First time I heard Paul Hardcastle was on an 80’s CD compilation-as usual playing on the car stereo while running errands. The song was called “19”. It featured the British songwriter/producer/multi instrumentalist integrating sound samples about from the Vietnam War with female vocals and strong electro funk. The music,lyrics and innovative use of samples were very pointed and topical. It really helped me bring to mind how,despite how music press propaganda at the time was being delivered to both the public and eventually other musicians,that contemporary protest music was of course very much alive and well in the mid 1980’s. Interestingly enough? He was actually still operating. But had since taken a new musical course.
With the realization that smooth jazz mainly had to do with a production approach more than an instrumental one,Paul Hardcastle championed an instrumental style from the 1990’s onward that emphasized sleek production values,pan ethnic polyrhythms and his inventive use of sound samples. This music was referred to not as jazz,fusion or new age but rather as “chill”. It arose from the variety of funk that came from bands such as Sade as well. So it made sense that,after almost two decades of furthering this “chill” subgenre that Hardcastle would notice the Nu Funk movement,which sought among other things to clear the air about a perceived gap between 70’s funk and disco,by releasing his contribution to this with his second album of 2014 called Moovin’ And Grooin’. And in particular with the song “Do It Again”.
The song starts off with a sound sample saying “This should be heard at high volume,preferably in a residential area”. Then the very percussive drumming comes in (of a type where I can’t really tell if it’s a live drum or synthesized) over which a woman’s voice is breathing sensually in time to the rhythm. Then an accompanying counter hi hat cymbal rhythm kicks in before this round,ring modulated layers of keyboards come in playing a very jazzy melody. What sounds like a quartet of vocalists sing “let’s do it/do it again”-seeming,as Hardcastle himself put it to reflect disco’s “meaningless” lyrics’. Only almost each time these vocals show up,the instrumentation grows in intensity. By the time the swirling,orchestral Barry White type strings show up? Everything from the rhythm to melodic instrumental elements are behaving in funky,danceable unison until the song itself fades out.
On this song,there is an interesting mixture of the disco era’s dancability with the somewhat stiffer rhythmic accents of house-creating a digitized yet rhythmically loose hybridized groove. Peel back the production layers a bit? And I immediately heard another groove that I have a degree of familiarity with. And that would be Brass Construction’s 1975 funk/disco process classic “Movin'”. It was a mixture of quick tempo’d,percussive funk with a strong and persistent Afro-Latin rhythm that’s difficult to avoid in the genre,but showcasing funk and disco’s roots in African dance music that goes back for centuries. I was very impressed to see that Hardcastle is acknowledging not only the important of heavy rhythmic funk in the music of the disco era,but also it’s link to Africa. A link where any vocal element is advancing and conducting the instrumentation like a totally rhythmic orchestra. Understanding this from a somewhat culturally outsiders perspective is,from my point of view,what makes this song move.