disc expanded reissue includes the Grape’s unofficial Euro 96 single England’s Irie, featuring Keith Allen and Joe Strummer, plus five chaotic live tracks recorded in 1996. Among the more conventional remixes are inspired dubstep deconstructions by Goldie and Outlaw Josie Wales, while a DVD of promo videos and TV appearances completes the package. Nothing essential, but nothing that dilutes the liberating, anarchic majesty of the main album either.

Stephen Dalton has been writing about all things rock for more than 30 years, starting in the late Eighties at the New Musical Express (RIP) when it was still an annoyingly pompous analogue weekly paper printed on dead trees and sold in actual physical shops. For the last decade or so he has been a regular contributor to Classic Rock magazine. He has also written about music and film for Uncut, Vox, Prog, The Quietus, Electronic Sound, Rolling Stone, The Times, The London Evening Standard, Wallpaper, The Film Verdict, Sight and Sound, The Hollywood Reporter and others, including some even more disreputable publications.