Monthly Archives: June 2014

Andre’s Amazon Archive for June 7th,2014: Prince’s ‘Musicology’ and ‘3121’

          In celebration of Prince’s 56th birthday today,the artist in on the threshold of a huge comeback on Warner Bros. At the same time,this is not the first time he has been in such a position since the turn of the 21st century. Since Prince is now securely in the position of being the type of legacy artist in his field that he once musically admired? I am going to be presenting two reviews of the albums that symbolized Prince’s last major comeback about a decade ago. Enjoy!

Musicology

First off THE best thing on this CD is the title track-an as pure-as-funk-can-be distillation of all of Prince’s musical influences-a trip back to funk 101.When I first heard the CD a couple years back I was slightly disappointed,expecting an album of songs just as funky.For one critical moment I forgot what Prince was all about-musical eclecticism.This album is free of is the heavy rap/hip-hip type funk of some of his symbol era recordings.Luckily a new wave of pop artists have taken Prince’s classic sound as a base for their own and ‘Musicology’ finds him taking back that sound,representing Prince getting back to home plate in terms of his music-that means his freewheeling mixture of funk,soul and rock styles and everything in between.

“Illusion,Coma,Pimp & Circumstance” and “Life Of The Party” are both catchy,upbeat dance songs with a lot of programming and synthesizers,but they are used in a fairly organic fashion. Both.Both are about what is new and progressive in funk rather then the old school retro style of the title cut.The main styles used on this album are a series of sexy ballads based in classic 60’s soul,”Call My Name”,On The Couch” and “Dear Mr.Man” all put a great Princely spin on an old style.One of the most impressive songs here is the eerie “What Do U Want Me 2 Do”-another great example of a well crafted song with no musical boundaries that Prince does so well,with a very complicated rhythm pattern.Most of the rest of the album explores Prince’s patented pop-rock sound on such hard edged tunes as “A Million Days” and “If Eye Was The Man In Ur Life”,both showcasing Prince’s multifarious ability on the electric guitar and his great rock n roll shouting.And he delivers one of the very best pop records of his career with the peppy “Cinnamon Girl”,on my top ten list of favorite Prince songs actually and sounds very timeless.

The final cut “Reflection” is just beautiful-a pleasant,radio friendly pop/soul/folk ballad that’s very gentle and attention grabbing.Having been released twenty years after his “Purple Rain” album this shows the music world that Prince has actually taught the mainstream audience of his generation some important musical lessons-that despite radio categorizing and such the barriers between funk,soul,rock,folk and jazz are not as big as they seem to be-even though each tend to have their own audience and are usually referred to apart Prince has found a way to bring them all together into one style AND get people to enjoy them over the years.And despite whatever angry,political rock-hip hop/funk that TAFKAP tended to specialize in Prince was always there bubbling under the surface.’Musicology’ is a new beginning for Prince,a journey he started at the beginning of the millennium by taking his name back and (finally) his music.

Originally Written On May 26th,2006

3121

 

To me as a Prince fan of twenty years I was glad to see in Rolling Stone that ‘3121’ got to Number 1-it’s been awhile.But Prince’s latest CD’s since his post TAFKAP days have been a bit of a mixed bag.So I got this for my birthday and just slapped and on and BOY I must say I am impressed.But you have to put this CD on good stereo headphones-it burns.My opinion?Prince still has the nack for genre bending.And yes-‘3121’ has certain elements of his 80’s sound,namely the synthisized hooks and the heavy pop hooks.But Prince has changed his mind about the musical styles he uses for the now patened ‘Prince’ sound (he really just deserves a genre of his now)-classic funk is still the base but the rock blends in more and the jazz and new Brazillian elements are actually put into play,and (thankfully) the hip hop stuff is dead.As always variety continues to be the spice of Prince.

The title song is very deep, bassy and mysterious but “Lolita” burns with a harder,sexier funk and has a great tune attached to it.”Te Amo Corazon” is lovely,gentle latin pop jazz and very sudtle.”Black Sweat” is the big hit-it’s a fairly contemporary variation of the 1986 era Prince sound that produced “Kiss” and “Girls And Boys” but is much darkly sexier in tone.”Incence and Candles” as well as the more uptempo “Love” and “The Word” take a more contemporary taste on funk but it’s no in Prince’s orbit it’s barely noticable.”Satisfied” is terrific-one of Prince most passionate forays into classic 60’s soul with some great belting and Hammond Organ and very cleverly written.”Fury” is the one tune that harkens all the way back to 80’s Prince music with it’s funk-rock pop mixture.The final three songs here are actually some of the best here-“Beautiful,Loved And Blessed” is very bouncy and hummable-Tamar takes lead and raps (a little) and does a good job.

“The Dance” has a latin feel too but tries at a type of music Prince hasn’t really done before-the kind of Brazilian funk-jazz fusion Sheila E,George Duke.Airto and Flora Purim were doing in the 70’s.”Get On The Boat” is a terrific way to cap off-Maceo rips a solo through a cut totally worthy of James Brown-Prince himself even takes some grace notes from The Godfather himself.After all these years of hits and misses Prince is still THE MAN when it comes to his craft and at the very least ‘3121’ finds him at the top of his game.I do not know if it is marriage or his new religion that have inspired him and besides these could all be songs that existed in his vaults since the 80’s.But not likely-Prince is someone who seems to revel in letting the public here his latest material rather then relaying on his legendary vaults,which he only did briefly in the late 90’s during his post Warner Brothers slump.’3121′ merges the old with the new-it reaches out to young listeners with it’s bassy sonics,dancibility and use of technology as well as reaching out to more (shall I say) adult contemporary listeners looking to hear music from someone they grew up with-hard to believe Prince is lumped in with that age group now.And for those who just want to get funky?This like ANY Prince album is just the ticket.But it more then lives up to the hype and if he keeps moving on from this direction this could be the beginning of a new commercial comeback for his music.

Original Review From May 25th,2006

*Here are links to the original reviews.

For ‘Musicology’- http://www.amazon.com/review/R1N3RE80DZWGUA/ref=cm_cr_pr_perm?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B0001XTRCI

For ‘3121’- http://www.amazon.com/review/R1HDH29CYRI5VJ/ref=cm_cr_pr_perm?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B000E97HIA

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Filed under 1980's, Amazon.com, Blues, Electronica, Funk, Funk Bass, James Brown, Jazz, Minneapolis, Music, Music Reviewing, Prince, Radio, rhythm & blues, Soul

The Anatomy of THE Groove 6/6/14 Rique’s Pick : “Daft Funk” by Nathan East

Funky guitar. As much as I love bass, sometimes what I really miss more than anything is raw, uncut, rhythmic funky guitar. So I was in love when I heard the intro to Nathan East’s recent tune “Daft Funk.” The playing reminded me of one of my most cherished funk records, Herbie Hancock’s 1976 “Doin It”, played by guitarist Ray Parker Jr of “Ghostbusters” fame. I didn’t know if “Daft Funk” was him, but I knew it was for sure his style, and I found out very soon, the guitar part was being played by Ray! “Daft Funk” begins with Ray’s signiture funky guitar style, four bars of lead guitar, rhythm guitar, and riff all wrapped up in the hands of one funky musician. Parker Jr’s riff reminds one of Sly and Freddie Stone’s funky guitar playing. Parker Jr’s guitar is allowed the spotlight for the tunes four bar intro. He’s soon joined by killer cracking live drums from the late great Ricky Lawson, who sadly passed away in December of last year. Ricky’s drums are joined by the man of the hour, famed session bassist Nathan East. Nathan East, aside from his work with Fourplay, Earth, Wind & Fire, Phil Collins, Eric Clapton, and his beginnings with Barry White, among others, was the bassist on Daft Punk’s worldwide smash “Get Lucky.” “Daft Funk”, written by guitarist Michael Thompson, is a tribute to Daft Punk, East’s work with the group, as well as the same big studio band, well produced L.A disco-funk vibe that inspired Daft Punk’s “Random Access Memories” success.

East comes in playing an 8th note, anticipation, pulse type of bassline that lines up perfectly with Ricky Lawson’s kick drum, playing a kind of 8th note pattern that lines up perfectly from a rhythmic standpoint with the accent points of Parker Jr’s guitar part. The track gets very full at that point, featuring Rhodes and horn charts, with the funky guitar starting to fade into the background. East slides into his bass part.

East utilizes a musical technique many bassists such as Marcus Miller use when they record albums as the featured soloist. The pulse, heartbeat bassline continues, but East adds a higher, melodic bassline, playing sliding, vocal lines. The bass line is playing the main melody of the song in concert with keyboards, and the melody sets a dark minor mood. The keyboards play the melody and the bass guitar awnsers it. This gives the listener two bass guitars playing, one in the traditional supportive role of the bass and the other in a melodic role. The melody and the way the keyboard is EQ’d is a very obvious nod to East’s musical collaborators, Daft Punk. The melody section also seems to be written with a minor melodic cycle that recalls sections of Herb Alpert’s 1980 disco-funk mid tempo classic, “Rise.”

The chorus kicks in around 1;57, and much like Punk’s “Get Lucky”, the mood on the chorus is more celebratory, after a somewhat moody, reflective verse section. The Talkbox vocals of the great player Byron “Talkbox” Chambers are introduced on the chorus. This is reminiscent of Daft Punk, but Chambers plays and sings with great facility on his Talkbox, more reminiscent of a musician such as Roger Troutman. Chambers sings triumphantly “Tonight we’re gonna celebrate.” Lawson’s drumming goes to straight disco fours on the chorus section, a pounding throb emenating from his kit. The way the beat switches up from more rhythmically accented funk drumming to the smooth, consistent rhythm of disco, reminds me of the writing technique’s Quincy Jones used in working with Michael Jackson on “Off the Wall”, on cuts such as “Off the Wall” and “Burn This Disco Out”, the usage of funk and disco styles and feels as a writing device and a way to divide the sections of the song up. The chorus features guitars, strings, synths, and is somewhat more alive and celebratory than the verse section, as befitting the songs theme.

The verse section returns, but East adds other textures to the song at this point. The Talkbox begins to sing long sustained whole notes, going down in very close intervals, a melody of long sustained notes that takes about four bars to complete itself. At 2:52 we get a funky break, where both the Talkbox and Parker Jr’s funky guitar riffs become more prominent.

The second chorus of the song features Nathan East really throwing down. He plays tasty riffs, quarter notes almost like Bernard Edwards’ “Good Times” bass line, octaves, and other things that really stand out. Around 4;27 he plays a soulful, bluesy riff, that eventually leads to the song ending as it began, with Ray Parker Jr’s extremely funky guitar riff playing by itself.

East’s song shows the vitality of what Daft Punk did with “Random Access Memories” and “Get Lucky.” One of the main things about that album was that Daft Punk wanted to record in the way musicians and producers did in “the old days”, the heyday of funk and disco. Everybody in a room recording together, instead of the incredible ability to collaborate with musicians continents away modern technology offers us. They felt this would bring back some of the spontanaiety recorded music used to posses. East was the bass player on that album, but he also was the bass player on some of the best music of the “old days”, such as Barry White’s productions, as well as being a transitional musician into the modern days of digital. East sounds reinvigorated on “Daft Funk”, able to take all that musical history he has participated in and have fun with it, making real live funk in 2014 along with his baad LA musican colleagues. “Daft Funk” is a great funk tune that illustrates how modern funk music not only passes funk on to the kids but reinvigorates the pro’s love for the One as well.

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The Anatomy of THE Groove 6/6/2014 Andre’s Pick: Mariah Carey-“Meteorite”

Ever since my early adolescent years,there’s always been a part of me that really wanted to truly appreciate the music of Mariah Carey. She tended to view her multi octave vocals as an instrumental element and did embrace strong musical values. Trouble was she seemed to all too easily embrace the surface level “R&B diva” mentality a bit too readily on occasion. Sometimes the imagery surrounding her was such a turn off,I tuned out her talents. In recent years Mariah has has begun to change all that. Especially after a very genuine marriage to singer/comedian Nick Cannon and having delivered two fraternal twins a few years back. We’ve seen in history family and childbirth enhanced the creative output of Stevie Wonder,Sly Stone and Prince. After six years of dealing with marriage and child rearing? Mariah stepped back into the recording studio and released a new album Me.I Am Mariah…The Elusive Chartreuse ,one that shows an enormously varied stylistic and very gospel/soul/funk based depth. The first song that caught my ear on it was “Meteorite”.

The song starts out with a video game style electronic effect over which Mariah remarks about Andy Warhol’s remarks that in the future,everything will be famous for fifteen minutes. Than this steady,fast tempo’d Afro-Latin percussion part kicks in along with a series of dynamic,spacey synthesized keyboards playing parallel counter melodies. On each refrain there is a big band muted trumpet that again adds another counter melody for…an instrumental sound pastiche that does indeed bring to mind the imagery of meteorites shooting across the cosmos.  Mariah’s voice is featured here in her lower vocal towns-very much an overdubbed symphony of them much in the Marvin Gaye tradition. One voice is singing that sampled/cut up style techno type part,the other is a drawling voice singing the refrain and Mariah’s lowest gospel/soul belt singing the chorus.  Lyrically she uses the age of metaphor of the “shinning star” to describe the “musical star” with very funk/disco era lyrical imagery such as “As they watch you burn up,turn up,turnt up all the way”.

Over the years I’ve heard many different types of Hi NRG techno dance songs-mostly all of a very derivative piece. This particular song not only brings to mind many of the best qualities of acid house music. But this also embraces some fascinating and somewhat under explored musical directions from when the disco era came to a direct halt. The big band muted trumpets have the flavor of the electro swing movement,which in itself owes to the big band styled disco records of Dr.Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band and Barry White’s Love Unlimited Orchestra. Also Mariah’s assertion of fame as a source of spiritual guidance through connecting with a larger audience adds some hope and imagination to today’s often more pensively cynical viewpoints on achieving success.  Above all? The steady house rhythms are very fast and funky poly-rhythms. And although the song has no discernible bass line? That strong percussive rhythm gives the song all the bottom it would ever need to seriously groove-which it does. Its wonderful to see Mariah Carey,a biracial singer who chose the soul spectrum of music from which to create,has embraced elements of the Afro-futurist funk/disco/dance ethic in order to expand her grooves.

* For my full Amazon review of Mariah Carey’s new album,follow the link below:

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Filed under Acid House, Disco, Electronica, Funk, Mariah Carey, Psychedelia, Rhythm, Soul