Time and again,instrumentalists who make hit songs function as they do take a faraway back seat to the performers in front of them. This is especially true for session musicians. But it happens in self contained bands as well. One such case was T.J Tindall,the guitarist for the Philadelphia International Records house band MFSB. He not only played on the Soul Train theme song “TSOP”, but contributed that famous down home guitar solo from The Jackson’s “Enjoy Yourself” which I recently overview’d on this blog. The news came to me yesterday from my friend Henry Cooper that Tindall had passed away at age 65. Saddest part is that I’d never heard of this musician before in my life.
MFSB had a similar musical function on the East Coast that Barry White’s Love Unlimited Orchestra had on the West Coast. That is fusing a string orchestra with a hard grooving rhythm section and backup vocalists. Both bands had records of their own out. The difference was that MFSB were not focused on backing up a single artist,much as Stax’s Booker T & The MG’s and Motown’s Funk Brothers had been before them. And they allowed for that ethic to transition from the earlier funk/soul age into the disco era. One song that struck me strongly came from later in their career-their 1980 swansong in fact. And it’s the title track to that final album called “Mysteries Of The World”.
Starting out with a synth phaser’d hi hat accompanied by sweeping cinematic string arrangements,the uptempo rhythm sections kicks right into gear after this intro. It features the drums accentuated by dancing percussion. The bass line has a harmonically rich jazziness about it with a strong thump-with the liquid guitar popping along like musical dewdrops falling on top of it. The processed keyboards providing the melody are accompanied by high pitched,bell like synthesizers on the choral refrains. On the second refrain,a synth solo duets with the strings and extends into a Brazilian style bridge where everything comes together before a more rocking guitar solo fades the song out.
Admittedly I have not heard a lot of MFSB in terms of their full length albums. A lot of what I did hear of them focused on the big orchestration. This song is very different. It strips the song right down to the drums,bass and guitar. On that groove,T.J Tindall’s sound on this seems like a small one-accenting the bass line mainly. But it actually provides a key part of the instrumental flow. Generally speaking I’ve noticed that rhythm guitarists seldom reach out to listeners the way the lead “guitar heroes” who step out front do. Still this proto post disco/boogie number is among my favorites that MFSB put to wax. And a fitting tribute to a now passed instrumental icon in Tindall.