Monthly Archives: February 2015

Andre’s Amazon Archive for 2/28/2015: ‘Worldwide Underground” by Erykah Badu

Erykah Badu

Eryka Badu is always a human being whom I admire and respect,even more so after reading her recent interview for Wax Poetics magazine. She’s insightful,has a good socio-musical understanding and manages to deal with her unique variation on Afrocentrism very well. One of the things I will say about her though is that musically she often has some level of difficulty bringing her ideas into a clear musical focus. Her “neo-funk’ sound always grooves with jazzy rhythmic touches and as much electric piano layering and psychedelic soul musical touches as she can pack into her music. As such the three-four minute pop is not exactly her friend. On this album there’s a concerted effort to remedy that. This album,originally intended as an EP is a ten track album running about ten minutes short of an hour primarily featuring songs of either very short or very long in length.

The overall effect is not so much that of a jam band mentality but more over that of stretching out her broadly chorded and scoped melodies and harmonic effects to their maximum limit. That is exactly what happens on “Bump”,”Back In The Day (Puff)”, and “I Want You”. The overall songs stick within her basic musical framework:spare funk with an MG’s like quality of every instrumental lick counting although it’s loose rather than precise and far far cleaner produced,with puncuated bass synthesizers added for an important measure. The songs also totally split apart by the end,either with a few minutes of free form vocalese or simply slowing the tape down gradually on the songs conclusion. On “The Grind” and “Danger” she brings more hip-hop up front as she brings out that the modern inner city problems of money and the stress that comes with it are as if not more vital today than they were during the period when the music that inspired her was originally being made and the rapping in the songs,by her and others further look to that concept.

Her lyrical focus on general,sometimes non sexual romance (either internally or externally focused) are similarly open ended. The album comes to a very strong conclusion with “Think Twice”, a song in her signature style with fully acknowledges the strong influence of Donald Byrd in her music as well as “Love Of My Life Worldwide”,a more mid length and very well crafted funk song (emphasize song) with a rap provided by Queen Latifah and a very dynamic and inventive bridge. As with just about everything Erykah Badu does musically one does have to expect the unexpected from this album. That is after all part of the essence of who she is as a person and an artist and the lines aren’t as far apart as one might think. Because of the extended runs here she is about to find a little more focus than usual by stretching out the songs so her broad approach doesn’t seem too confined and held back and for the listener and music lover it’s an excellent way to present her artistry.

Originally posted on October 11th,2010

Link to original review here*

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Filed under Donald Byrd, Erykah Badu, Hip-Hop, Jazz-Funk, Nu Funk, psychedelic soul, Queen Latifah, Wax Poetics

Anatomy of THE Groove 03/27/15 Rique’s Pick : “Out Come the Freaks” by Was (Not Was)

It’s been fairly well documented how the Kingdoms of Funk and Disco splintered off into many different factions around 1980 or so. In truth, there were always several different approaches to both genre’s, mainly tied to region. One of the great ironies of the early ’80s era is that even after the terms “Disco” and to a lesser but signifigant degree, “Funk”, fell out of favor in the marketing and description of music, the Funk itself survived in many different guises. Early ’80s genre’s such as Post Punk, Dance Punk, New Wave, Electro, Boogie and Post Disco all kept people on the dance floors as well as the sound systems rocking. One of the primary influence’s it seemed, for anybody touching Funk in the early ’80s, was the sleek, sophisticated funky sound introduced by Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards of Chic. “Out Come the Freaks” by the Detroit band Was (Not Was), is a excellent stomping example of this early ’80s Funk groove. Was (Not Was) led by Motor city friends Dave and Don Was, was a very diverse ’80s group that always included the funk very prominently in it’s mix. “Out Come the Freaks” is a tight, slick funky song with a dance floor seducing beat and much more lyrical depth than most songs of it’s era.

The song begins with accapella choral vocals repeating the songs hook and chorus, “Woodwork squeaks and out come the freaks.” After several repetitions of the title, a synthesizer makes a deep resonant tone that revs up the groove. The groove that’s introduced is uptempo and dancefloor based in the tradition of Chic, with a tight bass groove that was the first thing that caught my attention. The song also features funky rhythm guitars scratching in the back in fine Chic style. The combination of solid up front bass and rhythm guitar gives the song it’s sophistifunkated Chic feeling. When the groove kicks in a prototypical early ’80s rap does as well. The rap features a smooth conversational voice with a nice rhythmic syncopation, that could almost be jazz poetry like Oscar Brown Jr, but is a little bit more rhytmically aggressive. The rap carries the idea of the song, starting off in a manner that would influence Whodini’s classic, ‘The Freaks Come Out at Night”, “When the sun comes down/they hit the streets/in the bars/the try to meet/some other stranger/to ease the pain/of living alone/till it drives them insane.” They go on to paint cautionary tales of singles playing the dating game, again highlighting the underlying danger that accompanies the night life. They paint an early ’80s landscape that features young men suffering from Vietnam War PTSD and women out chasing rich men “even if they have no hair (don’t worry she’ll get him a toupe). This slice of life lyrical imagery and lyricism is paired to very funky, well produced, clean music, with nice touches like a saxophone riffing during the dance breaks.

“Out Come the Freaks” became a recurring motif Was (Not Was) would use to illuminate the absurdity of people in their life times, with the group recording three versions spanning 1981 to 1988. Every time they do it they add new lyrics and new sad yet realistic characters around the idea of “woodwork squeaks and out come the freaks.” Don Was, the bass player and co founder of the group, has moved on to being a seminally important producer, producing quality albums and songs for many artists who generally carry that high honor of being considered “legends” in the music industry. But 1981’s “Out Come the Freaks” shows that even by the early ’80s, the Funky beat was still considered a conduit for both moving people physically and describing the times in which we live in. And the image of “The Freak”, popular in disco and funk, from social dances to songs like Chic’s “Le Freak” and Funkadelic’s “Freak of the Week”, would go on to become one of the defining subject matters of ’80s urban music, from “I Need a Freak”, to Whodini’s aforementioned “The Freaks Come out at Night.” In the hands of Was (Not Was) “The Freak” was not just a supreme lover, but also, a representative of our troubled times.

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Anatomy Of The Groove For 2/27/2015-Andre’s Pick: “Waterfalls” by TLC

As readers of this blog may have noticed? I’ve done previous little coverage of the 1990’s in Anatomy Of The Groove. My reasons for that,complex and subjective as they are,can be found over a number of my music reviews on Amazon. At the same time? I was very caught up in loving the music of TLC: T-Boz,Lisa Left Eye and Chilli. These were a trio of very funky divas who came around just after En Vogue with their own particular take on the music of that era.

Beginning with a loping drum shuffle and round keyboard warble,the music takes shape into a wah wah guitar playing the basic melody of the sung accented by a horn section of muted trumpets playing a jazzy counter accent. T-Boz throws down her best Sly Stone style vocal drawl  into this and with all three singing the chorus together of “don’t go chasing waterfalls/just stick to the rivers and the lakes that your used to/I know your gonna have it your way or no way at all/but I think your moving too fast” before the song fades on the same instrumental phrase on which it began.

One of the deepest things about this song for my personally is that 1994 was the year in which I had totally embraced the funky soul jazz spectrum of music as the sounds which influenced my own creative heart,mind and soul. Even than I recognized that this song,completely contemporary for it’s time,was completely embracing all the elements of that music. The vocal delivery was directly out of the trio’s Southern fried funk roots and it actually had a live instrumental backing of wah wah guitar and horns-which were just as distinctive and memorable to the song as the vocals and melody.

Thematically it is only recently that the wonders of this songs virtues actually revealed themselves to me. In a very poetic 70’s funky soul style? It finds TLC rhapsodizing the tale of a contemporary male urban teenager from a good family whose mother has concerns about the secrecy about his life,yet remains in the dark about the gangsta lifestyle he’s become involved in. It’s basically an image right out of what Maya Angelou refers to as “the thirteens”-seemingly a specific word for black American Generation X’ers.  This song takes the street sounds of mid 70’s hard funk,mixes it with a hip-hop style beat,live instrumentation and a message to young black men in particular what it might really to keep it real.

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Filed under 1990s, Chilli, Funk, Generation X, Lisa Left Eye Lopez, T-Boz, TLC, wah wah guitar, Waterfalls

Andres’ Amazon Archive for 2/21/2015: ‘Love Sex Passion’ by Raheem DeVaughn

Love Sex Passion

Musically the New Jersey born singer/songwriter Raheem DeVaughn’s music has interested me for some time. However something about his previous album A Place Called Loveland left me cold enough to return this album back to the store. The first time I ever actually did so with an album. When I heard the follow up was being realesed this year? I approached it with the idea of having an open mind and heart to an artist that presented the ability with what I’ve heard from him to do wonderful things musically. So considering the fact that DeVaughn seems to be linking each successive album in terms of a conceptual pattern? This still presented it’s own distinctive type of musical power even within that context.

This album essentially balances itself out across several stylistic approaches to it’s cycle of romance lyrical concept. After opening up with a musical recap of the previous album? Songs such as “Black Ice Cream”,”Miss Your Sex”,”Strip” and “Sun Proof (50 Shades)” all evoke different end of the Minneapolis approach to romantic soul balladry with a mixture of multiple vocal responses and dramatic drum machine and synthesizer orchestration-as well as some Southern Soul rhythm guitar riffing on the latter. “Queen” is a thick piano driven slow crawling funky soul ballad while “Nothing Without You” deals with a rhythmically percussive yet stripped down jazzy funk number. “Pretty Love” meanwhile is a passionately rhythmic dance/funk groove featuring the talents of Trombone Shorty-showcasing another strong Afro-Latin inspired percussion solo on the bridge.

“Temperature’s Rising” is a locked right in,bass synth accented slowed up funk stomp with DeVaughn and his own harmony’s acting equally as melodic and percussive elements. “All I Know In My Heart” is a pulsing,stripped down contemporary number while “When You Love Somebody”,”Terms of Endearment” and “Baby Come Back” are all greasy Southern Soul rhythm guitar and organ oriented ballads. “The last section of the album is something of a miniature cinematic soul suite of songs starting with the Leon Ware inspired string and rhythm section uptempo movement of “Countdown To Love,with it’s Brazilian drum pattern. “Feather Rock Lovin'” combines the approaches of Boney James along with The Illadelph Horns to express a mildly slower tempo’d variation of that sound with DeVaughn responding again between his vocal sighs,coos and cries. “Infiniti” ends the album with a climactic piano driven gospel soul tribute to romantic success.

So many male soul/funk artists since the mid 80’s have been somewhat recklessly declared “the next Marvin Gaye. From what I hear from this particular album? Raheem DeVaughn is one of a few artists in contemporary music who truly embody that identity. DeVaughn showcases on this album his grasp of the link in the chain between Marvin and Prince’s lustfully passionate themes as well as their two very different techniques of orchestration big,dramatic soul/funk music. The neo soul aspects of DeVaughn’s basic sound are there-from the vinyl scratch effects to the Southern style rhythm guitars. But the man’s powerfully jazzy gospel/soul pipes and dramatic instrumentation add a vitality and funkiness to the overall sound I seldom hear from artists who came out of neo soul. Honestly one of the very finest and complete musical statements I’ve heard Raheem DeVaughn do thus far!

Originally posted on February 17th,2015

Link to original review here*

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Filed under Amazon.com, Boney James, Illadelph Horns, Marvin Gaye, new music, Nu Funk, Raheem DeVaughn, Southern Soul, Trombone Shorty

Anatomy of THE Groove 2/20/15 Rique’s Pick: “Sho You Right” by Barry White

In retrospect, the year 1987 was the most meaningful,
impactful and enjoyable musical year of my childhood. In that particular year, the sounds of the past, present and future came together, all providing musical enjoyment on the one. I recall in particular my dad taping radio broadcasts on the local soul stations to carry on a trip he was making to Liberia, West Africa on business. Liberians have always been fans of the up to the minute latest in soul, funk, jazz, R&B, Gospel and eventually, hip hop too! What makes ’87 so special for me is the fact that veterans such as Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight, Smokey Robinson, The Bar Kays, and The Commodores put out powerful, funky music right next to the Kings and Queens of the era such as Michael Jackson, Prince, Janet Jackson and Jody Watley. They were also joined by the beginning of the golden age of hip hop, with artists such as Big Daddy Kane, Public Enemy, Eric B & Rakim, Boogie Down Productions, Kool Moe Dee, Ice-T and N.W.A all dropping their ’70s funk sampling hip hop. Among the many artists who enjoyed comebacks that year was the Maestro, Barry White, who hit with today’s funky classic, “Sho You Right.” This song stands tall alongside cuts such as “Skeletons” by Stevie Wonder, “System of Survival” by EWF, and of course “Housequake” by Prince and “The Way You Make Me Feel” by M.J. “Sho You Right” would begin a comeback path that would peak with the 1995 hit “Practice What You Preach.”

One of the things I love about “Sho You Right” is it translates White’s classic rhythmic sense into the contemporary idiom of drum machines and synthesizers. It might have been jarring when an artist like Barry went electro. After all, he was a pioneer in bringing a rich symphonic layer to the primal pulsations of Rhythm and Blues. But one thing some fans miss is the fact that Barry White often had a powerful, Afro-Latin rhythm underneath his symphonic soul that could definitley stand alone when called upon to. This funky hump is present on the classics such as “It’s Ecstacy When You Lay Next to Me”, “I’m Gonna Love You Just a Little More”, “Love Serenade”, “Your Sweetness is My Weakness” and countless other classics.

“Sho You Right” was based on a track White’s long time collaborator Jack Perry brought in. The Maestro himself played the many electronic instruments on the track. The song begins with a funky Carribean sounding drum roll which leads into a hard, semi industrial ’80s beat. Sometimes the industrial side of the ’80s drum machine programs can sound a little harsh to my ears, but on this cut its well modulated with more mid range warmth than usually heard on such a beat. The beat is centered around an eighth note drum kick that sounds like its main purpose is to lead you to the abnormally loud snare drum sounds on the 2 and 4. The kick drum is very syncopated and sets the stage for the multiple syncopations of the song. BW gives a shortened version of his classic love raps from the ’70s saying simply “Baby you got my undivided attention.”

A mean, strutting, jumping Afro-Carribean-Latin groove is introduced with keyboard horns playing on the “1” beat and the “3”. With the horns on the 1 and 3 and the heavy snare on the 2 and 4, the groove has the irresistible push and pull, jumpy quality. While I’m generally not crazy about synth horns, the horns here are wisely programmed like a horn section and restricted to a brief clipped horn burst, which heightens their effectiveness. In the background there is a synth guitar part seemingly played with some sort of bending effect that allows it to effectively mimic a real guitar. The groove breathes with vibrancy through its synthesized textures and BW and Perry introduce all kinds of fills, syncopations and Reggae style off beats that keep the groove vital and moving.

As far as The Maestro’s vocals? I always loved the way he slurred out his lines on this song. The lyrics are built around the line “Baby I’m relating” which was a finalist for the song title, with Jack Perry choosing “Sho You Right” out of the two song titles Barry presented him. The Maestro was back, turned on, and ready to relate!!!! This song along with many others was a soundtrack to many bike rides, basketball games and long weekend afternoons for me back in ’87 and ’88. And although I didn’t understand the sensual text of the lyrics, I surely understood the vitality of the groove! Proving that whether the Maestro is orchestrating men and women or machines, his wand will always direct something funky!

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Anatomy Of The Groove For 2/20/2015-Andre’s Pick: “African Eyes” by Sister Sledge

Philadelphia’s original sisters of soul Kathy,Debbie,Joni and Kim Sledge took their beautiful traded vocal leads and harmonies into the public consciousness in 1975. Five years and two albums later they began a hugely successful period with Nile Rodgers’ Chic organization-churning out songs that,among many excellent ones,include the anthem “We Are Family”. After 1985 the group had an eight year hiatus from recording  to emerge as a trio,produced by the British acid jazz outfit Incognito, while Kathy pursued a solo career.

Another seven years later the group re-emerged,again as a trio, with a brand new album called African Eyes. It was independently released,self produced,self written and the only reason I ever heard about it was because of my mother. She very much enjoyed hearing new music at the now defunct Borders Books & Music listening stations during the late 1990’s. This particular album seemed to not only surprise but very much excite her,which I know from experience is somewhat rare in this case. When I heard the title song for this album later that day? I completely understood her enthusiasm for it. And thanks to my friend from Kiev, Ukraine Andrew Osterov? I can now present this song to you.

The song begins with a pounding drum call before one of the sisters shouts out a declarative dialog in what sounds like Portuguese or Spanish. After this the percussive drum parts,speeding up and slowing down with each vocal refrain, breaks out into an intense uptempo frenzy accented by first by a steely slap bass pop from Kevin Mauch on the body of the song,and than joined by a jazzy improvised muted trumpet melody courtesy of Jessie Maguire on the choruses. The bridge of the song returns to a much cooler variation of the percussive drumming-juxtaposing the sounds of children playing with a full solo from that muted trumpet and an African flute before returning to the chorus as the song fades to a close.

Never before or since I heard or even conceived of the Sledge sisters as creating music that was so instrumentally and thematically Afrocentric. The song musically embraces the strong ethnic identification inherent in the original 70’s funk era-with it’s percussive rhythms and jazz oriented horn voicings. Even the solos and harmonies of the Sledge’s vocals have a totally rhythmic freedom in their projection. Lyrically the song boldly encourages young black American’s to see the beauty in their African roots-even declaring “civilization started near the Euphrates,when Adam and Eve started creating babies with those eyes”. Even evoking the chorus of their hit “We Are Family” with a new cultural context on the bridge of the song. To me this is the epitome of Sister Sledges musical journey. And impressed the music world so much that the African Eyes album was nominated for a best produced CD Grammy. The result is a high water mark for them in terms of funky cultural identity.

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Filed under 1990s, Africa, Afrocentrism, Debbie Sledge, Funk, Incognito, Jazz, Joni Sledge, Kathy Sledge, Kim Sledge, Nile Rodgers, percussion, Sister Sledge, slap bass, trumpet

Stevie Is Wonderful: Inner Visions Of Songs In The Key Of Life-An All-Star Grammy Tribute To Stevie Wonder

Janelle,Jill And India Pay Tribute to Stevie

On Presidents Day evening,the Grammy Awards association aired a television special on CBS featuring contemporary artists,many of them award winners themselves,in order to pay tribute to Mister Stevie Wonder. Not only was this a tribute to an artist I completely admire creatively. But someone who won awards and earned his success and fortune through the true innovation of sound. It was an event filled with many surprises. And today I would like to talk about what I saw,sung,laughed and danced to watching that night right along with so much of America!

ed_sheeran_beyonce_stevie_wonder_tribute_h_2015

The evening began with Beyonce performing a medley of Stevie’s first hit “Fingertips” and “Master Blaster” joined by guitar player Ed Sheeran. The highlight of this intro was from the guitarist Gary Clark Jr,who played a rocking blues electric guitar solo on a rendition of “Higher Ground”.

LL Cool J

LL Cool J was of course MC’ing the entire affair as he has the previous two Grammy Award ceremonies. He began by talking about Stevie Wonder’s effect on his life-as many of the artist this night did. Wonder was visibly moved to tears by this level of affection for his art. Towards the end of the special,LL asked the audience all over the world to close our eyes for a moment to contemplate the level of vision Wonder projects into his music. A very meaningful gesture.

Gaga doing I Wish

Lady Gaga’s performance of “I Wish” moved me perhaps the most on this special. Playing the Fender Rhodes electric piano with the help of keyboard maestro (and former Wonderlove member) Greg Phillinganes, Gaga was moved to move rhythmically to the music as Phillinganes took over the keyboard soloing. Not only was this a pronounced celebration of the instrumental ability of an artist mainly acknowledged as a performer. But was a pretext to a beautiful shout out and citation to the often very unsung talent of Greg Phillinganes himself-especially as a participant in Stevie’s ascent into iconic status in music.

Annie Lennox Stevie Wonder Songs In The Key Of Life - An All-Star GRAMMY Salute

Annie Lennox took on “My Cherie Amour”,vocally taking on a full bodied understanding of the emotional juxtaposition between passion,flirtatiousness and awkwardness expressed in this song. Jill Scott,Janelle Monae and India Arie-pictured at the top of this blog paying tribute to their favorite Stevie Wonder albums,gave a truly powerful group duet of the song “As”. Not only did they successfully pay tribute as presenter Mary Wilson indicated of the classic girl group dynamic? But each of them took a try at imitating Stevie’s famous growled vocal bridge of the song.

ryan_tedder_pharrell_stevie_wonder_tribute_h_2015

Pharrell Williams and Ryan Tedder did a spirited duet version of “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing”-pointing out that often a song intended as a singular expression by an individual can be reflected by two as well.

Jennifer Hudson

Jennifer Hudson bought her powerful gospel fueled pipes to a passionate take on the renowned ballad “All In Love Is Fair”. She maintained the flavor of the song as a secularized romantic hymn until the very last note was sung. Stevie’s daughter Aisha joins Ne-Yo in a duet of “Isn’t She Lovely”-essentially paying it forward to her fathers musical tribute to her birth.

andre-bocelli

Andrea Bocelli shares physical blindness in common with Stevie Wonder and for this particular occasion? He gives his own vocally expression rendition of “I Just Called To Say I Love You”. Ed Sheeran did an acapella/guitar rendition of “I Was Made To Love Her” showcasing Wonder’s talents as a multi instrumentalist.

ariana-grande-and-babyface-stevie-wonder-tribute

Relative newcomer Ariana Grande performed “Signed Sealed and Delivered” in an acoustic bluesy soul flavored rendition with Babyface performing the vocal duet and playing acoustic guitar in accompaniment. Another example of a song intended from one person’s point of view-this time taken from a male/female dynamic.


Overall this was a very impressive tribute. All of the participants did something totally unexpected with Wonder’s songs. And most importantly? There was a great deal of understanding of the man’s musical visions from them as well. Paul McCartney made a brief guest appearance sharing personal reminiscences of knowing “Little Stevie” as a teenager. And perhaps Tony Bennett before his performance of “For Once In My Life” said one key artistic point-that Stevie Wonder’s vocal and compositional spontaneity made him one of the best jazz artist Tony’d ever heard.

Perhaps the best observations came from Stevie Wonder himself. Having been cited for his often unsung importance as the public consciousness of the crusade to make Martin Luther King Jrs birthday a national holiday in 1980? Stevie played a medley of his fusion instrumental “Contusion” and “Sir Duke”. He than spoke to the audience about how the only way humanity could deal with it’s present cultural clashes would be to come together with our differences,not use them as a wedge. The fact Stevie’s views on humanitarianism have remained consistent throughout the years says the most important thing about the interconnection between this man and his musical offerings.

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Filed under Andrea Bocelli, Annie Lennox, Ariana Grande, Babyface, Beyonce', Ed Sheeran, India.Arie, Janelle Monae, Jennifer Hudson, Jill Scott, Lady Gaga, LL Cool J, Paul McCartney, Pharrell Willaims, Ryan Tedder, Stevie Wonder, Tony Bennett

Andre’s Amazon Archive for Valentines Day 2015: ‘Love Letter’ by R.Kelly

Love Letter

Hard to believe this guy is already in the middle of his second decade in music! In his some eighteen years of recording history he’s taken us down some very interesting and often innovative roads and,unfortunately some controversial ones as well. When it seemed that he’d gotton lost on his musical path on the releases following his excellent Chocolate Factory and Happy People / U Saved Me,both albums that were able to effectively blend some of the modern musical stylings with the melodic and rhythm textures of 70’s and early 80’s funk/R&B/disco he released this album that shows in every respect that the muse that inspired the creation of those two excellent albums is not only very much still there but still has enough room within it to grow and develop.

From the cover art to the music this album actually is a fitting tribute not only to “retro” styles of R&B,funk and soul but has the advantage of maintaining that flavor throughout,without the addition of hip-hop guest stars and any variation of that “”WHOA HO WHOA HO” chant over a digitized beat” style of contemporary R&B that has long since become overused even by Kelly himself. The title song,”Lost In Your Love”,”Just Can’t Get Enough”,”Radio Message” and the Chrisette Michelle duet of “Love Is” all are heavily indebted to that sound that bought the “stepping” revival into play during 2003/2004 and represents a style that works extremely well for R.Kelly’s style of singing,writing and lyricism-which here represents a turn toward elaborately chorded melodies and passionately sung lyrics that showcase a great deal of maturity and outward realization about love and life that the typically lustfull R.Kelly often skims over and/or ignores. The only time that (sort of) shows up is on the lusty “Taxi Cab” which is also the closest thing this album gets to contemporary.

Another highlite of this album is the light jazz-funk flavor of “Number One Hit”,which finds Kelly in his classic style comparing a lady to music by Michael Jackson and Sade and (even though not credit) the harmony vocals of the hook sound a lot like Sade in fact. The latter half of the album showcases Kelly putting a spin on the 60’s Motown/Vee-Jay style of soul balladeering (with the JB influenced mixed in) on “When A Woman Loves”,”Music Must Be A Lady” and “How Do I Tell Her”. Even though this style of R&B would’ve seemed retro even in the 70’s they showcase a very decent and human outlook on romance that speaks to Kelly’s more mature state of mind at this time and aware as I am of the duel sides of his romantic/sexual outlook I can only hope that this is more an outlook on the future than yet another sidebar. The album ends with his own version of “You Are Not Alone”,a song so linked with Michael Jackson that people tend to forget R.Kelly wrote it.

So all and all,considering the high level of musical and production quality that went into it this album might be looked at as a runner up for R.Kelly’s most impressive overall album. Now fans of his more sexually aggressive hip-hop/R&B style of music will not find exactly what they’re looking for on this album. But this album actually eludes lyrically to the fact that what constitutes for radio airplay has grown steadily more shallow over the years which,of course leads to a certain amount of self commentary in this case. One can only hope that the twin sides of R.Kelly’s nature have reconciled themselves to the point where him producing music of this quality can become the rule as opposed to the exception but we will just have to see what happens when his next album comes out.

Originally Posted On January 19th,2011

Link to original review here*

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Filed under Funk, Jazz-Funk, Michael Jackson, R.Kelly, Sade

Anatomy Of The Groove For 2/13/2015-“Shut ‘Um Down” by Gil Scott-Heron & Brian Jackson

The late Gil Scott Heron,self proclaimed “bluesologist” evoked a three prong musical transition in the 1970’s. He began by primarily performing raps over percussion and flutes to a melodic small group jazz/funk sound. During the late 70’s,he and his keyboard playing musical partner Brian Jackson began utilizing synthesizer abstractions in their music,based on the sounds created by Stevie Wonder at the same synthesizer facility Brian was using-TONTO. In 1980,Gil and Brian elected to put their collaboration on pause to pursue separate interests with their album 1980 at the very start of the new decade with it’s lead off song “Shut ‘Um Down”.

Beginning with a low rumbling piano that ascends into an explosive up-scaling after which Gil declares “hey what’s that rumble/did you hear that sound/know it wasn’t no earthquake,but it shook the ground”. The musical accompaniment has instantly swelled by this time into a slow,stomping and incredibly funky dance beat with very grits and gravy style juke joint piano accompanied by a medium pitched,rocking amplified guitar. On the choruses Gil is accompanied vocally by gospel drenched female backup singers along with a horn section blowing and wailing the changes. On the refrain,Brian Jackson takes over on a deep synth bass accompanying himself on a higher pitched ARP-sounding melodic synth line.

Musically speaking this song evokes the clean,concise production of a song such as Herb Alpert’s “Rise” with a get down and funky attitude-full of psychedelic soul flourishes,female choral vocals that take it back to Church as the saying going and most importantly? It all emphasizes Gil’s consistent emphasis in his vocal/song structured music on the usefulness of the very basic blues form in just about every aspect of black American music of the 60’s,70’s and even the beginning of the new decade. The song has a disco era four on the floor beat. But it really brings out George Clinton’s musical idea that anytime the rhythms and beats are slowed down? The music get’s incredibly funky.

Lyrically this song took on a theme one might not expect from Gil Scott-Heron. Long a champion of black power with his combination of razor sharp wit and homespun wisdom,this song deals with the massive environmental “no nukes” movement that arose enormously after the near meltdown at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in 1979. Gil calls for the immediate shutdown of all such power plants in America. Having been “thinking about power” on a literal and figurative level? He’s concluded that we’ve “gotta work for Earth,for all it’s worth ’cause it’s the only one we’ve got”. As one of the very few black musical spokespeople for environmentalism during the early 1980’s? This song is a strong thematic continuation of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” from a decade earlier. And as such being strong “people music” represents one of Gil and Brian’s very funkiest jams ever!

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Filed under 1980's, Brian Jackson, disco funk, Funk, Funk Bass, Gil Scott Heron, message songs, no nukes, synthesizers, Three Miles Island, TONTO

Albums Matter: Andre’s List Of The Top Funky Full Length Albums Of From The Past Five Years

Prince At the grammys

The 57th annual Grammy Award ceremony’s this past Sunday seemed to have surprised everyone. Many performances had a far more serious, even evangelical tone with references to domestic violence and the revived understanding of racism bought on by the police violence of 2014. Maturity and growth were very heavily emphasized on every level-performance and presentation wise. It was Prince,who just released two albums at the end of the last year,who got everyone’s attention-with the words printed above spoken as he presented the Grammy for the best album of 2014.

Prince’s words are what moved me to pick this particular topic for this weeks blog. One very important musical factor shared with my blogging partner Rique is our appreciation and advocacy for the full length album as an important artistic format in terms of how the music we love and are socially moved by is presented. To have someone with as rich a musical history as Prince bring this up at a major award ceremony confirmed the 2010’s have been all about the revival of the album as a driving force in the funk/soul/jazz/R&B spectrum in particular. So here’s my list,year by year of the music on that particular playing field that’s deeply effected my listening.

2010

Erykah Badu Return Of The Ankh

Erykah Badu is always one to throw the unexpected into her grooves. Here her thick,burbling jams blend into songs that are not only a cohesive statement but when sampling is used? They are of things like Paul McCartney album tracks of AOR oriented fusion artists such as David Sancious or Roy Ayers’ Sylvia Striplin. A wondrously sexy celebration of the funk album.

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Janelle Monae here was a key figure in the focus of both my music related blogs with her multi-genre embrace of the Afro Futurist ethic. This album was and is a true game changer in that regard.

John Legend Wake Up!

With both artists always edging just on the border of funk with their own respective releases? The groove burst out completely and with a total fluidity for John Legend and his backing band The Roots-including drummer/producer ?ueslove, for this (so far) one time musical collaboration.

2011

Beyonce 4

Known more for being innovative in terms of single songs,Beyonce’s fourth solo album gained a complete full length flow with a much more mature sound. Including the very polished Quincy Jones/Westlake style production of “Love On Top”.

Lenny Kravitz

Lenny Kravitz always had loads of funk in him. Here and there. Took him a long time before he fully identified with that funkier instrumental groove. And did so on one of his most thorough musical statements to date.

2012

Chris Brown Fortune

With contemporary electronic pop/hip-hop/dance music usually having enough energy to stretch only across a few songs? Chris Brown,during a less than satisfactory period for him personally no less,managed to take the contemporary musical end of his genre and stretch it out successfully longer than I’ve heard most do such a thing in some time.

Antibalas

This explosively percussion Afro-Funk group recording for Daptone were so connected to the original Afrocentric  pulse that spawned the original funk process groups such as Santana,Mandrill and War that following this album they became the backing band for the Broadway musical Fela! A rebirth of full length poly-rhythm at it’s finest!

Kaleidoscope Dream

Psychedelic,meditative and non traditionally structured sophomore release from new comer Miguel.

Victor Wooten

Bassist Victor Wooten saw such depth in this material that he released it both as a vocal and instrumental piece. Very original musical presentation at this time.

Macy Gray Talking Book

Macy Gray bought out her inner Sly Stone for this literal celebration of the album-re-making every song in original order from Stevie Wonder’s 1972 breakthrough album Talking Book on it’s 40th anniversary.

Talented bassist/singer Esperanza Spalding brings out the sprawling mid 70’s jazz/funk vibe for what is probably her most defining album as of yet.

Radio Music Society

Electronica meets boogie funk from a very interesting source blending a hard grooving as well as an ethereal quality.

2013

Toro Y Moi

Potent mix of electronica and boogie/synth funk.

Jyoti

Very bold sound from Georgia Anne Muldrow that embraces dramatic jazz/funk with a boom rap approach to production.

Trombone Shorty

Crescent City native Trombone Shorty presents the instrumental style of horn funk as a genre of sorts all it’s own,with many different tributaries,on this one album.

Apocalypse

Flying Lotus bassist Thundercat brings a huge,cinematic approach to psychedelic jazz-funk.

20 20 Experience

The first of two Justin Timberlake comeback’s this year. Probably a huge re-awakening for the album length music format,complete with 7-8 minute jams,that bough extended soul/funk to the broader contemporary pop audience.

2014

Pharrell

Long time producer emerges as a fully complete solo artist-full of funkified rhythmic energy and shook the world up in a way no funky music has in over three decades with “Happy”.

Kelis-Food

Kelis returns with an album that takes a very JB like organic instrumental soul/funk turn.

Paula

Robin Thicke’s emotionally charged break up album is a full on raw, muscular funk/soul extravaganza

Plectrumelectrum

Prince and the female instrumental trio 3rdEyeGirl become part of the double edged album sword in his studio comeback. It showcases a multi hued psychedelic funk/rock sound where the whole is definitely more important than the sum of it’s parts.

Goapele-Strong-As-Glass

Oaklands own Goapele lends the funk of Pharrell Williams and flowing,piano based jazzy soul/pop on an album that celebrates the flow of musical depth,dignity and elegance.

Black Messiah

D’Angelo shakes the world up with an extremely funkified statement that is still,at the time of this writing,showing people that black lives (and black music) matter a great deal.

2015 (So Far)

Uptown Special

With the month of January often being a driftwood month for new music? Mark Ronson brings Bruno Mars,Mystikal and Stevie Wonder together for some serious,churning “uptown funk? of many colors!


There were honestly more albums than I could’ve seriously listed in this blog that also fit right into it. But these ones made the most important statements on their own terms perhaps. A single song will always say a great deal. But if one impulse or a series of musical/lyrical impulse can be expanded out in a way that expands the mind naturally through a powerfully grooving auditory experience? Than I saw so much the better. So let’s all have it for the musical impact of the album! It’s a key organ in the anatomy of the groove!

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Filed under Beyonce', D'Angelo, Erykah Badu, Esperanza Spalding, Goapele, Janelle Monae, John Legend, Justin Timerlake, Kelis, Lenny Kravitz, Macy Gray, Mark Ronson, Miguel, Pharrell Willaims, Prince, Robin Thicke, The Roots, Trombone Shorty