Category Archives: message music

If You Don’t Vote,You Don’t Count-A Message From Andre’ Cymone.

America is,as if today,about to come upon the most critical presidential election I’ve personally lived through. The frightening presence of Donald Trump as a candidate as raised many uncomfortable questions about what sort of people Americans are. 2016 is also a year that saw the death of Prince. His close childhood friend and lyrical inspiration Andre’ Cymone wrote this rockabilly style number a few years ago encouraging people to vote. For today,I’ll just post this video above with its lyrics printed below. All in hopes you,the reader,will be encouraged to exercise your most important American right tomorrow.

Vote to make a difference…If you don’t vote, you don’t count…
lyrics

VOTE

I come from a neighborhood
They won’t spend
No money to make it shine
The rich
With all the power
Buy off politicians
And leave the common folk behind
That’s why you gotta

Vote, make a difference
You don’t vote, you don’t count
Vote, make a difference
You don’t vote
Then you can’t complain

I, I need an answer
Why is it so hard
To treat the people right
The populations changin
All across our nation
And we don’t need no guns
To be the winner in this fight
That’s why you got to

Vote, make a difference
You don’t vote, you don’t count
Vote, make a difference
You don’t vote
Then you can’t complain

Let me ask you a question
Which party started a 12 year war
Here’s another question
Who always opens the window
While the other one closes the door

Last vote
We got Obama
But he can’t pass
These laws all by himself
He needs a team
Who understands all our needs
And won’t let corporations
Put our dreams up on a shelf
That’s why you got to

Vote, make a difference
You don’t vote, baby you don’t count
Vote, make a difference
You don’t vote
Then you can’t complain

Man what you mean
You ain’t gon vote… man
Don’t you realize that’s how they win….Who’s they?
They’s the corporations, The rich, the ones that don’t wanna
See the average person make the same kinda money so they can quit workin for them.
You seen what happened in Ferguson, they didn’t vote, five per cent turn out, no you gotta do better than that, you wanna see representation that looks like you , feels like you, does the things that you wanna see done in your future… You gotta get out there and vote.
If you don’t vote, you don’t count.

The time is now
To take control of your life
Too many people died
For us to win that right

Ain’t nothin cool
About sittin elections out
You wanna save this world
Sign up and join the fight

Vote, make a difference
You don’t vote, baby you don’t count
Vote, make a difference
You don’t vote
Then you can’t complain

 

Leave a comment

Filed under 2016, America, Andre Cymone, Donald Trump, message music, message songs, political songs, presidential elections, progressive music, voting

Andre’s Amazon Archive: ‘Afrodeezia’ by Marcus Miller

Marcus Miller Afrodeezia

Much as I hate to admit it? As much of a Marcus Miller admirer as I am? Still don’t even come close to personally owning every single one of his albums over the years. It’s actually something on my musical bucket list though. Because Marcus is one of the bass players I admire most now because of his total involvement in any whole musical process he gets involved with. It’s not just that he’s a multi talented DIY artist.

Though he is that…multi talented DIY artist. But this album’s subtext represents what I appreciate most about him. Having recently became a spokesmen for UNESCO’s Slave Route Project? He has taken the Quincy Jones-style approach of using the connective thread of black American music to illustrate the struggles up from slavery. And this album actually reflects that ambition on a musical level as well.

One of the most interesting aspects of this particular album is that a good chunk of it follows an extremely specific rhythmic pattern,provided by a group of African and Caribbean instrumentalists whom I’ve never heard of before. “Hylife” begins the album on the funkiest end of this with Marcus’s slap bass leading the way alongside the percussion and accompanying melodic piano and vocalese. “We Were There” has a similar approach with more of a Brazilian jazz rhythmic twist.

The song also includes vocal scatting from Layla Hathaway and melodic horns in beautiful festive unison. “Papa Was A Rolling Stone” brings in Keb Mo for a very bluesy style take on the Norman Whitfield/Temptations funk classic. Same sound applies to the steel drum/rock guitar fueled “Son Of MacBeth”.”Preachers Kid” and “I Still Believe I Hear” are both somewhat more meditative numbers featuring vocal choirs and more Egyptian/Arabic style Afrocentric modalities.

The psychedelic electronica of the interlude “Prism” leads into the probing and expansively jazzy ballad “Xtraordinary” while “Water Dancer” has a bluesy jazz/fusion flavor with a great sax solo on the bridge. “I Can’t Breathe” ends the album with Marcus and Mocean Worker playing a thickly swinging funk showcasing bass clarinet and layers of guitar and keyboard with Chuck D rapping in fine form (as is typical) about the messiness of today’s revived racism.

First thing that can be said about this album is that it is political. Not in the lyrical sense as most of it is totally instrumental. But in the thoroughly musical statement it makes. With it’s basic percussive funk,fusion and blues approach? This albums brings African America and Africa itself both into clear creative focus with each other. It’s ever present sense of melody is alternately joyous,confused,sly,uneasy,romantic and sometimes even confrontational. Yet overall the general mood of the music is super relaxed and at ease with itself. It’s never just one sound. It’s a lot of different sounds meeting at their middles and harmonizing deeply. Of course,this is highly recommended as a meaningful new musical endeavor for Marcus Miller!

Originally Posted On March 17th,2015

LINK TO ORIGINAL REVIEW HERE

Read more about the Slave Route Project through UNESCO by clicking this link.

Leave a comment

Filed under 2015, Afro Funk, Afrocentrism, Amazon.com, blues funk, Brazilian Jazz, Chuck D, Keb Mo, Lalah Hathaway, Marcus Miller, message music, Mocean Worker, Music Reviewing, slap bass, Slave Route Project, UNESCO

‘What’s Going On’ at 45: The Time Marvin Gaye Reminded Us That Only Love Could Conquer Hate

Marvin Gaye (1971) - What's Going On (Deluxe Edition 2001) (A)

Marvin Gaye had to fight Berry Gordy at Motown to get this album made and released. The label was transitioning from Detroit to Los Angeles at the time. Vietnam kept raging on,President Nixon was blowing a dog whistle to bring down the sociopolitcal revolts of the 60’s and Marvin was depressed. He decided to write an album from the point of view of his brother Frankie-coming back into an unwelcoming America from Vietnam. With the help of the Four Tops’ Renaldo “Obie” Benson and Motown’s bass maestro James Jamerson, Marvin came up with a musical masterpiece whose appeal is still evolving.

What’s Going On has a basic groove-a cinematic soul jazz sort of sound on just about every song. Marvin scats and improvises many of the vocal adlibs himself. The title song begins the album on a happier note-hoping that people will come to deal with the racial,political and ecological concerns Marvin is so troubled by. By the time of the instrumentally brilliant,percussive Latin soul stomp of “Inner City Blues”,Marvin has given up. He sings “make me wanna holler/throw up both my hands”. To this day,it’s really up to the given listener whether they feel Marvin’s mixed emotions here are cathartic or enervating.

Berry Gordy turned out to be very wrong that this album had no potential. Not only was it a huge commercial success for Marvin Gaye,but he could hardly go one concert after this without inserting the title song of this album into his set. That goes to show how sometimes,the artist making the music really has more of a finger on the pulse of the people than those peddling their raw creative material. In 2001,the album was expanded into a 2 CD deluxe edition. Upon hearing it,I went to Amazon.com and reviewed this new presentation of this 1971 classic on thoroughly musical terms:

How do you make a overly reissued album classic better? Well actually this one DOES-I love all the songs on ‘What’s Going On’-it’s a great album but I always felt that it was highly overproduced.This one starts with the original followed by a different variation on the same album called ‘the original Detroit Mix’-THIS version is far more understated in the finest Donny Hathaway tradition and truly brings out the richness of Marvin’s voice and the depth of his vision-the sparer arrangement actually better expresses the music’s message of urban and environmental blight.There’s still orchestration but it isn’t mixed so high.

It’s also forcing one to acknowledge how great a pianist Gaye is.And that’s why I highly recommend that those who purchased previous issues of this CD should go out and pick this set up-that along with a bonus disk of live material and outtakes make this the definitive version of this album-to such an extent myself bought this and gave my original CD issue of this album (in this case the tepid ripoff of 1994’s so called ‘deluxe edition’) to my dad,a fellow music lover who I felt would benefit from having the album in his collection alongside his other classics like The Beatles White Album,Curtis Mayfield’s ‘Superfly’ and John Coltrane’s ‘A Love Supreme’ where it belongs!For those who want to replace an old copy of this CD with a better one LOOK NO FURTHER!For those you for whatever reason haven’t been initiated-well,what more can I say-there is no better place to come!

Marvin was seeking with this album,to quote George Clinton about funk in general,not to tell people what to think but that they CAN think. It begins with a black man who’d made good in the world. And him looking through the eyes of a loved one who wasn’t so lucky in that regard. He starts out with a degree of optimism. By the end of the album,one realizes how much of a thoroughly human figure Marvin Gaye was. By the time it ends, he has almost lost  hope. Especially with Jamerson’s bass lines,the instrumentation is what tends to carry the positivity through when even Marvin can’t anymore.

This is the type of album inspired a lot of artists to make what I refer to as “people music”-a type of message music that takes the ethnocentric melodies and rhythms of the artists back-round to express important ideas. Unintentionally, this album became the “people music” for Generation X . This is an intelligent and aware generation of Americans who often lacked focus and interest. And with the election of Gen Xer Barack Obama for two presidential terms in America, this album seemingly succeeded in getting a generation who didn’t want to get involved to find that way to bring  loving here today.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under 1960's, 1971, Berry Gordy, cinematic soul, Detroit, Frankie Gaye, Generation X, James Jamerson, Los Angeles, Marvin Gaye, message music, Motown, people music, Renaldo Obie Benson, Vietnam War, What's Going on

Andre’s Amazon Archive: ‘What The Hell Is This? by Johnny Guitar Watson

What The Hell Is This

Johnny Guitar Watson faced 1979 with a level of musical abandon after his previous album Giant,which blended the disco friendly dance rhythms into his by then well established jazzy funk/soul/blues framework maintained his musical momentum he had been building up in the preceding couple of years. Of course an election year was coming up,and disco had stirred a sometimes violent set of detractors based mainly on cultural and sexual anxiety.

This got millions of people to turn on a type of music production just made for dancers. Of course this interesting set of growing pains was just ripe for commentary from a blues based artist with the wit and musically expansive qualities that Watson possessed in abundance. So for his final album of the decade he faced all of this the way he always did.

The title song has one of the longest horn fan-fares in funk-nearly 1/4 of the whole song and the choruses as well as Watson expresses even more extreme irritation at the economic crisis than usual. With the beautifully orchestrated horn and strong laden ballads “In The World” and “Strung Out” finding Watson again in awe of someone of the opposite sex, “Cop & Blow” shows Watson very much in his pimping state of mind-on a very cinematic type mid-tempo groove of course.

On the funk march of “I Don’t Want To Be President”,he openly declares himself to be a commentator but,weary of the restrictive lives of politicians,not a potential leader of anyone. “Mother In Law” is fast,charged up funk as Watson bemoans the pushy title character we actually hear bemoaning him at the songs beginning. “The Funk If I Know” and “Watsonian Institute”,as the bonus numbers,both sound to have been recorded during these sessions are are two examples of the strongest,chunkiest melodic horn funk…that never made the cut on this original album.

Luckily for Johnny Guitar Watson this would not be the end of the musically winning streak he had been on since the beginning of his own funk odyssey. I personally never traced the exact history of it all down. However it would seem that from the mid 70’s up through the 80’s many a blues musician-from BB King to Etta James began recording with like minded jazz/funk players from bands such as The Crusaders.

And somehow I cannot help but think a lot of this had to do with the influence of the musically clever multi instrumentalist that was Johnny Guitar Watson. He definitely had a strong signature sound during this time that instantly identified the music as being his-filled with a lot of strong melodic horn breaks and synthesized bass lines. At the same time he was able to draw upon his talents as a veteran blues man to variate constantly on his instrumental and lyrical storytelling. And this might have a lot to do with why his music from this era continues to endure as time passes.

Originally posted o February 3rd,2014

LINK TO ORIGINAL REVIEW HERE*

Leave a comment

Filed under 1970's, Amazon.com, blues funk, disco funk, funk guitar, horns, jazz funk, Johnny Guitar Watson, message music, Music Reviewing, Uncategorized

Anatomy of THE Groove: “Rough Times” by Angela Bofill

Angela Tomasa Bofill was part of a group of singers and musicians whom I refer to as as the original Brooklyn funk essentials. Coming from a Hispanic back round,she studied classical music as a child-all the while absorbing the Latin and soul/funk music scene happening right around her. Jazz flutist and bassist Dave Valentin is the one who introduced her to Dave Grusin and Larry Rosen. Her first album Angie was released in late 1978. With it’s critical and commercial success, Bofill was set up for a decades worth of soulful success.

One of the earliest artists at GRP Records along with Tom Browne,Bofill is turning 61 today. About a decade ago,she suffered two strokes a year or so apart. The second of which sadly robbed her of the ability to sing. Luckily her manager Rich Engel and the NYC radio stations Kiss FM and CD 101.9 held a benefit concert to help defray her mounting medical expenses. Being a native New Yorker,Bofill seemed to have a pretty keen understanding of the dramatic ups and downs life could offer. That’s why one song off her’s that really moves me personally is one from that 1978 debut entitled “Rough Times”.

A stinging Afro-Latin percussion begins the song,written by Ashford & Simpson, accompanying the Valentin’s thick slap bass. This forms the basic refrains of the song that supports Bofill’s vocals. As the chorus rolls in,an extra snare drum along with call and response horn charts enter into the groove as her vocal sustains push this chorus forward. The opening refrain is also the source of the songs instrumental bridge,where session icon Eric Gale played a crying,bluesy rhythm guitar around the main melody. The chorus of the song repeats itself afterwards until the song’s fade-out.

Ashford & Simpson seemed to really strike musical gold twice in 1978. First with Chaka Khan’s “I’m Every Woman” and than this. Though it’s an album cut,”Rough Times” shows the GRP instrumentalists at their very funkiest-with it’s composers writing very much in awareness of Bofill’s Latina heritage. While blending the Latin jazz and disco-funk styles expertly,the lyrics to the song stand as something of a warning to people that violence and fear were reaching a fevered pitch in urban America by the late 70’s. And it expressed the power of funky “people music” to perhaps inspire an alternative.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under 1970's, Afro-Latin jazz, Angela Bofill, Brooklyn, Dave Grusin, Dave Valentin, disco funk, drums, Eric Gale, funk guitar, GRP Records, message music, message songs, New York, percussion, slap bass, Uncategorized

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!

1 Comment

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

People Music: The Soulful Evolution Of Sound For African America

People Music is a term Henrique and myself often use to describe message songs recorded during the soul/funk generational cycle-specifically by black artists. Political and creative liberation was a key factor in this too. It was my father,however who inspired me to write this by asking me what the most significant song was during the 50’s and 60’s civil rights movement. The most obvious choice for that was “People Get Ready” by The Impressions. Lead singer/songwriter/guitarist Curtis Mayfield was an early champion for black musicians to have creative and business control of their art. And this 1965 ballad became a huge anthem for the movement as a whole.

As the 60’s progressed,the civil rights movement seeking racial equality evolved into a concept that assumed equality of person. Especially the idea that Afrocentric qualities were beautiful and must be appreciated as such. This became known as the black power movement. The completely rhythm based genre of funk developed during this time as well. As Henrique pointed out,funk continued to be the soundtrack to the black power movement well into the 1970’s. James Brown,who laid the foundation for funk, also recorded the genres earliest and most enduring anthem for racial empowerment entitled “Say It Loud (I’m Black And I’m Proud)”.

The 70’s funk era was chocked full of message songs. All of them reflected ideas that derived from the NOI and Black Panther Party from the mid/late 60’s that black American’s required a more positive understanding of themselves and their futures. 1974 was a year that dashed a lot of the 60’s hopes in general-especially for black Americans. Still funk and it’s tributaries through jazz,soul and rock music was at it’s strongest point. Even during the post Watergate recession. The poet/singer Gil Scott Heron,who five years earlier had given us the black power anthem “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” offered up this 1974 song in reflection of a potent present but less certain tomorrow.

Hip-hop’s presence as a commercially successful entity wasn’t yet four years old when The Furious Five released what is very likely the beginning of what is known today as conscious rap. Musically based in the synthesizer based electro funk of the period,this song found Grandmaster Melle Mel dealing directly with the state of affairs of urban black America during the early years of the Reagan administration. The song takes the futuristic sounding electronic grooves and mixes in tales of urban decay and neglect. Of particular note is Melle Mel stating “don’t push me ’cause I’m close to the edge/I’m trying not to lose my head/it’s like a jungle sometimes/it’s a wonder how I keep from going under”.

Though theoretically released at the end of the previous decade,Public Enemy’s “Fight The Power” did some very significant things for black message songs at the head start of the 1990’s. It established hip-hop as a major archival medium for funk,in particular James Brown’s,through the use of electronic sampling. Not only that but the realization Chuck D and company had that “most of my heroes don’t appear on no stamp” showcased an empowering message for black Generation Xers as to just how much misrepresentation black American’s had to deal with over the centuries. And also by offering them a direct call to get involved and “fight the powers that be”.

Message songs within the black community seemed to disappear (or go totally underground) during the post 9/11 years. They were replaced by either reactionary (and often racist) patriotic anthems or simply musical silence. Suddenly a couple of years ago,longtime hip-hop/soul producer and singer Pharrell Williams emerged with “Happy”. Musically it hearkened back to the stripped down soul jazz trio sound of the mid 60’s. While it’s message was very all encompassing-asking the listener to “clap your hands if you feel that happiness is the truth”,it did open the door for black American artists to deliver new political anthems in music that were even more direct.

As I write this article,Beyonce’s performance of her newest song “Foundation” at the Superbowl,a strong pro black anthem, is generating similar controversies as were bought up during the height of the Black Panther Party and the black power movement in general. So the mid/late 2010’s are seeing black American message songs leap back into life in a huge way. Even though many people today are convinced no piece of music has any power to change the world,looking back on this history in the context of what is happening right now proves otherwise. That when it comes to being black in America, musical art is always at the forefront of the political.

 

 

 

 

2 Comments

Filed under 1960's, 1970's, 1980's, 1990s, 2010's, Curtis Mayfield, Funk, Gil Scott Heron, Hip-Hop, James Brown, message music, message songs, Pharrell Willaims, Public Enemy, Sampling, Soul, soul jazz, The Furious Five, Uncategorized

Maurice White Remembered On Andresmusictalk, Part 1: “Shining Star” by Earth Wind & Fire

Maurice White,founder of Earth Wind & Fire and late 60’s drummer from the Ramsey Lewis Trio,passed away in his sleep yesterday morning at the age of 74. For several years now,my friend and creative consultant Henrique Hopkins have often discussed the reality of many silent and baby boom generation musical icons beginning to pass away. Many already have. Maurice lived with Parkisons disease for his final decades of life. And while his Earthly suffering is over now,he once said during EWF’s peak that while society was often too negative to beauty and love,he saw him and the band’s music as medicine. And that is the launching pad for this very special tribute.

The music of Earth Wind & Fire plays a crucial role in this particular blog. With Maurice being a musician,bandleader and producer as well as vocalist he understood the importance of the recording studio in advancing funk music’s popular notoriety. The whole notion of myself putting so much effort into taking the songs of this genre and breaking them down musically for many different people to read and potentially gain insight from was directly inspired by Maurice’s creative visions. As occurred recently,the sheer massive nature of EWF’s recorded catalog was intimidating in terms of over-viewing another of their songs. So it just flowed naturally to discuss their classic “Shinning Star”.

Brother Verdine opens the song with a ringing,shuffling and double tracked bluesy bass solo before the Phenix Horns burst right into action. A chanking wah wah follows Verdine’s continuing chunkiness on the bass line and the songs slow,slogging drums.  Al McKay’s rhythm guitar follows closely with the drums. Johnny Graham plays a bluesy solo over the horns on the chorus,which continues along with Larry Dunn’s Fender Rhodes solo before a beautifully calculated funk break enters into the second refrain of the song. There are a few more repeated choruses before Bailey’s chants of “Shining star for you to see/what your life can truly be” over a jazzier bass line.

“Shinning Star” clocks in at under 3 minutes-shorter than what’s normally expected for a classic funk number. It introduced a very strong pop song structure that holds close to the 12 bar blues,yet is directly out of the James Brown school of putting all the rhythm out front. The bass,the horns and the rhythm all do their dance on this song with a wonderful sense of release. As someone who found themselves being more and more of a natural non conformist as I grew up,listening to this song provided an important world of self confidence that has surely inspired many people. The music and the lyrics both create a truly inspiring impulse to the listener.

 

Many people today are convinced music cannot change the world or anyone’s heart. This song represents a great moment in history when the funk music genre was actually doing just that. During the mid 70’s it was serving a similar function as gospel and folk music had in the past-as an oral engine of sociopolitical commentary and personal understanding for the listener. And most importantly,this song allowed funk to really cross over onto the pop charts. So many of EWF’s songs from the mid to late 70’s have a similarly positive effect. And on this particular song the elements within the band that bought that effect to light shinned directly through thanks to Maurice White.

Leave a comment

Filed under 1970's, Al McKay, blues funk, Earth Wind & Fire, Fender Rhodes, Funk, Funk Bass, James Brown, Johnny Graham, Larry Dunn, Maurice White, message music, message songs, Phenix Horns, Philip Bailey, Uncategorized, Verdine White

Anatomy Of THE Groove Presents Teena Marie Week: “Emerald City” (1986)

Much in the same manner as Prince and Joni Mitchell had? Teena Marie elected to follow up her huge commercial breakthrough of 1984’s Starchild by satisfying her’s and the people’s urges for a broader level of musical expression. Understanding the instrumental continuity through jazz,soul and funk already was certainly a help in doing this. But especially in the mid 80’s? It was still a nervy move for a female artist with Lady T’s level of creative control/input. The result of this was her 1986 album Emerald City.

As with her Epic label debut four years earlier? It was a concept album. But this time with a more richly picturesque Wizard Of Oz type setting. Only with a more racially aware sociopolitical subtext-the story of a girl named Pity who decided more than anything she wanted to be green,as the liner notes state. As an album? It isn’t particularly long on the funkier grooves of her earlier albums. But when that does pop up? It does so with dramatic abandon. The finest example I can think of here is the title song which opens up the album.

An orchestral polyphonic synthesizer opens the door to the kinetic,fast paced Afro-Cuban percussion that pulses in and out of the stop/start tempo throughout the song. On each of the instrumental refrains? A bell like keyboard plays a very Japanese industrial electronica style melody alongside very slick synth bass lines. None other than Bootsy Collins himself provides one of his rapped vocal intros to the proceedings. On the second refrain of the song? A hard rocking guitar solo is even referenced lyrically before the rhythmic intensity continues it’s own end.

By embracing instrumental elements of Afro-Funk and Asian styles of industrial electronica? This particular song reminds me a lot of the pan ethnic “neo geo” style of electro dance/funk being pioneered at this time by former Yellow Magic Orchestra member Ryuichi Sakamoto. It is wonderful to see how Teena Marie took a very different route from the stereotypical blue eyed soul/funk,which often looks to the music’s past approach,and took a more genuinely futurist view of it. Again it’s an example of her understanding of black American music’s continued evolution in her own creative context.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under 1980's, Afro-Cuban rhythm, Afro-Futurism, bass synthesizer, Bootsy Collins, concept albums, elecro funk, Epic Records, Industrial funk, Joni Mitchell, message music, percussion, Prince, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Teena Marie, Uncategorized

Anatomy Of THE Groove Special Presentation for 5/10/2015: “Baltimore” by Prince

Having the police related murders of Michael Brown (in Ferguson,Missouri)and most recently Freddie Gray (in Baltimore) on the public consciousness so much of late? One of the major conversations among musically minded individuals was the almost complete lack of attention paid to the issue by contemporary you musicians. Especially black American musicians such as economic powerhouses Beyonce,Nikki Minaj,Jay Z and Alicia Keys. So were civil rights related protest songs truly a dead art form in the United States?

Apparently they were not. And as it turned out? It was going to come from a source that not everyone (including myself) would’ve expected it to. Throughout his career? Prince has shown himself,at best,to be extremely fickle and unpredictable in terms of what sort of sociopolitical benefits he chooses to become musically involved in. Considering his two decade personal mission of asserting a creative end of black power on his own terms? This purple icon recorded a new song. And as typical performed the instrumental parts by himself. Later bringing in young Chicago vocalist Eryn Allen Kane to sing on this new number he called simply “Baltimore”.

Beginning with Eryn’s gospel drenched vocal cry of the title, a drum roll opens the main core of the song. This is a very basic melodic setup on that level. It’s an acoustic guitar harmony with a smooth blues lead guitar riff. On the refrain, Prince is playing a pumping bass over a steady 4/4 pop/rock beat with more rock guitar accents. This pattern repeats itself in two or three variations and building in intensity as the lyrics do. On the bridge? There’s a thick drum/percussion rhythm over which Prince declares “if there ain’t no justice, then there ain’t no peace”.

Prince comes back with another powerful bluesy lead guitar before Eryn comes in with another powerful lead. The song ends first with a repeat of the bridge-this time with 80’s Minneapolis orchestral synthesizer before ending on a gentler  version of the chorus. The two beat drum pattern is accompanied by a synthesizer and Prince’s own falsetto vocal harmonies. This leads off the song, which concludes with what sounds like a news report “interrupting your regularly scheduled program about a developing situation in Los Angeles”.

Upon my first listen to the song? It actually didn’t come off as all that moving musically. Personally? It seems a bit more instrumentally fitting to use funk as a medium for a message song. That musical genre’s strong emphasis on rhythm makes it ideal accompaniment for a song about a real life event which needs to be dealt with positively. Prince actually decided to make a very bright and acoustically tinged pop/rock number here. The sometimes elaborate and percussive drum patterns really showcases the rhythmic mastery Prince has been able to transfer from drum machines to live drums over the decades.

Taken on it’s own terms? This is one of the more upbeat rock songs Prince has made in years. From an instrumental and compositional perspective. Lyrically there’s another kind of feeling eluded to. The man is looking at the present situation from a rather broad and historical perspective. He showcases how a day and place can make all the difference in terms of perceiving racially motivated human tragedy. He even paraphrases Albert Einstein by stating “peace is more than the absence of war”. That after asking for prayer for the murders of Michael Brown and Freddie Gray. So the song asks for heartfelt acts of kindness and social responsibility in a time where silent shock creates too much human inaction.

Leave a comment

Filed under 2015, Baltimore, bass guitar, Eryn Allen Kane, Ferguson, Freddie Gray, guitar, message music, Michael Brown, percussion, pop, Prince, protest songs, rock 'n' roll