Monthly Archives: May 2015

Andre’s Amazon Archive for 5/30/2015: ‘Cee-Lo Green Is The Soul Machine’ by CeeLo Green

Cee Lo Green Is The Soul Machine

Cee Lo’s debut album Cee-Lo Green & His Perfect Imperfections ended up being a good idea that didn’t quite meet up to it’s full potential creatively. And commercially it went down with a great big fizzle. When he was about to release his second album OutKast released their masterpiece Aquemini,actually two seperate individual statements from each member. With it’s blockbuster success,Cee Lo knew he’d have to do something to improve his luck a little the second time around. So he teamed with Antonio LA Reid,noted for his ability to created commercial success seemingly on command,for his second album. All being said it was not a bad try.

Collaborating with Pharell wasn’t a bad idea on the pumping,dance floor friendly funky soul of “The Art Of Noise” as well as “Living Again”,which doesn’t feature Pharell but sounds it. A wah wah powered spoke word funk piece “I’m Selling My Soul” is another strong number as is the melodically soulful “All Day Love Affair”,a warm hearted tribute to Cee Lo’s girlfriend. “When We Were Friends”,”Sometimes”,”Let’s Stay Together”,not the Al Green classic but sure sounds like Al as well as “Die Trying” are all potent examples of fine retro soul songwriting that would be Cee Lo’s stock in trade in the future. So it hardly matters the ten or so hip-hop numbers here still mostly leave one cold.

After this of course Cee Lo teamed up with Danger Mouse for Gnarls Barkley,a project that earned Cee Lo the same level of success OutKast did a few years earlier. Several years after Gnarles Barkley drifted apart Cee Lo re-imagined his solo career with The Lady Killer,this time with far more commercially and creatively impressive results. What is most important is how this particular album so well represents his “first solo career” so to speak. He embodies the defining characteristics of the soul artist so well. On the surface there’s a stereotypical southern hip-hopper. Just skin deep under that though is a decent,very religious family man with strong moral and social values. It’s the old blend of the spiritual and the secular. On this,that musical argument isn’t given such a big audience. It’s still there. But he’s starting to really move onto greater things.

Originally posted on August 18th,2012

Link to original review here*

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Filed under Antonio LA Reid, Cee Lo Green, Danger Mouse, Funk, Gnarls Barkley, OutKast, Pharrell Willaims, Southern hip-hop

Anatomy Of THE Groove for 5/29/2015: “Fake Future” by Allen Stone

I’ve actually written on an Amazon.com review,which I posted on this blog in fact, about the Washington State native Allen Stone. He’s a rather interesting artist in many ways. His creative themes have a certain level of uncertainty and ennui that’s often inherent in the Northwest US bred alternative music scene of the past twenty years. But they also posses his funky soul musical calling’s fuller level of hope,love,caring and emotional expression. These qualities all came together wonderfully on his second full (self titled and released) album. Which was the first I’d ever heard of the man.

After a year or so of writing and recording a series of songs? He finally emerged with his third album Radius. While his love of the groove is sincere and honest? Most of the songs on the album didn’t move me enough on a positive musical level to buy it. Always felt that the most successful funk and soul come from a synergy of factors coming together to create hard grooving fire. While previewing these songs? There was one that actually leaped out as being the type of jam that successfully communicated Stone’s intention. It is entitled “Fake Future”.

The drum introduces the basic groove-with is a powerful boogie funk groove that’s presented very sparely. There a grinding,popping bass line is presented as an upfront melodic element with the bluesy funk choral body of the song. This is accented by some higher pitched Fender Rhodes piano solos. There’s a refrain that has some of that Afrocentric/Arabic style ascending/descending melody. All of these instrumental movements are punctuated rhythmically by bursts of strings-perhaps of the electronically simulated variety. These fade out the song as they slip off into the echoplex.

It’s a very short song at just under three minutes. Yet the groove has so many vital sources. Musically it has the vibe of the 90’s acid jazz/funk revivalism of bands like Jamiroquai,Brand New Heavies and DAG. Lyrically it could very possibly come from a twin creative consciousness within Stone himself. The core of the song is a right on time message about the vital importance of instrumentalists. Especially with lyrics such as “what good is my microphone if I don’t really sing?/What good is my music if it ain’t really me?”

Now the other side to these important rhetorical questions come when Stone is actually seeking possible answers to them. He’s beginning the song asking current musicians to chuck their laptops,lights,glitter and cash crop. Also citing himself as being on creative life support. The chorus points to recent concerns that much recent history will be lost due to lack of physical media in the online age. That serves to make this a musically clear cut post disco/funk groove that thematically contrasts the need for true creative expression and the mild paranoia that may come with what Prince refers to as “art official age”. So this groove presents a lyrical conversation more than worth having.

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Filed under 2015, Acid Jazz, Allen Stone, Brand New Heavies, disco funk, Funk, Funk Bass, Jamiroquai, post disco

Miles Davis And The Generational Profile Of The Dark Magus

Miles,how would your music be if you were still alive at 89?

The Rhythmic Nucleus

MilesDavisPoster

                 Miles Davis and his role in shaping the present and future of American’s native music of jazz is very well understood. He helped open the door for a new instrumental ethic for the music that remains as controversial today as his personality was during his lifetime. I believe it was Norman Granz,founder of the Newport Jazz Festival himself who once said that unlike with Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington,he never loved Miles Davis. Miles was a man who forced people to get to know him. He never revealed a great deal of his heart and soul to anyone. Not the musicians he worked with,and certainly not his lovers.  Yet he remains a figure of great mystique. And as Granz pointed out,generations of musicians of all sorts have themselves become difficult personalities emulating Miles’s attitude. Yet I know at least one friend who…

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Anatomy of THE Original Super Heavy Funk for 5/25/2015: “Thunder Thumbs And Lightnin’ Licks” by The Brothers Johnson

1976 now emerges for me as a tremendous year in funk. Name dropping in this case doesn’t only seem required, but very necessary. You had Earth Wind & Fire with “Getaway” and “Saturday Night”,The Isley Brothers with “People Of Today”,Graham Central Station With “Entrow” and “Mirror”,Isaac Hayes’s “Groove-A-Thon”,Kool & The Gang with “Open Sesame”,Herbie Hancock’s “Doin’ it”,The Crusaders with “Spiral” and “Feeling Funky”,Stevie Wonder with “I Wish” and “All Day Sucker”.And the list goes on.

Even in the jazz and rock sections of record stores? The funk seemed to be everywhere by this time with Steely Dan,Jeff Beck,The Doobie Brothers and Edgar Winter. Also during this year? There were the appearances of a few new artists who my friend Rique described so well as basically saying to the world “we’re the new generation of funk”.

George and the now late Louis Johnson were an LA bass/guitar duo who began their career as session people for big name stars of the early 70’s such as Bill Withers,Bobby Womack and Billy Preston. On an apparent audition for Stevie Wonder’s band Wonderlove? They were overheard by Quincy Jones. He bought them in to play,write and sing on his 1975 album Mellow Madness.

The Johnson’s could not have had a more totally complete introduction if they tried. They had the support of Quincy,the access to the huge bevy of instrumentals that his reference provided and signing to the (at the time) artist owned A&M Records for their 1976 debut Look Out For #1. The second song on this album is an instrumental that, for me, showcases what really made them musically. It’s titled after the brothers nicknames-“Thunder Thumbs And Lightnin’ Licks”.

The song begins with a delayed drum from Harvey Mason-accented by a bassy,greasy Clavinet solo from Dave Grusin introducing the first refrain. He then comes in with a higher,pitched bent synthesizer playing a bluesy guitar like riff that launches into a similarly themed full on melody of the song. This main chorus features George and Louis bass/guitar interaction mixed up high along with the melody. On the second refrain? Sahib Shihab plays an improvisation of the bluesy theme on flute.

After another chorus and refrain that again improvises on their two melodic themes? There’s a bridge which heavily emphasizes the timbale work of Billy Cobham-with a little vocal jiving from the brothers themselves. After this the song returns to the man chorus-with swells into a James Brown like sustained rhythm guitar-let along by Glenn Farris’s trombone to the fade. Throughout the song? The trumpets and sax’s of Chuck Findley,Ernie Watts and Bill Lamb  play call and response to everything else going on in the song itself.

The first time I ever heard this song,when I was about 11 years old? It was played at the beginning of a late 70’s Saturday Night Live sketch starring Steve Martin,which took place in a disco. I instantly loved the groove,though it was a very minor aspect of the sketch itself. But did not know what it was. Nor who the Johnson brothers were. First time I heard this album in my early 20’s? It was very exciting to be able to identify this song I’d loved for years.

While I have many examples of this I could rattle off? This is one of those songs that, for me, represents funk at it’s most solid and complete. Both instrumentally and production wise. Quincy polishes up the sheen of this groove-featuring jazz/funk session greats with the new artists’ for some of the most expertly enthusiastic playing of the 70’s funk era. Rhythmically it’s a direct transition from the thick,phat approach of the “united funk” years to the more polished rhythms of the disco era to come. It’s one of the my favorite, and most defining funk instrumentals of all time.

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Filed under 1970's, Billy Cobham, Brothers Johnson, Dave Grusin, Ernie Watts, Funk, Funk Bass, George Johnson, Harvey Mason, Jazz-Funk, Louis Johnson, Quincy Jones, Sahib Shihab

Andre’s Amazon Archive for 5/23/2015: ‘Winners (Expanded Edition) by The Brothers Johnson

Brothers Johnson Winners

Released in the immediate aftermath of the Johnson’s split with the Quincy Jones production team they had the excellent sense to take the same talented people they’d worked with over the years along with them. All the same this album proved an enormous dip in commercial success and,as far as I know this is the first CD reissue of this particular album. I had the vinyl for years and barely ever played it. In that format it always seemed a little lacking to me musically and it still is in some ways.

The main reason is that the one thing the Johnson’s couldn’t take with them from Jones was the years of arranging and production experience so when they produced and arranged this album themselves everything was given a similar flavor at times but overall it lacks the clever touches,especially certain electronic ones that Quincy often added to spice up his productions. Otherwise,in some ways it’s actually a pretty logical follow up to it’s predecessor even if it doesn’t break any new ground musically.

“The Real Thing” is basically the most obvious response to “Stomp”,lacking only that songs sense of rhythmic build-it comes out of nowhere and more or less stays there. “Dancin’ Free” and “Caught Up” are similarly grooving affairs whereas “Do It For Love” and “Teaser” easily emerge as the harder funk on the album-actually very stripped down production wise which is very appropriate for the times and the emergence of “naked funk”,although none of these songs are the least bit electronic as all the music on this album is extremely organic in nature.

The last half of the album is very unusual as it presents a series of songs with more rock oriented musical devices in keeping with the sound of the Toto members participating in this album. “Hot Mama” in fact is pretty straight out rock n roll with a bit of a funk edge. “I Want You”,”In The Way” and the closer “Daydreamer Dream” actually sound more like arena friendly early 80’s Toto style pop/rock track than anything by The Brothers Johnson. It was an interesting unexplored direction but might have taken people off guard as it did me.

Luckily this reissue solves another problem. Up until now The Brothers Johnson entire recorded output on CD has remained incomplete because all the four “new” cuts featured on their 1982 compilation Blast! were never released on a compilation together. This compilation straightens that out by adding all four of those cuts as bonuses,giving this some of the best bonus cuts I’ve heard on a CD since usually bonus tracks are single edits or alternate takes. Three of these cuts “Welcome To The Club”,the autobiographical “Funk It” and “The Great Awakening” are all a nasty,lightly electro style hardcore naked funk-the latter whose lyrics (as illustrated in the excellent liner notes) are George’s plea to his philandering brother Louis to stat true to certain important people in his life.

This ends with “Echoes Of An Era”,a full on hardcore early 80’s on the Sly Stone style funk groove with a tribute to funk itself. Big Break Records is currently THE BEST funk,soul and R&B reissue label currently around. Particularly in the way they present rare albums such as this with excellent sound,great liner notes with well written information and photos and bonus tracks the same way rock and jazz albums have been getting domestically. And this is an excellent reissue in a series of them that actually helped me reappraise music I’d previously had uncertain thoughts about.

Originally Posted On May 10th,2011

Link to original review here*

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Filed under 1980's, Amazon.com, Big Break Records, Brothers Johnson, electro funk, Funk, Funk Bass, George Johnson, Louis Johnson, Music Reviewing, Quincy Jones, reissues, Sly Stone

Anatomy Of THE Groove for 5/22/2015: “A Touch Of Class” by Louis Johnson

After waking up and having the usual inner dialog about what song to blog about this week? Rique informed me of the sad news that Louis “Thunder Thumbs” Johnson had passed away at the age of 60. Now,I was very back and forth about whether or not this matter should be addressed so soon. For one? Just did a major piece on the Brothers Johnson on the birthday of Louis’s eldest brother George. Another was that I didn’t want to come across as exploiting a tremendous talent I had nothing but respect and admiration for.

Took a 10-15 minute Facebook conservation with Rique to decide me on the matter. Louis’s career as a huge hit making and critically acclaimed musical success peaked at a crucial point in the music. A point where the circular nature of taste was veering away from instrumentalists again and back towards popular vocalists-following the post disco era. Taking a break from recording with brother George? Louis released his first and only solo album entitled Evolution in 1985. And smack dab in the center of the album was a song called “A Touch Of Class”. A song that left a strong impression on me personally.

Beginning with a slow paced,brittle uptempo drum machine rhythm accented with electronic hi hat on the second beat? Johnson’s slap bass comes right in and fast becomes the central body of the song. After this? A series of synthesizer based melodies build. The first is a more percussive oriented one-joined almost immediately by a light improvised trumpet melody from Bobby Rodriquez. Following this? Three more orchestral synthesizer elements come into the song that create something of the environment of big band horn sections-including voicing’s for trumpet,sax and trombone interactions. Following yet another solo for Johnson’s slap bass? A jazzier keyboard solo comes in before a series of twittering bird like,and more abstract electronics close out the jam.

First thing about this song that really impressed me was the fact that it was an instrumental. On a pop album rather than a jazz one. This was very common during the height of the 70’s funk era. Yet by 1985 in particular? Full on instrumentals were, in fact a lot less common on pop,rock,funk and soul records of the period. Louis Johnson celebrated his instrumentally based musicality in another important way on this song. Using then contemporary synthesizers and drum machines? He uses the medium of electro funk production to created a series of solos which accent (and emulate) his iconic slap bass playing. As a multi instrumentalist here? He accents Rodriquez’s single trumpet solo here with Quincy Jones-like orchestral synth arrangements. As a high quality joining of big band jazz and funk in the style of his mentor? This song in particular is, for me anyway, a wonderful solo musical legacy for the man to have left behind.

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Filed under 1980's, Bobby Rodriquez, Brothers Johnson, electro funk, Funk, Funk Bass, George Johnson, instrumental, Jazz-Funk, Louis Johnson, Quincy Jones, slap bass

The Brothers Johnson-Stomping Thunder & Lightning

Brothers Johnson Artwork

Michael Jackson was likely the first artist who ever focused my attention on instrumentalists. While admiring the vocal,songwriting and performance ability of the Jackson brothers in general? My attention would focus on the liner notes of their albums. This came after watching The Jackson’s-An American Dream mini series on TV. And my parents loaning me their Michael Jackson/Jackson related albums. I personally wanted to know more about the musicians whose sound made the rhythms snap,crackle and pop with funkiness and soul the way they did. It has gone on to be a tremendous learning experience for me.

Two of these musicians that I noticed on the liner notes to Mike’s iconic Off The Wall album,from my mom and dad’s original vinyl copy,were guitarist George Johnson and his bassist brother Louis. Considering my interest in bass players even then? It was amazing to learn just what a bass icon Louis Johnson in particular was. Not to mention his enormous debt to the 1980’s by his iconic electric bass line on Mike’s “Billie Jean”. While I knew who Quincy Jones was of course? I had no idea of the breadth and scope of his musical outreach until learning more about the Brothers Johnson.

A few years later during mid adolescence? I was browsing the CD racks at the now defunct Borders Books & Music. I noticed a collection of four newly arrived releases by…The Brothers Johnson. The earliest one, 1976 album called  Look Out For #1 showed a photographically powerful image,take from below,of two super hip looking young musicians playing bass and guitar and singing with enormously enthusiastic expressions and stances. All of these album covers projected intensity. Album art is just art of course. But the best part was,as I veered toward adulthood, was discovering that these albums were musically just as energetically funkified as their cover art implied.

During my early 20’s? Something began to become uppermost in my understanding of the Johnson brothers musicality. Free jazz/bluesgrass/rock guitarist and writer for Allmusic.com Eugene Chadbourne perhaps worded it best about the revelation I had-when Mister Chadborne described the Johnson’s as coming from a period where musicians in the jazz/funk/soul genre were judged by the dues they paid in professional situations. As opposed to being judged by a romantic notion of street credibility. Since that latter notion totally defined the local understanding of musical appreciation around me at that time? This led me to more research,both through physical literature and my earliest experiences online, about the Johnson’s and other funk era instrumentalists.

By the time 2004 rolled around? And I was connecting with a group of local musicians/DJ’s as something of a local funk bands volunteer videographer? It was the story arc of how musicians such as George and Louis Johnson became musical icons that was fascinating me most. The brothers started playing with the Billy Preston band while still in high school. Quincy Jones then became taken with the duos talents. And he bought them in to record with his mid 70’s band on his 1975 release Mellow Madness-much of which qualifies as the earliest introduction of the Johnson’s duel playing and vocal harmonies. And the rest was history. In addition to success as a duo with their own albums? They would go from blistering session work with Herbie Hancock and George Duke to 80’s era work with Leon Sylvers and Slave’s Steve Arrington.

Looking back on it all now? The Brothers Johnson are the main reason why I have continued to focus so heavily on the instrumentalists relationship in the creation of the funk,soul and jazz music that has become such a source of creative and emotional inspiration for me. Getting back to the Michael Jackson angle? Now that the man sadly isn’t with us anymore? Whenever I hear his first two Quincy Jones produced solo records? It’s a lot more easy to tune into how Mike’s vocal hiccups take their turns popping right along with George and Louis’s instrumental licks on songs such as “Get On The Floor”,”Burn This Disco Out”,”Baby Be Mine” or the aforementioned “Billie Jean”. So among all the wonderful funky soul the Johnson’s have made? What I’d personally thank them for is helping increase my level of understanding of why playing in the groove works in music.

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Filed under 1970's, 1980's, Allmusic.com, Billie Jean, Billy Preston, Borders Books & Music, Brothers Johnson, Eugene Chadbourne, Funk, Funk Bass, George Duke, George Johnson, guitar, Herbie Hancock, Leon Sylers, Look Out For #1, Louis Johnson, Michael Jackson, Off The Wall, Quincy Jones, Steve Arringon, The Jacksons, Thriller

Andre’s Amazon Archive for 5/16/2015: ‘Dream Street’ by Janet Jackson

Dream Street

A truly amazing album and,with little doubt in my mind THE BEST of Janet’s pre Control recordings. At this point in her life Janet was officially entering adulthood and breaking away from her families control by marrying (then leaving) James DeBarge. On this album Janet has found her musical niche and is starting to put her sound together. She wasn’t all the way there but was edging closer and closer to the sound of her breakthrough only a year and a half later. Produced alternately between her brother Marlon,The Time’s Jesse Johnson and Donna Summer’s former producers Giorgio Moroder and Pete Ballotte the sound of this album is dominated by uptempo tunes with a far more aggressive musicianship,sharper sonic’s and top notch songwriting as well.

The opening is the slamming electro funk of “Don’t Stand Another Chance” which really shows you how underrated Marlon Jackson is as a producer and how much of the early electro/hip-hop/funk sound he’d actually assimilated,especially hearing some of Janet’s growls and snarls in the vocals. “Two To The Power Of Love” is the lone ballad here and is the only song that really doesn’t quite fit,with a very corny arrangement not that different from something you might heard sung by a Jem doll at that time frankly. “Pretty Boy” gets the mood up very quickly. Prince,“Purple Rain” and the Minneapolis sound in general was super hot at that point and here you see the reason.

Janet and Jesse Johnson JAM out this song that completely exposes the nucleus of the sound she’d soon make famous only in a somewhat rawer Minneapolis funk context with some screaming synthesizers and Janet’s call and response “PLAY THOSE FUNKY HORNS!”. On Giorgio Moroder’s title song,with a video that was snuck into one of her appearances in Fame definitely finds Janet maturing on every front,singing a very bittersweet tale of the realities in the struggle for celebrity to one of Moroder’s patented euro/Italo disco style arrangements.

“Communication” and “Hold Back The Tears” are his other two productions and find Janet succeeding much better in the new wave/rock style she’d attempted less successfully at the end of her previous album. Jesse returns again for the very break dance/electro friendly mid 80’s street funk of “Fast Girls”,another driving and amazingly effective groove. Marlon returns with “All My Love To You” which very much echoes the flavors of the first song on this album.

The record closes with another Moroder tune in the potent new wave-soul-dance hybrid of “If It Takes All Night”. You’d think with all the cooks in the kitchen on the production of this album that Janet’s identity would remain very submerged-it didn’t. If anything on this album Janet’s actually began to develop a persona driven by intense,funky 80’s style dance jams and some unbeatable hooks and breaks as well. For those looking into early Janet for music that points to her big breakthrough later in the decade this album would be the sure fire place to find it.

Originally Posted On March 31st,2010

Link to original review here*

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Filed under 1980's, Amazon.com, elecro funk, Fame, Giorgio Moroder, Italo disco, James DeBarge, Janet Jackson, Jesse Johson, Marlon Jackson, Minneapolis, Music Reviewing

Anatomy Of THE Groove for 5/15/2015: “Once I Get In It” by Con Funk Shun

A major learning experience for me has come from writing this blog. And it’s that sometimes? Focusing on a single song can be very musically instructive. That’s especially true for an album listener. Of course? This all boils down to a matter of personal taste. An album might have a lot of a particular style of music that once doesn’t like,and very little of a style one does like. And that is a particularly important factor of the song I’m going to be talking about today. And it comes from famous West Coast funk veterans out of Vallejo.

One of the biggest surprises this year was that Con Funk Shun made a big album comeback. Michael Cooper and Felton Pilate reunited the band with the production team behind Charlie Wilson’s recent solo albums after a tour. And released the album More Than Love on the Shanachie label at the end of this past April. After previewing the album? I find the album far too contemporary soul ballad heavy for my personal liking. Still, among the few uptempo songs present on the album? One song stood out for me personally. And that was “Once I Get In”.

The song starts with a straight up amplified blues guitar riff before going into a thick,jazzy chorded funk groove. This is fed into a series of orchestral synthesizers,organ with thick slap bass accents. The choruses of the song are a call and response series of expansive multi tracked vocal harmonies singing along with the leads. These vocals and the stomping instrumental refrain lead each other through a couple of building choruses. Towards the end of the song? The horn and rhythm guitar accents back up an entire alternate vocal chorus before the song fads out.

On this song? Con Funk Shun function in a similar manner as they did in their musical heyday. The rhythm section including the bass,guitar and drums function to elevate the choruses,melody and more vocal oriented elements of the song. But do so in the funkiest possible way by keeping the groove phat and fluid. This song is a much slower and more direct funk stomp than the more uptempo,EWF like post disco style they are more famous for. While the vocals themselves and the rhythms aren’t quite as imaginative as they would’ve been in the late 70’/early 80’s? On this one song along? It’s a joy to hear Con Funk Shun spend 3 minutes back in the groove.

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Filed under 2015, Charlie Wilson, Con Funk Shun, Felton Pilate, Funk, horns, Michael Cooper, organ, post disco, Shanachie, slap bass, synthesizer

Stevie Wonder-Happy Birthday!

Stevie Wonder - Copy

Thus far? 2015 has proven itself to be an important year for Stevie Wonder. He was the beneficiary of an all star Grammy tribute that included the likes of John Legend,Janelle Monae,Jill Scott and India.Arie. In addition he has recorded on two major records this year in-including “Crack In The Pearl Part II” and “Uptown ‘s First Finale” on Mark Ronson’s massively successful album Uptown Special, as well as on the latest collaboration between Snoop Dogg and Pharrell Williams Bush-playing and singing on the opening song “California Roll”

In addition to all this powerful musical activity? It’s been announced that Stevie is planning on releasing two separate albums this year. One is said to be a gospel album and the other a collaboration with David Foster. It’s unknown as to whether these or any other album project from Stevie is actually on the horizon. But one thing that’s been uppermost in my mind,as Stevie Wonder turns 65 today? It’s the prevailing attitude today that,much as James Brown was The Godfather Soul? It would seem that Stevie Wonder is now considered something of a godfather of neo soul.

One excellent example of this is the 1999 song “All That I Can Say”,performed by Mary J. Blige and composed by Lauryn Hill.  The multi layered,jazzy and melodic synthesizers and the easy going percussive rhythm define the songs core. And those are both signatures of Stevie Wonder’s musical approach: utilizing new electronic technology to create brand new structures of sound that could be emotionally felt as well as heard. Of course neo soul in particular hasn’t always come to grips very well with the strong control Stevie has over his idiosyncratic vocal approach. And that soft yet powerful rhythmic fullness only comes into the music on fairly rare occasions.

In the end? It all comes down to a conversation Rique and myself have had over and over again. That the most positive creative flower of Stevie Wonder’s musical influence comes from those inspired by his musical approach, rather than his vocal one. Composing music with the type of jazz phrasings Stevie tends to use broadens songwriting possibilities for contemporary musicians. And his emphasis on modern electronics to create emotional textures of sound is extremely useful as well. Since the past decade or so seems to showcase Stevie’s instrumental and compositional talents rather than merely less than satisfactory imitations of his vocal ones? The man’s influence,at least at present,seems to be in very good hands. Stevie Wonder,happy birthday to ya’!

 

 

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Filed under 1970's, India.Arie, Janelle Monae, Jazz, Jill Scott, Lauryn Hill, Mary J. Blige, Mavis Staples, Neo Soul, Pharrell Willaims, Snoop Dogg, Stevie Wonder