Even by the time I was seriously (and unfortunately) giving this CD the slip in the mid 90’s? There was that wondering what might’ve been if Gladys Knight & The Pips were given the full support and development within Motown. True they were around long before the label was. That being said?
They just bought so much uniqueness into the classic Detroit soul sound. As performers? They had the (then) forward thinking approach of having a woman as the lead singer with the male backup singers. Musically they presented the most important new flavors to the label’s sound. But that’s the main story behind this review anyway.
The title song,with it’s electric piano and the somewhat doo-wop version of “For Once In My Life” are both ballads built around the rhythm guitar. “It’s Gotta Be That Way” and “Can’t Give It Up No More” are more piano driven gospel soul slow jams. “This Child Needs A Father” is a spare,slow grooving Staples-styled Southern funk driven by wah wah along with the albums sumptuous,bluesy strings.
The grinding bluesy funk electric piano/rhythm guitar grind of Bill Withers’ “Who Is She (And What Is She To You),the another uptempo wah wah driven groove in “Daddy Could Swear,I Declare” and the Rhodes piano and percussion driven uptempo groove of “Don’t It Make You Feel Guilty” round out the album.
From where I sit? This is one of those albums where the vibe of every song just totally works on every level. The ballads have strong melodic,vocal and instrumental meat about them. And the uptempo numbers never,ever for a moment try to fake how funky they are. And it’s that Southern fried funkiness of Gladys & The Pips that truly brings this album to life.
The whole thing actually has much more of a Stax flavor than a Motown one to me actually. Even the way the orchestration is used. All of these songs tell stories and have messages straight to the listener-all focusing on romantic and family love. It’s warm,intimate and deeply rootsy funky soul that I very highly recommend.
Originally posted on May 27th,2015
LINK TO ORIGINAL REVIEW HERE!
Filed under 1970's, ballads, Funk, funky soul, Gladys Knight, Gladys Knight & The Pips, Motown, Motown Sound, Southern Funk, Southern Soul, strings, wah wah guitar
From my own point of view? Average White Band are one of the prime examples of the funk genre’s ability to inspire young musicians the world over in the music’s salad years. It was the epitome of where the soul/R&B could go rhythmically. Still cannot tell you had many times I had AWB’s 1973 debut album Show Your Hand right in my hand on CD. And than decided not to pick it up.
Later on I learned it was reissued following the bands massive success with “Pick Up The Pieces” with a new title,new “sexy marathon runner” cover art and a bonus track-minus one song in “The Jugglers”. Somehow this combination of things made this edition seem more personally appealing. So when I finally tracked it down on vinyl earlier this year? It was a wonderfully gratifying experience.
“How Can You Go Home” starts out the album with a melodically strong,uptempo funky soul number. “This World Has Music” has a very similar flavor,only with an Earthier production and more sustained sax soloing. “Show Your Hand” has a similar flavor-only focused more on the percussive drumming and rhythm guitars. “Twilight Zone” is a mid-tempo funk soul ballad that showcases the bands trademark of very heavily emphasizing it’s rhythm section.
Alan Gorrie writes some clever lyrics to the Crusaders funk classic of the title song-done almost exactly as Joe Sample and company did it originally. “Back in 67” has a very Stax/Memphis soul mid tempo flavor,while “Reach Out” ads a 12 bar blues guitar solo into a more groovecentric funk take on that same sound. “T.L.C” ends the album on a romantically affectionate 8 minute groove right out of the rhythmically succinct and rolling mid 70’s James Brown school of hardcore funk.
While AWB would be excellent at mixing in modern production effects such as different reverbs and echos in their prime years? This album showcases their sound at it’s most raw and stripped down. The basic core of Onnie,Roger,Hamish,Alan and the late Robbie McIntosh. Their sound on these songs is very much in the key of what a lot of people refer to as the funk process.
A place in America where Southern soul,jazz-funk and the JB’s sound were all at their peak powers as the 60’s moved onto the 70’s. And it’s fitting that the title song of this album is a Crusaders cover because,for the most part,that bands down home,soulful and often tight instrumental fluidity best describes where AWB were taking their music during their pre Atlantic hit-making period. If I were to recommend a way to hear their earliest recorded material? I’d strongly recommend this one.
Originally Posted On May 6th,2016
*Link to original review here!
Filed under 1970's, Alan Gorrie, Amazon.com, Average White Band, Funk, Hamish Stuart, jazz funk, Music Reviewing, Onnie McIntyre, rhythm guitar, Robbie McIntosh, Roger Ball, Saxophone, Southern Soul, The Crusaders
Wilson Pickett is yet another artist whose music was extremely familiar to me before even knowing his name. “Wicked Mr. Pickett” started out in a gospel group during called The Violinaires in the mid 50’s. This led him to fame with the soul group The Falcons,who helped popularize gospel music to a broader audience. Pickett eventually got signed to Atlantic Records in New York where he recorded sides such as “If I Need You”,a ballad that the labels’ Jerry Wexler ended up giving to Solomon Burke. Burke himself liked Pickett’s version,but he had a huge hit with the song. So a dejected Pickett decided to focus less on soul ballads and more on uptempo numbers once officially signed to Atlantic.
Pickett’s mid/late 60’s recordings at the Stax in Memphis and Fame.in Muscle Shoals have become iconic songs. Especially in terms of marking soul music’s evolution from gospel based balladry into uptempo funk. Songs such as “In The Midnight Hour”,”Mustang Sally” and “Land Of 1000 Dances” came out of this era. One thing however that stands out to me is when an artist making funk music shows a lot of positive pride in declaring themselves to be funky. One such song from Pickett came courtesy of a band known as Dyke & The Blazers,written by it’s leader Arlester Christian in 1967. And the name of this song was”Funky Broadway”.
The bluesy guitar riff of Chip Moman opens the song. The rhythmic body of the entire is based on a thick,cymbal heavy beat from drummer Roger Hawkins,a rhythmic organ from Spooner Oldham and the crunchy bass of Tommy Cogbill. On the second chorus of the song, the horn section comes in playing call and response to Pickett’s vocals. They raise up in intensity as Pickett’s vocals grow even more powerful. There’s a bridge where Hawkins’ funky drumming is singled out with the bass/guitar interaction-with Pickett grunting along rhythmically. The horns are huge,thick and heavy on the final choruses of the song before it fades out.
This song fits pretty neatly into the vein of Wilson Pickett’s other mid/late 60’s uptempo numbers. They were all starting to move heavily toward funk. This song came out in 1967. It was the same year Aretha dropped “Respect”,and James Brown bought uncut funk to the masses with “Cold Sweat”. So Pickett and Chip Moman’s band were really bringing the gritty,countrified,slower tempo Southern soul dance thump into the funk process as it was actually happening. Again it cannot be stated enough how important having the word “funky” in the title of this huge hit song was to funk as a genre,rather than a mere musical term. So here Wilson Pickett officially earned his place in funk history.
Filed under 1960's, bass guitar, Chip Moman, drums, Funk, horns, Muscle Shoals, organ, rhythm guitar, Southern Soul, Stax, Uncategorized, Wilson Pickett
Al Green’s music has been a very key reference point on two musical levels for me. One is in my conversations with Henrique. The other is as one of the finest examples of funky soul or “sweet funk”-coming out of producer Willie Mitchell’s Hi studios in Memphis during the 1970’s. Green’s couple of handful’s worth of excellent albums during that decade are a ripe grapevine of these types of grooves. As consistent as his sound was? It seemed like the right time to showcase just how diversely funky this man’s music actually was.
Because it’s well known that Al Green focused mainly on the religious side of his music after the late 70’s? Curiosity drew me to the final album of his classic run-1978’s Truth N’ Time. That name alone said a lot about Green’s spiritual changes a the time. By this point? He was producing himself without the aid of Willie Mitchell-choosing instead to work with different associate producers. The result was music that often took different stylistic detours from his more personal stamp. “Wait Here”,from that aforementioned album,is just one such example.
The song begins with a heavy funky drummer with a powerful wah-wah guitar interacting with a low Clavinet playing the bass line. At the end of each chorus,there’s a musical break that features the chugging wah wah. On the bridge the guitar plays a countrified soul line with hot melodic horns that blast away throughout the remainder of the song-punctuating Green’s vocals as they go. On the final chorus of the song? Green himself plays a wailing and weeping guitar solo of the main vocal line that he used for rest of the song.
The musical genesis of this song is really compelling. It blends the basic melodic/rhythmic line from Sly & The Family Stone’s “Thank For Falettinme Be Mice Elf” with the keyboard harmonies of Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition”. Not only is Al Green blending two key elements of the early 70’s funk era during the disco era? But he adds his own spin to it. The melody,and in particular his closing guitar riff, dripping with the Southern fried 12 bar electric blues. Though it’s probably a somewhat forgotten groove? It’s one of his most compelling.
Musically the New Jersey born singer/songwriter Raheem DeVaughn’s music has interested me for some time. However something about his previous album A Place Called Loveland left me cold enough to return this album back to the store. The first time I ever actually did so with an album. When I heard the follow up was being realesed this year? I approached it with the idea of having an open mind and heart to an artist that presented the ability with what I’ve heard from him to do wonderful things musically. So considering the fact that DeVaughn seems to be linking each successive album in terms of a conceptual pattern? This still presented it’s own distinctive type of musical power even within that context.
This album essentially balances itself out across several stylistic approaches to it’s cycle of romance lyrical concept. After opening up with a musical recap of the previous album? Songs such as “Black Ice Cream”,”Miss Your Sex”,”Strip” and “Sun Proof (50 Shades)” all evoke different end of the Minneapolis approach to romantic soul balladry with a mixture of multiple vocal responses and dramatic drum machine and synthesizer orchestration-as well as some Southern Soul rhythm guitar riffing on the latter. “Queen” is a thick piano driven slow crawling funky soul ballad while “Nothing Without You” deals with a rhythmically percussive yet stripped down jazzy funk number. “Pretty Love” meanwhile is a passionately rhythmic dance/funk groove featuring the talents of Trombone Shorty-showcasing another strong Afro-Latin inspired percussion solo on the bridge.
“Temperature’s Rising” is a locked right in,bass synth accented slowed up funk stomp with DeVaughn and his own harmony’s acting equally as melodic and percussive elements. “All I Know In My Heart” is a pulsing,stripped down contemporary number while “When You Love Somebody”,”Terms of Endearment” and “Baby Come Back” are all greasy Southern Soul rhythm guitar and organ oriented ballads. “The last section of the album is something of a miniature cinematic soul suite of songs starting with the Leon Ware inspired string and rhythm section uptempo movement of “Countdown To Love,with it’s Brazilian drum pattern. “Feather Rock Lovin'” combines the approaches of Boney James along with The Illadelph Horns to express a mildly slower tempo’d variation of that sound with DeVaughn responding again between his vocal sighs,coos and cries. “Infiniti” ends the album with a climactic piano driven gospel soul tribute to romantic success.
So many male soul/funk artists since the mid 80’s have been somewhat recklessly declared “the next Marvin Gaye. From what I hear from this particular album? Raheem DeVaughn is one of a few artists in contemporary music who truly embody that identity. DeVaughn showcases on this album his grasp of the link in the chain between Marvin and Prince’s lustfully passionate themes as well as their two very different techniques of orchestration big,dramatic soul/funk music. The neo soul aspects of DeVaughn’s basic sound are there-from the vinyl scratch effects to the Southern style rhythm guitars. But the man’s powerfully jazzy gospel/soul pipes and dramatic instrumentation add a vitality and funkiness to the overall sound I seldom hear from artists who came out of neo soul. Honestly one of the very finest and complete musical statements I’ve heard Raheem DeVaughn do thus far!
Originally posted on February 17th,2015
Link to original review here*
For the last 16 years? D’Angelo has been missing in action as far as studio albums are concerned. While an enormous live revue in 2000 featuring his band the Soultronics-including people such as ?uestlove among the other members were hailed as some of the most promising new bands of it’s time. Of course so much as gone down in the music world since D’Angelo’s most recent and lengthy absences from recording. The call he and the Soultronics made about musicians taking the musical creative process back for themselves as really started to show itself during the latest recession-particularly within the last year or so. And with the reality of the need to free ourselves from racial hatred and privilege has all come together to create just the right atmosphere for D’Angelo and his new band the Vanguard-including former Time member in guitarist Jesse Johnson along with ?uestlove still on skins. And musically the man has a whole lot to say.
The album starts out with a deep,steely,thumping rock/funk number-both the guitar and bass lines possessed of massive funky bottoms and D’Angelo himself delivering his broad ranging,multi tracked Southern soul drawl of a voice. “1000 Deaths” samples a preacher talking about the idea of a nappy headed Jesus as the “new black messiah” over heavy funky drumming and slap bass thrusts with “D’Angelo’s heavily processed vocals accompanied closely by a staticky,revved up keyboard. “Sugar Daddy” gives a sitar led forwards/backwards looped drum oriented psychedelic soul rocker with a very probing melody. “Sugah Daddy” has this clapping,tickling percussion and this bluesy jazz/juke joint style piano commonly heard on many mid/late 70’s P-Funk records with some very scatting vocals-both solo and multi tracked. “Really Love” is a mixture of a hip-hop beat with a beautifully sensual Brazilian jazz melody.
“Back To The Future” is a two part number here-both of which take a strong countrified jazz-funk bounce with a melody that comes right from “The Charleston”,the iconic stride pianist James P.Johnson’s famous song that originated the famous dance. The second part coming near the closing of the album adds more of a bouncing Southern danceable funk rhythm to the outro. “Till It’s Done (Tutu)” is full of heavy bluesy guitar reverb and a very melodic slap bass line sharing the musical space with D’Angelo’s elaborate vocal turns. “Prayer” is a slow,dragging wah wah powered groove with a spacy synthesizer melody floating over the top. “Betray My Heart” is a swinging dyno’d up electric piano powered jazz-funk number with tons of liquid groove from top to bottom. “The Door” is a whistling powered instrumental slice of sweetly melodic sunshine pop/soul. “Another Life” closes the album with a beautiful orchestrated,thick soul ballad with D’Angelo’s high falsetto vocal calls and the ascending melody the perfect accent to the piano/sitar/drum/string swirls of the song.
One thing to say about this album is that it’s simply an amazing total musical experience! Yes that in a sentence does some it up! In fact I had to listen to much of it twice before this review to absorb just what comes out of it. If D’Angelo never recorded another album the rest of his life? This could easily be his defining swan song. Why is that? Well it just channels all the threads of D’Angelo’s musical influences. It has Stevie Wonder’s love of creating instrumentally new melodic sounds. Duke Ellington’s sense of swing and rhythmic dissonance. Al Green,Sly Stone and OutKast’s Andre 3000’s drawling vocal hiccups and stutters. Prince’s psychedelic mixtures of funk,rock and soul. Ron Isley’s high vocal cries and wails. And it doesn’t leave out the jazz age with it’s love of modern time and stride piano. And in the end? It’s all D’Angelo and all funky! Not to mention awe inspiring melodies with the power to connect to the people. And even if some of the lyrics are difficult to make out? The music says all it needs to say: differences should always be different,and lay comfortably side by side-not far apart. A grand comeback for D’Angelo linking the sociological and musical chains that made contemporary black America so special TO America!
Link To Amazon Review Here*
Filed under 2014, Afro-Futurism, Afro-Latin jazz, Al Green, alternative rock, Amazon.com, Blues, Brazil, D'Angelo, drums, Funk, Funk Bass, George Clinton, Hip-Hop, Jazz-Funk, Jesse Johnson, Marvin Gaye, Memphis Soul, Minneapolis, Music Reviewing, Neo Soul, Nu Funk, P-Funk, Prince, rhythm & blues, rock 'n' roll, Sly Stone, Southern Soul, Stevie Wonder
I first purchased this album the day it came out and,upon listening to it on the way home decided to toss it aside and let it collect dust. It was not because I didn’t like it but it seemed like there was so much gloomy,dark sounding music coming my way during this time and because there was so much hype in the press about the “relevence” of this album it was only natural I’d be a little let down anyway-that commonly happpens. So four years later I decided to give it a listen and see how it impacted me now. First off it’s important to note that this album is firmly the domain of a fully mature Mavis Staples and not the youthful soul shouter of her classic days with the Staple Singers.
She sounds like herself vocally but her interpretations have a heavy,craggy world weariness about them that’s quite appropriate for the kind of album this is.Produced by Ry Cooder this album is mainly composed of moodily chorded,heavy reverbed hard modern blues/soul/rock style versions of civil rights era protest/spiritual songs such as “This Little Light Of Mine”,”Eyes On The Prize”,”In The Mississippi River” and “Jesus Is On The Main Line”. The fact the little to nothing is known of those who made up these traditional songs Mavis and Ry almost make it sound as if they wrote the songs together as originals. The songs are played as if they’ve been written by the musician and Mavis,as always has exactly her way with them vocally.
Most of the album follows on this slow,heavy handed level as Mavis has obviously come to the conclusion we must not be lax in our outlook on civil rights because,in particular in the era this was recorded in it seemed as if things in that regard were taking a turn back. Seeing how poorly many people behaved during the 2008 presidential election she may have in fact been onto something. Only “99 And 1/2” and “My Own Eyes” have anything close to a dance tempo here. This is not exactly a happy album but it’s not pessimistic either. It’s rather resigned and that might be why upon first listen I had little to no reaction to it. It’s an album you will have to take time to really get into if your interested. But if you take the time the rewards are very worth it,especially for your soul!
Originally Review Written On May 14th,2014
Link to original review here!*
For the sake of the serious musicians and even serious funk/soul/jazz devotees? The fact that R.Kelly bought in 80’s era George Benson guitar understudy Bobby Broom to play on his 1993 solo debut 12 Play speaks volumes about the breadth of Kelly’s musical vision and talent. Though always acknowledging the man as a top notch composer? It was my blogging partner here,Rique,who hipped me to explore deeper into the joyous grooves of R. Kelly’s more recent work. One that stood out strongly in my mind was the title song from Kelly’s 2004 album entitled Happy People. Again,it has a way of projected two simple words that speak volumes more as well.
Beginning with a scratchy vinyl from Kelly’s MC,DJ Wayne Williams a spirited gospel/soul piano ushers in the song which Kelly himself announces as being “another one for the steppers”. Following this a scaling,high up on the neck Southern Soul guitar and horn fan fare starts up a slow paced funky soul groove. The rhythm is very similar to that slow Afro Latin type percussion that provided an important link between both the grooving Philly ballads of Thom Bell,the slow grooving sophisticated Southern Soul of Willie Mitchell’s Hi studio sound and the hardcore funk coming out of the early/mid 1970’s. Which in turn marked the beginning of the disco era.
The melodicism of the song also comes from a number of different places. There’s a clear,crisp and wavering high synthesizer line-as well an adjunct of the high on the neck Southern Soul guitar from the intro of the song. There’s also slap bass accents which provide the deeper end of this melody,as well as being rhythmically supportive as it is by nature in funky music. There’s also an string (or at least string type) orchestra that introduces the vocal chorus-before the bridge where Kelly directs the stepping dance affair he’s singing about to mainly the percussive beat,one keyboard line and that slap bass. All before returning back to the full arrangement as it closes out.
Considering R.Kelly came out of the more vocal and performance oriented soul/R&B attitude of the early 1990’s? He had by the turn of the millennium evolved into an artist who appreciated the art of melodic arrangement and the rhythmic process in his music. Even if he was often more in the position of utilizing the more hip-hop techniques of turntablists and samples to do so. He knows how to make modern musical methods and technology present a soulfully organic groove. And more over? He understands the art producing this down to a rich,creamy sheen.
In terms of concept,R.Kelly injects a huge amount of musical history into this one song. Vocally he’s evoking the smokey falsetto coos and calls of both Ron Isley and Al Green. He also utilizes the rich,gospel vibrato that was actually a carry over from Stevie Wonder’s enormous impact on the stereotypical new jack swing era male vocalist of Kelly’s generation as well. The fact that Kelly is able to project everything with great vocal clarity also adds to this. Everything from vocal soul to the melodic end of funk is strongly referenced by all of this. And it plays strongly to the basic lyrical content of the song as well.
The music video presents a soulful,cool and funky dance party in an ornate golden cathedral-covered in Renaissance art yet also featuring a live band and horn section. As well as a crowd dressed in funky urban hats,suits and dresses-many literally stepping in time. Stepping,which to me seems to be an extension on the hustle and the electric slide,is referenced along with the warm lyrical content of this song. It basically asks the listener to relieve their stresses by taking enjoyment in an elegant party atmosphere and dancing to the rhythm of the music in their life. It’s the basic link in that chain of the blues,jazz,soul up through today. And this is one of those songs that just puts it all together so well.