Monthly Archives: December 2014

Rique & Andre Proudly Present 2014: A Year In Funkativity For Andresmusictalk!

Andresmusictalk Year In Review 2014

 

Have to totally agree with my blog partner here Rique and fellow WordPress blogger The International Review Of Music that 2014 has been a tremendous all around year for funky music. And funky is Rique and my favorite kind of music from my understanding. And this year we’ve had that become popular on a massive level thanks to starting the year out grooving with Pharrell William’s “Happy”. This was a global phenomenon-with people all across the world doing their dance to the song on YouTube. For the first time in history,a number one funk song connected billions of people in the internet age. And that alone is no small feat. And one Pharrell should be proud of  for his entire life.

If “Happy” was standing by itself this year? That would have been wonderful. But it did so much more. Kelis and even 90’s quiet storm soul singer Joe released tremendously funky music this year! And massively welcomed comebacks from Prince,Funkadelic,War,D’Angelo and posthumously from the late Michael Jackson were also enormously successful events. In fact D’Angelo’s Black Messiah ended off the year with a major surprise release in the wake of the tragic and highly topical police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson Missouri. That album may have had to wait until 2015 to see the light if that dark day hadn’t have shinned the light on the need to talk,sing and play about it.

Since funk was the key to providing not only great music but positive and enriching messages this year? I wanted to conduct our first interactive blog here on Andresmusictalk. There have been many wonderful releases this year in the funky spectrum of sound. Hoping all of you have been enjoying them. So presented below is a list of key funk,jazz and soul related albums from 2014.  Inviting all of you to select which ones interested you most! Wishing everyone a new dance and new vitality of life for the year to come and enjoy the polling everyone! Thank you!

 

Hear Some Of The Best Music In The Soulful Spectrum Of 2014

2014 Remembered: A Year Of Funk-Written By The International Music Review

HAPPY FUNKING NEW YEAR TO ALL!!!!!

 

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Filed under 2014, Chromeo, D'Angelo, Disco, Funk, Funkadelic, Fusion, Harvey Mason, Jazz-Funk, Joe, Kelis, Late 70's Funk, Lenny Kravitz, Lisa Stansfield, Michael Jackson, Pharrell Willaims, Prince, Robin Thicke, Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings

Andre’s Amazon Archive for 12/27/2014: ‘Love Changes’ by Kashif

Kashif Love Changes

Almost since the very start of the 80’s Kashif had been one of the key innovators of a style known as boogie funk,which was very complimentary to the Minneapolis sound of the era as it created a cinematic dance/funk sound with electronic rather than live band orchestrations. His first three solo recordings were solidly in this style,with some wonderfully creative jazzy musical ideas present as well. By the time 1987 arrived,funk/soul music had suddenly moved on in such a significant way that there wasn’t much room left for the innovation of boogie to go that far forward anymore. Lucky for Kashif he was also expert at a type of sound that suited every period of the 80’s very well:the urban ballad. And that is largely where he focused his energies on this album. But in terms of the uptempo music? That was another story.

Kashif begins the album with the title song,a sleekly produced ballad with the talented,gospel drenched singer Meli’sa Morgan,who even does a bit of in studio patter with Kashif vocally. Towards the end of the album he turns up the class even more with Dionne Warwick on the elegant “Reservations For Two”. These songs remind me of Brenda Russell only with somewhat of a harder edge,which also defines his solo ballads here such as “It All Begins Again” and “Somebody”. “Midnight Mood”,featuring a solo by Kenny G (whose rather gutsy early solo records benefited heavily for Kashif’s imput) is a very inspiringly composed instrumental with some jazz-like bass/guitar harmonies around the middle as well. One of the highlites of the album as far as I’m concerned. With the slow,pounding go-go shuffle and guest spot by Doug E Fresh “Loving You Only” is only beat out by the Force MD’s and Keith Sweat as the earliest New Jack Swing type dance number.

“Fifty Ways To Fall in Love”,”Who’s Getting Serious?” and “Vacant Heart” are the main uptempo funk material here. They are well down and very much on the Jam/Lewis style of things but don’t possess Kashif’s more destinctive touch with uptempo music he’d begun with earlier in the decade. This album is one that finds Kashif looking to rediscover his musical identity,after his pioneering days of boogie funk had officially come to an end. He had the general musical ability and strong association with other popular talents that gave him a bit more breathing room than a lot of his contemporaries to reinvent himself in this way. The overall effect of this album is one of searching. Luckily though his personal songwriting stamp and way with melodies remained perfectly intact. So nothing on this albums comes close to being badly done in any way. It’s more a question of how smooth a ride the music is. But it’s at least a pretty all inclusive journey he takes us on.

Originally Posted On August 22nd,2012

Link to original Amazon.com review here*

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Filed under 1980's, 1987, Amazon.com, Boogie Funk, Funk, Go-Go, Kashif, Music Reviewing, quiet storm

Andre’s Amazon Archive for 12/20/2014: ‘Heritage’ by Earth Wind & Fire

EWF Heritage

With the positive reception the 1987 album Touch the World and it’s three successful singles received? The newly reinvigorated Earth Wind & Fire were back in the studio beginning the recording for their follow up album the very next year. Of course one critical thing happened to be a huge game changer in 1988: the emergence of Teddy Riley with his group Guy and productions for Keith Sweat,Al B. Sure and Bobby Brown. The quick tempo hip-hop friendly shuffle of new jack swing had arrived. Essentially the soul/funk community was exiting the electro/boogie/synth groove of the mid 1980’s and entering essentially into the modern era-one where heavy electronic hip-hop/pop based productions would be the mainstream for contemporary R&B-as it would come to be called. Maurice White actually saw a positive in this-an opportunity to showcase a younger generation learning the same cultural lessons and values that fueled Maurice’s vision for EWF in the first place. The result finally emerged,and quite appropriately in 1990 with this album.

“Soweto” opens and closes the album with a strong African percussion Kalimba based melody. “Takin’ Chances” goes into a bluesy horn packed electro go-go style funk jam that essentially updates the production of a rather “Shining Star” style song. “Good Times”,featuring a very vocally chocked and quite rare guest vocal from Mister Sly Stone himself is a very fast paced house funk type groove with a great deal of wah wah guitars and choir vocals from the band itself. The title song is a well crafted hip-hop friendly track with the boy band The Boys that features a wonderfully jazzy classic EWF style refrain. The two collaborations with MC Hammer in “Wanna Be The Man” and “For The Love Of You” showcase not only Hammer’s total embrace of live band funk backing up his raps but his genuine respect for EWF’s creative vision as well. “Anything You Want” is very much a layered drum machine mid-tempo ballad. The heavily electronically orchestrated “Daydreamin” and “Welcome” are both classic style EWF ballads where the electronics actually get the flavor of real string an horn charts pretty well.

The hard driving electro funk of the bass/guitar build “King Of Groove”,making no bones about the difference between a creative musical vision and chasing fame THROUGH music and the similarly styled instrumentation of “Motor” are musically the closest to the previous album,and were likely recorded close to that time as well-earlier in the sessions for this album. When I first heard this album? I was pretty underwhelmed by new soul/R&B/funk of the early/mid 90’s being populated by seemingly dry sounding hip-hop/new jack swing style rhythms almost 99% of the time. At the time? It would appear that Columbia,EWF’s decades long mainstay received the album in a similar way that the public did at the time,including myself,that EWF had essentially sold out to a trend that seemed musically beneath them. And EWF were consequently and sadly dropped from the label. What I realize listen to this today is that,while it’s not as fresh and crisp as it’s predecessor? This is actually an incredibly funky album. It updates the rhythms for the hip-hop/pop era yes. But the beats and rhythms are essentially classic EWF under all the programming and such. It might be wise for those who are still naysayers to this album to revisit it. Might find a pretty well done album,full of sometimes powerful grooves,if one re-listens without prejudice.

Originally Written On December 18th,2014

Link to original review here*

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Filed under 1990s, Amazon.com, Earth Wind & Fire, Funk, Funk Bass, Jazz, Maurice White, MC Hammer, Music Reviewing, New Jack Swing, Sly Stone

Anatomy of THE Groove 12/19/14 Rique’s Pick : “1000 Deaths” by D’Angelo And the Vangaurd

The Godfather of Soul James Brown used to have a kind of a test for how funky a record was. He once remarked about Kool & The Gang’s “Funky Stuff” that it was so funky, he had to pull over his car while he was driving because if he didn’t, he’d have wrecked from grooving so hard. The militant, grinding, insistent on the beat groove of “1000 Death’s” from D’Angelo’s long awaited third album, “Black Messiah”, fits my criteria for such a recording. This song perhaps carries the theme of the album as well as any other found on it. The title is a variation of a quote Julius Ceaser by Wiliam Shakesphere, “Cowards die many times before their deaths; The valiant never taste of death but once.” This saying has been quoted in many forms over the years, but has come down into the popular urban lexicon from actor and rapper Tupac Shakur, who said it in the form of “A coward dies a thousand deaths, A soldier dies but once.” D’Angelo takes this idea and crafts a narrative that fits the last five to six years of renewed militant activism, from the Oscar Grant protests, to Occupy Wall Street, from the Egyptian Revolution to the protestors facing off against militarized cops in Fergueson, Missouri. D crafts a vicious, pounding funk jam that goes inside a soldiers mind, framing this battle as a righteous one instituted by “Yahweh (Jehovah) and Yehushuah (Jesus) themselves.

The song begins with some distorted guitar and Questlove’s snare drum tapping out some practice notes, but they serve almost as if the instruments are beckoning your attention to the vocal sample that is about to play. Khalid Muhammed, the controversial 1990s era Nation of Islam minister is the speaker, talking about Jesus, but not the white, European image of him that has been sold. He speaks of Jesus as a sun burned man with skin of brass and “hair like lambs wool”, and also a man who was a revolutionary and turned down Satans “New World Order.” Not only does Muhammed’s speech provide the spiritual grounding for the album theme of a revolutionary “Black Messiah”, it also links D’s music and song to the great legacy of ’90s revolutionary hip hop that sampled speeches by leaders like Khalid Muhammed. In fact, Muhammed’s voice can be found on the intro to Public Enemy’s classic “Night of the Living Baseheads (“the way many of us act….we’ve even lost our minds.”) As Minister Muhammed continues to speak in praise of nappy hair, the funky revolutionary beat revs up, with Questlove providing the sort of solid eighth note kick based back beat drumming that provided so much of the foundation for hip hop. They are able to get a sound on the drums that is very reminiscent of the late ’60s, early ’70s funk drum sound that hip hoppers of D and Questlove’s generation cherished so much.

Distorted wah wah guitars lace the track as D’Angelo introduces a wicked, chugging slap bassline underneath Minister Muhammed’s speech. D chokes and hammers on two high bass notes before going to a muddy, drilling, dead pitch, percussive bass line, only briefly breaking out some melodic notes as accents. The bass sounds like marching music fit for basic training the world’s funkiest army. Underneath another sample begins to play, of Chicago Black Panther Minister Fred Hampton, one of the greatest of the Panther leaders, a devoted community activist murdered in his sleep by the police in the late ’60s. Minister Muhammed’s speech provides the more emotional basis for D’Angelo’s soldiers battle, almost like a fiery black cleric urging his charges into battle. While Chairman Fred provides the more rationed reasons for resisting capitalist colonialism. D’s vocals come in, as distorted as ever, almost having a quality of being sung over a cheap walkie talkie. His character talks about getting over his fear and going over the hill in battle. The music keeps pounding and going forward, like a soldiers relentless marching with Questlove’s relentless hi hats pushing it forward.

D’s lyrics and vocals sound like the interior dialouge of a person about to go into battle: “I can’t believe I cant get over my fear/They’re gonna send me over the hill/Ah the moment of truth is near/They’re gonna send me over the hill”. He goes from that insecurity to a kind of a thrill of being in battle, the complete opposite, reckless side of war.

That’s when the chorus comes in, where the music switiches up to a massive, heavy pentatonic riff, reminiscent very much so of pre-1976 Funkadelic. It’s a riff in the style of Rock, with several instruments playing the same line, and the chorus serving as the inspiration to D’s scared soldier, “It’s War! That is the Lord!/I wont nut up when we up thick in the crunch/Because a coward dies a thousand times/But a soldier dies just Once.” The song rides out with several minutes of pure early P-Funk style funk rock jamming, with Questlove upping the intensity of his rhythms, strong guitar soloing and the Vangaurd’s voices wailing.

“1000 Deaths” is a very interesting song, for one, it’s one of the most on the beat things D’Angelo has ever done. D is known for his laid back, lazy swinging rhythms but this song is a whole nother thing, aggressive and on top of the beat. And it is fitting due to it’s militant subject matter. The song is open to many interpretations, but what D gave us for sure is an aggressive, funky, intense track. On top of that he layers speeches by black activists to support a narrative of a soldier conquering his or her fears. Of course, there are many kinds of social justice soldiers, including Dr. King and his activists in Selma, as well as the Black Panthers. D’Angelo has created a powerful piece of art that can inspire in many different contexts. And sadly, I feel it will be more and more necessary as America in particular faces more and more confrontation over issues of social justice. But I’m glad D has done his part with super heavy funk!

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Filed under ?uestlove, Blogging, D'Angelo

Anatomy of THE Groove 12/19/2014 Andre’s Pick: “System Of Survival” by Earth Wind & Fire

Following the creatively messy and less than successful late 1983 album Electric Universe, Earth Wind & Fire split up. After a few years of solo releases from Phillip Bailey and Maurice White,the pair reunited with Verdine and Andrew Woolfolk of the original Columbia lineup. To succeed supplicant guitarist Roland Bautista,they band were joined by Sheldon Reynolds-who has already succeeded another famous funk guitarist in The Commodores’ Thomas McClary after 1983-incidentally the same year EWF split up in the first place. During the late 1980’s Cameo,Con Funk Shun,The Bar Kays and Ghe Commodores were all paring down to smaller,more synthesizer focused lineups.

Since electronics were to some degree blamed for the musical reasons that may have broken up the band? It was interesting that EWF took a similar path to many of their funk contemporaries by paring down to a smaller lineup. Especially since the band had been most known for it’s distinct horn section. At the same time? This comeback probably clicked on a very important point at just the right time and when the band were in a good position to do so. This came fully in the form of the 1987 album Touch The World. And a lead off hit single from the album that represented something of a game changer not merely for EWF but one that had been progressing over the last year or so in funky dance music in general.

The song begins with the sound of a radio dial being switched around as a voice continually repeats “the biggest unanswered question is where is the money”. After several news snippets the song goes into Ronald Reagan saying “I’m not going to tell lies to the American people. I’ll leave that to others”-with that last line repeated two additional times before a vocoderized voice is heard saying “system of survival” before a chiming synth and a very fast dance rhythm and bass synth come into the song. Throughout the song? The bluesy main chorus goes into a call and response lead vocal between Maurice White and a rather digitally processed  bass voice-followed by a counter refrain from Bailey’s renowned falsetto.

During the bridge of the song there is a re-visitation of the voice speaking “the biggest unanswered question is where is the money”. This time the voice goes onto say “the president has yet to address the issue of money”.  After this the synth bass line leads back into a passionate lead of call and response “yeah yeah’s” from Maurice and Phillip before going into a spirited melodic improvisation of the basic song itself. The song leads out with Maurice again having a musical call and response with the horn section saying “ah,lets work” as the horns continually respond very much in classic James Brown funk fashion for the rest of the song. On the last horn break a low voice again repeats the songs title before it fades fully into a amplified,processed electronic line.

Considering the emergence of socially conscious hip-hop from KRS-1 and Public Enemy in 1986 and 1987? It seemed more than appropriate that the classic funk acts that had so influenced those people would have their own commentary on the situation-stated lyrically and musically from their perspective. Musically speaking this song features the same sort of JB style vocal/horn interaction that EWF had championed during their late 70’s heyday. At the same time,it featured the quick dance tempo that was very inherent to the new jack swing style that was about to become the mainstream funk based black dance sound for the next half decade or so. Still,the rhythm itself is again out of the classic funk school from which EWF came.

Conceptually this song has a rather similar approach to where the conscious funk based hip-hoppers were going. Rather than using samples,they used found radio news sounds to very clearly illustrate than President Reagan’s economic policies on urban America in particular. It doesn’t come from the point of view of the younger people who were facing this situation more directly. It was coming from people who had come directly out of the hopeful futurism of civil rights and black power. People who,in early middle age were beginning to see what they’d worked hard for beginning to crumble before their eyes. The usually hopeful Maurice White even sings at one point “I’m looking for somebody new to lead the revolution”. Even after such a near cynical reaction,White comes right back with his homegrown optimism with “so I dance,it’s my system of survival”. Just as with many American’s under Reaganomics? EWF were re-emerging with new membership,and still going strong doing their own dance of life!

 

 

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Filed under 1980's, Earth Wind & Fire, Funk, Funk Bass, Hip-Hop, James Brown, New Jack Swing

Andre’s Amazon Archive Special Presentation for Record Store Monday: ‘Black Messiah’ by D’Angelo

Black Messiah

For the last 16 years? D’Angelo has been missing in action as far as studio albums are concerned. While an enormous live revue in 2000 featuring his band the Soultronics-including people such as ?uestlove among the other members were hailed as some of the most promising new bands of it’s time. Of course so much as gone down in the music world since D’Angelo’s most recent and lengthy absences from recording. The call he and the Soultronics made about musicians taking the musical creative process back for themselves as really started to show itself during the latest recession-particularly within the last year or so. And with the reality of the need to free ourselves from racial hatred and privilege has all come together to create just the right atmosphere for D’Angelo and his new band the Vanguard-including former Time member in guitarist Jesse Johnson along with ?uestlove still on skins. And musically the man has a whole lot to say.

The album starts out with a deep,steely,thumping rock/funk number-both the guitar and bass lines possessed of massive funky bottoms and D’Angelo himself delivering his broad ranging,multi tracked Southern soul drawl of a voice. “1000 Deaths” samples a preacher talking about the idea of a nappy headed Jesus as the “new black messiah” over heavy funky drumming and slap bass thrusts with “D’Angelo’s heavily processed vocals accompanied closely by a staticky,revved up keyboard. “Sugar Daddy” gives a sitar led forwards/backwards looped drum oriented psychedelic soul rocker with a very probing melody. “Sugah Daddy” has this clapping,tickling percussion and this bluesy jazz/juke joint style piano commonly heard on many mid/late 70’s P-Funk records with some very scatting vocals-both solo and multi tracked. “Really Love” is a mixture of a hip-hop beat with a beautifully sensual Brazilian jazz melody.

“Back To The Future” is a two part number here-both of which take a strong countrified jazz-funk bounce with a melody that comes right from “The Charleston”,the iconic stride pianist James P.Johnson’s famous song that originated the famous dance. The second part coming near the closing of the album adds more of a bouncing Southern danceable funk rhythm to the outro. “Till It’s Done (Tutu)” is full of heavy bluesy guitar reverb and a very melodic slap bass line sharing the musical space with D’Angelo’s elaborate vocal turns. “Prayer” is a slow,dragging wah wah powered groove with a spacy synthesizer melody floating over the top. “Betray My Heart” is a swinging dyno’d up electric piano powered jazz-funk number with tons of liquid groove from top to bottom. “The Door” is a whistling powered instrumental slice of sweetly melodic sunshine pop/soul. “Another Life” closes the album with a beautiful orchestrated,thick soul ballad with D’Angelo’s high falsetto vocal calls and the ascending melody the perfect accent to the piano/sitar/drum/string swirls of the song.

One thing to say about this album is that it’s simply an amazing total musical experience! Yes that in a sentence does some it up! In fact I had to listen to much of it twice before this review to absorb just what comes out of it. If D’Angelo never recorded another album the rest of his life? This could easily be his defining swan song. Why is that? Well it just channels all the threads of D’Angelo’s musical influences. It has Stevie Wonder’s love of creating instrumentally new melodic sounds. Duke Ellington’s sense of swing and rhythmic dissonance. Al Green,Sly Stone and OutKast’s Andre 3000’s drawling vocal hiccups and stutters. Prince’s psychedelic mixtures of funk,rock and soul. Ron Isley’s high vocal cries and wails. And it doesn’t leave out the jazz age with it’s love of modern time and stride piano. And in the end? It’s all D’Angelo and all funky! Not to mention awe inspiring melodies with the power to connect to the people. And even if some of the lyrics are difficult to make out? The music says all it needs to say: differences should always be different,and lay comfortably side by side-not far apart. A grand comeback for D’Angelo linking the sociological and musical chains that made contemporary black America so special TO America!

Link To Amazon Review Here*

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Filed under 2014, Afro-Futurism, Afro-Latin jazz, Al Green, alternative rock, Amazon.com, Blues, Brazil, D'Angelo, drums, Funk, Funk Bass, George Clinton, Hip-Hop, Jazz-Funk, Jesse Johnson, Marvin Gaye, Memphis Soul, Minneapolis, Music Reviewing, Neo Soul, Nu Funk, P-Funk, Prince, rhythm & blues, rock 'n' roll, Sly Stone, Southern Soul, Stevie Wonder

Andre’s Amazon Archive for 12/13/2014: ‘What Time Is It’ by The Time

What Time Is It

 

There was a lot of question marks as to weather The Time was a bona fide act all their own or just Prince puppets after their debut album as it was obviously a product of Prince’s musical vision. The band did in fact have their own identity but it didn’t really come to the surface full force until this album dropped the following year. Prince still had some role in this album but the band themselves,especially the flowering writing/producing talents of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis make themselves more than a little known on this album. Musically it’s very much rooted in the stripped down LINN drum machine/rhythm section based funk of the Minneapolis sound of the early 80’s but is a lot more live sounding,slick and clean. The album begins with “Wild And Loose”,a song whose strident sound,based in hefty textured rhythm guitars with synthesized accents and a tough bass line mark it as part of that direct link between the Minneapolis Sound and James Brown.

The albums breakthrough hit was…you got it: a classic 80’s phone number song in “777-9311”,a tune whose LINN based stop-start polyrhythms and wildly pitched synthesizers epitomize some of the most intricate and driving “naked funk” of that era. They even pull out the rockabilly style “OnedayI’mgonnabesomebody”,whose rhythm was somewhat similar to Prince’s at that time with their own message in this case revolving around a very self driven attitude towards achievement again a very JB influenced message. “The Walk” really gives a strong hint at the Jam/Lewis sound,an arrangement that doesn’t sound anything like Prince production wise in as much as it was produced in a much more slick and polished manner than he would’ve produced at that point even though it still has that stripped down sound.

“Gigolos Get Lonely Too” is the slowest tune on the album and is actually a mid tempo song again with a very slickly produced sound. It also raises a question as to the lyrical preoccupation of most of this album. Morris Day and the bands persona as something of loudly dressed gigolos with a groove usually took the form of comically egotistic satire as it’s base and on this song it makes it clear that such people do in fact look to genuine companionship often enough in reality-giving a lot more depth to their whole personality. The album ends with the thickly layered rhythms of “I Don’t Wanna Loose You”. These longish extended tunes all possess within them carefully crafted melodies and harmonic ideas and while firmly rooted in it’s home grown sound has an altogether different flavor from much of what else was going on in twin city funk at that time.

Original Review from August 18th,2010

Link to original review here!*

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Filed under 1980's, Amazon.com, Funk, Funk Bass, James Brown, Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, Morris Day, Music Reviewing, Prince, Time

Anatomy of THE Groove 12/12/2014 Andre’s Pick: “There’s A Better Way” by Jermaine Jackson

By the early 80’s Jermaine,the middle boy of the Jackson family,had developed something of a reputation of being a very singular musical talent and a mentor for the band Switch-thereby inadvertently introducing the DeBarge family to Motown in the process. How fitting it was that,by the time his career at Motown was coming to an end that the DeBarge’s were becoming sort of a new Jackson’s for the then less then certain record label. Of course even he was noticing his future might benefit from being elsewhere and left the label during 1983. His final Motown album was Let Me Tickle Your Fancy,which produced a title track that was a good sized pop chart hit that featured new wave band Devo. That songs bluesy funk/rock made up one of Jermaine’s finest and overall most funk oriented albums of his fine and funky Motown musical career. Still one song from this album continues to stand out uppermost in my mind in the almost twenty years since I first heard it. It’s called “There’s A Better Way”.

It all starts out with the the slow funky disco-dance 4/4 beat accentuated by a similar tempo’d Afro-Latin timed rhythm  percussion-as well as conga drumming from . This is soon joined by former  a deep,bassy Salsa style piano. Jermaine himself soon picks up on this playing a hiccuping jazzy funk bass/guitar interaction. After Jermaine’s lead vocals begin,each vocal chorus is accompanied by…well perhaps a Clavinet style keyboard melody. Jermaine accompanies himself vocally Marvin Gaye style-responding to himself vocally in his middle range and ethereal falsetto. During the middle bridge of the song,there is a flamenco style guitar melody accompanied by a steel drum like electronic synthesizer tone. The song fades back out into Jermaine’s original lead chorus. This has Jermaine singing a full on call and response vocal based on the songs title between his two distinct vocal personalities. This all combines to give the entire rhythmic and melodic core of the song,with it’s mixture of live drumming,percussion and electronic effects an extremely afro-futurist bent about it.

On a strictly personal level? This is one of those Jermaine Jackson songs that truly captivated me musically when I first heard. it. And the further along my own musical knowledge grows? The more this appreciation of this songs musical virtues does. Musically the influence of Stevie Wonder’s sound textures are very strong here. It has that mixture of Afro Latin percussion,thick layers of bass sounds and jazz oriented electronic synthesizer accents. The melodic progression of this tune is almost all vocal. Most of the instrumental elements are based almost entirely in rhythm. So it’s almost as if Jermaine was metaphorically singing while he were walking along to the steps of the shoes on his heat-each rhythm and melody has some type of counterpoint. This gives the possible effect that Jermaine,a known multi instrumentalist,may have played every instrumental part on this song. Considering the confusing nature of the album jacket listing talented jazz and funk players such as drummer Ollie Brown,guitarist Paul Jackson,Stevie Wonder keyboardist Ronnie Foster and Jermaine’s brother Randy on percussion? It’s not really known to me if this was done by one man or a group of musicians. The interaction could almost go either way sometimes.

When it all comes down to it? What really brings this song so much to life is the way in which the lyrical themes of the song correlates with the music. Marvin Gaye used a slow,almost proto Reggaeton rhythm on his song ‘Third World Girl” the same year as this. Though on this song? Jermaine showcases a slow,deep Afro latin style post disco friendly funky soul groove that’s stripped down and rhythmically chunky to illustrate his views on poverty. Very much in the spirit of Stevie Wonder on “Living For The City” and his brother Mike’s “Man In The Mirror” from six years after this? Jermaine points to people in any position of authority turning a blind eye to human suffering. As an individual artist? Jermaine’s lyrical message is more earnestly pleading. The chorus after all spells out that “you don’t know how it feels to be without/I don’t care what they say/I know there’s a better way”. Surely a “people music” pretext to the entire song. By also pointing out that “talk about generosity/it’s been done in other countries”,it’s clear Jermaine that the inequities in the treatment of black Americans and the exploitation of foreigners,some black themselves,are not at all lost on him. More over,he also sees other nations as being capable of helping themselves without anyone else’s assistance as well. So that cultural understand,plus the like minded instrumental approach,make this one of Jermaine’s most unsung musical standouts.

 

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Filed under 1980's, Africa, Afro-Futurism, Brazil, Brazilian Jazz, Disco, drums, Funk, Funk Bass, Jazz-Funk, Jermaine Jackson, Motown, Music, Soul, Stevie Wonder

Andre’s Amazon Archive for 12/6/2014: ‘Guy’-Eponymous 1988 Debut Album

Guy-Album-Cover

Though unknown to me until recently, the precocious yet level headed musical genius of youth wonder Teddy Riley was by 1988 already more than well known. He had already been involved in his own group Kids At Work-not to mention working with both Doug E Fresh and Kool Moe D before he was 20 years old. In 1987 Riley got together with singers Aaron Hall and Timmy Gatling to form a trio that they called Guy. Having already worked with Keith Sweat and Bobby Brown on their breakthrough albums, Riley was on the cutting edge of a new sound that blended uptempo instrumentally rhythmic funk with the electronic swinging beats of the relatively new hip-hop genre. This music was known as New Jack Swing.

“Groove Me”,”Teddy’s Jam”,”Don’t Clap…Just Dance”,You Can Call Me Crazy”, “Round And Round (Merry Go Round Of Love)” and “Spend The Night”-more than half the album is focused on the new jack swing sound. What brings these songs to life is the groups creamy vocal harmonies,the heavy chord progression based melodies of the songwriting and the strong Charlie Wilson/Stevie Wonder like gospel soul vocal styling’s of Aaron Hall. “Piece Of My Love” and “Goodbye Love” are the two slower numbers here-which are actually fairly stripped down even for new jack type balladry to put focus on the densely chorded vocal harmonies. “I Like” is actually a very 80’s funk oriented number without the swinging hip-hop beat. That is introduced again on my personal favorite song here “My Business”,which has a very jazzy melody and a funkified popping bass line.

During the next few years to come new jack swing would quickly become the mainstream of soul/funk/R&B. Even veteran funk and soul acts from the 70’s and 80’s who made records during that period did so in that style. It became a very overused style of production as a result. And inadvertently began a reliance within the soul/funk community on hip-hop and it’s producers that continues on to this very day. In a way though, that is part of the positive aspect of this album and what it represents. Riley is very much a musician,and infuses this music with some very creative and artful instrumental turns and,most importantly, a return to the presence of strong funk electric bass lines. When this came out, this was part of a musically artistic movement. And not even intended to be an enormous sell out. Teddy Riley sought popularity through innovation,and he got it. No matter how much this albums whole format was imitated,it was really one of the earliest of its kind.

Originally Review From June 15th,2013

Link to original review here*

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Filed under 1980's, Aaron Hall, Amazon.com, Funk, Hip-Hop, Music Reviewing, New Jack Swing, Teddy Riley

Anatomy of THE Groove 12/5/2014 Andre’s Pick: “L.O.V.E and you & I” by Jazzanova

During the summer of 2002 my father was continually playing an album entitled In Between. It was by Jazzanova, Berlin based DJ/producer collective whose members are Alexander Barck, Claas Brieler, Jürgen von Knoblauch, Roskow Kretschmann, Stefan Leisering, and Axel Reinem. Every time the two of us would run an errand or go on a short road trip? My father would continually play the albums opening song “Love And You & I”. Even for years after? My dad and I would fun on one another about how entranced he seemed to be with playing this song so often. But as is often the case with my musical influences such as my father? As my understanding and tastes in music continued to expand and grow,so did my appreciation of what this particular song,which I heard so often,was really all about.

The song starts out with a dragged out sounding sample of what I recognize easily as “Something’s Missing” by the Five Stairsteps,followed by the the same line sung by a 50’s type pop vocal choir. After a female singer responds “Could It Be Love” that slowly descends into a choir of the same phrase and a lower female singer simply singing “love”,the instrumental part comes in with a mellow jazzy piano punctuated by breaks of slow latin percussion and electric piano bursts. On the second refrain of this,the song goes into a deep male vocal chorus-followed by a solo voice singing “the sun,the moon,the sky and you and I”. This is accompanied by a hip-hop type funk drum beat-different and more flamboyant variations of which come in throughout this refrain into a female chorus returns,amid calling trumpet solos “love bum,bum,bum,bum”.

After all of this the song begins an entirely new instrumental cycle-going from a trumpet choir into a lightly Brazilian style funky electronic piano rhythm-before returning to a repeat of the first chorus. After this the song abruptly slows to a crawl before an EWF style vocal chorus of “LOVE LOVE LOVE” followed up by a complex string and acoustic guitar driven latin jazz rhythm kicks in with both the first and second vocal chorus responding the sound and emotional attitude. That leads into an instrumental bridge showcasing tbe upright bass of Paul Kleber accompanying vibist David Friedman. As Friedman’s bass fades out,Kleber’s bass fades back into a fade out of all the variations of the different “love” related vocal refrains from throughout the song-accompanied by a swinging,acoustic guitar led bossa nova up to the very end of the song itself.

What can I say about this song today? To boil it down? It just has everything. It has the funky electric guitar,the swinging jazzy drum brushing,the Brazilian percussion flavor and a harmonic mood that lays somewhere in the middle between wonder,anticipation,relaxation and of course love. Generally speaking in hip-hop,sampling of any sort is used as a form of archival musical identification. In this case a range of samples from everyone from  70’s jazz and jazz/fusion groups such as Catalyst,Bobby Hutcherson,Branford Marsalis,Antonio Carlos Jobim,Les DeMerlealong with soul/funk from The Sueremes with the Temptations and The Sylvers to create a live band Latin jazz/funk fusion flavor. Each sample is arranged in such a way where it sounds like a band actually interacting off their strengths and weaknesses as musicians-though the broken up nature of sampling is still made clear to the ears as well. It’s one of my very favorite examples and uses of jazz and funk sampling in the immediate post millennial era.

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Filed under 2002, Brazil, Brazilian Jazz, DJ's, Funk, Funk Bass, Fusion, Hip-Hop, Jazzanova, Motown, Sampling