Tag Archives: ’80s Funk

Anatomy Of The Groove: “Jeopardy” by Greg Kihn Band

Greg Kihn,a Baltimore native same as funk icon Rick James,followed his early musical dreams to San Francisco. While still in high school, his mom helped him by submitting a demo to a local radio station while he played coffee houses locally . He moved to the bay area officially by 1972-painting houses,busking and working at a record store in the city of Berkeley. He eventually became part of Beserkley Records label as one of the first acts signed to it-along with other future rock icons such as Johnathan Richman of the Modern Lovers.

By 1976 he had his own group called The Greg Kihn Band. There biggest hit to date was the power pop classic “The Breakup Song” in 1981. During the early 80’s post disco era, the American popular music pendulum tended to swing towards guitar based rock songs. Still as with the decade before it, funk and soul could be found in any section of the record store. Often cleverly disguised by presentation as something else. New wave/synth pop of the era was a mainstay for this. But mainstream rock got a taste of this with the biggest hit Greg Kihn’s Band ever had with 1983’s ‘Jeopardy”.

Gary Phillips’ Clavinet riffing is heard with (as far as I know) Kihn’s own reverbed guitar chords providing a texturing accent to that and Larry Lynch’s steady drum beat and Steve Wright’s slinky, often elaborate bass line pattern . This pattern continues on throughout both the refrain and chorus of the song-with the chord changes reflected the changes in Kihn’s raspy vocal leads. On the bridge, Lynch’s drum plays a three note hit every other beat to the call and response Clavinet and guitar. Kihn’s bluesy guitar riff plays off the pounding drum for a more rockier pattern as the song fades out.

“Jepordy” is now seen as an 80’s rock classic-due mainly to its conceptually interesting MTV video and a hilarious parody by Weird Al Yankovic. But even I sometimes feel like the only one who might listen to this outside its accepted context and hear it as a driving funk/rock jam with a catchy song attached to it. The Clavinet grooves hard on this song,the drum maintains its driving post disco vibe. And the guitar plays something of an accessorizing role-atypical of much mainstream rock. That makes this both a potentially misunderstood and still beloved 80’s pop classic.

 

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Jody Watley’s Debut Album Has Turned 30: Its Been Some Kind Of Love

Jody Watley

Jody Watley first came to my attention sometime in 1988 when my father recorded a block of MTV videos on a VHS tape for me. This was when he worked as a master control engineer at our local NBC affiliate WLBZ. Among all the videos were two from Jody Watley. The first was for the song “Some Kind Of Lover” and the other for “Don’t You Want Me”. A decade or so later,I found her debut CD with these songs on it at Bullmoose Music-also in my area. As my abilities to locate music have evolved,from radio and pre recorded VHS tapes to MP3’s, Watley’s music seems to pop up every step of the way.

Watley’s self titled debut turned 30 a couple of weeks ago. During the time when I was deeply interested in the music of Prince,the solo debut of this former Shalamar singer was a major reminder to me that the Minneapolis sound had a huge far reaching impact in terms of cutting edge dance music of the late 80s. ¬†Actually wrote a review of the album on Amazon.com,yet another they elected to take down from public viewing. In recent years,the song from the album that’s gotten my attention is the funkified “Looking For A New Love”. Of course, I went into Watley’s debut a bit further in my review here.


In terms of dance music the 80’s definitely had different parts to it. It started with a form of post disco music that would latter be called boogie which,in it’s many forms was basically an extension of late 70’s musical ideas. From there we go on to a mid 80’s synthesizer/hand clap variety of dance music heavy oriented around layers of sound that I sometimes dub “tinky tinky dance” just for fun. Around 1986 or so came a very stripped down and groove based style that occupied a very good point in the middle of both of us.

Jam And Lewis’s work with SOS Band and Janet Jackson really helped to get this particular sound going. Anyway around it usually someone from the Minneapolis scene is involved. And for her part Jody had already had her participation in all of these developments as a member of Shalamar until 1983. By this time married to one time Prince protege Andre’ Cymone she found in the music he’d been producing a way for her to stake her own claim in the late 80’s dance funk pool. And I think she won out on all levels.

At a time when almost every album in the R&B/soul genre had to have a least one slow jam involved,this album seems to come out of a serious of album where every groove was a funk groove of one sort or another. In the 70’s the Commodores Machine Gun and P-Funk’s ¬†Mothership Connection fit the bill for all funk all the time albums. Very much under the Minneapolis spell here,even more so than Miss Janet “Looking For A New Love” starts out the occasion with a stomping 80’s funk jam if there ever was one. And that same kind of flavor just continues on “Still A Thrill”,”Love Injection”,”Do It To The Beat”,”Learn To Say No” with George Michael and even the other big hit “Don’t You Want Me”.

Jody has managed along with musical co-participants Bernard Edwards,Tony Thompson and Herbie Hancock synthesizer player Jeff Bova to do something vital on these songs:create melodically inventive compositions that possess some great bass/guitar heavy grooves and a then contemporary dance/funk flavor. When the tempo goes up? Well you end up with faster grooves such as “Some Kind Of Lover” and “For The Girls”. It’s still fresh,it’s still funky and it’s full of Watley’s own unique flavor.

Jody doesn’t present herself as someone who is about to prostitute herself musically on this album. Her take on relationships on this album is very much as an equal co-participant who is also lucky enough to have a strong singular wit about her as well. There’s an appealing arty flair about the way Jody presents her music and lyrics here. Of course having one half of Chic and Andre’ Cymone involved certainly made a difference too. However Watley herself is a very multi talented person on her own as a producer/singer and songwriter.

She was also doing something that was not particularly common during this time much outside the Jackson family. She was presented herself as primarily an uptempo based artist rather than emphasizing the ballads and slow jams that were becoming somewhat of a mainstay among female R&B/soul/funk/dance artists around this time. The fact that her debut consisted of nothing but uptempo tunes showed that in the right hands,dance music could maintain a strong sense of groove and funk without sacrificing that for sometimes gimmicky up to the minute instrumental effects. If 80’s funk was baseball I’d say Jody Wately hit a home run on this one.


The musical vibe that Jody Watley set up a scenario similar to the one Beyonce picked up in recent years: a black American female vocalist who strongly emphasized uptempo music and a strong empowered female stance. Am unsure if this similarity is even a thing as far as the artists themselves are concerned. But I can hear it. Especially when it comes to this debut album of Watley’s. Also like Beyonce,Watley’s music would later mellow a bit in danceability and take on more direct social concerns. That likely makes Jody Watley and this album a strong influence on the career arc of the modern day funky diva.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Anatomy of THE Groove 1/30/15 Rique’s Pick : “Waymans Gotta Do It” By Wayman Tisdale

People often forget that the much maligned genre of “smooth jazz” is a tree that grew from seriously funky roots. The 1970s progenitors of the form such as Grover Washington Jr. The Crusaders, Roy Ayers, as well as funk bands who were proficient in instrumentals such as Kool & The Gang, War and The J.B’s formed the basis of the sound that would keep the term “jazz” on the charts and in mainstream consideration. The late great NBA star and musician Wayman Tisdale was unique for forging a second career as a bass player after his days as an NBA all star. As a bassist, his records have always had an underpinning of funk. But 2009’s “Fonk Record” took the funk from the bottom and put it on the top of his ouevere, and it’s a fitting coda to his career, cut tragically short by his fatal bout with bone cancer. But “Waymans Gotta Do It” and the other songs on that album ended Tisdale’s career in the manner any funkateer would want to, very funkily!

The song begins with a nasty funky and sweet guitar line, thick and played mostly on the lower strings, with a mix of bass notes and chords. After this four bar intro Tisdale’s vocoder voice sings a line and a furiously funky groove kicks in, in the ’80s style of funkateers such as Roger & Zapp. The groove features synthesizer bass along with Tisdale’s bass guitar slapping and popping a funky line. Tisdale sings “Let me play my funky bass for you” and plays the line on his bass guitar as he sings. Other guitar parts come in, along with organ flourishes. Then the song switches to a vocoder led part, which is somewhat sweeter in it’s funky tone, with a nice chord progression. This more melodic vocoder led section serves as the chorus. After that the song returns to the funk stew, with Tisdale slapping out some funky lines. Tisdale goes on to sing in praise of the groove, saying it’s so funky you’ll have to take a bath after you listen to it! As the song progresses Tisdale slaps out a thick, rich, muscular low bass solo as the track is supplanted by synthesizer strings. Tisdale confides, “Yall know I had to do this, cause they say I hadn’t been playing hard enough.” Which is itself a rejoinder to those critics who think “Smooth Jazz” was the soft way out!

Tisdale said that of all the music he played, the funk was the closest to his heart. This is understandable being that he was born in the ’60s and came of age playing in the late ’70s as his skill in basketball was also increasing. By the time he came to the music industry, there was no funk as such, just shards of the one hidden in smooth jazz, hip hop, house, garage, rock and contemporary R&B. It’s a testament then to Tisdale’s musical heart and the reinvigoration of the Funk sound and genre then that in 2009 he could drop the one so hard on his last album. “Wayman’s Gotta Do It” then is a fitting coda to a fine career and a fine life, that never got too far from “The One.”

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