Monthly Archives: April 2016

Andre’s Amazon Archive: “HitnRun Phase Two” by Prince & The New Power Generation

Prince hitrun phase2

What a wonderful Prince album for lovers of the funk! And on a strictly personal note, a vast improvement on it’s predecessor. As good a move it was for Prince to have hired young producer Joshua Welton for HITNRUN Phase One,I had the concern that album would stand alongside many of the artists mid/late 90’s releases in terms of not aging well. Attempts made by Prince to incorporate current production trends generally resulted in showcasing what an unhealthy state soul/R&B music was at these given times. He and the NPG were (and in the case of the band still are) hardcore funk musicians. So on Prince’s swansong,he and the band basically worked it back to the rhythm of the one.

“Baltimore” is beautifully melodic soul rocker paying tribute to young Freddie Gray due to police brutality,as well as offering some some sage advice for modern civil rights activism. “Rocknroll Loveaffair” is a bass pumping,danceable country rocker with a sleek bluesy attitude while “2 Y.3.D” a James Brown style horn heavy pop funk jam. “Look At Me,Look At U” is a rolling,mid tempo jazz/funk groove full of slap bass,Fender Rhodes and flute while “Stare” takes that bass,drums,guitar,horns and turns up the funk heavy. “Xtraloveable” turns up the bass synth and the strong pop melody for a thick boogie funk stomp where “Groovy Potential” is another slinky mid tempo jazz/funk ballad with some sexy guitar.

“When She Comes” brings out that classic 60’s southern soul ballad with that slow scaling guitar while “Screwdriver” brings in a rhythmic riffing of a driving pop/rocker. “Black Muse” is a nice,chunky down home funky soul tune-one full of hit horns and chugging rhythm that deals with how important black American music is to the history of the artistic medium itself. “Revelation” is a gentle,spare ballad that again features a strong electric piano presence along with Prince’s ethereal falsetto vocal mix. The album concludes with “Big City”. It begins with that P-funk style chromatic walk-down before getting into some wah wah heavy melodic funk.

More than anything,what this album does is showcase just how much Prince’s musical evolution came out of funk-despite the modern perception that his rockier hits represented the baseline of his entire creative ethic. On that note,even the guitar rockers here return to the happily melodic,hook filled nature of his 80’s era music of this genre-as opposed to the aloof weariness of some of Prince’s recent rock oriented music Primarily though,this album emphasis Prince as a straight up band leader-getting funkiest drums,horns and jazzy keyboards out of the NPG. Prince’s sudden and young death is still a tragedy. But especially for the funk lover,this album is one bang of a way to go out!

Originally written on April 29th,2016

*LINK TO ORIGINAL AMAZON.COM REVIEW HERE. PLEASE GO TO THE REVIEW,TELL ME IF IT WAS HELPFUL TO YOU AND COMMENT BOTH HERE AND ON THAT SITE. THANK YOU!

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Filed under 2016, Amazon.com, Baltimore, drums, Fender Rhodes, Freddie Gray, Funk, horns, jazz funk, Music Reviewing, new music, New Powe Generation, P-Funk, Prince, rhythm guitar, rock 'n' roll, rock guitar, slap bass, Uncategorized

Anatomy of THE Groove: “All My Dreams” by Prince & The Revolution

Since the early days of learning about Prince’s musical history,one thing that’s continued to enthrall me is learning of Prince’s famous 1986 recording production. He seemed to have spent much of the winter and spring of that year involved in this process. One such project was a three record set entitled The Dream Factory. Basically this was a full on band album recorded with the Revolution. Each member was bought in to participate in some way. Eventually a lot of the music would be remixed and pared down to become the Sign O The Times album. But a lot of it’s other songs turned up elsewhere over the years.

One particular song was called “All My Dreams”. According to the website Princevault.com, it was recorded and released on April 28th,1985. This is the same day Prince recorded what would become his biggest hit of 1986 “Kiss”. The song was streamed online some time ago. And has appeared online via a number of cloud sources. This is how I first heard the song. Since the passing of Prince,it never occurred to me that any of the mans legendary unreleased songs would ever show up on YouTube. But very happily,this one actually has.

The song fades into itself with a chorus of Prince,Wendy & Lisa singing massive operatic vocal choruses over a melodic piano. A shredding rock guitar accompanied by a distorted voice leading into a massive orchestral synthesizer and hi hat heavy intro to the main rhythm. This has a rolling 4/4 beat accented by ticklish percussion licks and one of the roundest funk bass lines I’ve heard come out of Prince. The piano that introduces the song keeps along with a light synth wash and mild guitar strumming in the back-round as he,Wendy and Lisa’s vocal choruses swell and thicken.

Midway through the the piano gives way to a synthesizer playing a royal bugle proclamation before stripping the song down to the drum,bass line and the guitar strumming. Over this,Prince’s low “1999” intro voice  recites a spoken word monologue of intent as the drum segues into the drums swinging into a hard bop style jazz segment-complete with scaling bass,chordal piano and full on synth brass. This all goes right back to the main chorus for one more time before the song fades back out with the jazziness of it’s instrumental bridge.

As much as I champion objectivity in writing about music here,this song has become an absolute ear worm for me from the moment I first heard it. In all truth,the songs sounds incomplete lyrically,and Prince’s overly processed vocal lead is a bit distracting. But it’s a wonderful example of where he and the Revolution were taking the Minneapolis sound as the 1980’s progressed. This song wonderfully balanced the synthesized brass/horn charts that defined his early 80’s sound-while delving into the cinematic jazz/funk approach with the swelling arrangements that would define this period of Prince’s creativity.

Just before the song changes musical venues,Prince states “just for fun,nothing ethereal”. That in a word describes what this song represents. It does indeed sound like an instrumental “dream factory” that ties sweeping orchestrations with jazz timing,funky rhythms and bass lines-much like a mid 1980’s Duke Ellington-style composition. The central themes of the songs seem to be about the cycle of love. From romance to procreation itself. I have little doubt that if this song had been filled out just a little bit more,it might’ve been among the most amazing pieces of music Prince ever created.

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Filed under 1980's, cinematic soul, drums, Funk Bass, jazz funk, Lisa Coleman, Minneapolis, Minneapolis Sound, percussion, piano, Prince, Prince & The Revolution, synth brass, synthesizer, vocal harmonies, Wendy Melvoin

Anatomy of THE Groove: “Erotic City” by Prince

Prince’s musical legacy has a lot to do with his prolific level of recording. He was a very private man who didn’t make a lot of public appearances. And was known to have spent a good deal of his time recording new music. The end result of this is a now legendary vault of songs on his Paisley Park estate,containing thousands of unreleased songs. Of course there were many times when some of these songs not intended for albums were so strong,Prince just had to get them out there. The result was him being an artist known for some extremely high quality B-sides.

In the days of 45 RPM vinyl,I  was one of those people who used to love turning the record over to see what song was on the other side. Some B-sides,for Prince included,were actually album tracks that had never been hits. Prince for his part seemed to delight in putting these new grooves that inspired him onto the B-sides of his hits. During the extensive recording sessions for Purple Rain,Prince recorded one such song that ended up as such a flip side to his big single from that album called “Let’s Go Crazy”. The name of this song was “Erotic City”.

Prince starts the track by pulling an electric guitar string high up on the neck-producing a quavering theremin-like tone before the Linn drum machine kicks into gear with it’s hollow,open snare accents. The main rhythm of the song is built around this,along with a high pitched,bleeping synthesizer playing a 5 note blues riff call and response with a chunky chicken scratch rhythm guitar.  The round bass line pays the melodic changes as the chorus add a fairly low,minor chorded synthesizer orchestration while Prince trades off vocal leads with Sheila E.

The bridge of the song comes in with a lot of attitude. The bleeping synthesizer becomes more hollow and plays more of a two note pattern. Meanwhile Prince really gets going with the wah wah rhythm guitar. On the next choral parts,Prince accompanies he and Sheila’s vocals with that sped down/sped up “chipmunk” vocal that he’d later bring out further with his Camille persona. On the final part of the song,Prince really lets go again on that chicken scratch rhythm guitar-eventually pulling that string high up on the neck until the instrumentation simply falls apart as it fades.

Prince said at Parliament-Funkadelic into the Rock N Roll Hall Of Fame that he recorded “Erotic city” after seeing a P-Funk show at LA’s Beverley Theater. And it really does show on this song. In addition to holding down the stripped down Minneapolis sound,this song also integrates the quirky vocal styling’s and unexpected instrumental tones that defined George Clinton’s P-Funk crew. It’s one of Prince’s finest B-sides,and surely among his funkiness. In addition to Prince’s musical proteges,this is dedicated to Henrique Hopkins-with whom I share a mutual admiration for this strong 1984 naked funk classic.

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Filed under 1980's, chicken scratch guitar, Funk Bass, Linn Drum, Minneapolis, Minneapolis Sound, P-Funk, Prince, rhythm guitar, Sheila E., synthesizer, wah wah guitar

Purple Funk: The Wonderful World Of Prince’s Spin-Off Acts

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Prince had a very strong influence and popular acclaim in advancing the Minneapolis sound before the 1980’s even came in. At the same time,it was actually a very collaborative effort from the get go. From mid 70’s bands such as Flyte Tyme,Champagne and Pepe Willie’s 94 East onward,there were plenty of musicians in the twin cities hungry to lay down a new kind of funky groove. When Prince began lining up his roaster of acts first under the Starr Company then on his custom label Paisley Park,this ethic took on a whole other dimension.

There were many spin off acts from the Minneapolis music scene of the early/mid 1980’s. They stemmed from the Revolution,The Time and other people who had been involved with the concert scene at the major twin city hot spot First Avenue. Now there are a number of these spin offs I don’t yet have access to. So this may be a multi part concept. For now however,here’s a list of some of the key acts outside of Prince’s own recorded repertoire who played an important part in advancing the “purple funk” sound of Minneapolis as it was at it’s most active point.

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Prince’s first recordings in the mid 70’s with his cousin’s ex husband Pepe Willie. While this was a full band effort with only a small level of participation by Prince,it was remixed and released in 1985 on vinyl (and CD two years later) to fit in more with the synth brass heavy Minneapolis sound these rough jams grew into. Highlights are the live band grooves of “If You Feel Like Dancin”,the ultra funky breakdown of “Games” and the catchy “Just Another Sucker”. It really showcased an artist not yet ready to emerge on his own as a major musical power,but rather acting as a band member of some note.

Vanity 6

Prince turned the classic girl group image on it’s head with the Vanity 6. Featuring three vampish ladies in ex musician Brenda Bennett,his girlfriend Susan Moonsie and the provocative Vanity herself, this album showcased a stripped down,new wave based sound. The musical highlights are the Afro-Latin electro rhythms of “Nasty Girl”,key to the production style of Pharrell Williams today as well as the ultra funky “If A Girl Answers (Don’t Hang Up)”.

What Time Is It

The Time’s sophomore album showcased how much the band lead by Prince’s old school chum (and one time drummer) Morris Day had the strong potential to step right up front alongside Prince as Minneapolis funk royalty. Actually one of the most powerful new funk albums of it’s era,”777-9311″ showcased just how strongly percussive the Linn Drum could be in Prince’s hand while “Wild and Loose” and “The Walk” showcased the “original 7’s” groove power actually is in terms of driving the one right home!apollonia-6-album-cover

Vanity  6 were rechristened Apollonia 6 when Patricia “Apollonia” Kotero ended up replacing Vanity as Prince’s leading lady in the film Purple Rain. The album basically copies the formula of it’s predecessor. And Apollonia sounds like a literal Vanity stand in on most of her vocal leads-including the major hit in the hyper-kinetic single “Sex Shooter”. My personal two favorite number are sung by Brenda in the pounding “Blue Limousine” and the ultra groove bluesy funk thump of “Some Kind Of Lover”.

Sheila Escovedo had gone from George Duke’s late 70’s band to playing with Narada Michael Walden just before this Bay Area percussion veteran bought her heavily timbale based sound to the Minneapolis sound in 1984 on her Prince collaboration on the amazing Latin-funk of “The Glamorous Life”. Highlights of her debut solo album in addition to that are the funky instrumental “Strawberry Shortcake” and the slinky “Oliver’s House”. Her followup Romance 1600 was a jazzier big band flavor with swinging numbers like “Yellow”. The major funk highlight of that album is the phat Prince penned groove of “A Love Bizarre”.

The Family

The Family were a short lived spin off of The Time. Featuring Jerome Benton and introducing sax player Eric Leads,the lead singers were The Time’s Paul Peterson and Wendy Melvoin’s twin sister (and then Prince’s girlfriend” Susannah.  The album introduces the jazzier and more cinematic sound Prince was going for during the mid 80’s. It contained two huge funk monsters in the thick “High Fashion” and “Mutiny”. Not to mention the cinematic soul masterpiece of “The Screams Of Passion”.

Mazarati

Produced by the Revolution’s Brown Mark,Mazarati were the band who also got Prince’s massive hit “Kiss” until he realized it’s potential and decided to take it back. He did gift Mazarati the ultra funky “100 MPH”. Considering this album threw down thick jams such as “Players Ball”,”Stroke”and “Suzy”, this 1986 debut for the band is one that should’ve catapulted this talented,funky band a lot higher than it did.

These very obscure 1987 releases showcase Prince leading a jazz-funk fusion group featuring Eric Leeds and Sheila E’s band of the time. The titles of the two albums songs are sequential. The first of the albums is the jazzier of the two,while the second is built around gurgling instrumental funk including Prince’s early use of sampling-with parts from the first two Godfather films added to the mix.

Gold Nigga

Perhaps anticipating the demise of Paisley Park later in 1993,Prince did for his band the New Power Generation what he didn’t manage to accomplish with the Revolution: record an entire album on them with himself as producer. And on their own self named record label no less.  Due to his infamous battle with Warner Bros. during this time,the lyrics follow a concept of the NPG making mock phone calls to the label about regarding more creative freedom. And with hardcore JB’s style funk jams such as “Deuce A Quarter”,”Johnny” and “Call The Law”,this reflects a new type of “people music” as it were that stands with Prince’s railing against creative oppression.

Hey Man Smell My Finger

This second George Clinton release for the Paisley Park label from October of 1993 featured a production update that showcased how much of an impact P-Funk’s “video game” synthesizer style was having on the G-Funk end of hip-hop at the time. Prince himself contributed the house style dance number “The Big Pump” to the album. Even though it was released just before Paisley Park folded,it showcased Prince’s deep respect for the music icons that inspired what he had been doing.

An artists impact is usually felt most fully by their influence upon others. Even during the period where Prince’s peak years were starting to wane,new distribution projects such as the 1-800-NEW-FUNK number and his early websites allowed for more spin off’s from Paisley Park to be made available for the people. Due to the come and go nature of some of these mediums,a lot of these side projects are very rare now. But they were worth seeking out in order to understand just how broad reaching Prince and his protege’s musical vision actually was.

 

 

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Filed under 1980's, 94 East, Apollonia, Brenda Bennett, cinematic soul, electro funk, Eric Leeds, George Clinton, jazz funk, Jerome Benton, Linn Drum, Madhouse, Mazarati, Minneapolis, Minneapolis Sound, Morris Day, New Powe Generation, NPG Records, P-Funk, Pepe Willie, Prince, Prince & The Revolution, Sheila E., Susannah Melvoin, The Time, Vanity

Anatomy of THE Groove: “Sugar Walls” by Sheena Easton

Sheena Easton came up in a working class family in Bellshill,Scotland. It was her good grades that got her a college scholarship-after which she opted for a day job as a speech and drama teacher while singing in clubs at night during the late 70’s. Having learned her vocal craft from Motown and other American soul records she heard on the radio,Sheena’s career started on the basis for a movie she was going to star in about a hopeful singer. Instead she BECAME that singer-singing to EMI in by the early 80’s. Her early hits included lightly soulful dance singles like “Modern Girl” and “9 to 5 (Morning Train)”.

Sheena’s first three albums basically found her in the mold of a West Coast pop vocalist with a lot of rather gentle,sleek production qualities. Her 1983 album Best Kept Secret showcased a more new wave inflected sound-heavier on the synthesizers. Enter Prince. His delicate yet provocative composing style was well suited to the female singers he was starting to write for,at least in his eyes. When it was time for her next album in 1984’s A Private Heaven,Sheena was poised for a major pop breakthrough at the same time as Prince’s. The result was a hit he wrote for her on the album called “Sugar Walls”.

The album starts out with Prince’s trademark Linn drum hi hats and snare hits. Then a very Asian sounding polyphonic synthesizer enters the mix. As the refrain comes in,the snares still hit hard. Meanwhile the low guitar purrs in the back-round of the mix like a low roaring lion while the synth bass line basically holds up that keyboard melody,which re-emerges throughout the song in shorter bursts. On the repeated choruses,that same guitar rocks up with more of a snarl to it. The orchestral synths come to a heated frenzy just before the music strips down into it’s own fade out.

Musically speaking,this song is written in what my friend Henrique Hopkins referred to as the pentatonic scale. This is actually a musical scale or mode with five notes per octave. It’s a common link between West African,European folk,Asian and American jazz and blues styles. The use of the brittle synthesizers showcased Prince was on the same wavelength with Michael Jackon when he wrote “Centipede” for his sister Rebbie that same year. And that was combining the brittle synth-dance grooves with a pan continental structure much like Ryuichi Sakamoto’s “neo geo” style of music.

Instrumentally the combination of Prince’s pan ethnic dance groove with Sheena’s vocal tailoring to Prince’s female archetype,this song is perhaps known for the public stir it’s double entendre based lyrics created. Tipper Gore added the song to her and the Parents Research Music Counsel’s “filthy 15” list of pop songs with obscene lyrics. While this would lead to the modern day Parental Advisory sticker on some CD’s today,it tended to overshadow how Prince actually innovated the Minneapolis dance/funk sound in a very different compositional structure with this 1984 Sheena Easton hit.

 

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Filed under 1980's, Linn Drum, Minneapolis Sound, neo-geo, pentatonic scale, Prince, rhythm guitar, rock guitar, Sheena Easton, synth bass, synth funk, synthesizer, Uncategorized

Anatomy of THE Groove: “Mountains” by Prince & The Revolution

Prince & The Revolution were a band that truly evolved into their own name. With the announcement. With the announcement that surviving members Lisa Coleman,Brown Mark,Wendy Melvoin,Bobby Z and Matt Fink are planning on a reunion tour in tribute to their fallen bandleader,it reminded me of just how much these musicians expanded Prince’s grooves as it progressed. That progression went from the stripped down new wave of the Dirty Mind/Controversy  era to the brittle electronic Minneapolis sound of 1999 and Purple Rain. Shortly thereafter,their sound made an even broader change.

During the summer of 1985,Prince and his band mates expanded. He added saxophonist,brother of his manager Alan Leeds and trumpeter Matt “Atlanta Bliss” Bliston along with guitarist Miko Weaver. The band also eschewed their flamboyantly dandy style clothing in favor of dressy,tailored clothing and slicker haircuts. This also effected their sound as they recorded for Prince’s next film project Under The Cherry Moon and it’s accompanying soundtrack album Parade. The song from the album that might best project Prince & The Revolutions evolved sound is “Mountains”.

The song starts with two by two snare drum heavy beat with right on the rhythm hand claps. A pounding drum machine introduces the up-scaling piano melody that carries the musical refrain of the entire song. It’s that same rhythm filled out with chiming guitar,percussion and high pitched,otherworldly synthesizer. On the choruses of the song,Prince plays call and response with his new horn section. The bass line of the song is equally fluid. It moves throughout under the drum as both a thoroughly percussive element while basically playing the melody of the piano.

The instrumental bridge of the song strips the music down to the rhythm that opens it. This time the rhythm guitar is playing a bluesy chicken scratch riff that Prince segues by shouting out “MOMMY I’M CLEVER!”. The following vocal shriek leads directly into the final repeat of the chorus. The harmonic horns scale down at the end of that chorus when Prince’s falsetto shouts find those horns playing a swelling evolving fanfare. An electric sitar inaugurates the refrain-a somewhat East Indian classical melody with the sitar wash holding up the James Brown style horn charts as the song fades out.

“Mountains” is a Prince song that really fascinated me from the moment I heard it. It mixed in the spiritually ethereal quality of gospel with a psychedelic airiness to the production. As my friend Henrique points out,on the other hand, the rhythmic nucleus of this song is strong galloping funk. The drums,the hand claps,the bass,the horns and rhythm guitar clop along like instrumentals hooves working their way down a heavily funky road. It’s mixture of cinematic drama with a strong ear for a phat groove showcase just how vital Prince’s musical progression was to the 1980’s.

 

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Filed under 1980's, Atlanta Bliss, Bobby Z, Brown Mark, cinematic soul, drums, Eric Leeds, Funk Bass, hand claps, horns, Lisa Coleman, Matt Fink, Miko Weaver, Minneapolis, Minneapolis Sound, Prince, Prince & The Revolution, Psychedelia, Saxophone, trumpet, Uncategorized, Under The Cherry Moon, Wendy Melvoin

Anatomy of THE Groove: “Sexy Dancer” by Prince

 

Prince’s 1978 debut album For You really helped establish the Minneapolis sound instrumentally. At least as far as I’m concerned. What made it different from Prince’s albums that would come along in the next  half decade was that everything from the synth brass to the percussion was full and heavily orchestrated. Just after being asked by Warner Bros. to follow up this album,Prince began recording his sophomore album. As with his debut,he was still in a complete one man band approach in terms of the instrumentation. But seemed to be thinking more in terms of a distinctive instrumental approach.

Personally? I tend to be somewhat partial to the sound of For You in terms of projecting a very futurist,dreamy funk and soul soundscape. Prince’s self titled second album seemed  heavy on slow,West Coast style ballads upon first listening to it. Over time,it became clear how much funk was  actually present on this album. As Prince himself felt that this 1979 album was actually pretty contrived for hit singles. There is one song from this  album that my friend Henrique Hopkins and I are often referencing in terms of typifying Prince’s entire approach to funk. And the name of this song was called “Sexy Dancer”.

A trumpet like blast of Polymoog synthesizer opens up the song. Following Prince’s sustained falsetto wail,the main rhythm of the song gets itself going. This consists of a driving 2 on 1 live drum beat holding down the fort. Above that is Prince playing his trademark high up on the neck rhythm guitar playing,with his slap bass solo mixed close and essentially acting as the lower end of the guitar tone. On the chorus of the song,Prince’s vocals play call and response to the synthesizer-with the break that opened the song separating each refrain/choral part of it.

The song itself features two separate bridges. The first one takes out all the instrumentation save for the drums-with one of the rhythm accents removed as well. Prince breaths and pants as a percussive element-again in call and response style to the synth brass. After another play of the chorus/refrain,there’s a snare heavy segment showcasing Prince’s bass/guitar interaction before the second bridge comes in. This one deals more with the bass backup up a very Ramsey Lewis style soul jazz/hard bop solo on what sounds like a Yamaha electric piano before the refrain closes the song right out.

Perhaps more than any song on his two late 70’s album,”Sexy Dancer” really points towards what would be his classic 80’s era sound. As with most of the uptempo music on this album,the instrumentation is very stripped down. Here it’s down to just spare rhythm-most importantly with his bass playing being primarily a low adjunct of his high pitched guitar approach. Using sexual panting as percussion also helped provide the song with the intense rhythmic bit it has. It was a major dance hit in the UK as well. In the end,the Prince sound that made him so famous probably started right here.

 

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Filed under 1970's, call and response, drums, electric piano, Funk, multi instrumentalists, naked funk, Polymoog, Prince, rhythm guitar, slap bass, synth brass, Uncategorized

Anatomy of THE Groove: “Satin Doll” by Bobbie Humphrey

Bobbie Humphrey stands along with Mary Lou Williams,Melba Liston and Patrice Rushen as one of the rare female instrumentalists in the jazz world. This Texas native was creature during the same time as Patrice. Main different was she was a flutist,so melodic soloing  was her priority. She recorded her first album on Blue Note in 1971. Two years later she released her third album Blacks and Blues. This is as of now the only the Bobbie Humprey CD I personally own. It began her musical relationship with producer Larry Mizell. He and his brother Fonce  were major creative forces at Blue Note at the time. They were than working with Donald Byrd after several years of recordings hits for Motown’s Jackson 5.

Humphrey was one of those artists who seems to have successfully adapted to changes in the music world. From jazz-funk,the disco era and even the new jack swing sound of the late 1980’s. Much as guitarist Bobby Broom played for R.Kelly in the early 90’s,Humphrey played on Gwen Guthrie’s 1988 song “Send Me Somebody” in a similar manner. Of course most famously she joined Stevie Wonder’s Wonderlove for his 1976 song “Another Star” from his blockbuster Songs In The Key Of Life.  While digging deeper into her music,I discovered an amazing musical reboot of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn’s standard “Satin Doll”,also the title song for her fourth album.

Wah Wah Watson’s multiple shades of guitar come in and out of the swelling Brazilian style snare drum heavy rhythms of Harvey Mason on the intro-along with Chuck Rainey’s one,two,three punch on bass. Larry Mizell’s synth introduces the main melody of the song. Jerry Peters’ piano than kicks into the mix-just before Humphrey’s flute begins playing the main melody-accompanied call and response style with Mizell’s synth and Peters’ piano. Her high, ethereal singing voice matches the huge arrangement-even as Peters’ solos find him coming down almost as hard on the piano keys as Duke might’ve himself before the song fades out with a male backup chorus singing the main melody.

Bobbie Humphrey and the entire 70’s Blue Note crew really do Ellington’s musical vision proud on this album. Humphrey tended to follow Duke’s concept of adapting her playing to changing styles of music. This takes the by this time late composer’s into the mid 70’s cinematic soul era. The highlight of this groove along with Humprhey was Melvin Ragin. He delivers three shades of his wah wah guitar in the first minute of the song alone-from a sharp stinging tone to a melodic ring. The classic mixture of futuristic melodic ideas and chase scene paced rhythms makes this a Duke Ellington interpretation to remember.

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Filed under 1974, 70's Blue Note, Billy Strayhorn, Bobbie Humphrey, Brazilian Jazz, Chuck Rainey, cinematic soul, drums, Duke Ellington, flute, Funk Bass, Harvey Mason, jazz funk, Jerry Peters, Larry Mizell, piano, Satin Doll, synthesizer, Uncategorized, wah wah guitar, Wah Wah Waston

Andre’s Amazon Archive: ‘Evolution’ by Narada Michael Walden (released on October 30th,2015)

Evolution

Narada Michael Walden is an artist whose influence on both music’s instrumentation and lyrical themes is still little realized. He’s one of the last jazz based musicians whose influence as a producer touched on 80’s and 90’s pop hits most American’s know by heart. Not only that,but even with some very long absences from the recording studio, he’s always come out celebrating live musicianship and strong humanitarian messages in his songs. Keeping the 60’s and 70’s “people music” era of funk and soul alive has always seemed a big priority for him. So three years after his hard rock oriented Thunder,Walden returns with an album whose music and message is right on time.

The title track and “Billionaire On Soul Street” are both percussive,fast past dancefloor friendly disco/funk grooves that continues on the lower key chicken scratch guitar oriented “Song For You”,”Tear The House Down” and the pulsing “Standing Tall”. “Heaven’s In My Heart” brings the propulsive flavor of the two opening cuts back into play while Richie Haven’s “Freedom” begins as a percussive Afro pop type number and ends as a heavily processed alternative rocker. “Baby’s Got It Going On” is a thick,horn heavy funk full of the celebratory energy of Rick James’ Stone City Band,which the song itself references.

“It’s The Sixties” is an uptempo Calypso pop type number paying tribute to Walden’s musical influences while his version of the Beatles “Long And Winding Road” has a rich,elaborate rhythm and orchestration. The album ends with the booda remix of another fast disco/funk piece called “Show Me How To Love Again” and the opener “Billionaire On Soul Street”. On this album,Narada Michael Walden and his band find the hyper kinetic disco/funk sound he helped pioneer in a very powerful way.He uses his own drum/percussion based sound continually in the brittle,concise manner of a drum machine that would be heard on EDM/house tracks This in turn helped advance the lyrical messages about re-awakenings of the ideas of civil rights and social awareness. A record full of powerful, funkified grooves more people would be wise to check out!

Original review posted on April 23rd,2016

*Link to original review here. Please follow this link,rate if the review helped you or not and please comment if you can. Thank you!

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Filed under 2015, alternative rock, Amazon.com, chicken scratch guitar, disco funk, drums, EDM funk, funk rock, message music, message songs, Music Reviewing, Narada Michael Walden, new music, Nu Funk, percussion, Richie Havens, Rick James, The Beatles, Uncategorized

Anatomy of THE Groove: “Shake It Off” by Narada Michael Walden

Narada Michael Walden,who got his current first name from guru Sri Chimnoy in the early 70s,was probably one of the busiest musician/producers of the 1980’s. The Kalamzoo,Michegan born drummer/vocalist started out as the successor to Billy Cobham in the Mahavishnu Orchestra-working with Cobham later on his solo dates as well as playing with the late guitar hero Tommy Bolin. In the mid 70’s he began making solo records. While his 1976 debut Garden Of Love Light followed in the jazz-rock fusion mode he’d been in,his solo works veered towards funky soul by the late 70’s. These albums had a big Quincy Jones type arrangement style,often with a pronounced rock edge.

His theatrical style of melodic funk transitioned from the disco era to the electro/boogie one with ease as his solo career continued into the 1980’s.  During that time,he began a career as a producer of largely female talent in a similar vein to Luther Vandross. This went from working with Sister Sledge in 1981 to his stellar work introducing Whitney Houston to the world in the mid/late 80’s. His work with Stacy Lattisaw and Johnny Gill got him hooked up with Aretha Franklin for her big comeback. In 1983 he recorded his third solo album of the decade called Looking At You,Looking At Me. One song it really achieves full funkiness in “Shake It Off”.

Walden and Sheila E open up the brittle, polyrhythmic drums/percussion of this song on the intro. Walden asks a musician named RJ to “play it right” before a thick slap bass line comes churning in scaling down and around the melodic chord changes. “RJ” turns out to be bassist,arranger and more recently American Idol talent scout Randy “The King” Jackson. This combination of drums,percussion and phat slap bass holds in the funk heavy by the time two densely arranged horn charts  from Jerry Hey come in. That along with glossy synthesizer washes of Frank Martin and some churning chicken scratch guitar of Carrado Rustci. There’s also a vocal bridge where Walden provides a full jazz scat.

The adenoidal talk singing approach of Walden plays call and response with the rhythm for most of the song. On the chorus and it’s refrains,he’s in direct contact on that same level with the darting horns. On the bridge,the horns subside for Jackson to thump out his thick slap bass solo over the rhythm before the choruses re-emerges to close things out. All of these qualities make this song perhaps one of the most unsung examples of how the boogie funk era blended together both the live band flavors of the 70’s with newer synthesized/electronic touches. The instrumentation is brittle while still keeping deep in the Afro-Latin rhythmic clave. For me,it’s one of  Walden’s finest funk numbers ever!

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Filed under 1980's, Afro-Cuban rhythm, Boogie Funk, Carrado Rustci, clave, drums, elecro funk, Frank Martin, horns, jazz funk, Jerry Hey, Narada Michael Walden, percussion, Randy "The King" Jackson, rhythm guitar, Sheila E., slap bass, synthesizer, Uncategorized