Category Archives: Music

Gratitude: Thank You’s From Andresmusictalk

i-wanna-thank-you

Its been three years since Henrique Hopkins and I began Andresmusictalk as a blogging partnership. Its grown in many different directions since then. There have been many stops and starts. And especially in the previous year,sometimes more tributes to music icons than articles on new music itself. On the other hand,2016 was also Andresmusictalk’s most successful year in terms of content,viewership and above all interactivity. So for today,my first article of the year,wanted to thank everyone who participated in its most successful year.

Henrique of course has continued to be a strong jelly maker-consulting me on ideas in the back round whenever he has the chance. Often times,my own family are inspiration. And this year,my new boyfriend Scott. Of course,Andresmusictalk took on two new content creators this year. One is veteran All Music Guide columnist,currently sports writer Ron Wynn. He has contributed album and band reviews regarding genres not normally covered by this blog-such as American roots,blues and world musics. Zach Hoskins came by way of his own blog Dystopian Dance Party following the tragic death of Prince.

Zach has contributed many tributes regarding the Minneapolis sound as well as recent funk/soul music,as well as acting in a similar consulting position as Henrique has. This year,some events occurred that changed my perception of the blog forever. Beforehand,it was more than tempting to view the success of Andresmusictalk in terms of stats,and the numbers of people viewing it. Generally I tried to share my content with the artists I was writing about whenever it was possible. It wasn’t until this year that I actually started receiving some feedback in this regard on Facebook.

Many of the artists whom I share this blogs content with on Facebook is session musicians. One ongoing conversation Henrique and I have had is that session players generally get unheralded or even unnoticed for their contributions. Though I’d never call hum particularly unsung,Brazil’s Paulinho Da Costa is one such artist I shared related content with. A percussionist whose played on thousands of sessions in the pop and jazz world,he sent me a message of best wishes for my acknowledgement this past summer. Wanted to show him my sincere appreciation for that here today.

Lisa Coleman of Prince’s Revolution wrote me back on stating that she was interested in looking at a review I did for Prince’s “DMSR”-the indirect beginning of my “Prince Summer” concept. Narada Michael Walden also expressed similar interest in an Amazon.com archived review of his latest album. But most important was a message from Junior Giscombe of “Mama Used To Say” fame. My re-post of the review of his debut album Ji moved him to tell me  that my support helped him move forward and that love of music made him want to do more even better. That email was moving beyond words to me.

Over the last 366 days,Andresmusictalk has become a lot more than it set out to be. It started out as the work of a disabled man who couldn’t work in the traditional way. And deeply wanted to share his newfound musical/social understandings with the world in some way-with the help of a close friend. Now,the content is actually making a difference to some of the people I write about. And with the addition of new commentators on it (and perhaps more to come),Andresmusictalk is growing into a family of its own kind. So wanted to thank this family for everything,and hope for even more in the year to come!

 

 

 

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Filed under 2016, Blogging, Music

Anatomy of THE Groove 12/12/2014 Andre’s Pick: “There’s A Better Way” by Jermaine Jackson

By the early 80’s Jermaine,the middle boy of the Jackson family,had developed something of a reputation of being a very singular musical talent and a mentor for the band Switch-thereby inadvertently introducing the DeBarge family to Motown in the process. How fitting it was that,by the time his career at Motown was coming to an end that the DeBarge’s were becoming sort of a new Jackson’s for the then less then certain record label. Of course even he was noticing his future might benefit from being elsewhere and left the label during 1983. His final Motown album was Let Me Tickle Your Fancy,which produced a title track that was a good sized pop chart hit that featured new wave band Devo. That songs bluesy funk/rock made up one of Jermaine’s finest and overall most funk oriented albums of his fine and funky Motown musical career. Still one song from this album continues to stand out uppermost in my mind in the almost twenty years since I first heard it. It’s called “There’s A Better Way”.

It all starts out with the the slow funky disco-dance 4/4 beat accentuated by a similar tempo’d Afro-Latin timed rhythm  percussion-as well as conga drumming from . This is soon joined by former  a deep,bassy Salsa style piano. Jermaine himself soon picks up on this playing a hiccuping jazzy funk bass/guitar interaction. After Jermaine’s lead vocals begin,each vocal chorus is accompanied by…well perhaps a Clavinet style keyboard melody. Jermaine accompanies himself vocally Marvin Gaye style-responding to himself vocally in his middle range and ethereal falsetto. During the middle bridge of the song,there is a flamenco style guitar melody accompanied by a steel drum like electronic synthesizer tone. The song fades back out into Jermaine’s original lead chorus. This has Jermaine singing a full on call and response vocal based on the songs title between his two distinct vocal personalities. This all combines to give the entire rhythmic and melodic core of the song,with it’s mixture of live drumming,percussion and electronic effects an extremely afro-futurist bent about it.

On a strictly personal level? This is one of those Jermaine Jackson songs that truly captivated me musically when I first heard. it. And the further along my own musical knowledge grows? The more this appreciation of this songs musical virtues does. Musically the influence of Stevie Wonder’s sound textures are very strong here. It has that mixture of Afro Latin percussion,thick layers of bass sounds and jazz oriented electronic synthesizer accents. The melodic progression of this tune is almost all vocal. Most of the instrumental elements are based almost entirely in rhythm. So it’s almost as if Jermaine was metaphorically singing while he were walking along to the steps of the shoes on his heat-each rhythm and melody has some type of counterpoint. This gives the possible effect that Jermaine,a known multi instrumentalist,may have played every instrumental part on this song. Considering the confusing nature of the album jacket listing talented jazz and funk players such as drummer Ollie Brown,guitarist Paul Jackson,Stevie Wonder keyboardist Ronnie Foster and Jermaine’s brother Randy on percussion? It’s not really known to me if this was done by one man or a group of musicians. The interaction could almost go either way sometimes.

When it all comes down to it? What really brings this song so much to life is the way in which the lyrical themes of the song correlates with the music. Marvin Gaye used a slow,almost proto Reggaeton rhythm on his song ‘Third World Girl” the same year as this. Though on this song? Jermaine showcases a slow,deep Afro latin style post disco friendly funky soul groove that’s stripped down and rhythmically chunky to illustrate his views on poverty. Very much in the spirit of Stevie Wonder on “Living For The City” and his brother Mike’s “Man In The Mirror” from six years after this? Jermaine points to people in any position of authority turning a blind eye to human suffering. As an individual artist? Jermaine’s lyrical message is more earnestly pleading. The chorus after all spells out that “you don’t know how it feels to be without/I don’t care what they say/I know there’s a better way”. Surely a “people music” pretext to the entire song. By also pointing out that “talk about generosity/it’s been done in other countries”,it’s clear Jermaine that the inequities in the treatment of black Americans and the exploitation of foreigners,some black themselves,are not at all lost on him. More over,he also sees other nations as being capable of helping themselves without anyone else’s assistance as well. So that cultural understand,plus the like minded instrumental approach,make this one of Jermaine’s most unsung musical standouts.

 

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Filed under 1980's, Africa, Afro-Futurism, Brazil, Brazilian Jazz, Disco, drums, Funk, Funk Bass, Jazz-Funk, Jermaine Jackson, Motown, Music, Soul, Stevie Wonder

HAPPY 50’TH POST FOR ANDRE! Andre’s Amazon Archive for 8-3-2014: ‘Tribb To JB’ by Chuck D

ChuckD On the first day of this month marked the official eight month point where my friend Henrique and I formed this blog. It was also the same day as the Chadwick Boseman vehicle ‘Get On Up’,the long awaited biopic on James Brown was released in theaters nationwide. So this is my own 50th post on this blog. To celebrate,I am going to be focusing in on another important tribute…to a tribute as it were: Public Enemy frontman Chuck D’s posthumous 2007 musical dedication to The Hardest Working Man In Show Business!

On Christmas Day of 2006,what was traditionally a day for giving became a sad day when someone was taken from us. That was the day The Godfather,James Brown, died. On many levels? That was a sad day for me,and JB’s passing seemed prophetic. The days of getting up,getting into it and getting involved seemed over-replaced by this cold apathy. Way I looked at it? Things had nowhere to go but up. For the last decade of his life? It concerned me greatly that James Brown’s was beginning to earn the historical presidents of being yet another celebrity train wreck. What I horrid legacy to happen to this man who’d accomplished so much in his life,and positively influenced so many. Of course we also had Chuck D,whose very reason for starting Public Enemy had to do with James Brown’s music and aestetic influence. I could think of no one else better suited to musically pay tribute to The Hardest Working Man In Show Business that Chuck D. And in the year after JB’s passing? That little pipe dream circulating in my mind shortly after the event actually came true.

The album starts out with an intro that illustrates James Brown as forever being the Godfather the entire soul/funk/hip-hop spectrum before launching into an this explosively funky tract of songs in “Soul Power”,”Make It Funky”,”Get Up,Get Into It,Get Involved” and “Say It Loud (I’m Black And I’m Proud”. Chuck raps in JB’s rhythmic style,accompanied by the James-soundalike vocalist Kyle Jason and the Banned. “Its A Man’s Man’s World” is a sleeker,somewhat more full Latin type take than James originally gave it with the Crew Grrl Order giving a female perspective on the current outlook of black femininity to support the lyrics. “King Heroin” is presented here first with the psychedelic jazz aspect of the original played up a bit more while “Talking Loud,Saying Nothing” expands on the original by making a blatant (and to my ears first in music at the time) condemnation on the George W. Bush-era military industrial political complex.

“Thank Mama For The Soul Sisters” breaks up Lynn Collins’ “It Takes To” with vocalist Ronnique Hawkins by expanding on it with classic hip-hop effects that stand somewhere between the original and its famous sampling by Rob Base in 1988. “Super Band” continues on the themes explored earlier in the album while “Funky President” again takes on George W.,this time more directly on his sociopolitical character in regard to foreign policy. The final song on the album is probably the most telling. Its a narration of “King Herion” by a girl named Autumn Asante,who according to the intro to the narration was thrown out of school for this supposed “racist recitation” after her uncle died of AIDS from heroin abuse. Hearing this coming from a young child,speaking with enormous authority,is moving almost beyond a response. Especially with her very witty and mature improvisation in saying of heroin it will “make a man forsake his own country and flag,not that there’s anything wrong with that”.

Hearing this album eight years after the fact,it really shines a vital spotlight on the societal abnormalities of America in the early aughts. Musically this album basically stays true to the flavor of JB’s originals,adding turntabling and light sampling for a synergy of James’ original vision,and how it impacted his creative descendants. And how James Brown’s sociopolitical vision,as expressed through his music and words,were more vital to this nations healing in the transition from the Bush to Obama national climates than perhaps had been thought. Since the time of this album? I have noticed a great deal more activism and outcry against social policies. More of an expression for justice and goodwill. Chuck D projects the aura of James Brown’s creative spirit here as something to be matyrized,but not pedestalized. Something to be embraced,yet not worshiped. James once said for us to “listen to the case”. But even Chuck D would likely tell you,from what he learned out of JB’s influence is that where one goes from there is up to them.

*For original review,click here to read

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Filed under 1970's, Chuck D, Funk, Hip-Hop, James Brown, Music, Music Reviewing, Public Enemy

The Inspiration Information of Shuggie at the Turn of the Millenium: Rique’s Outlook

The 2001 release of Shuggie Otis ‘Inspiration Information’ on David Bryne’s Luaka Bop  represented a great musical landmark in the lives of both of us here at Andresmusictalk, myself, Henrique Hopkins, and Andre Grindle. While both of us were busy in various musical activities on the opposite coasts of the United States, serving our apprentischip as musical fans and critics, Otis album came along and had a huge impact on our personal and musical lives. Otis’ album presented something new and familiar at the same time,  a melange of funk, soul, jazz, gospel, blues and rock and roll, similar in tone to the most advanced and creative of his contemporaries, but also illuminating the paths of  future innovators and stars such as Prince, Lenny Kravitz, Outkast and Beyonce. One of the appeals of this was the mixture of the familar, represented by Shuggies’ original ‘Strawberry Letter 23′ and the general funk/soul/blues/rock vibes, with the unfamiliar, Shuggies’ unique genius and talent for combining sounds, as well as his gentle, plaintive voic. The 13 years since that release have seen Shuggie actually return to the stage and recording, and we have this release to thank for that. This album then, has a unique place in our lives as a classic era funk recording that actually belongs to us even more than its time. We aim to explain why:

 

When I first purchased Shuggie Otis “Inspiration Information” in late 2001 or early 2002, I can’t quite remember, I was no virgin to the purchase of back catalog funk, jazz and soul CD’s. I’d spent most of high school exploring deeply music and styles I’d had a familiarity with my whole life, but instead of just dipping my toes into the pool, diving in fully, getting truly wet. I still remember the exact day I bought Miles Davis “On the Corner” for instance, a rainy June day at the end of my 11th grade school year. Most of these purchases were of artists I was familar with, but my crate diggers mindset caused me to seek out their lesser known recordings, especially since my father had so many of these artists recordings already. Many times it focused on recordings that were scorned or disregarded at the time of their release, such as “Hear My Dear” by Marvin Gaye. Some of these were already lying in obscure corners of the families collection like unhugged Teddy Bears. But even with all this acquring of classic music, Shuggie Otis’ album was something different, an artist from the ’70s whose music and person I was only vaguely familar with but who’s music very quickly became a part of not just my perception of the ’70s or classic funk and soul, but who’s music existed in my life contemperaneously with Outkast, Mos Def, Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, D’Angelo, Maxwell,  The Goodie Mob, Common, the Roots, Beyonce, and other artists who were catching my ear with new, contemporary but classic sounds.

When I first heard of  “Inspiration Information through a review in VIBE magazine, I knew for a fact I’d seen Otis’ face somewhere before. The musical name of “Otis” was most definitely not unknown to me. My father had been a big fan of Johnny Otis in the 1950s. Johnny Otis himself, who passed a few years ago, is an incredible figure in Black music history and American history as a whole.  Otis was a Greek American Bay Area hipster who identified strongly with African American people and culture. So much so that my father said Otis used to “play Black” when he was younger. It is a well discussed narrative that certain blacks who had the ability to do so “passed” for white in order to enjoy the priviliges that provided, but the reverse story is not often told. Johnny Otis surpassed Norman Mailer’s “White Negro”, because instead of simply appropriating black style to his own ends, he actually cast his lot with black people, placing his music on the R&B charts, marrying a black woman, leading and aiding black musicians, living in the black community and even pastoring a black church. I would later find out that Johnny Otis was a Bay Area man as well, born in Vallejo and raised in Berkely, and he represented the unique racial history of the Bay.

Dad had a recording he’d made of a Monterey Jazz Festival featuring The Johnny Otis Revue.  I remember that tape very fondly because it had a Soul Train episode from 1987 featuring Jody Watley on the beginning of it. The Monterey Jazz Festival section was something I didn’t understand at first, but came to enjoy more and and more as time went on. Part of that enjoyment was just remembering how much I enjoyed watching it with Dad, and having him detail and tell tales about the world of West Coast Blues and R&B back in the 1950s. The tape featured the Johnny Otis Revue and I remember Otis, a tall white man resplendent in a white suit with a red shirt and tie, hair slicked back, speaking in a hip and cool cadence. Otis played the MC for such great acts as Big Jay McNeely, Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson, Etta James and others. I remember Dad laughing at his childhood favorites getting on stage wearing wigs and other vanities. He also told me Otis used to do what amounted for passing for black, with most fans thinking he was simply “high yellow” like Billy Eckstine.

Behind Otis on stage, there was a quiet, handsome, deathly serious looking guitar player. The young man in the red band outfit had a large Afro, even then in the ’80s. I remember Dad mentioning he resembled a friend of the family, a man named Derek Love. I would find out almost 12 years later that this was Shuggie Otis, Johnny’s son and an artist who was critically acclaimed and had an extremely promising future back in the ’70s.

Fast forward to the early millenium, 2001. I was still getting VIBE magazine at the time. VIBE was my favorite, even over The Source and XXL, which I also subscribed to, because the range of music covered was wider. But even then, by 2001, I felt the ads were getting too prominent and the music was being smothered. One thing I admired about VIBE in its Quincy Jones owned hey day, was that it also ran great features on historical black music right alongside new artists. Even Rickey Vincent, the author of the Funk book, wrote for VIBE in those days, and I found out about his book through the magazine.  Funk, jazz and soul rereleases got album review space right next to the latest from Mary J Blige and Foxxy Brown, sometimes done by Greg Tate or Nelson George. One month, a review was done on the rerelease of Shuggie Otis album “Inspiration Information”, from 1974, on Luaka Bop.

The review fascinated me because it positioned Otis as a predecesor of Prince, due to his ability to play all the instruments in his recordings through multi tracking. It also informed me that he was the writer of “Strawberry Letter 23” which I knew in its popular form as a song by The Brothers Johnson, and a song that had seemed to have been very special to me my whole life. I didn’t run right out and get the album, but it was definitely on my list of things to check out.

Sometime after I came back from my first trip to Paris, and the events of September 11, 2001, I started hanging out with a friend from my job, Dameion. The world seemed to be going crazy with wars and reports of wars. The Bay Area was its usual stout anti war self, with ’60s type protest now being ingrained as a part of the culture, so much so that the city of Berkeley got rid of its military recruitment office. Though it was fodder for conversation, this didn’t affect me and Dame much. Our goal was to put together a band that would capture the worlds attention through music.

Me and Dame would cruise around town, with him playing me demo’s off his Mac Book. The Mac Book he had was a near magical device to me at the time, because whenever I’d buy a CD, if Dameion liked a song, he’d immediately rip it straight to his Itunes, right then and there. He’d do the same with music I liked, burning me a CD of music right then and there. At the time, we were still buying CD’s heavily. I remember buying Shuggie Otis CD from a Borders Books and music. I bought the CD with a bushelful of other CD’s as well as music books like Charles Mingus “Beneath the Underdog.”

I don’t even remember the other CD’s I bought on that day. Very soon after I put the CD in Dame’s MacBook, Shuggie’s music became for a time, the only music I seemed to care about. Dame felt it too because he ripped it to his computer right then and there. We were blown away by an album of funky songs, unique stop and start grooves, tender ballads with morbid, almost funerary sounding music, funky rock and roll guitar playing, and Otis quiet, intimate falsetto. We’d later learn the album, besides the cuts where Otis did his one man band thing playing all the instruments, had some cuts that featured top notch studio names we knew such as Wilton Felder, Leon Haywood, and George Duke, ’70s L.A/Bay Area musical royalty.

What was it that captivated us so? Well, for one thing, we were both fledling musicians who wanted to have a band that played instruments, but were also deeply influenced by hip hop and sampling. So we were constantly on the lookout for music that SOUNDED old in its analog recording quality and groove, but was also NEW, by virtue of it being unheard or less heard. Otis album fit that category for sure.

But Otis’ music was most valuable for its own qualites. The Luaka Bop release was actually a combination of two Otis’ albums, “Inspiration Information” and “Freedom Flight”, which of course, presented a different picture than listeners in 1974 would have gotten. The sound of the album itself was highly unique. The first song “Inspiration Information” was Shuggie’s unique take on a joyful but heavy Sly Stone type of vibe, a very happy type of funk but with a deep seriousness to it as well. “Island Letter” had a deep warm, underwater sound to it, and was a song dominated as much of the album by the organ. “Sparkle City” was Shuggie’s unique variant on mid ’70s funk, low down, bluesy and mean.

The album was full of layered stop and start grooves, seeming to move in all directions. One of the most prominent sounds was the drum machine on Shuggie’s organ, which played a classic organclave pre set drum pattern on “XL-30.”

One of the funkiest songs on the album was “Happy House”, which was an all too brief one minute, sixteen second cock tease. I remember me and Dame cracking up over Shuggies lyrics about “from me/and your mama too.” While a cut like “Ice Cold Daydream” would be a soundtrack to the great chase movie we havent made yet, driving and grooving to it’s arch ’70s stop and start groove. Through it all was Shuggie’s soothing voice, fragile, soulful, and speaking loudly by whispering where others would shout.  You almost wondered how that voice could come from the same person who produced such fire elsewhere in the music.

A song like “XL-30” was nearly frieghtning in its early electronic, killer clown fun house groove. The song we already knew, and which I’d use to introduce the album to other people like my dad with, was “Strawberry Letter 23.” That song was one that had been around for my whole lifetime plus a few years. I remembered it very well in my teen years, becakuse in the ’90s, our adolescent and teenaged horny selves would walk around asking a girl, “is it cool” to get with them. It was like I was hearing the song for the first time when I heard George Johnson say “If you try to ask/is it cool/is it cool.” Quincy Jones laced that production with the type of state of the art mastery that would later lead to the greatest selling and possibly most comprehensive pop recordings of all time, done with Michael Jackson. The Brothers Johnson’s “Starwberry Letter 23” was a modern, grooving, mid tempo ballad that was also funky, extremely funky and clean and slick at the same time. The song was powered by Louis Johnson’s highly individual slap bass sound and climaxed with a triumphant guitar part played by Lee Ritenhour.

“Strawberry Letter 23” on Shuggie’s album is another song. Strangely enough, it’s the same song, the basic notes of the bassline are there minus Louis propulsive style, the ending guitar solo is there, the lyrics, the tinkling bell melody, all the musical aspects of The Brothers Johnson and Jones’ later hit are present in Shuggie’s original, but Shuggie’s vibe is more stoned out, and hippie, with acoustic guitars sounding like sunset on Hippie Hill in San Francisco.

Shuggie’s two albums, together on one CD, became a soundtrack for my young ’20s, thirty years after they were recorded and ignored. “Strawberry Letter 23” has become a kind of a basic meme in black music, a foundational melody. I wonder sometimes if it came from the far bigger hit and classic The Brothers Johnson recorded, or if it came from the crate digging culture and David Bryne’s 2001 re release. I know Outkast quoted it in their megahit “Ms. Jackson” (the rhythm of the singing of “Never meant to make your daughter cry), Westside Connection quotes it on “Gangsta Nation” sung by the late Nate Dogg, and Beyonce quotes it as well on “Be With You.” In fact, I view those “Uh Oh’s” on “Crazy in Love”, the rhythm of them, as a child of “Strawberry Letter” as well.

Beyonce in fact is an artist who’s made her connection to Shuggie quite plain. She mentioned getting his album and it being an inspiration to 2003’s “Dangerously in Love.” If you listen to that, her song “Gift From Virgo”, is a song laid on top of Otis’ instrumental “Rainy Day.” Also as mentioned, the album has numerous references to “Starwberry Letter”.

Beyonce’s usage of the album just goes to strengthen the feeling I have that the rerelease of Shuggie’s music came at exactly the right time. Since then I’ve gotten into other re releases such as funk music from Nigeria, and another one from the Bay Area, Eugene Blacknell’s music, another album that though old, defined a certain period of my life. Shuggie is like blues artists who were ignored in their time and then rose to popularity in the ’60s when the Blues was acknowledged as the cornerstone of Rock. Shuggie hit the Bay Area last  year and unfortunately, I missed his show to see one of his inheritors, Prince, in Vegas. But I’m elated he’s begun to perform again, because back when I got his music, he was treated as one of those great disappearing geniuses who could only be enjoyed in recorded form. I’m glad he’s back and I wish him the recognition and joy from playing his music now that he may not have gotten in the past, on HIS terms! And I hope in particular, he has some sense of how music he did 40 years ago lingered around like a funky landmine to hit the sweet spot of listeners many years in the future.

 

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Filed under 1970's, 1990s, Blogging, Blues, Dialog, Funk, Generations, LA, Music, Music Reviewing, Neo Soul, Psychedelia, rhythm & blues

Andre’s Amazon Archive for June 7th,2014: Prince’s ‘Musicology’ and ‘3121’

          In celebration of Prince’s 56th birthday today,the artist in on the threshold of a huge comeback on Warner Bros. At the same time,this is not the first time he has been in such a position since the turn of the 21st century. Since Prince is now securely in the position of being the type of legacy artist in his field that he once musically admired? I am going to be presenting two reviews of the albums that symbolized Prince’s last major comeback about a decade ago. Enjoy!

Musicology

First off THE best thing on this CD is the title track-an as pure-as-funk-can-be distillation of all of Prince’s musical influences-a trip back to funk 101.When I first heard the CD a couple years back I was slightly disappointed,expecting an album of songs just as funky.For one critical moment I forgot what Prince was all about-musical eclecticism.This album is free of is the heavy rap/hip-hip type funk of some of his symbol era recordings.Luckily a new wave of pop artists have taken Prince’s classic sound as a base for their own and ‘Musicology’ finds him taking back that sound,representing Prince getting back to home plate in terms of his music-that means his freewheeling mixture of funk,soul and rock styles and everything in between.

“Illusion,Coma,Pimp & Circumstance” and “Life Of The Party” are both catchy,upbeat dance songs with a lot of programming and synthesizers,but they are used in a fairly organic fashion. Both.Both are about what is new and progressive in funk rather then the old school retro style of the title cut.The main styles used on this album are a series of sexy ballads based in classic 60’s soul,”Call My Name”,On The Couch” and “Dear Mr.Man” all put a great Princely spin on an old style.One of the most impressive songs here is the eerie “What Do U Want Me 2 Do”-another great example of a well crafted song with no musical boundaries that Prince does so well,with a very complicated rhythm pattern.Most of the rest of the album explores Prince’s patented pop-rock sound on such hard edged tunes as “A Million Days” and “If Eye Was The Man In Ur Life”,both showcasing Prince’s multifarious ability on the electric guitar and his great rock n roll shouting.And he delivers one of the very best pop records of his career with the peppy “Cinnamon Girl”,on my top ten list of favorite Prince songs actually and sounds very timeless.

The final cut “Reflection” is just beautiful-a pleasant,radio friendly pop/soul/folk ballad that’s very gentle and attention grabbing.Having been released twenty years after his “Purple Rain” album this shows the music world that Prince has actually taught the mainstream audience of his generation some important musical lessons-that despite radio categorizing and such the barriers between funk,soul,rock,folk and jazz are not as big as they seem to be-even though each tend to have their own audience and are usually referred to apart Prince has found a way to bring them all together into one style AND get people to enjoy them over the years.And despite whatever angry,political rock-hip hop/funk that TAFKAP tended to specialize in Prince was always there bubbling under the surface.’Musicology’ is a new beginning for Prince,a journey he started at the beginning of the millennium by taking his name back and (finally) his music.

Originally Written On May 26th,2006

3121

 

To me as a Prince fan of twenty years I was glad to see in Rolling Stone that ‘3121’ got to Number 1-it’s been awhile.But Prince’s latest CD’s since his post TAFKAP days have been a bit of a mixed bag.So I got this for my birthday and just slapped and on and BOY I must say I am impressed.But you have to put this CD on good stereo headphones-it burns.My opinion?Prince still has the nack for genre bending.And yes-‘3121’ has certain elements of his 80’s sound,namely the synthisized hooks and the heavy pop hooks.But Prince has changed his mind about the musical styles he uses for the now patened ‘Prince’ sound (he really just deserves a genre of his now)-classic funk is still the base but the rock blends in more and the jazz and new Brazillian elements are actually put into play,and (thankfully) the hip hop stuff is dead.As always variety continues to be the spice of Prince.

The title song is very deep, bassy and mysterious but “Lolita” burns with a harder,sexier funk and has a great tune attached to it.”Te Amo Corazon” is lovely,gentle latin pop jazz and very sudtle.”Black Sweat” is the big hit-it’s a fairly contemporary variation of the 1986 era Prince sound that produced “Kiss” and “Girls And Boys” but is much darkly sexier in tone.”Incence and Candles” as well as the more uptempo “Love” and “The Word” take a more contemporary taste on funk but it’s no in Prince’s orbit it’s barely noticable.”Satisfied” is terrific-one of Prince most passionate forays into classic 60’s soul with some great belting and Hammond Organ and very cleverly written.”Fury” is the one tune that harkens all the way back to 80’s Prince music with it’s funk-rock pop mixture.The final three songs here are actually some of the best here-“Beautiful,Loved And Blessed” is very bouncy and hummable-Tamar takes lead and raps (a little) and does a good job.

“The Dance” has a latin feel too but tries at a type of music Prince hasn’t really done before-the kind of Brazilian funk-jazz fusion Sheila E,George Duke.Airto and Flora Purim were doing in the 70’s.”Get On The Boat” is a terrific way to cap off-Maceo rips a solo through a cut totally worthy of James Brown-Prince himself even takes some grace notes from The Godfather himself.After all these years of hits and misses Prince is still THE MAN when it comes to his craft and at the very least ‘3121’ finds him at the top of his game.I do not know if it is marriage or his new religion that have inspired him and besides these could all be songs that existed in his vaults since the 80’s.But not likely-Prince is someone who seems to revel in letting the public here his latest material rather then relaying on his legendary vaults,which he only did briefly in the late 90’s during his post Warner Brothers slump.’3121′ merges the old with the new-it reaches out to young listeners with it’s bassy sonics,dancibility and use of technology as well as reaching out to more (shall I say) adult contemporary listeners looking to hear music from someone they grew up with-hard to believe Prince is lumped in with that age group now.And for those who just want to get funky?This like ANY Prince album is just the ticket.But it more then lives up to the hype and if he keeps moving on from this direction this could be the beginning of a new commercial comeback for his music.

Original Review From May 25th,2006

*Here are links to the original reviews.

For ‘Musicology’- http://www.amazon.com/review/R1N3RE80DZWGUA/ref=cm_cr_pr_perm?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B0001XTRCI

For ‘3121’- http://www.amazon.com/review/R1HDH29CYRI5VJ/ref=cm_cr_pr_perm?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B000E97HIA

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Filed under 1980's, Amazon.com, Blues, Electronica, Funk, Funk Bass, James Brown, Jazz, Minneapolis, Music, Music Reviewing, Prince, Radio, rhythm & blues, Soul

Andre’s Amazon Archive for May 10th,2014-Down To The Bone ‘Dig It’

Down To The Bone

From the very first moment I heard Down To The Bone in the late 90’s,it was clear this band from the London acid jazz club scene was going to be right up m alley. Since that time its been my pleasure to have purchased and reviewed a couple other DTTB albums. They have a number of albums but alas,they aren’t always the easiest to find. So when it came to my attention they had a new release planned for this year? It was on my wish list for the local record store Bull Moose. And sure enough,the store got a copy of the album in stock regardless of the order. Generally speaking,when it comes to the jazz/funk fusion genre I really do look forward to anything to emerge from that genre year by year. Mainly because of the rhythmic and melodic musical adventures they tend to take the listener one when placing your ears into the center of the grooves. Sometimes a high level of anticipation can lead to a mild letdown. Other times,its perfectly fulfilling. And the latter was what I hoped for in this release.

“Dropping Knowledge” starts the album out on a superb note-brightly melodic and percussion/horn driven uptempo funk where every instrumental part accentuates the other in rhythmically grooving harmony. “Meteorite”,”Getting It Together” and the closer “Give Me Love” keep that same bright feeling going strong. “The Bounce” and the hit single “The Sweetness”,on the other hand are locked down,foot stomping funk. Both have a slinkiness to them that brings out the colorful sheen of the piano and horn solos. A richly dancable late 70’s “sophistifunk” jazz-funk approach comes into play on “Happiness Is The Healer” and “Put A Different Spin On It”-two vocal numbers featuring the spirited singer Katie Leone. Both numbers passionately tout the virtues of joy and celebration of life over cynicism and giving up on oneself. They are “people music” funk with a message to the very highest degree. The title song brings a very Afro-Latin percussion flavor for a strong,sweaty jam with a tasty Roy Ayers-like vibraphone solo throughout. “We’re On The Move” brings everything together with a percussive groove before moving into the Ike Hayes-like wah-wah powered cinematic soul throw down on the bridge.

There is a quality about the presentation of the music on this album where,especially around the middle,the funk aware listener can just sense that crucial moment when everything about where the grooves are going are about to come to a head,and into something very beautiful and elegant as well. Generally speaking, DTTB albums I’ve heard in the past had a strong House/dance style rhythmic ethic to them. In short,a mild techno/club influence in with the funk. The spirit of this album is very much full on in the EWF/Incognito school of rhythmically and melodically dynamic live band funk. And the band to a literally bang up job on that as well. Very much players with a strong collective style,who typically maintain that unison approach, there doesn’t appear to be anyone in this band-from percussionist Joe Beckett to trombonist Tim Smart,who are are afraid to venture out and play tremendous solos in the middle of these classy and well produced grooves. And if not stated in lyrical/vocal form? The nature of the melodies…more than imply the joy of living and working to the rhythm. And the positive attitude that comes from this impulse. Truly a candidate for my favorite album of the year thus far.

Originally written May 1st,2014

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Anatomy of THE Groove 5/2/14 Rique’s Pick : “The Talking Fish” by Ibibio Sound Machine

 

One of the most interesting developments of the funk era is it’s strong explicit African connection. The funk era represented a unique point in the often strained relationship between Africa and her descendants in the West. One might say that the continent itself as well as it’s descendants in the “New World” were all at similar critical points in their history. Africa was going through the beginning stages of independence from colonialism and nationalism, and in America descendants of Africa were fighting for Human and Civil Rights, as well as increasing the consciousness of their history and even envisioning revolutionary justice in many cases. There was a great exchange of ideas at that time, with MLK,  Malcom X, Richard Wright, CLR James, Frantz Fanon and other American and Carribean people of African descent providing inspiration in Africa that was returned in equal measure by African figures such as Kwame Nkrumah,  Patryce Lumumba, Tom Mboya, Hallie Sellasie and Nelson Mandela, among others. For adherents to the international African groove thang, this was represented most prominently by James Brown and Fela Kuti, but also by other artists such as Bob Marley and Stevie Wonder. In recent years, Fela’s music has become more and more celebrated in the Western world, as perhaps the last great revolutionary popular music maverick of the ’70s. Fela’s country, Nigeria, has been a particular focal point in this African/American exchange, being a large country with a high percentage of people living or educated in the West, a country where English is the official language, and one with a particular cultural connection to the New World because many Black inhabitants were taken from that region.

Ibibio Sound Machine is a new group based in London that revives the Afro-Funk sound and updates it for the modern internet age. The creators of the group are three producer/musicians, Max Grunhard, Leon Brichard, and Benji Bouton, who were huge fans of African grooves. The lead singer is the lovely Eno Williams, a British national of Nigerian descent, who’s roots lie with the Ibibio people of south eastern Nigeria, hence the name of the band. Eno grew up in England raised by a mother who was a native Ibibio speaker. The Ibibio people are one of the many ethic groups in Nigeria, but I was not aware of them as I was other Nigerian tribes such as the Ibo, Hausa, Yoruba and Fulani. Eno’s lyrics take traditional Ibibio folk tales that her grandparents related to her and put them to a groove that mixes West African funk and disco, post punk and modern electro. The 8 person touring band also features Ghanian guitarist Alfred “Kari” Bannerman and Brazillian percussionist Anselmo Netto, making the sound truly Pan African.

“The Talking Fish” is a funky delight sung in the highly rhythmic Ibibio language. Williams tells a funny folk tale that I had to resarch the story behind to understand. The story is about a young girl going down to the stream to fetch water. When she got there, she met a fish that was happy, and running down a mean stream of consiousness dialog. The young girls were amazed by the fish’s singular verbosity. They knew they couldnt eat such an intelligent and vocal fish, partially out of the fear the fish would keep talking even after they’d consumed it! Their squeals of delight and alarm scare the whole village because they think something has happened to the girls. Instead of eating the fish the fish becomes a celebrated local attraction.

From the first notes of the song, it’s clear Ibibio Sound Machine is going for a cinematic, blaxploitation era, classic funk sound. The tune starts off with a classic funk bass figure backed simply by hi hats and a trippy lead analog synth sound playing a wide “scoop.” The bass figure is pure funk, a strong and dominant Major Second interval going up a step and then jumping up an octave. After that clear statement, the bass player plays around with the same notes, displacing their rhythm here and there, playing with the groove. The horns come in with call and response patterns. The music sounds dramatic, like a movie score, calling to mind Bernie Casey from “I’m Gonna Get You Sucka”, “Every hero needs theme music.”

After that scene setting introduction, the band plays a phrase that will reappear throughout the song as a kind of a hook. The phrase is four notes going up the scale, accompanied by snare drum hits, then going back down twice. After the first appearance of the phrase, the track starts in earnest, supported by heavy disco-funk drumming, a meat and potatoes kick and snare eq’ed right with the hi-hats playing the classic disco “pea soup” pattern, the opening and closing of the hi hats. This pattern was introduced into the ’70s lexicon by the drummers of Philly International and quickly became the standard in disco drumming.

Williams sings her funky tale of the Talking Fish as the band riffs behind her, the music is highly responsive to her vocals and features synth squiggles as well as single note muted guitar riffs courtesy of Ghanaian highlife guitar legend Bannerman. Williams delivery is rhythmic, playful, and gets to you even if you don’t understand her Ibibio tounge, you will feel it no doubt.

The funk breaks down at 2:50 or so, adding deep percission with a synth bass playing one note on the ONE, a basic drumbeat with lots of funky small instrument chatter, with percussionist Anselmo Netto bringing the Brazillian contingent of the African musical diaspora to the fore. Around 3:40, Kari Bannerman gets his chance to solo, and he does so with a nasty distorted tone. Bannerman delivers a rhythmic, hard plucked, funky and well phrased blues/funk solo. By the end he builds up the intensity with rock and roll double stops and chords as the song fades out.

The Ibibio people are a 5,000,000 strong ethnic group in Nigeria that I’d never heard of, and this album represents the first time their language has been sung and recorded for a worldwide audience. Williams mentioned in an interview that to her, Highlife music, the one time most popular genre in all of West Africa, was as traditional as any other music to her growing up. Of course, this is the same view a modern Black kid might have in America with regards to funk, viewing it as something older and akin to the early blues and rock and roll. Ibibio Sound Machine is another wave in the reclaimation of Funk and Afro-Funk styles. Their vibrant music brings one back to a time when the Black communities of the world were full of much hope and forward movement, and hopefully children of the future will one day look back on music such as this as the soundtrack to another positive time in their history.

 

 

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The Anatomy of ‘Happy’- Rique’s outlook: An Anatomy of THE Groove Special Presentation Part Duex

 

 

 

Pharrell Williams recent triumph with an infectious ditty about human joy and the movements of the human spirit is one that fills me with tremendous joy and that I  identify with very personally. I see it as the culmination of a career spent highlighting the spirit enhancing aspects of Black music at a time when darkness was accepted as the norm.

Back in my high school days, my main friends who I referred to as my brothers,  Jesse, Osceola, and Frank use to spend our time before, after, and sometimes during school hours at OC’s house, eating gumbo, cooking, playing bass and discussing and debating how we were to make it in the world.  Often times we looked at the current culture around us, in the days of bling rap and very ignorant music as inadequate to the views we had of ourselves and how we wished our lives to be, not to mention the attitudes we’d inherited from our well meaning parents. The late 1990s seemed to be an extremely long ways away from the vitality we associated with other days of black culture in particular.

Outkast was the closest of any group at the time to who we felt we were. There were many other groups we liked bits and pieces of, but no one captured it as well as them. Then, at some point in 1999 we started to hear another groove. It was electronic, sparse, and FUNKY. It was heard on records like Mase’s “Lookin at Me”, ODB’s “Got Your Money” and “Recognize” and especially Kelis’ “Caught Out There.” Then one day out of nowhere, we heard that same beat but we got some vocals, on a track called “Oh No” by Nore, we saw a handsome, carmel skinned brother with throwback aviator shades on, giving an old school hip hop chorus in a falsetto voice. Osceola, ever the sharp eyed visionary, said simply, “I like that dude.”

As the milenium turned, the hits rolled in, like Mystikals James Brown influenced “Shake Ya Ass”, Nelly’s “Bustin Loose” influenced “Hot in Herre”, and several records that referenced The Vanity 6’s eternal Purple Funk classic “Nasty Girls” (“Milkshake”, “Slave”, etc). Pharrell and Chad Hugo, the Neptunes, could give you aural images of Run DMC’s “Sucker M.C’s” on a track like the Clipse’s “Grindin'”, and recall both Cameo and Slave on Snoop Dogg’s “Lets Get Blown.” And Pharrell’s own “Frontin”, may be one of the few R&B love songs that came out in the last decade that I truly identified with, not just as music, but as experience.

The Neptunes music took the black historical sound of funk, and edited it, filtered it through hip hop, and presented it as the hottest party sound of the new milenium. Pharrell’s falsetto, used in the beginning simpy to guide singers on demo’s, recalled Eddie Kendricks, Curtis Mayfield, Al Green, Smokey Robinson, and many other legends, who I’ve heard him all reference in interviews. I was always amazed at Chad and Pharrells skill at interpolation, building new funk off old funk and making an ahistorical young urban audience accept it as THE THING.

This past year has been one of special triumph, with Daft Punk’s directly late ’70s influenced “Get Lucky”, Robin Thicke’s “Got to Give It Up” tribute “Blurred Lines”, and now, the ’60s get back in the alley groove of “Happy.”

In the black church, the moment of the utmost jubilation, when people speak in tounges and do the holy dance, and the organ and drums begin to vamp, is called “Getting Happy.” Pharrell mentioned on his interview with Oprah that after 9 tries at nailing down a song to represent the joy of the villian on the film “Despicable Me 2”, he finally hit on this groove. He said the chords were gospel, because that’s the aim of gospel music, to get people “happy”, on a profound spiritual level that gives a glimpse of the eternal joy that all religions promise, with the goal of getting people through an often rough existence on this here earth.

Pharrell accomplishes this in the most spiritual, profound way on this song. He has always aimed to make people happy, his litany of dance hits is proof of that, but this  one hits on another level. The ’60s back beat, straight out of the book of Benny Benjamin and Uriel Jones, is matched with a low down electric piano and bluesy tone. The blues scale is an actual rarity in “R&B” music these days, it seems black musicians RUN from that historic tone. But the triumph of blues music borne of the black experience is the ability to acknowledge sadness while promoting joy. That is why it is universal, because all of humanity seeks that, the combination of reality and hope. Pharrell embraces a bluesy, funky sound with an uplifiting beat that will make your backbone slip into the jerk, the mashed potatoes, and the monkey if you let it!

The R&B singer Tank, when asked about the struggles of R&B in recent years, made some very illuminating comments. He basically said R&B’s obssessive focus on sex and love have limited it. He mentioned “Happy” in particular as a type of song that “used to be R&B.” And it makes me proud that an artist primarily associated with hip hop laid this on the world. The reason is, for all the bad rap (pun intended) hip hop often takes (and gives), I do feel hip hop is the repository of black musical history and musical history in general that no other music is. Songs like “Hey Ya” by Andre 3000, “My Umi Says” by Mos Def, “Sexual Eruption” by Snoop Dogg, even Ol Dirty Basterd’s rendition of “Coldblooded”, reference the past and the fun spirits of past musics in a way few contemporary R&B artists ever attempt.

But the true genius of Pharrell is in his vision and his uniqueness. Pharrell and a handful of other artists, have always made me feel it was okay to be myself and pursue my own path. They brough the spirit I admired in Miles Davis, James Brown, George Clinton, Stevie, Sly, Marvin, etc, into the present day, when most of my peers would tell me, “That was back THEN.” And it is an amazing act for a black male artist at this time to stand up and make the whole world dance singing a song that says “I’m Happy.”

From the beginning, Pharrell understood this song was the people’s song.  I was amazed when he created the worlds first 24 hour music video, with people uploading their own videos dancing to the song, a truly democratic and positive use of current technology! And his song has become so big that the U.N used it as their theme for their “International Day of Happiness.” The video I posted is from Liberia, my mothers home country and a country both of my parents love dearly. Liberia’s main image currently is one of 19 years of one of the most brutal civil wars seen in recent memory.  But this was a country founded as a country of hope for individuals who were not allowed much in their home land. But Pharrell’s song and the “Happy” video show that the human spirit lives on, as it always has. My mother, who usually does not dig the message of many current musics, actually asked me to bring home Pharrell’s album for HER the other day. I often bemoan the fact that todays black music, in contrast to a song such as “Respect” by Aretha Franklin, is not often something kids and grown ups can share together. How can a consciounable parent bring their kids out to dance at 2 am to “All I want for my birthday is a big booty hoe?” But “Happy” is most definitely a song that makes both me and my mother dance. I heard another young lady say that she plays that for her kids in the morning when she’s taking them to school. At that, I’ll say Pharrell has made quite a contribution in his time to the never ending, always elusive human quest, and for 3 mintues and 53 seconds at a time, he plants his flag on that tall and distant summit of joy.

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Filed under Motown, Music, Music Reviewing, Pharrell Williams

Anatomy of THE Groove 4/11/14 Rique’s Pick: “Magnificent” by Steve Arrington & Dam-Funk

 

Steve Arrington and Slave, are one of the more underappreciated pure funk groups from a pop standpoint. However, in Urban communities, for a certain late Baby Boomer and early Gen X funk audience, they’re right up there at the top with Prince, Rick James, Cameo, and others who were hot in the late ’70s and ’80s. Lead vocalist Steve Arrington originally joined the group as a drummer, but his unique nasally, well enunciated vocals were discovered during the recording of Slave’s 1979 disco-funk classic, “Just a Touch of Love.” Arrington went on to make several important records himself, including “Weak at the Knees” and “Dancing in the Key of Life.” Arrington is a first rate drummer, of a heavy jazz fusion bent, and his vocals are very unique, influencing such later day artists as Keith Sweat. Arrington is also a pastor and imparts a positive, upbeat spiritual message to everything he does, encouraging and uplifting people.

Dam Funk of Stones Throw Records, the master of a genre he’s innovating called “modern funk”, did an album this past year with Arrington.  The album is a triumph of fat bottomed, big beat, West Coast funk, with Arringtons nasally, silky, langourous vocals motivating, serenading, and persuading. Dam Funk’s funk is clearly a West Coast vibe, and extension of the G Funk of Dr. Dre, DJ Pooh, Battlecat, Above the Law, E-40 and Too $hort, all West Coast Hip Hop artists who used instrumental funk to back up their raps, based on the late ’70s synthesizer “video game sound” of P-Funk, the music of Roger and Zapp, and several other artists who’s sound made up a transitional early ’80s funk sound called “Boogie”, a bridge between the disco-funk of the late ’70s and the electro-funk and freestyle of the mid to late ’80s.

“Magnificent” is a dreamy, heavenly ode to a special lady from Steve Arrington and Dam-Funk’s album, “Higher.” The track begins with a big, solid drum beat, reminiscent of a fat boogie beat like One Way’s classic, “Cutie Pie.” The hi hats play what I call a ‘Time Bomb’ pattern, tight, ticking 8ths, like the O’Jays intro to “Give the People What the Want”, minus the washed out reverb. Over the phat drumbeat, Dam-Funk layers his trademark synth pads, a bright, beautiful sound of discovery and new dawns. Dam Funk uses this pad sound to play the chord progression for the song, but it’s very dreamy and functions as sound as well as music. The connection is also there to the modern “chill” movement. It’s a sound very reminiscent of the Los Angeles life and sunshine.  The song also features the hallmark of the West Coast sound, fat analog bass. The groove is one that is great for getting going in the early morning or cruising around town with the top down.

Steve Arrington uses his plain, direct, well spoken lyrical style, articulated in his classy, well pronounced, crooning vocal manner. It’s a song of praise that is old school in it’s approach, how many R&B artists praise women these days? But it also has that modern edge Arrington has always had, “You know you treat your homie like a King/You know I treat my shorty like a queen”, “you’ve got that way/with so much swag/what can I say.” It works instead of falling flat because Arrington is a cool uncle, compared to other funk stars who’ve passed on to being father, even grand father figures. Arrington even delivers a spoken interlude toward the end where he rips off synonymous superlatives for “magnificent”, like “indefatigueable.” Most def a lesson in many ways.

Arrington and Dam Funk are doing a great thing here. The song is laid back Cali vibe , as is most of the album, and I was hoping for a little more of the dry, driving funk Arrington delivered on songs such as “Weak at the Knees.” But stylistic parsing of hairs aside, the pair deliver the goods in a positive, funky, chill way. Their album should be in the possession of anybody who needs good, positive kicking it music!

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Record Store Stories: A Sunny April Afternoon From Behind The Racks

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Today I decided that instead of offering up another volume of my Amazon Archive column, it would behoove me to take this time to introduce a somewhat less regular segment that may have the effect of enhancing the overall content of this blog.  Also it is nearly National Record Store Day,so it seemed appropriate to celebrate that somehow. As with many people in today’s world, I do some shopping online. Especially rare music-usually on Amazon.com, Ebay or reissue labels such as Wounded Bird or Funkytowngrooves. However with the return of the brick and mortar record stores within the last decade or so? My interest in perusing record shops,which has always been part of the musical experience for me,has been revived to an enormous degree. In this column, both myself and Henrique have the opportunity to discuss meaningful trips to record stores. In particular the locally owned ones I just spoke about. On a personal level? I will be avoiding any of the cynical, lovelorn’d  cliches of the stereotypical dysfunctional record collector/music admirer. Of course that having a lot to do with that stereotype having nothing to do with myself. So without further ado, here is such a story that happened less than a day ago from this writing.

Recently I had been browsing through my vinyl collection-much of which is in plastic crates in the basement of my family with whom I live, to see if there were any records that could eliminated from the collection as I had replaced them with CD versions. Please note that I collect vinyl based primarily on availability,not on credibility or any musical format elitism. I managed to collect about twenty records that matched this criteria in my hand. Carrying them up from the basement into the back of one of our family cars was literally a heavy load. With my parents work schedules being so intense and my emphasis on photography during this much anticipated springtime? It was finally bought to my attention by family that these vinyl records were taking up valuable space in the back trunk of the car. And that something should be done with them. For a short time I considered selling the lot on Ebay. But their selling policies have become so convoluted, to the point where you actually have to pay unless your item(s) sell, that it was having them assessed at the local vinyl buying record store would be the way to go.  And luckily I’d be right on time to have access to such a thing.

MINNIE Teddy PendergrassWhat Time Is It                     michael-jackson-forever-michael

Above is a sampling of some of the album covers to the records that I was looking to give away or sell off. I elected to go to the the record store who sign you see pictured above you-as it’s currently the nearest available and the one of which I am most familiar in the long term. In its previous location in the collage town of Orono,where it’d been for over a quarter of a century, Dr.Records has turned out to be the picture of endurance. Once a thriving haunt for record buyers and collectors during the 1980’s and into the early 90’s, it continued to operate well into the new millennium in this location selling used vinyl,45’s,cassette tapes and CD’s. But at the time it was located in the basement of another building and wasn’t greatly accessible to many people. On February 7th of this year, the stores owner Don Menninghaus moved the store to a new location on Hammond Street in Bangor. Its a far more centralized area-near the highway enough for both people from nearby towns and even tourists will have access to it. This new location is a much brighter and exciting looking place-with a distinctly 60’s/70’s era independent record store flavor about it with eye catching record sleeves and posters displayed on the walls.

At first,I was very concerned that Mister Menninghaus would have little to no interest in the lot of 70’s and 80’s era soul/funk/jazz/R&B vinyl I was trying to unload. There is a feeling this genre spectrum is not a huge seller in this area. Even on vinyl. Luckily when I entered the store yesterday afternoon, I was instantly greeted by the sounds of the song “Cane” from the 1978 Gill Scott-Heron/Brian Jackson album Secrets,which Don Menninghaus was playing on his turntable. So that helped me to feel more at ease. Because of my discomfort with the situation? It was my own mother who actually used her stronger business acumen to ask Don if was interested in any of the records. For his part? He set aside a small stack of several records from my lot,including the ones you see above you and offered $10 dollars for them. By that time I had been browsing the bins and found a new stack of vinyl to buy from him. In the $1.99 bins (always my favorite spot to find funk and soul vinyl generally),I noticed two collage age men looking through the bin and snickering at the very idea of albums by Little River Band and Pablo Cruise being in that bin alongside some early 80’s post punk records. Realizing Don Menninghaus is ever the reserved baby boomer? The generational difference between the quit,thoughtful store owner playing Gill Scott-Heron on his turntable and the display of the 90’s “credibility war” mentality from the two customers told its own meaningful story.

Upon checking out with Don,he immediately took interest in one of the vinyl records I was buying and this led into a discussion of our mutual admiration for the documentary film 20 Feet From Stardom, in particular the presence of the strong musical personality Merry Clayton. Don also inquired as to how my own personal music demos were going, something even I’d forgotten had been discussed with him. On that note he also mentioned that a recent record seller from Oregon had unloaded  a number of vinyl albums that he thought I would be very interested in. These were all late 70’s funk albums that were in very good condition and by and large included the original sleeves as well. Although I did spend probably more money that I ever had on vinyl yesterday? It was more than worth it-considering the relative unavailability of a lot of these records and the amount of time I’d been searching for them. In the end, this trip to the record store was not only successful for my own purposes. But also led to some very positive conversations with the store owner and the opportunity to tap my feet to Gill Scott-Heron’s “Third World Revolution” while looking at the vinyl at the store.  Not to mention Don’s understanding,after knowing me most of my life, in my established musical interests. It was a wonderful revelation that, even in an area such as this where rugged individualism is often more celebrated than anything else? That something like music can create bridges of understanding between people.

 

 

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