Category Archives: rock and soul

‘Prince’@37: A Sophomore Album That Wasn’t Treated So Bad

Prince 1979

Prince really did create a technical and musical marvel with his debut album For You. Still out of Prince’s two albums of the late 1970’s,its his second self titled effort that proved to be his commercial breakthrough. That is in the sense he had a tremendous hit with it. That hit was “I Wanna Be Your Lover”. This was late 70’s sophistifunk at its sauciest-with a sleek groove that’s both sweetly melodic,but has a full on chunky bass/guitar groove about it. It started off this album. And its also the song that many mainstream pop music listeners pre 1980 might cite as the very first Prince they’d remember hearing.

I first became aware of this record through a handful of its songs making the cute of Prince’s first anthology set The Hits/B-Sides. So its probably best to discuss those songs first. “Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad” is a very mainstream rock tune with some glistening,melodic power chords from Prince on this song written by Andre’ Cymone. The other is a classic Prince one man band version of “I Feel For You”. This is the first version I heard. And due to that reason,much as I love Chaka Khan’s far more famous cover,that’s pretty much its own thing next to this version.

Whats so interesting about this album for me is 3/4 of it is slow ballad oriented. When I first picked up the CD pre-owned,all there was to listen to CD’s were undependable bar code scanners some stores had. So it was a surprised that some songs such as “When We’re Dancing Close And Slow” and “Still Waiting” were rather country western/pop flavored ballads. “With You” has a 1950’s doo wop flavor to its slow ballad flavor. Of the slow songs on the album,my personal favorite is “It’s Gonna Be Lonely”-which has a then contemporary progressive soft rock flavor about it with its processed guitar reverb.

My favorite song on this album of course is “Sexy Dancer”. This is almost an instrumental. Prince’s panting becomes a percussive element to this lean,mean bass/guitar extravaganza that points to Prince’s signature early 80’s funk sound. Not to mention the jazzy Yamaha electric piano solo he takes on the bridge. “Bambi” is the other rocker here. This is a crunching hard rock number too. The focus of the song is on Prince having a crush on a woman who turns out to be a lesbian-spending the chorus trying to convince her “its better with a man”-seemingly for his own physical benefit only.

In the end,I have to agree with Prince on this album. It served its function very well in getting more people interested in his music.  And as he implied,it did what it he intended it to do by featuring some strands of late 70’s pop music. On the other hand,Prince’s frank take on the sexual revolution of disco era and the albums general emphasis on funk made it clear the type of musician Prince would be. He would make melodies,rock out but never totally give up on the funk. In as much as it laid the blueprint for his commercial approach of the early 80’s,this album is a very significant one for Prince.

 

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Filed under 1979, ballads, classic albums, Funk, Minneapolis, Minneapolis Sound, Music Reviewing, Prince, rock and soul, rock guitar

Revolver At 50: A Musical Revolution Enters Middle Age

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Writing about The Beatles for me (especially on a blog that isn’t essentially rock focused) proved to be grounds for a lot of reflection. Also,how much more writing and analysis can really be done about the Fab Four by anyone? In the end,The Beatles remain a band who always seem to engender new impressions of them. Only half of the band that defined a generation are alive today-namely Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney. Yet no matter what the two of them are doing today,whether doing albums of standards or performing in Maine with Todd Rundgren,its The Beatles that tend to always define them.

There’s one Beatle album I tend to view more as their definitive statement. And its not Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band-now itself an adjective describing any artist/band’s album masterpiece. The album I’m talking about is Revolver. It came out on August 5th,1966 in the UK. It represented for the Beatles a change in their performance ethic. The band members wished to concentrate more on their musicality as opposed to simply rocking hard for a sea of screaming fans in Beatlemania. So they stopped touring after this album. Which dovetails into the major revolution this Beatle album brought about.

Over the years,many rock musicians have tended to view their art in a rather more conservative way. Namely the idea of “rock is being able to pick up a guitar in a garage and just play 3 chords”. Rock ‘n roll is basically a very simplified variation of the 12 bar blues anyway. From the get go,The Beatles always had other things in mind. Songs such as “And I Love Her”,”If I Fell” and “In My Life” showcased the Lennon/McCartney talent for modulation-featuring unexpected chord progressions that were often very jazz and Brazilian in nature. Revolver took all of this to the next level.

McCartney for his part used his fascination with musique concrete by integrating backwards tape loops into many of the songs on this album-which came into play on Lennon’s Tibetan based psychedelic blowout album closer of “Tomorrow Never Knows”. These were fashioned in very melodic ways,not for showiness. Songs such as “Elenore Rigby” showcased producer George Martin’s symphonic strings as opposed to the Beatles rhythm section. John Lennon’s usually simple,almost punk style attitude about music began to change on the jazzy chord progressions of “I’m Only Sleeping”.

George Harrison even incorporated his newfound love of East Indian classical music into the song “Love You Too”. He combines Tabla drums and sitar with a melody that showcases that he is not writing a three chord pop song with Indian instruments. That he has come to understand the basics of the Indian classical forms fairly well. McCartney really shines strong on this album overall. One of my favorites is his melding of English marching band horns with a contemporary American soul shuffle in “Got To Get You Into My Life”,which inspired a hit cover version by Earth Wind & Fire twelve years later.

There’s little denying that all 14 songs on this album are amazing. But the ones I discussed merely reflect the level on which the Beatles were innovating rock. And at a time when the genre was entering its preteen years. This album contains a series of catchy pop songs,yet ones with unexpected chord changes. It also contains melodically strong music based in non Western forms such as Indian and middle eastern modalities. Above all,it does so with the keen understanding that what a rock band “rock” over is potentially the most enduring aspect of the music. And that’s what I feel as Revolver  turns 50.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under 1966, classic albums, European Classic Music, George Harrison, Indian Classic Music, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, pop rock, Psychedelia, Ringo Starr, rock 'n' roll, rock and soul, rock guitar, The Beatles

Hall & Oates,Sharon Jones & Trombone Shorty at Bangor,Maine’s Waterfront Pavilion on July 14th,2016

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Daryl Hall and John Oates provided me with the first pop song I remember hearing in “I Can’t Go For That”. Since their music shaped what I listen for on the radio,it was extremely exciting that these now Rock ‘N Roll Hall Of Famers decided to make a tour stop at Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion,Bangor Maine’s major outdoor concert venue. Attending a Hall & Oates concert with great seats and a price would be amazing in and of itself. But in 2016 they are touring with two of other musical acts that are among the funkiest people at this time: Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews and Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings.

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Trombone Shorty was the first act in the set. He and his band were amazing showmen. Especially in Andrew’s facility with both the trombone and cornet.

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The interplay between Andrew’s and his two sax players was incredible. And one of them provided some amazing solos as well.

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Andrew’s conducted his band in the classic jazz/soul tradition of using his body and dancing as a human baton. This really added to the entire showmanship of his show.

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Sharon Jones is a true soul survivor. Her entire performance was based around her still being treated for the cancer that nearly took her life several years ago. Her powerful Tina Turner like vocals and fast,joyous physical moves and dances (plus her bright yellow dress) lit up the stage brighter than the sun that had finally set when she began performing.

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The Dap Kings come to LIFE when their horn section are blowing,especially when seen on the stage when your hearing them in person.

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Of course,no funk band is quite complete with it’s bass/guitar interplay. And the Dap Kings always have that covered!

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Hall & Oates game out to an excited house dancing and singing along. One thing the duo and their amazing onstage band did is present their classic 70’s and 80’s hit songs in new and unique ways. But the people attending the show still loved listening to them.

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Daryl & John seem to have been in different areas of Maine before,especially with Daryl restoring an house in Kittery Point. The duo’s interplay with each other flowed so smoothly-in the way that musicians who’ve played together professionally for over 45 years tends to do. When it began to rain,Daryl kept the audience into the show by saying “It’s raining,but your tough in Maine right?”

 

John Oates and the band’s second guitarist really rocked out on solos and lead lines throughout the show-especially between the songs hooks.

One of the very first things I remembered observing about Hall & Oates was the amazing bands they had throughout their career. Between the bassist,drummer/percussionist and a sax player who was almost as much a star of the show as Daryl and John,their musicality shined brightly as a unit as well as with their amazing songs-among them a jazzy funk live instrumental take of “I Can’t Go For That” which went on for over 8 minutes.


Because the audience was applauding so hard when their names were announced,I never did quite hear the names of Hall & Oates terrific band members. But everyone from that band,Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings and Trombone Shorty were amazing! It is the very first funk/soul revue show I’ve ever seen live in my own hometown. And being able to experience the music,sing it and photograph it is something I will never forget for the rest of my life.

 

 

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Filed under 2016, Bangor Waterfront Pavilion, concerts, Daryl Hall, Funk, Hall & Oates, horns, John Oates, Live music, rock and soul, Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings, Trombone Shorty