Monthly Archives: November 2014

Andre’s Amazon Archive for 11/29/2014-‘We’ll Never Turn Back’ by Mavis Staples

Mavis Staples We'll Never Turn Back

I first purchased this album the day it came out and,upon listening to it on the way home decided to toss it aside and let it collect dust. It was not because I didn’t like it but it seemed like there was so much gloomy,dark sounding music coming my way during this time and because there was so much hype in the press about the “relevence” of this album it was only natural I’d be a little let down anyway-that commonly happpens. So four years later I decided to give it a listen and see how it impacted me now. First off it’s important to note that this album is firmly the domain of a fully mature Mavis Staples and not the youthful soul shouter of her classic days with the Staple Singers.

She sounds like herself vocally but her interpretations have a heavy,craggy world weariness about them that’s quite appropriate for the kind of album this is.Produced by Ry Cooder this album is mainly composed of moodily chorded,heavy reverbed hard modern blues/soul/rock style versions of civil rights era protest/spiritual songs such as “This Little Light Of Mine”,”Eyes On The Prize”,”In The Mississippi River” and “Jesus Is On The Main Line”. The fact the little to nothing is known of those who made up these traditional songs Mavis and Ry almost make it sound as if they wrote the songs together as originals. The songs are played as if they’ve been written by the musician and Mavis,as always has exactly her way with them vocally.

Most of the album follows on this slow,heavy handed level as Mavis has obviously come to the conclusion we must not be lax in our outlook on civil rights because,in particular in the era this was recorded in it seemed as if things in that regard were taking a turn back. Seeing how poorly many people behaved during the 2008 presidential election she may have in fact been onto something. Only “99 And 1/2” and “My Own Eyes” have anything close to a dance tempo here. This is not exactly a happy album but it’s not pessimistic either. It’s rather resigned and that might be why upon first listen I had little to no reaction to it. It’s an album you will have to take time to really get into if your interested. But if you take the time the rewards are very worth it,especially for your soul!

Originally Review Written On May 14th,2014

Link to original review here!*

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Filed under 2007, Amazon.com, Blues, Mavis Staples, Music Reviewing, rhythm & blues, Ry Cooder, Soul, Southern Soul, Women

Anatomy of THE Groove 11/28/2014 Andre’s Pick: “Happy People” by R.Kelly

For the sake of the serious musicians and even serious funk/soul/jazz devotees? The fact that R.Kelly bought in 80’s era George Benson guitar understudy Bobby Broom to play on his 1993 solo debut 12 Play speaks volumes about the breadth of Kelly’s musical vision and talent. Though always acknowledging the man as a top notch composer? It was my blogging partner here,Rique,who hipped me to explore deeper into the joyous grooves of R. Kelly’s more recent work. One that stood out strongly in my mind was the title song from Kelly’s 2004 album entitled Happy People. Again,it has a way of projected two simple words that speak volumes more as well.

Beginning with a scratchy vinyl from Kelly’s MC,DJ Wayne Williams a spirited gospel/soul piano ushers in the song which Kelly himself announces as being “another one for the steppers”. Following this a scaling,high up on the neck Southern Soul guitar and horn fan fare starts up a slow paced funky soul groove. The rhythm is very similar to that slow Afro Latin type percussion that provided an important link between both the grooving Philly ballads of Thom Bell,the slow grooving sophisticated Southern Soul of Willie Mitchell’s Hi studio sound and the hardcore funk coming out of the early/mid 1970’s. Which in turn marked the beginning of the disco era.

The melodicism of the song also comes from a number of different places. There’s a clear,crisp and wavering high synthesizer line-as well an adjunct of the high on the neck Southern Soul guitar from the intro of the song. There’s also slap bass accents which provide the deeper end of this melody,as well as being rhythmically supportive as it is by nature in funky music. There’s also an string (or at least string type) orchestra that introduces the vocal chorus-before the bridge where Kelly directs the stepping dance affair he’s singing about to mainly the percussive beat,one keyboard line and that slap bass. All before returning back to the full arrangement as it closes out.

Considering R.Kelly came out of the more vocal and performance oriented soul/R&B attitude of the early 1990’s? He had by the turn of the millennium evolved into an artist who appreciated the art of  melodic arrangement and the rhythmic process in his music. Even if he was often more in the position of utilizing the more hip-hop techniques of turntablists and samples to do so. He knows how to make modern musical methods and technology present a soulfully organic groove. And more over? He understands the art producing this down to a rich,creamy sheen.

In terms of concept,R.Kelly injects a huge amount of musical history into this one song. Vocally he’s evoking the smokey falsetto coos and calls of both Ron Isley and Al Green. He also utilizes the rich,gospel vibrato that was actually a carry over from Stevie Wonder’s enormous impact on the stereotypical new jack swing era male vocalist of Kelly’s generation as well. The fact that Kelly is able to project everything with great vocal clarity also adds to this. Everything from vocal soul to the melodic end of funk is strongly referenced by all of this. And it plays strongly to the basic lyrical content of the song as well.

The music video presents a soulful,cool and funky dance party in an ornate golden cathedral-covered in Renaissance art yet also featuring a live band and horn section. As well as a crowd dressed in funky urban hats,suits and dresses-many literally stepping in time. Stepping,which to me seems to be an extension on the hustle and the electric slide,is referenced along with the warm lyrical content of this song. It basically asks the listener to relieve their stresses by taking enjoyment in an elegant party atmosphere and dancing to the rhythm of the music in their life. It’s the basic link in that chain of the blues,jazz,soul up through today. And this is one of those songs that just puts it all together so well.

 

 

 

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Filed under 1990s, Al Green, dancing, Disco, Funk, Funk Bass, Neo Soul, R.Kelly, Southern Soul

Anatomy of THE Groove 11/28/14 Rique’s Pick: “Her Favorite Song” by Mayer Hawthorne

Any participant in the night life has seen them, whether they be casual partakers or hardcore intemperate indulgers. Those lovely, fly women in the club who seem to be having a fantastic time, all the time. But all that glitters is not neccesarily gold, which is the theme Mayer Hawthorne dealt with in his fantastic 2013 single “Her Favorite Song.” This song has already achieved instant classic status in my book, both for its smooth juxtaposition of two totally different funky feels as well as it’s deconstruction of the nightlife/single ladies narrative, along the lines of Amy Whitehouse’s “Fuck Me Pumps.” But Mayer goes beyond any type of moral judgement or reprimand by providing a song for the woman to sing, her favorite one in fact. “Her Favorite Song” in fact functions as two different songs, one is Mayers composition of the contemporary hip hop based grind that is the nightlife world his character inhabits, and the other is the song she turns to for refuge and true musical healing.

The song begins with a rock hard bass line, based around the interval of an octave. The bass has a heavily overdriven or distorted sound. The drums play a huge loud drum fill at the end of the pattern as the beat kicks in. The drumbeat itself is a fairly typical 1990s hip hop beat, rock hard, straightforward with a dirty snare sound and minimal syncopation. Hawthorne goes on to tell a story of a woman who “Walks straight to the bar in a party dress.” The woman is disturbed but trying to party her blues away, and it doesent quite work because she starts to tear up.

The next section is the “Her Favorite Song” portion, in which he says, “But when she gets home/she puts her headphones on/she plays her favorite song/and fades away.” The music itself for this section is a fluid, syncopated rhythm, with a a bossa nova style kick drum, a super hip bassline, and Earth, Wind & Fire Brazillian style vocals. Her favorite song gives her the wisdom and understanding to see “The world keeps turning/life goes on.” No matter what she was previously troubled by.

This particular one hits me on several levels. For one, the juxtaposition of the hard, grinding hip hop influenced funk track with the melodic, syncopated, loose Brazillian funk feel of the chorus is very meaningful for a fan of funky music in todays times. It’s like the sound of the world versus the sound of ones self. Hawthornes lady is like many of us, a person who has connected to music deeply in a manner that it can provide multiple levels of information and comfort to her. No matter how hard and unfeeling the world seems, the music is her comfort. In particular, Hawthorne being a funk/soul fan like myself, I dig the music he used to illustrate that, because it reminds me of my initial immersion into that world in the first place. While all the cars in the street where playing their ’90s hip hop, I was one who would go home, put on my AKG’s and play my favorite (funky) songs. Hawthorne tells a story of the power of music, when strong drinks and quick flings won’t do the trick. A story I’m sure many of us continue to live out in the here and now.

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Filed under Funk Bass, Mayer Hawthorne, Music Reviewing, Neo Soul, Nu Funk

Andre’s Amazon Archive for 11/22/2014: ‘The Man’ by Omar Lye-Fook

Omar The Man

Now I realize that these days eight years doesn’t seem to be a very long time to record a new album-what with litigation/money being such an overriding concern even more than it ever was-and it was always a huge concern. Omar Fook is a figure little known in the US. One important reason for that is there was no anti disco movement across the pond. So funk,soul and related dance music’s of all sorts continued to evolve on the underground dance circuit unencumbered during the new wave and alternative eras. Omar was on the ground floor at the beginning of the 90’s-right up there with American figures such as D’Angelo and Terence Trent D’Arby (whom I consider American for all intents and purposes). Still it been eight years since his previous album Sing (If You Want It). And Omar’s albums have a tendency to go out of print extremely quickly. So I thought I’d review this new album of his while it was new and attainable.

“Simplify” opens the album with a wonderfully harmonized vocal melody before going into a elaborate mix of cosmic synthesizer washes and Moog bass riffs. The title song has a slower,crawling groove punctuated by a low horn with some woodwinds and other orchestration lightly sprinkled in with,of course Omar as always singing behind,around-anything but with the beat in his strong,soulful and jazzy vocal style. “Come On Speak To Me” has a similar idea mixing a little samba into the rhythmic stew. On “I Can Listen” there’s a polished,orchestrated soul/pop with a prominent Motown flavor with heavy back round vocals (from Omar himself of course) on the bridge. On the potent blend of scratch and boogaloo “Bully”,with its conscious rejection of gun violence and “**** War,Make Love”,a wonderfully fluid example of dance/funk both call for world peace on the local and the broader level.

“Eeni Meeni Myno Mo” and “Ordinary Day” both have that strong Brazilian flavor to them-again both with strong melodies. The break heavy “Treat You” with Soul II Soul’s Caron Wheeler and “High Heels” both point to the main important attribute of this album: it’s by far the heaviest funk Omar has ever made. While the majority of his albums featured him experiment with different genres within his coherent production sound,this album experiments with the funk groove to see how much vitality and splendor the music can have when harmonically and melodically taken in different directions. The fact that Stewart Zander of Jamiroquai,a band who devoted themselves to the same funk based development process,is on this record speaks volumes about Omars mode of intent. I can only hope that Omar delivers his next album a little sooner than this one came because this in a way is the culmination of his entire (and somewhat unheard in some areas of the world) music journey, one which soul/funk musicians of any sort would be wise to pay a lot of attention to.

Originally Posted On June 28th,2013

Link to original review here*

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Filed under 1990s, Amazon.com, Funk, Funk Bass, Hip-Hop, Motown, Music Reviewing, Omar Lye-Fook

Anatomy of THE Groove 11/21/14 Rique’s Pick : “Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars

I have a confession: when I came to Andre with this blog idea, I was not sure there would be enough songs released this year to fill it out. Oh, there has been plenty of funky songs released from the turn of the millenium on, as well as from the ’80s and ’90s to cover. But the past four years or so had been so fruitful in terms of new funk recordings, I just couldn’t be sure we’d have the funk bomb in 2014 as well. Unfortunately, a funkateer can no longer take new funk for granted. But if Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars combustible new single “Uptown Funk” continues to get the reception it so richly deserves, we should have plenty of funk in the near future. Mark Ronson, the celebrity D.J slash musician-producer, has done plenty of funky songs over the years, like his “Pretty Green” featuring Santigold, or “Glass Mountian Trust” featuring D’Angelo. Not to mention his soulful Afrobeat inflected remix of Robin Thicke’s “Magic.” Add to that Bruno Mars and his performing and musical acumen, including a full band that is a dedicated part of his package, and you have the makings of something very stank indeed. But did I expect them to drop this Morris Day and the Time cum Roger and Zapp sprinkled with Earth, Wind & Fire (its in the horns man, the horns!) funk in the twilight of 2014? NO! Just like that, Ronson reserved a top spot for the “Blurred Lines” award, which I’m gonna start giving to the over 30 dance record of the year, every year. This thang is that potent.

The jam kicks in from the very beginning, with a bass clef voice singing a bass line on the one. The bassline being sung is a very funky one, hitting hard on the one and leaving plenty of space. The technique itself harkens back to funky songs like Jimmy Castor’s “Bertha Butt” and Roger and Zapp’s “Doo Waa Ditty”, on before that to the bass voices in doo wop, back before that to choral musics in Europe and vocalizing in Africa. Yeah, that far back. When u establish some funk that boldly, you have to have something backing it, and Ronson chooses some loud, brash handclaps hitting on the two and four beats, with some shifting effects coming in and out. After that funky four bar intro, the rhythm guitar comes in. The guitar is playing small chord voicings, high up the neck, in the ’80s funk style of players like Prince and Roger Troutman. A voice comes in bellowing “ow”backed by the horn section, which introduces Bruno Mars vocals. Bruno comes in, bragging in the self referential funk style, “This is that ice cold/Michelle Pfifer/That white gold.” Those vocals are backed by a solid funk beat. Bruno goes on to brag “I’m too Hot!/Call the Police/and the Fireman!” A single note, low register, insistent funky guitar line is introduced, with funky guitar chords backing it up. This all builds up to a pre chorus that says “Uptown Funk gonna give it to ya!” The pre chorus is backed by double time hand claps and a sound effect that sounds like a jet taking off and Bruno borrows the hook line from Trinidad James 2012 hit “All Gold Everything”, “Don’t believe me just watch!”

From there the song goes into a high powered Earth, Wind & Fire style horn led chorus, with a line that also is reminiscent of the horns on Michael Jackson’s classic, “Jam.” This is also backed by a funky early ’80s funk cum new wave synth pad.

The video is also very funky, with Bruno, Mark Ronson and the band strutting through an old school street scene, hitting funky poses and drinking ‘yac. The fellas take up the old school image of super sharp, super hip players, getting their hair done under the blow dryer, and getting their patent leather shoes shined. They also dance down the street in front of a stretch Lincoln.  Bruno himself is hilarious in the video, hitting all of the prissy, narcissistic, affected motions of the type of player he’s potraying in the song, reminding one instantly of such funky egomaniacs as Morris Day.

This is a record that speaks for itself. One of George Clinton’s central contributions to funk as a music was his branding of it. James Brown was a pioneer in that regard, naming tunes “Aint it Funky Now”, and “Funky Drummer” and “It’s Too Funky in Here.” But it was George Clinton who used the word and term “Funk” for all aspects of his music as well as worldview. One of the frustrating things about Funk is its seeming low name recognition. Many times that is as it should be because even when the head does not know the funk, the hips and ass generally do. But until hips and asses speak the Queens English, it’s the mouth that must testify to the musics greatness. So Mark Ronson and Bruno are doing a big thing here by naming this cut “Uptown Funk”, they’re not hiding it, nor being coy, nor trying to be new. If you’re ashamed of the funk the funk will be ashamed of you, right? Of course, the word “Uptown” brings various things to mind, from Prince’s utopian “Uptown”, to Harlem, New York which is “Uptown”, which extends to the general characterization of the black part of any city as “Uptown.” That word also conjures up a certain slick, strutting sophistication that is the finest mixture of city and country, modern and ancient. Kind of like the Funk itself. By digging up these energies with some funk for right now, Ronson and Bruno will most definitely increase their own success, as “funk is it’s own reward.” But it’s the music lovers of the world who will reap the greatest benefits!

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Filed under 1980's, 2014, 2015

Anatomy of THE Groove 11/21/2014 Andre’s Pick: “White Collar Crime” by Grace Jones

1986 was a crucially important year for funky music in the decade. The electro/synth based sound that tended to be the dominant force in the music within the past few years were giving way to a sound where electronic instruments were being used as accents to either a fully organic or organic sounding instrumental bed. This came to prominence with songs such as Prince’s “Kiss”,’Duran Duran’s “Notorious” and the  late and  great James Brown’s “Living In America”.  After leaving her original label Island and singing up with Manhattan  Records,she took a stab at co-production with Nile Rodgers for her first album on the label Inside Story. One of the songs on it that always caught my attention was “White Collar Crime”

The song begins with a slow,rolling shuffling beat that’s accompanied by a high pitched digital synthesizer playing a rather Asian style melodic phrase. Grace’s vocals than kick in with Nile’s guitar providing a subtle accent to the lyrics which,through a series of different stories,illustrates the songs chorus of “white collar crime/you don’t have to do time/blue collar crime/you do time every time”-sung to lower volume horn chart/guitar call-and-response playing opposite melodic statements. On the bridge of the song,the horns scale up as grace asks “do they get away with it” before the drum emulator shuffle is let to solo with the horns fanfaring back into the original phrase-after which Nile himself is heard saying “it’s all the same” as Grace responds “it’s a money/power game”

Showcasing Mac Gollehon,Steve Elson and Lenny Pickett on horns and co-writer/instrumentalist Bruce Woolley on synthesizers? This song has a similar quality to Grace’s “Slave To The Rhythm” in the sense that it is what they call a runaway groove. This amounts to a form of dance/funk which has a light and understated instrumental quality-rhythmic enough for a strutting model but un-intrusive enough where it doesn’t interrupt the focus. Of course Grace Jones,being a former model,is a natural to produce a song in such a way. Not only that,but the lightness of the production and arrangement take away from how hard hitting a groove this actually is. And it’s hard hitting in more ways than one.

By this time? The Reaganomics policy of trick down economics and the Wallstreet/Gordon Gekko attitude of “greed is good” was starting to contrast with how American society actually seemed to be functioning. Especially when it came to foreign policy and black Americans. Grace Jones,twice a foreigner as a Jamaican woman having began who career out of Europe,than crossed over in the US,really made her comment very strongly here. Using tabloid/yellow journalistic expletives such as “it’s outrageous nobody cared” and “shocking,it’s all so mocking”? Jones makes lyrical points that would be made in far more direct ways by hip-hoppers such as Public Enemy and NWA in a short two years time. And that was already being explored by hip-hop by KRS-1 and Eric B & Rakim. And that’s basically the treatment of a wealthier criminal versus that of a smaller time hustler. Indeed Grace Jones and Nile Rodgers provide a very stylish groove out of the money/power game.

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Filed under 1980's, Funk, Grace Jones, Hip-Hop, James Brown, Nile Rodgers, Prince, Public Enemy, Reaganomics

Andre’s Amazon Archive for 11/15/2014: ‘Landing On A Hundred’ by Cody Chestnut

Cody

First time Cody Chestnut entered my life was through his The Headphone Masterpiece. The sound of that album was very much a patchwork quilt of rock,funk and hip-hop though a reverrbed and heavily phased filter. Wasn’t a bad idea but I’d basically heard something similar to this before-from D’Angelo. Some of the songwriting ideas were not well developed and there was a lack of essential musical focus. All the same,Cody’s talent was definitely there. Than he disappeared almost as fast as he appeared. And I thought he would be a musical footnote whose full potential would not be fully realized. Than one day I was looking through the soul section of my local record store and there it was,a brand new release from someone who surprised me. They had a listening station there where I could here snippets enough for me to know I’d like it. But there’s a lot more to it than that. Not only has Cody Chestnut finally realized his creative potential but released what I view as his most focused and direct album yet.

From the churning rhythm guitars and drums at the beginning,it’s clear the focus here is going to be funk. And that is “people music” from the 70’s funk era all the way: melodic,full of advanced instrumental and vocal harmonic ideas. Especially impressive is “I’ve Been Life”,where using spoken word dialog to introduce the name of African countries and colonies to illustrate the rootedness of his life. “What Kind Of Cool (Will We Think Of Next)” happily addresses who media-centric people have become in their personal habits in a witty rather than angst-y fashion. On “That’s Still Mama” he’s musing on his family very much “I Wish” era Stevie Wonder style. After this the album takes on more of an uptown soul flavor with a shuffling rhythm and horns on “Love Is More Than A Four Letter Word” and “Everybody’s Brother”,where Cody talks of being redeemed from a life of manipulation and drug use through religion in his case. Of course he does show from trepidation that he might fall off that wagon in “Don’t Wanna Go The Other Way” as well. “Chips Down (In No Landfill” and “Where Is All The Money Going” illustrating modern economic hardships with some Marvin Gaye-like multi tracked falsetto vocals.

Of course the album ends in a similar musical place to where it begins-with the wah wah powered funk of “Scroll Call”,again finding him looking to the African continent for inspiration. I’ve heard a good majority of the retro soul/funk that’s been coming out. But I have to say I’ve seldom heard an album of that genre as well produced,well written and above all well conceptualized as this in the past decade or so. Cody Chestnut is no longer trying to keep up with the Jones’s of indie rock or contemporary hip-hop. He was at last able to find the steady musical direction here that has defined the creative direction of other people pursuing similarly individual paths such as Janelle Monae’. Not only is he more than adept at the most advanced level of funk and soul songwriting and production,but also exploring Afrocentrism on a personal,meaningful and positive level. This album could actually be part of a new revolutionary funk era rebirth. One that wouldn’t be based in rock or hip-hop cliches. But one that would expand on the past to embrace Afro-futurism,if Cody handles himself in a creatively reasonable manner from here on.

Originally Posted On December 16th,2014

Link to original review here*

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Filed under Afro-Futurism, Cody Chestnut, Funk, Funk Bass, Hip-Hop, Stevie Wonder

Anatomy of THE Groove 11/14/2014 Andre’s Pick: “Sign ‘O’ The Times” by Billy Cobham

                One of the challenges that has arisen for jazz musicians during the fusion era was the book of standards they had for interpretive purposes. While original compositions were always pretty sound? A melodic theme from a contemporary artist could be a wonderful musical launching pad from which said musician could take flight. As Miles Davis and recently Robert Glasper pointed out? Well basically how many times can a musician do a song like “My Funny Valentine” or “The Look Of Love”?  In the late 80’s,  Prince albums such as his musically iconic Sign ‘O’ The Times were not only getting serious reviews in jazz publications such as Downbeat. But musicians across the spectrum were discussing his instrumental and compositional ideas as well. One such musician was fusion veteran Billy Cobham. And he chose “Sign O’ The Times” as an interpretive theme for his 1987 album Picture This-his final release for GRP.

                   Cobham starts out with a fairly basic drum machine pulse much like the original. Than he comes in on live drums with a commanding,rolling march rhythm. This is accentuated by a simple Caribbean style percussion chime throughout. The late Grover Washington Jr. plays the vocal part on his sax with not only his typically high level of soulfulness,but also a foreboding tone to his solo. On what would’ve been the second refrain? Grover’s sax totally takes over as he improvises his own melody off of Cobham’s marching back-round. He starts off rather bluesy and almost crying out. Than he begins to sound progressively angrier and more emotionally intense. All before calming down to play the songs bass line,and then returning back to the original melodic theme. At the songs conclusion,Cobham and Grover both gradually evolve into playing an instrumentally testifying march together while Ron Carter provides the bass line on the upright.

                         It’s true that within the last couple of decades,Prince’s songs have become enormously successful in terms of being covered by jazz and blues instrumentalists and bands. The most exciting thing about Billy Cobham’s take on “Sign ‘O’ The Times” is how in tune he was with the song. He recorded his version and released it the same year that the original hit the public. Instrumentally speaking,Billy Cobham reaches into the lyrical theme of the song as a drummer for his take on it-almost more than he does the basic chords and melody. Adding a Caribbean style marching beat to the song lifted up the observing,questioning nature Prince originally evoked.  Grover Washington Jr. is also most impressive-again playing his solos as a tone poem based more on the lyrics to the song rather than the straight melody. Considering what Prince was doing with his jazz oriented Madhouse recordings at this time? Musicians like Billy Cobham were really doing a wonderful job cross pollinating the flowers of the possible new jazz standards of musicians like Prince.

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Filed under 1980's, Billy Cobham, drums, Fusion, Grover Washington Jr., Jazz, Prince, Robert Glasper

Andre’s Amazon Archive for 11/8/2014: ‘Where Does This Door Go” by Mayer Hawthorne

Mayer Hawthorne

If those who read this are aware of my musical tastes,it would seem that someone like Mayer Hawthorne would be just up my alley. That is someone in my age group who was taking up with the pre hip-hop sub genre of retro soul/funk. Interestingly enough that was the main reason why I shied away from him. There was something about his entire approach that was,to use a rather tired critics device,a bit derivative. On the other hand,from the individual songs I heard there was an individual musical personality bubbling under the surface. At the same time as a singer,songwriter and multi instrumentalist Mayer Hawthorne was someone whose music did interest me. So when it came to my attention Mayer Hawthorne was dropping a third album that would be a stylistic (and more individualistic) change in his music,I thought it was the time was right to begin exploring what he had to offer.

“Back Seat Lover” and “The Innocent” are very spare Fender Rhodes electric piano led pieces-kind of a “naked jazz/pop/funk” hybrid for those familiar with writer Ricky Vincent’s categorizations within the funk genre. “Allie Jones”,”The Only One” and “Crime”-featuring what I find to be a rather useless (to me anyway) rap by Kendrick Lamar,are probably the biggest departure because they do reflect modern hip-hop’s approach to funk more. Still it is very much live instrumental funk too which gives it an extra dash of spice. “Wind Glass Woman” is a favorite of mine on this album,with it’s spirited late 70’s dance/funk friendly ethic. The vocal range and bass/keyboard dynamics on “Her Favorite Song” are another amazing turn here. Two songs here are very indicative of Steely Dan’s production approach. “Reach Out Richard” has a strong Aja era flavor while “The Stars Are Ours” is a heavier jazzy funk shuffle. Appropriately both showcase the more…shall I saw reflectively seedy aspects of the lyrics to these songs.

“Corsican Rose” has a larger,mildly electronic mid 80’s production yet at the same time a contemporary funk via hip-hop type groove-yet another effective hybrid. That electronic flavor of course shows up again on the witty “Robot Love”,another spare groove introduced by a sample from “Family Guy”. Of the two ballads the title song is a huge sounding,orchestral soul epic whereas the closer “All Better” is a somewhat more subtle piano based melodic type number. Hawthorne does a lot with his sound on this album. These songs have much more elaborate melodies and vocal harmonies that what I’ve heard from him. The key to this album is the heavier emphasis on the deepest end of the sea of funk. Mayer’s bass lines on some of these numbers are among the heaviest on a modern soul/funk album aimed at a contemporary audience. His love of hip-hop actually guides this album (for the most part) in a very positive way as well-more through rhythm than production. I personally feel this is a very impressive album and an excellent way for Hawthorne to develop his own unique signature sound.

Originally posted on July 18th,2013

Link to original review here!*

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Filed under 1980's, Funk, Hip-Hop, Jazz-Funk, Late 70's Funk, Mayer Hawthorne

Anatomy of THE Groove 11/7/14 Rique’s Pick : “All Your Goodies Are Gone” by Dennis Coffey featuring Mayer Hawthorne

My pick for today’s Friday funk song, Dennis Coffey’s 2011 rendition of the P-Funk classic “All Your Goodies Are Gone” is unique for several reasons. For one, Dennis Coffey is one of the great undersung artists of soul and particularly funk music, recording an out and out funk classic, “Scorpio” back in the ’70s. “Scorpio” earned him the distinction of being the first white artist to appear on Soul Train, and was a foundational record for both the Breakdancing and Locking dance styles. “All Your Goodies” has the distinction of being the second single George Clinton’s Parliaments released, follwing the major succes of “Testify.” It’s a part of the George Clinton songbook, and Dennis Coffey is a very interesting musician to reanimate it at this time because he, along with other members of the Motown “Funk Brothers” house band, performed on the original! Coffey actually used two P-Funk songs he played guitars for on his 2011 self titled release, this, and “I Bet You.” And he made a great choice of vocalist to voice it on this rendition, Detroit soulster Mayer Hawthorne, a young artist who’s career is based on updating vintage vibe.

“All Your Goodies Are Gone” is an early song from the P-Funk songbook that has been returned to by the band from time to time, including most famously on 1974’s “Up for the Down Stroke.” It’s a powerful, dark minor key soul song about a man with a flighty, unfaithful woman, who defiantly gets up and walks away rather than be one man in her crowd. Coffey’s rendition begins with his guitar having a conversation with the organ and voices, playing a phrase that gets answered while the drum pounds on all fours. The song breaks from that to a mean vintage late ’60s Motown groove, the darker kind that The Temptations (influenced by Sly Stone and Funkadelic) worked to such success. The key is minor and sinister sounding.

Hawthorne goes on to ably and soulfully sing George Clinton’s lyrics telling his flighty lover “Let Hurt put you in the losers seat”, a lyric that Clinton appropriated from a Hertz Car Rental Commercial. “Goodies” comes off as the dark twin or dark side of The Parliaments first hit, ‘Testify”, particularly when Hawthorne sings “Shame on me/for thinking that I could/possibly be/the exclusive one/of your choice/in this world infested with boys.” This vocal decleration is backed by the powerful rising riff for which “All Your Goodies” is known, which was focused on and brought out more in Parliament’s 1974 version. Hawthorne goes on to ably and soulfully sing a song of male hurt and damaged ego, which is one of Dr. Funkensteins great themes as a song writer. By the end of the song, the narrator has found the strength to cut his relationship off, unlike Bill Whithers character in “Use Me” who was so pleased by the sensuality of the situation he chose to put up with abuse, and also unlike Ronald Isley’s narrator of “Its Your Thing” who was unconcerned with what his friend with benefits did as long as he got his. The song vamps out with Coffeys guitar engaged in a call and response with the organ and the dark riff playing on and on and on.

“All Your Goodies” is a great example of George Clintons viewpoint as a song writer, Mayer Hawthornes skill as a vocalist, and Dennis Coffeys unsung band leading abilities. The song’s story plays out like a love letter with the protagonist discovering his lady was unfaithful, talking himself through a sad situation, and in the end finding the strength and self love to move on. All throughout, it displays the great rationality I learned from George Clinton. I always remember an interview where Clinton said he never took anything personally that people did to him because he always figured it was more about them than it was about him. The narrator of this song realizes he couldn’t keep his woman from straying in a “world infested with boys.” But even though he accepts the choice she made, he also makes a choice not to stay with her and take the punnishment and anguish. Dennis Coffey revisits a song he helped make in conjunction with the original Funk Brothers and makes it roar with authentic late ’60s funky soul vibe. As with all funky comebacks, Dennis Coffey’s should be supported to the fullest, and I hope he is appreciated even more now than he was back in his heyday!

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Filed under 1970's, George Clinton, Motown, Uncategorized