17 October 2021

Freestyle - Ski Spree/ Devil's Dyke


If you like analogue synths and skiing, look no further kids

Label: Sonet
Year of Release: 1975

Some musicians and songwriters make scoring a contract look so easy; they're the kind of flashy devils who turn up at an office with a demo tape in their hands, then promptly get offered an opportunity which seems to set an unstoppable chain of events in motion.

In this case, Stuart Willis was touting an instrumental demo on Denmark Street and happened to find himself in the offices of Noon Music, whose boss suggested to him that one of the tracks sounded like it would fit a Winter Sports theme. "Ski Spree" was born, and was placed with the mysterious group Freestyle. Once released, Noon Music pushed it to the National Ski Federation of Great Britain which led to it being featured in the opening and closing ceremony of the Winter Olympics in 1976. 

None of this impressed the public enough to turn it into a hit, which is a bit of a shame - it's the kind of frantic moog-ridden dancefloor number which did pick up some attention in the mid-seventies, and it's certainly powerful enough to stand out. By today's standards, however, I'd argue the synth aspects are a bit too squeaky, like someone is brutally taking hammers to an electronic robot cat. 

I much prefer the flip side "Devil's Dyke" which is a full-blown jazz disco meltdown, featuring puffing flutes, squelching keyboards, fidgety basslines and busy arrangements, all of which work together without sounding too fussy or sophisticated. It's one of those jazz-funk tracks which doesn't over-egg the "jazz" aspect and causes feet to involuntarily twitch in even the laziest of couch potatoes. 

Sadly, I'm not too sure who Freestyle were. The Music Week dated 20th December 1975 mentions the songwriter behind the track rather than the group, which would suggest to me that they're a group of seasoned session musicians rather than a going concern, but I freely confess that might be a red herring. If you know better, please feel free to say.

The only lead I have is that the "D Priest/ B Squires" credit on the flipside, both of whom also wrote songs for The Squeal Band who signed to President in 1977 and have already featured on the blog. While I never managed to establish much useful information about them, I wouldn't be surprised to learn that the two groups are connected. 

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