Category Archives: drum machine

Anatomy Of THE Groove for 12/14/2015: “Holiday Love” by Tuxedo

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.

 

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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

Anatomy Of THE Groove for 12/3/2015: “Is This The Future?” by Fatback

For quite a long time now? I’ve wanted to feature a song by this band on this blog. Fatback (originally known as the Fatback Band) were extremely important in terms of funk’s stylistic evolution. One main reason is likely that the band was founded by a drummer Bill Curtis,who also acted as songwriter and producer. This allowed them to make strong and thickly rhythm heavy jams in the funk,disco and electro/hip-hop eras with an equally strong fluidity and degree of success. At the end of it these Brooklynites always knew how to give up the funk.

The early 80’s created a number of challenges for many of the large funk bands. In particular with the dominance of synthesizers. Again because Fatback were always musical survivors and able to carry on with their solid rhythmic base? They not only managed to make it through this era, but it allowed them to make some of their strongest and most inventive music as well. One particular one keeps sticking up uppermost in my mind for how it handled it’s own external circumstances. And that was their 1983 number entitled “Is This The Future?”.

It begins with the blurb of a round yet brittle synthesizer that opens the door for a slower paced drum machine groove. The riff that opens the albums becomes steady and accompanied by accents on Vocoder. The main body of the song is led along by a slippery bass synthesizer statement that concludes with that same higher pitched phrase that began the song. Meanwhile the chorus sustains that higher pitch more in the back round. The lyrics are thrown down in rhythmically spoken word rap style by NYC DJ Jerry Bledsoe.

In addition to that? The song features two instrumental breaks. The first of the songs breaks comes in the form of a very probing and melodic saxophone solo courtesy of Ed Jackson. After a series of falsetto harmony vocals? A complete rhythm break emerges in the song. This takes the form of a thick percussion solo in the classic clinging, clanging Fatback Band style. It’s accompanied only by the  space funk style synthesizer bleeps before the song concludes with the only sung lead vocals of this song provided a female singer whom I don’t know the name of.

In terms of the music alone? This song grows more astounding with each listen. It places a strong emphasis on the drum machine while not sacrificing the live drum/percussion sound on which Fatback developed their originally flavors. Bledsoe’s rap brings the song in tune with the then burgeoning hip-hop era-emphasizing the importance of DJ’s advancing the rap element of the music while providing a smooth, elegant delivery of the type one would hear on the radio-very different  from the more earnest delivery of most raps.

The songs overall sound and vocal delivery blend in perfectly with the lyrical content. Five years before EWF charted so successfully with “System Of Survival”? Fatback are asking questions for the early 80’s that Marvin Gaye asked over a decade earlier with Whats Going On? They speak in particular to the black silent generation,than approaching middle age who “use to eat steak and caviar,now it’s peanut butter in a candy jar”. It also reflects how Reagan era America was causing black Americans to lose hope-bluntly stating that “only a fool would wanna endorse this kind of future”. Bleak as it may sound? It’s truthfulness makes the question perhaps more important than the answers-even today.

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under 1980's, bass synthesizer, drum machine, elecro funk, Fatback Band, Funk, message songs, New York, Reaganomics, Uncategorized

Anatomy of THE Groove 10/31/2014 Andre’s Pick: “Skeletons” by Stevie Wonder

I’m going to start off this blog with a little personal story. During my childhood,my father and I would often make cassette tape recordings together that mimicked our own radio show. Actually have dealt with this in more detail on another blog last year. When we did a 1988 Halloween presentation? My father picked a Stevie Wonder song called “Skeletons” from his then latest album called Characters. I had actually chosen “Superstition” for this selection. But neither my father nor I had the song at the time,and wouldn’t for many many years actually. Unable to understand the lyrical concept of the time? It just sounded like a funky song with a holiday appropriate subtext-the very understandable concept of fear. It’s only more recently that I’ve fully made sense of this association.

The song starts out with what sounds like an 808 drum machine beat playing a mid 80’s style hip-hop/funk beat over which Stevie lays down a menacing sound bass synthesizer-with long spaces between the notes almost as if they are creeping towards you. Then some scratchy,hissing percussion effects play an equally penetrating,yet somewhat farther away sounding,rhythmic role with a bluesy lead keyboard melody played on a DX7 digital synthesizer simulating a Clavinet-giving a glossier and round tone than the actual instrument. Stevie’s lead vocals,on both the main chorus and the refrain are met with a call-and-response vocal that,unlike Stevie’s,is muffled and sung through some vocal manipulation device. Might even have been Stevie himself having some internal dialog. There is also a bridge that repeats itself twice-a variation of the bass synth part from the beginning,only more hesitant sounding.

Stevie Wonder’s outlook on romance ranges vastly across the spectrum from an almost fantastically giddy sense of joy to a sense of legitimate suspicion. That sense that a horrible secret is being kept and must be exposed in order to be released. This song explores the later end of that spectrum. Lyrically Stevie takes on the character of someone lightly scolding his character for having to clear their conscience-pointing out that “you know your mama told you ‘don’t lie'”. He’s definitely moralizing a good deal here. And does so with a playful style-almost as if he’s repeating the words of his grandma or something. The accompanying video clip showcases Stevie recalling bullying he (or his character) dealt with for his blindness. And the fact that as an an adult,he’s playing party to a clandestine affair next door in a stereotypical suburbia-without even physically being able to see it play it visually.  Surely this was one of Stevie’s most powerful funk statements of the late 1980’s. And is an easy candidate for one of his funk classics in general.

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Filed under "Skeletons", 1980's, cassette tape, drum machine, Funk, Halloween, Motown, Radio, Stevie Wonder