The genesis of this post began with my father. Thirteen years ago,he excitedly had me listen to a various artists compilation entitled Cinemaphonic 2: Soul Punch. It consisted of fourteen short funk/soul instrumentals created for British library albums. These were used as incidental music for different television shows and motion pictures. Later on my friend Henry Cooper,himself a musician got me listening to more UK library music through the KPM series. Interestingly enough? One caught my ears through a different source.
One day while surfing YouTube? I came across this old Sesame Street sketch called “Walk”. The backup music thrilled me so much? I looked in the comment section for more on it. Turns out it composed and performed on such a library disc by a session pianist named Alan Hawkshaw-who had backed up acts ranging from the UK rock instrumental group The Shadows in 1969 to playing on Donna Summer’s album Once Upon A Time eight years later. It’s probably the shortest song I’ve done at only 44 seconds. And it’s entitled “U.S.A. Groove”.
It all kicks into with a chunky,bassy rhythm guitar playing the hard rocking basic groove of the song. It’s first accompanied by a short burst of conga’s and than a dramatic organ burst before the drums kick off into the body of the song itself. That body maintains it’s opening guitar riff,only as an element of a broader groove. That groove’s whole consists of a soulful organ solo from Hawkshaw-along with phat percussion pushing everything along. The song ends with a very dramatic crescendo wherein the drum and organ dramatically come to a halt.
After hearing this? It doesn’t come to any surprise to me that Hawkshaw’s music has been widely sampled by hip-hoppers. But only one particular number of his entitled “The Champ” has. Because this particular jam is short and so easily loopable? It’s just the sort of tune for such purposes. It’s also an example of how in the hands of an adept and diversified instrumentalist? As much funk can be packed into a groove under a minute as one would find in a four minute song. It’s actually one of my very favorite funk instrumentals-partly for that very reason.
Tuxedo have already been pretty thoroughly covered on Andresmusictalk already. And it looks like Mayer Hawthorne and Jake One are at it again. Just in time for the holidays too. Since I got back into doing this blog with my “five days of funk” concept? Have had some difficulty finding any nu funk to cover,which was part of my original intention. And this single of a new Stone’s Throw label compilation came at me via my YouTube subscription to the duo’s channel on that site. And the name of the song is “Holiday Love”.
The groove gets going with a percussive,mid tempo drum machine rhythm. This is first accompanied by a glossy orchestral keyboard harmony, along with a round and brittle synth bass line. The chorus is sung Roger Troutman style by Jake through a Vocoder. On the second chorus sung with Hawthorne harmonizing on lead? It’s all accompanied by the sound of sleigh bells in a similar manner to the Average White Band’s “School Boy Crush” from 40 years ago this year. It all outro’s it begins, along with the orchestral synth wailing away.
In many ways? This song completes an important multi generational triad of Christmas themed funk. It probably began with James Brown’s “Santa Claus Goes Straight To The Ghetto” in the late 60’s,continued on a couple years later with Donny Hathaway’s iconic funky soul of “This Christmas” and ends with the 80’s electro funk revivalism of this jam from Tuxedo. Musically it blends elements of Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing” and Zapp’s “Computer Love”. Topped off with Mayer Hawthorne’s soulfully honey’d lead vocals.
Message wise the song is right on time. The music video depicts Mayer and Jake pitching woo to their girlfriends-culminating with drinking wine in bed-while all sharing in their musically creative process. It’s just a simple idea of setting time aside for your romantic partner as a holiday gift. Since the last three holiday seasons have consisted mainly of depressing,gun related mass shootings and the conservatively motivated contrivance of the “war on Christmas”? This funk will not only move,but might just remove those undesired effects this holiday season.
Filed under "Sexual Healing", 2015, bass synthesizer, Christmas music, Donny Hathaway, drum machine, elecro funk, Jake One, James Brown, Marvin Gaye, Mayer Hawthorne, Stone Throw Records, synth bass, synth funk, Tuxedo, YouTube
I’ve over-viewed Jermaine Jackson’s music here before. Still,the man made some seriously funky albums from the mid 70’s up through the early 80’s. For being a key instrumentalist as the bass player of the Jackson 5? Continue to find it interesting how I had to discover Jermaine’s rather hefty discography not from literature, but purely from my own renowned crate digging in the 99 cent vinyl bins of Maine record stores. The vinyl was usually pretty beat up. And most of them were DJ copies with stickers on the lower front cover. But the musical content never ceased to excite me and get my mind wandering.
One of the latter albums I discovered in this way was a 1978 album called Frontiers. At this point? The only music I had by Jermaine came via an older CD compilation entitled Greatest Hits & Rare Classics. While it was unique in presenting a lot of album tracks? They weren’t in chronological order,nor labeled by album or year. So it wet the appetite for more of his music with me. Not to mention a rough guide for seeking out his full albums via familiar song titles. The opening track on this Frontiers made an immediate impact on me,and it’s title “Let It Ride” actually said it all in terms of the music.
Jermaine opens the song with brushing high hats and two accompanying bass lines. The main line is a thick,hard grooving one and that is punctuated by the second-a quaking Bootsy style “duck face bass”. This intro also showcases a high pitched,processed electric piano before the descending main bass line goes into the horn chart that opens the first refrain of the song. This maintains the basic instrumental flavors of the intro with a harder drum sound. The first chorus of the song goes into an one the one rhythm guitar,while the second refrain and chorus add harmonic horn charts-with a like minded sax solo on a bridge before a final chorus.
Having listened to a lot of Jermaine’s music over the years? This is one of the funkiest numbers he’s ever done. It showcases how much the older Jackson brothers,while in their teens,were inspired by George Clinton’s P-Funk. Especially with the powerful double bass attack that defines the groove itself. Jermaine also has a sizzling lyrical flair on this as well. Even asserting to his lover in the songs chorus “I don’t care what you do/just don’t mess with the groove/just let it ride”. I truly appreciate Jermaine’s embrace of hard funk as a key bass player. And this is one of the finest examples of that in his catalog.
Filed under 1970's, Bootsy Collins, crate digging, Funk, Funk Bass, funk guitar, George Clinton, Jermaine Jackson, Motown, Record Stores, Vinyl
Yesterday marked the 35th anniversary of the final (so far) album release from Parliament. It’s an album that had my curiosity from the get go. Ended up purchasing it right after trying in vain to skate to some late 90’s uptempo country music at the local roller rink which, ironically, would’ve been an ideal place to give up some funk. Even though I already knew that even some P-Funk admirers held this album in low regard? There was one major source of comfort for me that I learned regarding this album later on.
Although I still feel funk needs to remain it’s own reward? The Oakland,California hip-hop duo Digital Underground elected to sample primarily from this album and it’s predecessor on their own debut album a decade after this was released. Since that duo share a home city with my friend Henrique? This album has wound up being a conversational reference when we’re discussing P-Funk. The first song on the album instantly leaped out from my CD play at home, and set the tone for what was to come. It had a very earnest title too: “Crush It”.
A two beat call leads off with a wiggly bass synth that keeps up throughout the main rhythm- percussion accented dance beat with a bouncing stride style piano. This is soon joined by Bootsy Collins’ “duck face bass” as I call it,with the main melody courtesy of Fred Wesley and his Horny Horns. On the refrains? The Brides Of Funkenstein provide some jazzy vocalese. The main vocals of the song are spoken word exchanges between Bootsy and George Clinton himself as Sir Nose. There’s a separate and harmonically complicated vocal refrain from The Brides as the song fades out.
Musically speaking? This song showcases just about every quality that made P-Funk what it is. Interestingly enough? The boogie funk sound of using synthesizers as bass and guitar sounds with live instrumentation was in full swing during this time. While P-Funk pioneered that “video game sound” in the late 70’s? It had by this point jelled into somewhat of an instrumental signature for them by 1980. Especially when it came to relative newcomer in keyboardist David Spradley,who’d come into P-Funk on Parliament’s previous album.
George Clinton’s use of conceptual metaphor was on full swing during the course of this song. While P-Funk itself was coming apart due primarily from music industry fear over it’s ambitions as a potential “new Motown” (as George put it in his recent biography)? The concept of musical blandness/fake funk personified by Sir Nose showcases that character itself flying apart. In this song? Sir Nose Jr pledges to give up the funk in opposition to his grooveless father. So in the end? This probably showcases P-Funk defiantly sticking with their funk. Even as the genre is coming under fire during the post disco radio freeze out of the time.
Filed under 1980's, bass synthesizer, Bootsy Collins, David Spradley, Fred Wesley, Funk, Funk Bass, George Clinton, Hip-Hop, humor, Oakland California, P-Funk, Parliament, synth bass, synthesizers
Al Green’s music has been a very key reference point on two musical levels for me. One is in my conversations with Henrique. The other is as one of the finest examples of funky soul or “sweet funk”-coming out of producer Willie Mitchell’s Hi studios in Memphis during the 1970’s. Green’s couple of handful’s worth of excellent albums during that decade are a ripe grapevine of these types of grooves. As consistent as his sound was? It seemed like the right time to showcase just how diversely funky this man’s music actually was.
Because it’s well known that Al Green focused mainly on the religious side of his music after the late 70’s? Curiosity drew me to the final album of his classic run-1978’s Truth N’ Time. That name alone said a lot about Green’s spiritual changes a the time. By this point? He was producing himself without the aid of Willie Mitchell-choosing instead to work with different associate producers. The result was music that often took different stylistic detours from his more personal stamp. “Wait Here”,from that aforementioned album,is just one such example.
The song begins with a heavy funky drummer with a powerful wah-wah guitar interacting with a low Clavinet playing the bass line. At the end of each chorus,there’s a musical break that features the chugging wah wah. On the bridge the guitar plays a countrified soul line with hot melodic horns that blast away throughout the remainder of the song-punctuating Green’s vocals as they go. On the final chorus of the song? Green himself plays a wailing and weeping guitar solo of the main vocal line that he used for rest of the song.
The musical genesis of this song is really compelling. It blends the basic melodic/rhythmic line from Sly & The Family Stone’s “Thank For Falettinme Be Mice Elf” with the keyboard harmonies of Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition”. Not only is Al Green blending two key elements of the early 70’s funk era during the disco era? But he adds his own spin to it. The melody,and in particular his closing guitar riff, dripping with the Southern fried 12 bar electric blues. Though it’s probably a somewhat forgotten groove? It’s one of his most compelling.
From the moment it showed up in the record racks of Borders Books & Music 20 years ago or so? This self titled 1975 album by Rufus Featuring Chaka Khan leaped out at me. From the cover featuring the sweaty cartoon lips to the showing Khan,covered in a feathered leather outfit, sprawled out in a lip shaped easy chair? The imagery evoked an instantly funky and playful sexuality. Ended up picking up the album (along with it’s two predecessors) through the BMG Music Club. It ended up on near constant rotation during the summer of 1997.
Lately the talks between myself and Henrique has been focusing a great deal on the classic 70’s funk bands who had very few members,yet had very phat grooves and general sounds. And invariably Rufus would up being mentioned constantly in these conversations. While browsing through what I’ve written hear? It’s come to my attention that no song by Rufus has ever gotten a proper overview on this blog. Could not think of a better song to remedy that with than another conversation piece between myself and Henrique: the 1975 jam “Have A Good Time”.
It gets moving right out of the box with a chunky,bluesy bass/guitar interaction between Tony Maiden and Bobby Watson. The sustained organ solo of Kevin Murphy chimes in along with Chaka and the backup singers creating a wail of vocalese. The music breaks in and out between the opening bass/guitar exchanges,the stop/start drumming of Andre Fischer and the fanfares of the Tower Of Power horn section. The bridge features a spirited sax solo before another refrain-the song fading out with the band singing “everybody have a good time” in harmony to a rocked up,bassy guitar solo.
One of the things this song brings out is that even during the original funk era? Most have become rather fixated on the successful hit singles. And not concentrated on the albums as a whole the way they might for jazz and rock. In fact? Funk represents uptempo soul’s most album oriented sub genre. And to me? This is one song that proves it. Again,the instrumental sound is based primarily on four instruments-with horns added for good measure. And it’s a groove of a kind that can smoke both in the studio and onstage. The power of the song and it’s positive thinking message of “who said this party’s over?” makes it a less than sung “united funk” era classic.
Filed under 1970's, Andre Fischer, bass guitar, Bobby Waton, Chaka Khan, Claire Fischer, classic funk, Funk, Funk Bass, funk guitar, funk/rock, Kevin Murphy, organ, Rufus, Tony Maiden, Tower Of Power
Grover Washington Jr. holds a somewhat unique position for my appreciation of instrumental music. He was my introduction to jazz/funk sax with “Just The Two Of Us”. That meant he was a key part of my musical core without me fully realizing it. Reading my close friend and musical blogging colleague Henrique Hopkins most recent overview of the nu funk band The Internet? It inspired me to realize something about my interest in funk. While that interest has evolved into one where I strongly appreciate studio coloring along with my favorite grooves? Learning about the music involved experiencing the strong,bright musical hues created by a straighter live instrumental aspect of the music.
During the summer of 1996? WMEB through the University Of Maine aired their first funk radio show. It was interesting as it always played the song before announcing who the artist was. One such case hit me with a song called “Lock It In The Pocket”. I remember being in the car and dancing in place while on the passenger seat. When the song was over,the DJ announced it was Grover Washington Jr. Learned later this song,recorded in 1977 live at the Bijou in the man’s native Philadelphia, was recorded with his band Locksmith. They made a record of their own around this time. And since I haven’t yet over viewed any of Grover’s music? This is the one I’m most moved to do.
The fun in the funk begins when when the high rhythm guitar keeps a steady groove going along with the enthusiastic hand claps of the audience. The percussion builds right into that-right before the song’s funky drummer Millard Vinson chimes in. Grover himself takes a detour from this a refrain themed around an Afro-Cuban salsa style melody while easing onto the chorus with the band. Grover plays with ever growing improvisational fire along with the steady guitar and percussion that builds exactly as the sax solo does. The melody then goes into minor chords-with keyboardist James Simmons on piano and ARP string accompaniment before Grover’s refrain closes it all out.
As my interest in 70’s jazz/funk has led into it becoming one of my favorite types of music to listen to? This song continues to stick by me all the more. Each time I hear it? There’s something new to learn. Since Grover was primarily known as a soloist? The biggest aspect of this jam is how much it emphasizes the importance of bands in the genre. As in any tributary of jazz,as Henrique has pointed out? A horn player can blow over almost anything. Here-with Grover’s improvisational excitement? Locksmith really allow him to maintain that danceable and rhythmic thickness that would allow Grover (and likely his audience) to keep their bodies,minds and hearts moving to the groove!
Looking back on my own musical understanding? The husky,deeply rangy and jazz flavored vocals of Anita Baker remain to this day as a key aspect of my musical core when it comes to singers. One thing about her that I did not know is that her musical career not only didn’t start as a grooving quiet storm based artist specializing in lush,mid-tempo ballads. But that she actually started out in the late 70’s with the primarily uptempo funk/soul based band Chapter 8. The most startling part of it was that she was fired from the band (after their self titled debut) because they actually didn’t think she was a very good singer.
Understanding her late 80’s album smashes such as Rapture and Giving You The Best That I Got and their accompanying hit songs very well? It never occurred to me that her actual solo debut album came out in 1983,on the Beverly Glen label. And that it was so unsuccessful that a lot of people had actually never heard of it. Elektra had to reissue it with new cover art following her huge success there. Actually had the original vinyl first-only later picking it up on CD being so impressed by it’s contents. As a whole? It is actually fairly familiar territory for Baker admirers,save for some startling exceptions. One of which is a song called “Squeeze Me”.
The song opens with a dramatic drum roll that outro’s with a spiraling bass synthesizer. The beat becomes a steady two by two dance rhythm-over which the fan faring horn section is embraced by that always present (and very brittle) synth bass. The refrains also had an orchestral string type synthesizer into the mix and a powerful,thick rhythm guitar as well. The instrumentation bleeds together into a strong thickness of sound that is both very exciting and very sleek all at the same time. When Baker’s vocal chorus takes presidents? The overall sound of the music becomes more stripped down to accommodate them. This occurs most strongly on the final chorus of the song.
While being more than aware of Anita’s creative trademark of allying herself with strong funky soul musicians and producers throughout her career? It was still very much a shock to hear her so successfully make a straight up boogie funk jam right of the solo box. Some might see this as her not having a strong individual sound yet. But considering the presence of Michael Jackson associated session aces as Jerry Hey,Nathan East and Paul Jackson Jr. aboard for this song? Hearing Anita’s distinctive voice belting out such a hefty funk number is has actually given me an even stronger view of her talents as an instrumentally minded singer in the vein of the jazz sirens who influenced her.
Chas Jankel is a very key figure in the development of the UK funk scene that thrived alongside new wave in the early 1980’s. Something of a child prodigy who began learning Spanish guitar and piano at the age of 7? Jankel joined up with Ian Dury in 1977. He was a part of their group together known as The Blockheads,who expertly integrated American funk and disco into their English pub rock framework. In particular on their heavily funkified 1979 double album Do It Yourself. In 1980, Jankel decided to leave the Blockheads in order to pursue a solo career. His self titled debut album,with it’s lead-off song “Ai No Corrida” even inspired a hit remake shortly after-courtesy of non other than Quincy Jones.
I personally first heard of the man through a book entitled Funk-The Essential Listening Companion. It mentioned Jankel with a thorough discography. But the fact that the book was highly critical of Chas’s creative choices was negated by the fact the entire book itself was very sloppily written and printed-full of typographical errors. So I sought out the man’s difficult to locate music on my own. Some years later? YouTube emerged as a huge help in this-with only his debut readily available on CD to this date. Deciding on which of his songs to discuss was like a chocoholic contemplating a Whitman’s Sampler from where I stood. Somehow? His 1981 song and accompanying music video “Questionnaire” came just a little ahead of the crowd in that regard!
The intro to this song builds up powerful musical drama by actually fading into the song in the same way most fade out. And it does so into a powerful swell of Afro-Brazilian percussion. Shortly the trumpets blare-accenting the jazzy salsa piano that changes melody in the primary chorus of the song. On the refrains,this is heavily accented by powerful bursts of Larry Graham-style slap bass-only appropriate as Sly & The Family Stone were apparently a major inspiration for Jankel getting into funk to start with The trumpets blare even louder on a chorus filled with a throbbing snare drum solo over the percussion before joining a full chorus of trumpets and organ solos. On the final instrumental refrain? A quieter and more plaintive trumpet solo leads out the song.
To my ears? This is one of the finest merging’s of Cuban jazz and poppy funk to come out of the early 80’s UK jazz/funk scene. The insertion of American funk elements such as thick slap bass goes right in perfectly with the unifying instrumental force joining Afro-Latin dance music and funk/soul together-thick and strong percussion accents. The lyrical content is simple enough. Just a single man daydreaming of a potential future lover in the form of a personal ad. Yet Jankel states it very eloquently-asking important questions of possible mates about people’s priorities in life rather than concerning himself totally with matters of economy . As the song implies? This is one musical journey that is indeed quite important!
Filed under 1980's, Afro-Latin jazz, bass guitar, Chas Jankel, Funk, Funk Bass, Ian Dury, Jazz-Funk, Larry Graham, lyrics, slap bass, Sly Stone, UK Funk