Terry Callier is a lesser known figure among the Chicago music scene of the 1960’s. He was a childhood friend of some of the city’s future musical starts out of Record Row-in particular Impressions’ Jerry Butler and Curtis Mayfield. Callier eventually took after Mayfield as a guitar player and signed to Cadet at the end of the 60’s. Difference is Callier was as more of a folk storyteller. During that time,he began to take on a jazz influence to his pieces inspired by John Coltrane’s music. He recorded several acclaimed albums in the early 70’s and toured in support of Gil Scott-Heron and George Benson.
It was again my father who introduced me to Terry Callier about 12 years ago. It was through a reissue of a 1977 album called Fire On Ice,which was his debut on the Elektra label and was then getting a reissue on CD. It was also made clear about the gentle jazz/folk hybrid sound Callier was better known for. And that this 1977 album was not indicative of his usual sound. Sounded like something that was waiting to be heard based on that description. Of course there are still many folksy ballads on this album,the song that really stood out as being somewhat unique for Callier here was called “Street Fever”.
Michael Boddicker starts out playing a revving,unaccompanied guitar synthesizer-featuring a break with a thick popping sound before an up-scaling space funk synthesizer brings the cymbal heavy drum part in. On the refrain,the snare drums come in playing a slicker beat with the synthesizers playing multiple stacked melodies behind it. On the second chorus,the horns begin playing in close unison to the synthesizers. There is a screaming rock guitar solo on the final refrains-with eventually breaks off into the space funk synthesizer from earlier before the song comes to a quick halt.
This is a flat out amazing song in the sense it anticipates the brittle,new wave inflected sound of new wave and naked funk by several years. And that of course was the same thing the Isley Brothers were doing at the same time with tunes like “Livin’ In The Life”. Callier adds some tough 12 bar blues choruses to the affair-along with some percussive vocal grunts and shouts. At the same time,there is a strong production slickness to it. Since like the rest of it’s accompanying album it was recorded in Chicago,it showcased that the windy city was still rife with innovative funk/rock/soul sounds at the end of the 1970’s.
Jackie Jackson,being the eldest of the Jackson’s siblings whose turning 65 today,brings to mind an important element in the Jackson family musical dynamic. With the enormous commercial success of the late Michael Jackson,it often seems that the different musical talents of the other family members are torn down in order to build up MJ’s cult of personality. Michael Jackson was a very talented performer,and one of the most rhythmic and distinctive vocalists of his era. Yet with such a musical family,his talent was made stronger (not weaker) by the unity he had with his brothers.
Born Sigmund Esco,Jackie was part of the main vocal trade-off’s between young Michael and Jermaine during the salad days of the Jackson 5. At that time he often sang high,reedy falsetto parts. When four of the brothers,including him,teamed with youngest brother Randy at Epic,the lead vocals Jackie provided to the group found him singing in his gruff,gravelly low tenor. Between the summer of 1979 and 1980,the by that time re-christened Jackson’s began work on their sixths album Triumph. Dominated vocally by Michael,the final song was a major triumph for Jackie in “Wondering Who”.
Ollie Brown’s hi hat drum kick off starts the song off along with Michael Boddicker’s melodic Vocorder line. It then kicks off into a percussive,uptempo Latin-funk rhythm with Boddicker’s brittle synthesizers and Vocorder providing equally rhythmic accompaniment. Nathan Watts’ 2 on three note bass thump and Tito Jackson’s low,fast past chicken scratch guitar lines lead into the 4/4 dance beat of the chorus-with the synthesizer’s becoming more orchestral. Tito’s bluesy guitar riff’s buffet each choral/refrain pattern. Michael and Jackie duet on the final chorus before Boddicker’s jazzy Vocorder scat fade out the song.
The first time I heard this song,it sounded as if the Jackson’s were ending their first album of the 1980’s with a nod to the future of funk. Indeed, they were. Composed wonderfully by Jackie and Randy Jackson,this song has a strong bluesy melody. Instrumentally it is extremely compelling. It’s a full on boogie/electro funk groove. And one where the synthesizers and Vocorder play the same role as the live percussion. The frenetic power of the songs music,combined with Jackie’s matured versatility as a singer,make this one of the best examples of futurist funk that ever came out of the Jackson’s camp in it’s day.
Filed under 1980's, Boogie Funk, chicken scratch guitar, elecro funk, Jackie Jackson, Michael Boddicker, Michael Jackson, Nathan East, Ollie Brown, Randy Jackson, synthesizers, The Jacksons, Tito Jackson, Uncategorized, vocoder