Marcus Miller is probably my favorite contemporary funk bass players. The youthful prodigy was discovered by by Michael Urbaniak in the mid 70’s. He went on to have a 15 year long career as a session bassist-recording with everyone from Luther Vandross,Bryan Ferry to perhaps his most famous stint as the right hand man in Miles Davis’s early/mid 80’s band. How many bassists who emerged after 1974 had that breadth as a player. Later in the 80’s,he became a musical director of NBC’s Sunday Night Live-as well as being a member of the house band for the show. This was yet another musical feather in his cap.
Marcus’s career came to my personal attention via a cassette tape that my father picked at a local thrift store. It was of Marcus’s self titled sophomore solo album. His solo career was at first more instrumentally informed by his work with Luther Vandross at the time-especially in terms of uptempo tunes. Following him being the main musical figure (in lieu of the absent Prince) on Miles Davis’s 1986 album Tutu,the sound of Marcus’s solo albums from 1993 onward follow more in Miles’s direction. His 1983 debut Suddenly showcases another side of his talents with songs such as “The Only Reason I Live”.
Yogi Horton starts off this song with a fast rolling drum-one that hits fast and hard every other beat on the snare. That in addition to providing a Mutron-type,round filtered drum flash on the next beats. Marcus comes in with a brittle chicken scratch guitar-throwing down a fast ans ascending synth bass line underneath it. On the choruses,he adds a high pitched blast of synth blast. The bridge features Marcus scat singing over the even more kinetic drums and synth solos. On the final refrains of the songs,Marcus’s thumb slams away on the electric slap bass as well just before the groove fades away.
As times marched on,this has become one of my favorite early vocal funks jams from his first solo career in the 80’s. On songs like this,Marcus merges two vital elements of boogie/post disco synth funk. It has the fast dance tempo and instrumental flair of a Quincy Jones Westlake production like “Love Is In Control”. But it also has the brittle, stripped down sound of a Prince song such as “Erotic City”. Considering that,aside from Yogi Horton’s drums,that Marcus played all the instruments on this song showcases he was on the funky musical forefront even early on in his solo career.
Filed under 1980's, Boogie Funk, chicken scratch guitar, drums, elecro funk, Funk Bass, Marcus Miller, naked funk, post disco, session musicians, slap bass, synth bass, synth brass, Uncategorized, Yogi Horton
Luther Vandross is one of the later journeyman soul/funk artists of the late 20’th century. This native New Yorker ended up writing for David Bowie,Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway and even a song for the original stage production for The Wiz. A year later he joined up with former members of his early group the Shades Of Jade to form the singing quintet called Luther,who had a couple of minor hits before he sang on Quincy Jones Sounds…and stuff like that album in 1978 before landing a gig with the band Change-singing lead on their 1980 song “The Glow Of Love”. And all of this occurred before he turned 30.
In 1981 he was finally signed up to Epic records and recorded his debut Never Too Much. That and his sophomore solo Forever,For Always, For Love album established his relationship bassist/composer Marcus Miller. This team began additionally writing songs for female soul singers Dionne Warwick and Aretha Franklin-especially when it came to helming Aretha’s two major comeback hits “Jump To It” and “Get It Right” between 1982 and 83. During that year the pair assembled to put together Vandross’s third solo album. This album was entitled Busy Body. And the song that stands out on the uptempo side for me is called “For The Sweetness Of Your Love”.
Drummer Yogi Horton starts off the groove playing a fast 4/4 beat with some ultra speedy hi hats before Marcus Miller’s metallic synth bass introduces the melody. Doc Powell’s clipped,bubbling rhythm guitar doubled up with Georg Wedenius’s. Marcus plays two lead synth lines. One has only several notes and plays the slower aspect of the melody,while a slightly higher toned one plays the faster part. On Vandross’s vocal parts,the opening part of the song acts as the refrain along with Marcus’s lightening fast slap bass playing along. Meanwhile his two synth lines represent the chorus. The bridge features a stripped down,instrumental variation of the refrain featuring a percussive synth line before the song closes out with the repetition of the chorus.
Luther Vandross is generally not known for his faster songs-with most of his career arc position him as a balladeer of slower,heavily orchestrated songs. At the same time,Marcus Miller and Vandross’s talents as instrumental arrangers add a lot to his more danceable side. This song not only contains Luther’s Smokey Robinson style lyrical wordplay,but also integrates the brittle energy of early 80’s electro funk. Another thing about this song is how bass heavy it is. The liquid rhythm guitar has a low,heavy tone-as does the two prominent synth bass lines and Marcus’s slap bass itself. The fact this song is so percussively bottom heavy makes this some of the finest funk of Luther’s solo career.
Filed under 1980's, dance funk, Doc Powell, drums, elecro funk, Georg Wedenius, Luther Vandross, Marcus Miller, rhythm guitar, slap bass, synth bass, synth funk, synthesizers, Yogi Horton