Category Archives: “Sexual Healing”

Anatomy of THE Groove: “Joy & Pain” by Maze featuring Frankie Beverly

Maze are one of the early 70’s Bay Area groups whose sound has really taken different directions as I grew. At first,Maze were presented as a late 70’s band (brought into the music industry at the encouragement of Marvin Gaye) who somehow represent the epitome of anti disco soul music. For the most part,I discovered quite a lot of their music was very bare bones mid tempo and slow jams. And as Henrique Hopkins pointed out,not really related to the musical vitality so important to funk music.  As with the very bluesy and folksy Bill Withers before them,Maze come off now as predecessors to neo soul.

What the craggy (and very distinctive) voiced Frankie Beverley and Maze do have is a strong sense of song craft and thoughtful lyrics. Its not a particularly youthful sound though. Its what a lot of people now call “grown folks music”.  Rickey Vincent aptly referred to them as a “soul band”. Maze’s lyrical content is generally philosophizing in the manner of an adult whose kind of “seen it all” as they say. Sometimes the mood is joyous. Sometimes somber. And always reflective. A good example of their music that actually got a significant groove going to it was the title song to their 1980 album entitled  Joy And Pain.

A Brazilian tingled drum with electronic hand claps start off the song. For the next 1 minute and 50 seconds Fender Rhodes,a ten note bass line,Beverly’s rhythm guitar and harmonic layers of melodic and string synthesizer build slowly into the arrangement before Beverly’s vocals. This represents the main body of the song-save for a bridge where the string synthesizer leads a jazzier melodic movement. On the choruses,backup vocals assist Beverley. All the while with a group of chirping,bird like synthesizers tweeting in and out of the mix. This chorus extends to fade out the song.

As with most uptempo Maze songs,the production is bare bones. What gets me about this song is the electronic touches that serve to give the song some musical life to it. The melody has a lot of jazzy harmonies to it. And the fairly unadorned instrumentation helps accent its vocal/lyrical showcase. Lyrically,this song does impress me personally. Its basically Beverly musing on different variations of the chorus that says “joy and pain are like sunshine and rain”. In the end its not at all cynical because,as it points out,things we love give us so much pain is due to a matter of two sides of the same coin.

 

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Filed under "Sexual Healing", 1980's, Frankie Beverly, Maze featuring Frankie Beverly, Neo Soul, soul band

Anatomy Of THE Groove for 12/14/2015: “Holiday Love” by Tuxedo

Tuxedo have already been pretty thoroughly covered on Andresmusictalk already. And it looks like Mayer Hawthorne and Jake One are at it again. Just in time for the holidays too. Since I got back into doing this blog with my “five days of funk” concept?  Have had some difficulty finding any nu funk to cover,which was part of my original intention. And this single of a new Stone’s Throw label compilation came at me via my YouTube subscription to the duo’s channel on that site. And the name of the song is “Holiday Love”.

The groove gets going with a percussive,mid tempo drum machine rhythm. This is first accompanied by a glossy orchestral keyboard harmony, along with a round and brittle synth bass line. The chorus is sung Roger Troutman style by Jake through a Vocoder. On the second chorus sung with Hawthorne harmonizing on lead? It’s all accompanied by the sound of sleigh bells in a similar manner to the Average White Band’s “School Boy Crush” from 40 years ago this year. It all outro’s it begins, along with the orchestral synth wailing away.

In many ways? This song completes an important multi generational triad of Christmas themed funk. It probably began with James Brown’s “Santa Claus Goes Straight To The Ghetto” in the late 60’s,continued on a couple years later with Donny Hathaway’s iconic funky soul of “This Christmas” and ends with the 80’s electro funk revivalism of this jam from Tuxedo. Musically it blends elements of Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing” and Zapp’s “Computer Love”. Topped off with Mayer Hawthorne’s soulfully honey’d lead vocals.

Message wise the song is right on time. The music video depicts Mayer and Jake pitching woo to their girlfriends-culminating with drinking wine in bed-while all sharing in their musically creative process. It’s just a simple idea of setting time aside for your romantic partner as a holiday gift. Since the last three holiday seasons have consisted mainly of depressing,gun related mass shootings and the conservatively motivated contrivance of the “war on Christmas”? This funk will not only move,but might just remove those undesired effects this holiday season.

 

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Filed under "Sexual Healing", 2015, bass synthesizer, Christmas music, Donny Hathaway, drum machine, elecro funk, Jake One, James Brown, Marvin Gaye, Mayer Hawthorne, Stone Throw Records, synth bass, synth funk, Tuxedo, YouTube

Anatomy Of The Groove For 1/30/2015-Andre’s Pick: “Affection” by Jody Watley

Jody Watley’s life and career literally started out riding on the Soul Train. She started out there as one of the most famous of the line dancers along with future Michael Jackson choreographer Jeffrey Daniels before they became the founding members of Shalamar-the group Don Cornelius helped to build. Eventually marrying Prince’s former musical partner Andre’ Cymone she had some wonderfully funky dance hits at the end of the 80’s such as “Looking For A New Love” and “Some Kind Of Lover”.

By the mid 90’s Wately’s commercial success on her label MCA had began to try up. A lot of this had to do with the fact that her music trajectory was talking her in much more of a creative and soulful direction. Music during the mid 90’s had definitely taken a turn towards slower paced,often funkier grooves depending on the music personalities for those involved. She than recorded her fifth album in 1995 for the Avitone label and proceeded to take more control over her creative career with songwriter/multi instrumentalist Derrick Edmonson. Thus the album Affection and it’s title song were born.

Starting out with the ringer of an answer phone where Watley speaks of her new song and asks the answering party to “fill in the blanks”,the song kicks into gear with a slow funky drum and three layered keyboard lines. The melody is a round high pitched synthesizer,followed closely by a hissing electronic harmony. The other is a popping high bass line that punctuates both the harmony and main melody. Jody sings the body of the song with a lower,Sly Stone like drawl and the chorus in a high,sexy gospel inflected tone. The instrumental bridge features a bluesy guitar,turntabling and a sax solo from Edmonson that comes directly from the melodic horn line of Maceo Parker’s from James Brown’s “Cold Sweat”.

Jody describes this song at the beginning as being “a little Sade,a little James Brown a little Miss Jody Watley”. That in a nutshell describes the groove she gets on this song. It has the sleek,rolling,sexy shuffle groove,jazzy harmonics and thick layers of rhythmic keyboard tones overall. That also gets her into the Mary J Blige/TLC vein of hip-hop/soul friendly contemporary pop-funk grooves of the mid 90’s. A longtime AIDS/human rights supporter,Watley even gives this sexually themed song a broad social message with the chorus of “doesn’t matter if your young or old,doesn’t matter if your straight or gay,everybody needs to feel loved”. It’s total funky,all inclusive sexuality. Where everyone can be who they were born to be and sensuality comes without fear. For me? It’s the culmination of Jody Watley’s strong musical and lyrical assertions of the groove!

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Filed under "Sexual Healing", 1990s, Derrick Edmonson, Funk, Hip-Hop, James Brown, Jazz-Funk, Jody Watley, Mary J. Blige, pop-funk, TLC

The Anatomy of THE Groove 08/15/14 Rique’s Pick : “Sex” by Lenny Kravitz

Lenny Kravitz has had a unique place in popular music over the past 25 years, particularly in black music. When he got his contract, the idea of a black musician was almost abstract, particularly playing the types of solid classic rock, retro funk and soul sounds he’s become famous for. Kravitz has been needed over the years because ears and booties need a break from the drum machine every now and then, but the man has faced criticisms himself for being stuck in the same groove from time to time. Todays song selection, “Sex” from his upcoming album “Strut” finds him in a new bag, a monstorous funk/rock/disco tune in the tradition of The Stones “Miss You”, David Bowie’s “Golden Years”, and many other rock meets funk junctions. Kravitz adds his one of a kind vocal phrasing that mixes gospel type joy with rock and roll exuberance and the results are something much funkier than your average headbang!

The song wastes no time establishing the groove. A drum roll announces the song, leading into a washed out, high in the mix, reverberating drum track. The guitar plays a funky  riff, heavily phased and eq’ed in a dominating rock and roll manner. The bass line is a real beauty of simplicity, taking in part from classic funk bass lines like Chic’s “Good Times”, “Ape is High” by Mandrill, and “Hollywood Swinging” by Kool & the Gang, announcing itself by playing the same note three times, right on top of the beat. The bass is a four bar pattern, and its both funky and rock solid. The track gives the effect of an extremely funky power rock trio playing, in which the instruments have lots of room to make an impact and the sound is filled up by adding effects to make the music sound monstorous.

Lenny sings a song of sexual gratification, and even though the song title is blatant, his lyrics are in the best tradition of soul and R&B suggestion.  He tells his woman: “Breathe me, tease me/Cant control how I feel when you’re near me/I cant do nothing about it/got that feeling coming over me.”  Lenny sings the verse in a basic rock shouting manner, but switches on the refrain to a gospel joy vibe much more akin to Al Green on “Take me to the River.”

Around 2:05 in to it, Lenny plays a very funky vamp, with a galloping type of disco beat and a middle eastren melody, leading back to him vamping on the refrain and the chorus. The song only has two verses, and ends, as we’ve seen a few funk songs going back to lately, with an extended instrumental playout.

“Sex” is a good song, a reminder to a time many often forget when funk, disco, and rock all converged. If one listens to it and the other song so far released from “Strut”, “The Chamber”, it sounds as if Kravitz is exploring funky disco rock, New Wave, and Dance Rock/Dance Punk styles. If that’s the direction he’s going in this album I’m happy for it, as the intersection of funk and rock has always been his natural area, and he might very well find an inspirational new sound by bringing his musical excavations up to the late ’70s on through the ’80s. But until the album does drop, my morning runs are going to be accompanied by the sounds of “Sex.”

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Filed under "Sexual Healing", 1970's, 1980's, Blogging, Disco, Funk, Music Reviewing

Anatomy of THE groove 5/16/14 Rique’s Pick : “Good Kisser” by Usher

 

2013 was a great year for funky singles in the mainstream music world. Records like “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke, “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk ft Nile Rodgers and Pharrell Williams, and of course, the international smash “Happy” by Pharrell, carved out a strong place both on the dance floors, on peoples cell phones, and laptops and tablets, and at all sorts of social outings. They were ubiquitous enough to terrorize millenials weaned on auto tune and more rigid, computerized beats. I’d wondered for some time when one Usher Raymond would come on in and join this funky party. Ushers spent the better part of the past few albums chasing down European EDM dance while his blue eyed soul conterparts splashed torso deep into funk. Despite Ushers impressive career resume, outstanding charisma, and great dancing and vocal talent, I thought he’d forever be chained to the tastes of the teeny bopper side of the “urban” crowd, the one that votes your video to the top of BET’s 106th & Park.  I got a firm backhand from Mr. Raymond earlier this month when he released today’s fonky pick, “Good Kisser.”

“Good Kisser” is a dramatic, funky song of sensual romantic praise. It has a mean groove and is centered in its funky rhythms as Usher also puts on a clinic in various tonalities of soulful male vocals. The topic is pure sensual satisfaction, placing it in the line of many great soul songs of the past, including Ben E King’s “Supernatural Thing”, but that topic of sensual satisfaction, of a man giving praise instead of shaming for the sensual gratification he gets, is one that was once prevelant in R&B but has been far less so since Hip Hop’s locker room slut shaming came to predominate.

One of the first things I notice about the song musically is how heavy it is on the ONE, the first beat of the measure that provides a musical grounding point that James Brown told us was the most important beat and George Clinton expanded into a way of life. The song is built on this “ONE” centered drum and bass part. The drum simply plays kicks on the first beat and the third beats of the four four measure. There is no snare drum on the back beat, the “2” and “4”, in fact, for the whole song, there is no snare, saving the snare drum pick ups on the upbeat that lead our ears and bodies back to the “ONE.” The snare drum pick up, occuring on the upbeat of beat three, is matched by a low register, serious three note bass line. That bass line lands on the “ONE” of the next beat, sounding like a firm period at the ending of the sentence, or a word that contains the message of the beat. This upbeat drum pickup landing on the one sort of gives the song a funky West Indian or Carribean flavor. The bassline is the major motif of the song, as Usher builds vocal lines off the notes and the rhythm of this bassline later in the song. The drum beat and bass line continue the same way for the entirety of the song, as Usher adds different vocal textures, various chord progressions come in, and the basic drum beat is augmented with percussion, but the basic bass and drum motif remains unchanged, rigid, and marching on with an almost martial, military feel.

The scene is set by the four bar intro of the bass and drums, which gives you an expectant, almost cinematic military feel. This feel is rather enhanced in the music video as the music video takes place in a cold grey enviroment. Usher whispers romantic encouragements and flirtatious phrases during the intro. Following the intro, Usher sings in what is a new vocal tone for him to my ears, a funky, spoken/sung baritone. It takes both from classic funksters like Larry Blackmon (without the extra “ow”) and funky ’90s hip hop oriented singers like Portrait or BBD or Blackstreet. Usher uses this funky baritone to tell his lady (and by extension us) ” I Done been around the world/I Done kissed a lot of girls”. Right away he positions himself lyrically as a romantic lover of great experience, a grown man. That’s one of the things I like about this track, while so many in pop culture strain for youth today, Usher embraces a youthful but experienced lyrical perspective.

After 8 bars of that funky baritone, Usher gives us 8 bars of falsetto. The falsetto is right there on the sensual edge, like Marvin Gaye or Al Green, the sound of a man at HIS sensual edge. Then Usher comes with another vocal tone for the pre chorus, another baritone sound, but smoother than the rhythmic baritone of the verse. And I’m crazy about the way he begins it :

“The Devil is a Lie/ Them other girls/can’t compete with mine”

I dig the lyric so much because “The Devil is a lie” is a phrase you’ll hear all day among black evangelical thinking communities. I love Ushers usage of it in a “profane” sexual context though, which is a great part of the tradition of black music, the conversation between the spiritual and the sensual, as Ray Charles did way back on “I Got a Woman.” Usher uses it here to place his woman above any and all competition. The other thing I like is the vocals on this pre chorus are based around the rhythm and notes of the bass line. This pre chorus as well as the chorus also introduce harmony into the song, brightening it up with a jazzy chord progression, while the militant rhythm remains unabated. For the chorus itself, after so much rhythmic wordiness, Usher relaxes, one might say climaxing, simply singing “She’s such a good kisser” both in lead and harmony. Usher comes back after that with a powerful full voice vocal, building up to the gospel melismatic style. I like that. Oft times in R&B the last 20 years or so, singers have overdosed on runs before the song even starts. Here Usher builds up to the climax we all seek, and I think the song is much better for it.

I love the rhythmic orientation of the song as well as Usher’s vocal performance. He gives us baritone, falsetto, and his natural high tenor stretched out to the max, while also going between choppy rhythms and looser, more flowing parts. The song also revitalizes the classic R&B hallmark of double entendre, as he actually says in the song “Cant nobody kiss IT like you.” However, for those with virginous ears, they can simply choose to hear the rather benign “You’re such a good kisser.” But one day they will wonder why a grown man was singing about a woman being a good kisser with such passion and excitement!

One of the things that shows me Usher really has something with the song is the mixed responses to it on the net. There are some folks who totally get it, in the vein of “thats REAL music.” And there are other young people who simply dismiss it as, “It’s garbage” or “he could have done much better.” I think for the young, many of them don’t understand AT ALL the soul/funk/jazzy music practices Usher and crew are laying down here, nor the tradition of being right on the lines of nastiness in lyrical forthwrightness. I hope they get on board though, because Usher’s “Good Kisser” has the potential to be a game changer in a funky R&B sense. I also have to give props to my man for posing in the video playing the drum fill, which kinds of gives people a visual of how the music would LOOK being played. It’s early, but I might have found the song to give me my funky summer swagger.

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Filed under "Sexual Healing", Funk, Funk Bass, Marvin Gaye, Music Reviewing, Neo Soul, Radio, Rhythm, Soul