Maurice White,one of the musical icons who passed away this year,it best known as the founder of Earth Wind & Fire-the most commercially successful of the 70’s funk bands in terms of crossover. On the other hand,the band broke up in 1984. And one of the many reasons brought up was that White had it in his mind that Columbia (the bands record label) were looking for him to do a solo album. This album got released in 1985. Its biggest single was with a (mostly) uptempo version of Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me”. But it still remains something of a footnote in EWF history.
When I first heard the album on vinyl album around 18-20 years ago,am not 100% sure it came off as anything all that exciting. Of course,that could’ve just been a case of seeking something different from it than what it was. And what Maurice White’s self titled (and sole) solo debut does is present a series of electronic,pan African rock/funk/soul fusions with a mild melodic pop new age vibe about them. The EWF message is still intact. Its just going more for an attitude than a sound by a large. The one song that always got my attention strongly was the opener “Switch On Your Radio”.
A totally electronic synth orchestration fades slowly on the intro. Than suddenly the song bursts with a bluesy funk melodic statement. And it has all the instrumental elements of the song itself. The drum machine and Paulinho Da Costa’s percussion play off the guitar,electronic hand clap and slap bass lines with this melodic electro funk wall of sound. This represents the choruses of the songs. On the refrains and the bridge,the mix is somewhat more stripped down to focus on the vocals a bit. An extended chorus with vocal ad lib’s finish out the song as it fades.
“Switch On Your Radio” has a sound that crosses a lot of musical bridges. The overall drum programming of the song has the bigness of sound that was very much of its time. Yet the live percussion accents along with Martin Page slap bass,Marlon McClain’s rock guitar and the ethereal synthesizers of Robbie Buchanan make for a powerful sound that basically amounts to a progressive dance/funk sound. And the melody has that strong song construction White and Page are so noted for. Its an extension of the EWF sound for sure. And it also pointed to a possible future solo direction for White which didn’t continue.
Filed under 1985, dance funk, drum machine, Earth Wind & Fire, elecro funk, Marlon McClain, Martin Page, Maurice White, Paulinho Da Costa, percussion, Robbie Buchanan, rock guitar, slap bass, synthesizer
Jeff Lorber is another example of how Philadelphia remains one of the East Coast’s most musical cities. He released his first two albums as a bandleader with The Jeff Lorber Fusion in 1977 and 1978-the later of which featured guest appearances from jazz fusion luminaries in Miles Davis alumni Chick Corea and Corea’s own protege Joe Farrell. Following signing to Arista in 1979 and his label debut Water Sign,Lorber bough in Seattle saxophonist Kenny Gorelick for their 1980 album Wizard Island. Gorelick would pursue a solo career a few years later under his better known moniker of Kenny G.
The first time I ever heard the name Jeff Lorber was when DC native musician/DJ Nigel Hall loaned me his copy of Lorber’s 1983 solo album In The Heat Of The Night. Being that period was also my early years on the internet,there was the ability for me to go out and research Lorber’s music further. And then purchase albums that looked interesting. One such purchase,made on Ebay was a vinyl copy of the 1980 Jeff Lorber Fusion album Galaxian. It was filled with strong grooves. And one that still stands out for me was co-written by Kenny Gorelick. It was called “Spur Of The Moment”.
The groove starts right off cold with driving 4/4 beat. The chorus features Gorelick playing the singable funky melody on his processed sax. Below this,Lorber comes in with a snaky synth bass while Marlon McClain comes in with a high pitched rhythm guitar. On the refrains,Lorber brings it on home on the electric piano with Gorelick’s bluesy exchanges. On the bridge,Lorber plays a heavy melodic synthesizer improvisation over a full electric bass. On the final choruses of the song,Lorber plays this synth solo and a honky tonk electric piano call and response with a full horn section before the song fades out.
The ultra melodic jazz/funk/pop style instrumentation and melody of this song is right in line with the streamlined sound Quincy Jones was getting with the Westlake studio crew at the same time. Yet with Gorelick’s brittle,succinct solos on his processed wah wah sax (as well as the somewhat stripped down rhythm) put this song right into the boogie/post disco funk mode of the era. The way the solos become more melodic grand and improvisational in scope showcase the talent of this band when they played together. It’s by far one of my favorite songs that the future Kenny G would ever be associated with.
Filed under 1980's, Boogie Funk, drums, electric piano, jazz funk, Jeff Lorber, Jeff Lorber Fusion, Kenny Gorelick, Marlon McClain, post disco, rhythm guitar, Saxophone, synth bass, synthesizers