Category Archives: Sade

Anatomy of The Groove: “Turn My Back On You” by Sade

Sade are a band who’ve maintained a very distinctive musical sound. Always stripped down and always seductive,this London based group had an instrumental styling that made them seem like a chamber jazz group playing funky soul music. As Henrique pointed out to me at one point,there sound actually paved the way for 21st century neo soul in that regard. Even so,that special musical quality they continue to have just gives them a “Sade Sound” as it were. Mostly deriving from the Latin pop band Pride,they named the band after its lead singer Helen Folasade (Sade for short)  Adu after she joined in 1982.

Somehow,Sade were always a very big deal in my family. Even one breakfast cereal prize in the mid 80’s was a magnet depicting the cover art for their 1984 debut album Diamond Life. And songs such as “Smooth Operator”,”Hang On To Your Love”,”Sweetest Taboo”, “Never As Good As The First Time” and “Paradise” were a big part of how my view of music is shaped. The latter of those songs came from their 1988 release Stronger Than Pride. Over the years,its become one of my favorite Sade albums. And a favorite song from it for me has turned out to be “Turn My Back On You”.

A snare heavy Afro Brazilian drum shuffle,accented by percussive clavs with a deep 8 note bass line provides the intro to the song over two bars. By the third and fourth bars,a deep jazzy guitar plays a 14 note riff before a higher pitched rhythm guitar accentuates it with seven notes in a slightly higher chord. This represents the basic chorus of the song. On the refrains,Sade’s breezy vocalese is accompanied by a minor chorded keyboard part with the lower jazz guitar does some more improvisational solos underneath it. After several turns of this pattern,an extended version of the chorus fades out the song itself.

Most of Sade’s songs featured a conventional pop song structure with a hook filled chorus (usually with Sade’s own backup harmonies) and appropriate refrains. Many of them were very much funk and soul based with their jazzy quiet storm atmosphere. “Turn My Back On You” is one of the few Sade songs that takes their very distinctive sound to the musical land of heavy naked funk. The Afro Latin flavor is still a major part of the rhythm. But the groove stays on the one very completely. And doesn’t give way to any radio friendly pop structure. On the funky side of things,this might be Sade at their grooving best.

 

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Grooves On Wax: 1-9-8-4 Albums And 12″ Inch Singles

Ghetto Blaster

1984 was far from the Orwellian dawn of “big brother” in reality. As a matter of fact,artistic expression was such a diverse blend of older and newer influences. Music was feeling this most heavily. Synthesized new wave and electro styles had taken over in a major way. Yet there were still many live instrumental post disco/boogie funk offerings where electronics were mainly there as an accompanying sweetener. As much as many seem to dislike it,the Crusaders Ghetto Blaster is a superb example of this. It has both their strong live camaraderie and many of the newer synth funk elements as part of their brew.

Key Jams: “Dead End”,”Gotta Lotta Shakalada”,”Night Ladies” and “Zalal’e Mini”

Junie

This solo album by Walter Junie Morrison is one I’ve had since I started crate digging heavily in the late 90’s. And knew his name only because of his involvement with P-Funk. In keeping with mid 80’s recorded P-Funk,this album has a very pronounced electronic flavor-especially considering P-Funk helped pioneer electro funk to start with.

Key Jams: “Stick It In” and “Techno-Freqs”

Shalamar

Post disco veterans Shalamar went totally Minneapolis on their first album following the departure of Jeffrey Daniels and Jody Watley. Keyboardist/songwriter/singer Delisa Davis and guitarist/songwriter Micki Free (later referenced as part of a gag on the Dave Chappelle show about Prince and Charlie Murphy) give the album a more thoroughly electronic sound,yet filled with Shalamar’s customary melodicism.

Key Jams: “Dancing In The Streets” and “Melody ( A Melodic Affair)”

Human League

Human League are an excellent example to me of how many synth pop/new wave bands of the early/mid 80’s made very funk/soul structured music. Especially with the advent of the equally new wave/synth pop oriented funk of the Minneapolis sound during this same time. This was certainly their most danceable,funky and pop oriented record they had yet made. And with the production of Jam & Lewis right around the corner,it would only get even more so from here.

Key Jams: “Rock Me Again (Six Times)” and “The Sign”

Patti Austin

Patti Austin’s sophomore album for QWest  is a very different musical affair than her first from 1981. This album featured writing from Narada Michael Walden,and many of his musicians along with Quincy Jones. Overall the album generally has a more synthesized new wave rock flavor to it,especially on the first half. On the flip side however,Austin’s soulfulness and jazziness is given much more musical space to work with.

Key Jams: “Hot! In The Flames Of Love”,”Shoot The Moon” and “Fine Fine Fella (Got To Have You)”

One Step Closer

The Dells were a group I was first exposed to through…well my first exposure to vinyl collecting in 1994 when the local college radio station WMEB was giving away all their vinyl for free-seeing no future in the format (little did they know). From what I know of them now,this mildly jazzy boogie funk album is not the sound that The Dells are generally known for. But its still an excellent mid 80’s comeback for this classic Chicago soul group.

Key Jams: “Love On”,”Come Back To Me”,”Don’t Want Nobody” and “Jody”

Bonnie Pointer

Bonnie Pointer’s third (and until 2011 final) solo album was revealed to me as being a main cause of her retirement from music. Considering her personal situation,that is likely untrue. And its an unsung album at that since it very much mirrors the strong focus on electro funk and soul that her other three sisters were doing at the time. Of course in this case,with more of Bonnie’s own flavors added to the mix.

Key Jams: “Your Touch”,”Johnny” and “Tight Blue Jeans”

Windjammer II

Windjammer are a fairly obscure post disco band,who recorded three albums on MCA records between 1982 and 1985. This is their second album. This New Orleans based band had a musical approach similar to  Earth Wind & Fire,Con Funk Shun and Heatwave. That is in the sense that they emphasized a blend of strong vocals,melody,arrangement and top shelf musicianship in their mixture of funk and soul ballads. Makes me wonder what forces didn’t allow this very commercially viable group to take off they way they deserved to.

Key Jams: “Call Me Up”,”You’re Out The Box” and “Sneak Attack”

Shannon

Shannon’s “Let The Music Play” has become something of a classic in what is referred to as the Latin freestyle genre of techno dance music. That is blending synthesizers and drum machines with percussive Afro-Latin rhythms and melodies. And there’s no way I’ll disagree with that. Still this album isn’t one that generally lets up on the party atmosphere either-adding only the occasional slow ballad to change things up.

Key Jams: “Let The Music Play” and “Give Me Tonight”

1984 were a tremendous year for 12″ inch singles. One that I recently got a hold of was the one for the Jacksons’ 1984 song “Torture” from their  Victory album. The extended remix really brings out that funky synth bass pulse on the intro,which is also prominent on the instrumental version on the flip side.

Interestingly enough,one of these singles is just a 7 inch 45. And its for Sade’s ‘Hang Onto Your Love”. For me anyway,that particular song needs no introduction for its stripped down sophistifunk vibe. I brought this because it had a non album flip side called “Should I Love You”,which turned out to be a melodically sunny pop/funk uptempo number of the highest order.

Herbie Hancock really got the “electric Afro-pop” sound flowing on his 1984 album Sound System. And this 12″ incher for its song “Metal Beat”,given to me for my birthday one year by Nigel Hall,really emphasizes this aspect with the very tribalistic aspects Hancock and Bill Laswell bring to this extended dance mix.

“The War Song” is one of my favorite Culture Club songs. It blends their Caribbean soul/funk sound with a social message that sounds silly on the chorus,but during the refrain becomes quite dramatically poetic. This single is very interesting is that each extended mix it has,from vocal to instrumental,bring in an strong sense of Afrocentric tribalism as each progresses.

The first time I heard The Police’s Andy Summer’s remake of “Also Sparch Zarathustra” was on a local cable access music video program hosted by local DJ Chuck Foster in the late 90’s. The video to this song was once used on the closing credits for that show. Being a lover of science fiction and the two films in Arthur C Clarke’s “space odyssey” series,Summer’s dance/funk remix really caught my ear. The flip is the brittle new wave rock of “To Hal And Back”,which a very strong jazzy melody to it.

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Filed under 12 inch singles, 1984, 45 records, Also Sparch Zarathustra, Andy Summers, Bonnie Pointer, Culture Club, electro funk, Herbie Hancock, Human League, Human Leagye, Let The Music Play, Patti Austin, Sade, Shalamar, Shannon, The Crusaders, The Dells, The Jacksons, Vinyl, Walter Junie Morrison, Windjammer

Andre’s Amazon Archive for Valentines Day 2015: ‘Love Letter’ by R.Kelly

Love Letter

Hard to believe this guy is already in the middle of his second decade in music! In his some eighteen years of recording history he’s taken us down some very interesting and often innovative roads and,unfortunately some controversial ones as well. When it seemed that he’d gotton lost on his musical path on the releases following his excellent Chocolate Factory and Happy People / U Saved Me,both albums that were able to effectively blend some of the modern musical stylings with the melodic and rhythm textures of 70’s and early 80’s funk/R&B/disco he released this album that shows in every respect that the muse that inspired the creation of those two excellent albums is not only very much still there but still has enough room within it to grow and develop.

From the cover art to the music this album actually is a fitting tribute not only to “retro” styles of R&B,funk and soul but has the advantage of maintaining that flavor throughout,without the addition of hip-hop guest stars and any variation of that “”WHOA HO WHOA HO” chant over a digitized beat” style of contemporary R&B that has long since become overused even by Kelly himself. The title song,”Lost In Your Love”,”Just Can’t Get Enough”,”Radio Message” and the Chrisette Michelle duet of “Love Is” all are heavily indebted to that sound that bought the “stepping” revival into play during 2003/2004 and represents a style that works extremely well for R.Kelly’s style of singing,writing and lyricism-which here represents a turn toward elaborately chorded melodies and passionately sung lyrics that showcase a great deal of maturity and outward realization about love and life that the typically lustfull R.Kelly often skims over and/or ignores. The only time that (sort of) shows up is on the lusty “Taxi Cab” which is also the closest thing this album gets to contemporary.

Another highlite of this album is the light jazz-funk flavor of “Number One Hit”,which finds Kelly in his classic style comparing a lady to music by Michael Jackson and Sade and (even though not credit) the harmony vocals of the hook sound a lot like Sade in fact. The latter half of the album showcases Kelly putting a spin on the 60’s Motown/Vee-Jay style of soul balladeering (with the JB influenced mixed in) on “When A Woman Loves”,”Music Must Be A Lady” and “How Do I Tell Her”. Even though this style of R&B would’ve seemed retro even in the 70’s they showcase a very decent and human outlook on romance that speaks to Kelly’s more mature state of mind at this time and aware as I am of the duel sides of his romantic/sexual outlook I can only hope that this is more an outlook on the future than yet another sidebar. The album ends with his own version of “You Are Not Alone”,a song so linked with Michael Jackson that people tend to forget R.Kelly wrote it.

So all and all,considering the high level of musical and production quality that went into it this album might be looked at as a runner up for R.Kelly’s most impressive overall album. Now fans of his more sexually aggressive hip-hop/R&B style of music will not find exactly what they’re looking for on this album. But this album actually eludes lyrically to the fact that what constitutes for radio airplay has grown steadily more shallow over the years which,of course leads to a certain amount of self commentary in this case. One can only hope that the twin sides of R.Kelly’s nature have reconciled themselves to the point where him producing music of this quality can become the rule as opposed to the exception but we will just have to see what happens when his next album comes out.

Originally Posted On January 19th,2011

Link to original review here*

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Filed under Funk, Jazz-Funk, Michael Jackson, R.Kelly, Sade