June 30, 2011

Silver Anniversary Series - Fresh Gordon (1986)

For those who aren’t familiar with Fresh Gordon, he was usually decked out in Fila wear and you will see from the image above that he even used Fila’s trademark ‘F’ in his name logo.

I love this retro approach to brand association; it’s from a time before corporate law suits, before people got all sensitive about how their logo might be interpreted or what damage might be caused to a company or their reputation by associating with a particular individual. If an artist bought into the brand, they just associated themselves with it and the company was generally very grateful of the additional exposure. 

Fresh Gordon even acknowledges on the back of the 12" a local sportswear shop in Brooklyn for providing his outfit, how crazy is that?  Although I do wonder whether he would make the same decision today. These days I think most people would struggle to find an entire outfit by Fila that they’d be happy to wear in public, unless it’s a retro outfit of course!

Fresh Gordon started off as a DJ, but like many DJ’s at that time he also picked up the mic. It was this combination that enabled him to produce his own music and get a deal with Tommy Boy Records.

His first single was The Fresh Commandments b/w My Fila. The Fresh Commandments is an electro based track and is similar in style to some of Whodini’s early material as well as being exactly what you’d expect from a Tommy Boy artist from this era. My Fila on the b-side is a response track to Run DMC’s My Adidas and is recorded in a similar style to that adopted by Run DMC (note that Run DMC clearly made a much better choice when they associated themselves with a high street brand). The track also features Prince Markie Dee from the Fat Boys, who would continue to be a future collaborator behind the scenes, but more on him and the Whodini connection later.

The Fresh Commandments is an interesting concept single as Gordon attempts to lay down new commandments in the lingo of the day, for example:

Thou shall not perpetrate and fraud,
and if you don’t want to dance you’ll be ignored
Thou shall not wear fake Gazelle’s,
fake Fila suits, or you’ll be sent to hell

His modern day parables are entertaining and enlightening, and they give the listener a clear reminder of what the average rapper was concerned about during that period.
It’s also kind of funny to see that some things haven’t changed too much either. I can still go out and buy a brand new pair of Gazelle’s and I often hear people complain that their eBay purchase was a fake (usually because they bought something from the far east at a price that could never be right, idiots!).

All in all, this is a really nice track and it’s refreshing to hear it again in 2011. Much of the Tommy Boy catalogue has been republished in one form or another and many of the popular tracks appear on numerous compilation albums, but not this one. In fact I don’t recall seeing this on anything other than the original 12”.

Now, despite being signed to Tommy Boy and producing a promising debut single, Fresh Gordon’s career as a recording artist was relatively short lived. This was mainly because his primary role was in production.
In 1985 (the year before the Fresh Commandments) he had featured on, and produced, the Choice M.C.’s single Beat of the Street b/w Gordy’s Groove. Again, this was released on Tommy Boy Records.
He followed up the Fresh Commandments with another single the following year (1987) called Feelin’ James b/w I Believe in Music which was well received, but then that was pretty much it from a solo point of view.

He worked on the production side with a number of artists including the Choice M.C.’s, Master D, Kid Panic, DJ Watkins & Tony T, but more famously he also produced some of Dana Dane’s – Dana Dane 4 Ever LP (1990) and Whodini’s Bag-a-Trix LP (1991).

Coming back to my earlier comment about his collaborations with Prince Markie Dee aka Mark Morales from the Fat Boys, Mark Morales is credited as a 'production assistant' on The Fresh Commandments as well as making an appearance.  Fresh Gordon was also involved in producing a number of Fat Boys records in the late 1980’s, but in the early 1990’s when Prince Markie Dee left the Fat Boys to pursue his solo interests, they teamed up again to produced some of Father MC’s debut album Father’s Day which produced four hit singles and saw them working with the likes of Sean Combs, Howie T, L.A. Reid and Andre Harrell.

I also mentioned a Whodini connection, well apart from producing some of their Bag-a-Trix LP, Gordon also shouts out Jalil of Whodini on the back of this 12" and says "X-Rated funky thankx to Jalil of Whodini for the concept of The Fresh Commandments.  This record wouldn't have been possible without you!"  So Whodini were clearly friends as well as a significant influence on Gordon.

(Click image for large readable version)

He also shouts out Run DMC and clarifies that My Fila was not meant to disrespect their hit single.  He acknowledges that without them doing My Adidas he could never have done My Fila.
Clicking on the image above will open a full size image for anyone wanting to read the full list of credits.
So, if you haven’t heard Fresh Gordon before now (or you hadn’t realised that he’d produced what you’re listening to), or you missed the Fresh Commandments then hit the play button and see what you missed.   Or better still, download a copy of the full 12" including scans of the covers and labels.

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