Tag Archives: Barry White

Funky Reflections On 1987: ‘The Right Night And Barry White’

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Personally I don’t think it’s possible to count how many times I’ve seen this CD on the racks of the local record store and never been moved by or aware enough of it to pay any mind. One key issue that had me re-thinking this oversight was a blog written by my oft quoted friend Henrique about an excellent song from this album. It again provided a strong reminder just how much funky music charted high both on radio and with the public during 1987. So it all gave me to understand that this was an album that I DEFINITELY wanted to check out. After doing so? It also shows just how much I missed out on not looking into this from the outset.

“Good Dancin’ Music” and “Sho You Right”,the song the directed me back to this album are both hard hitting,bass synth driven electro funk extravaganza’s with some of the most intricate uses of instrumental harmony I’ve ever heard. “As Time Goes By” is transformed from it’s original ballad style to percussive cinematic funky soul number with a sauntering Caribbean vibe. “For Your Love (I’ll Do Anything)” is a slow crawling,slap bass driven groove while songs such as “There’s A Place Where Love Never Ends”,”Love In Your Eyes”,”I’m Ready For Love”,”Share”,”Who’s The Fool” and the nostalgic title song all fall into his classic ballad style.

This album did an amazing job of showcasing how the more electronic instrumentation of the time was still perfectly able to support the man’s arrangements-especially as well integrated it all was. The music ideas and classic romantic monologues are all used to full affect on here as well. During the years I was growing up? Even if they were coming out fairly close together? Each and every new Barry White album was treated as a major comeback-almost as if he’d somehow disappeared off the map between those releases. In any case? This is one of those albums that I truly wished had been a part of my musical life a lot longer than it has been.

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Anatomy Of The Groove: “Do It To The Music” by The Love Unlimited Orchestra

Barry White is probably best remembered as soul’s ultimate baritone. And as it were,one of the founding fathers of “baby makin’ music”. And on that level,he stands possibly only alongside Isaac Hayes. One of the things that has been bought more and more since his passing is that White was a brilliant arranger. When it came to combining percussion, piano and strings with a rhythm section,he was able to create some of the most defining arrangements of the funk AND disco era. And among his collection of side projects,this side of him came out most strongly on albums by the Love Unlimited Orchestra.

One of the things about Love Unlimited Orchestra that fascinated me is that,like Barry White himself,they recorded under that name with White long after their commercial peak was thought to have passed. The final Love Unlimited Orchestra to drop came out in 1983 and is called Rise. This was an album that I was unable to track down on CD,and missed out on one occasion in the vinyl format. When I finally did hear it from an MP3 copy,I was amazed what a strong and unexpected album it was. One song from it that stood out to both me and my mom is called “Do It To The Music”.

A resonant,buzzing synthesizer starts out the song. Then the drum machine kicks in playing a danceable Afro-Latin type beat-right along with a clean,round synth bass. On the chorus,the orchestra itself plays a spicy and melodic horn chart. The first three notes descend,while the final four ascend upwards. Throughout the song,the funky sounding vocal group The Voices Of Love sing call and response to the horns and buzzing synth that weave throughout the entirety of the songs. On the refrains,they mainly sing with the rhythm section. And its on the powerful chorus that the song fades out.

This is an excellent example of high octane Latin funk to come out of the Barry White musical camp in the early 80’s. With its prominent use of synthesizers and horns as opposed to strings,musically this song did for Barry White what “You’ve Got The Power” did for War a year earlier. It took the basic framework White had made famous,and updated the instrumental approach in an extremely positive way. And its solid proof that a lot of Barry White/Love Unlimited Orchestra’s music of the early/mid 80’s is a lot more obscure than it deserves to be.

 

 

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Filed under 1980's, Afro-Cuban rhythm, Barry White, drum machine, horns, Latin Funk, Love Unlimited Orchestra, synth bass, synth funk, synthesizers

Grooves On Wax: 1988 Albums,1987 12″ Inch Singles

Siedda Garret

She was the songwriter who bought us Michael Jackson’s “Man In The Mirror”,and was also his duet partner on “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You”. One year after all this,Siedah Garrett released her very first solo album. It featured the majority of Quincy Jones’ Westlake studio crew on board. Along with one heavily re-worked Thriller era Rod Temperton  composed MJ outtake “Got The Hots” on the ultra funkified “Baby’s Got It Bad”.

Key Jams: “Kiss Of Life”,”Groove Of Midnight”,”The Legend Of Ruby Diamond” and “Baby’s Got It Bad”

Brown Mark

The reason this didn’t wind up listed with the Prince alumni article I did was because this album has nothing at all to do with Prince,or Paisley Park. Former Revolution guitarist Mark Brown (rechristened Brownmark by Prince) released this album for Motown. As with Prince,Brown plays most of the instruments. His approach as a multi instrumentalist is closer to the harder kick of a Teddy Riley, however. And this is not an album that compromises on the funky uptempo material at all.

Key Jams: “Next Time”,”She Don’t Care” and “Stakeout”

Clyde Criner

Clyde Criner is a fairly obscure figure. The reason I picked up this album was because of how much it flaunted its personnel. Mainly MY MAIN BASS MAN Marcus Miller. His slap bass soloing is all over this album,right along with Criner’s melodic block chords on different electric pianos and synthesizers. This album is a potent combination of synth funk and electronic jazz fusion licks.

Key Jams: “Just Might Be That Way”,”Spider” and “Kinesis”

Henrique and myself have a constant conversational theme about how 1987 in particular showcased a time period where heavier funk again became the main basis for dance oriented pop records of the era. And that year was a MAJOR year for 12″ mixes. I don’t have a all of them yet. But this was the first year that brand new music really made a significant impact on me at 6-7 years old. So its a good place to speak for early firsthand experience.

It was Henrique who turned me onto Barry White’s 1987 comeback single “Sho You Right”. This song mixes the synthesized Freestyle dance sound of that era with the strong Latin samba funk attitude White used to get with his Love Unlimited Orchestra. This 8+ minute extended 12″ mix really brings out the sauntering rhythm of it all by emphasizing the drums. The instrumental B-side focuses on the Santana-like Latin rock guitar solo.

The history behind the Alexander O’Neal song “Fake” is amazing in Minneapolis funk circles. It was written by AND for alumni’s of The Time. Jam & Lewis really bumped out the percussive,bass heavy funk for this number. The best part of these 12″ inch mixes is how they thoroughly explore the song. You’ve got an extended mix,a vocal remix-the “patty mix”,an a cappella mix featuring O’Neal,percussion and light synths only PLUS an instrumental with an amazing electric piano walk down. Amazing exploration of the groove and therefore one of the strongest 12″ inch funk singles I’ve heard this far.

Ray Parker Jr. is one of the most underrated guitarist/multi instrumentalists I know of. After a string of funky pop hits in the early 80’s as a solo artist,Parker emerged in 1987 with the single “I Don’t Think That Man Should Sleep Alone”. That,along with the guitar solo oriented instrumental “After Midnight” (title song of his album that year) showcase the urban contemporary jazzy funk side of his nature from his earlier session work with Herbie Hancock and Rufus. This 12″ mix of the song really showcases that.

Lisa Lisa And Cult Jam really brought the new jack swing pioneers Full Force into the limelight. Their Latin freestyle/dance club hits of the late 80’s were not only ultra catchy,but ultra funky as well. with Full Force being there to re-cut and remix  their hits “Head To Toe” and “You’ll Never Change” showcased just how deeply these songs grooves.

M/A/R/R/S’s “Pump Up The Volume” was my first exposure to both House music and sampling,though I didn’t know what either were at the time of hearing it. This is an awesomely funky house/scratch/hip-hop number out of the UK. When I heard the Bar Kays “Holy Ghost” a decade or so later,it created a flashback to the “put the needle on the record” segment of this song. Another group member AR Kane provided the B-side “Anitina”,a brittle,Bill Laswell like funk rocker that I always enjoyed.  Wanted to say a quick RIP to M/A/R/S member Steve Young,who passed away last month.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under 12 inch singles, 1987, 1988, Alexander O'Neal, Barry White, Brownmark, Clyde Criner, Full Force, House Music, Jam & Lewis, Latin Freestyle, Lisa Lisa And Cult Jam, M/A/R/R/S, Marcus Miller, Pump Up The Volume, Ray Parker Jr., Sampling, scratching, Siadah Garrett, Vinyl

Grooves On Wax: Summer Day Funk Spinning Under The Needle

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Quincy Jones has always had a way of gearing people up for new directions in black American music . My friend Henrique and I were talking while I had this vinyl going about how much Q’s take on the title track,originally from the Broadway musical Hair got on the same head trip electric jazz flavor that Miles Davis was on with albums like Bitches Brew. Again as Henrique pointed out,this was more tightly arranged. And at home on an album with a swinging soul jazz vibe about it all.

Key Jams: “Walking In Space” and “Killer Joe”

Al Wilson

Al Wilson’s 1969 debut album was recommended to me by Don Menninghaus,owner and proprietor of the local record haunt in the Bangor,Maine area Dr. Records. This Mississippi native had a unique blend of jazzy vocalizing and Southern style gospel/soul. The song that Mr. Menninghaus bought out on this album was “The Snake”,an uptempo version of a cautionary romantic number I originally heard sung in an episode of the TV show Northern Exposure. Al’s version here is of course from a whole other place.

Key Jams: “The Snake” and “Brother Where Are You”

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It was the soul food depicted on the cover of this album that got my attention most actually. Of course this is the Main Ingredient,a Harlem trio who always had the ability to bring out the heavy groove in with their lush three part “cool group” harmonies.  They took ballads into the stratosphere that way. But when the tempo went up,so it went to the next level on albums such as 1970’s Tasteful Soul here.

Key Jams: “Need Her Love (Mr Bugler)” and “Magic Shoes”

Deodato Airto in concert

Eumir Deodato and Airto Moreira’s 1973 concert album from their show at Madison Square Garden is one of the most exciting live albums I’ve ever heard. Especially when it comes to the second half-dominated by Airto’s percussively powerful Afro-Brazilian jazz funk jams on the second half of the record. Deodato gets seriously funky on this album as well.

Key Jams: “Tropea” and “Parana” 

george-benson-good-king-bad

George Benson’s 1975 soundtrack to the film Good King Bad was the final album that Benson recorded for the CTI label. The outer sleeve of my vinyl version is in such poor shape,someone patched it up with Scotch tape. The condition of the actual vinyl however is good enough for the powerful sonics of album to shine through. James Brown’s keyboardist David Matthews arranged this album to be one of the best recorded examples of cinematic jazz/funk of the mid 70’s

Key Jams: “Em” and “Theme From Good King Bad”

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Now that I’ve explored Barry White more in a musical context than his typical thematic one,its more clear that some of his melodic string arrangements of the 1970’s could get a bit samey with time. And this 1975 Love Unlimited Orchestra album is no exception. Yet when the funky groove burns underneath his sometimes stock type orchestrations,the cinematic jams really burst out at you.

Key Jams: “I Wanna Stay” and “Midnight Groove”

 

Deniece Williams Songbird

Deniece Williams’ first two albums on Columbia were as strong an adjunct to Maurice White and Earth Wind & Fire. ‘Niecy’s 1977 sophomore album here features most of the EWF crew in both the production area-thinking more of playing behind a vocalist as opposed to be instrumentalists with vocalists. They really help her increase her range too-from harder funk to reggae and more elaborate jazzy arrangements.

Key Jams: “Time”,“Be Good To Me” and “The Paper”

Sylvester Sell My Soul

Sylvester’s powerful vocals were musically molded by the same man who gave Marvin Gaye his start-Mister Harvey Fuqua. This was his first album of the 1980’s. It deals with a transition from the gospel drenched Hi NRG disco sound Sylvester specialized in during the late 70’s and towards a far funkier post disco sound. This especially comes to mind when he was acting as an interpreter as well.

Key Jams: “Change Up” and “Fever”

change-sharingyourlove(1)

Change really had me going with their post disco sound of the early 80’s upon first hearing their 1980 debut album The Glow of Love. This 1982 album featured this group being produced in a very different direction-one that emphasized a harder boogie funk sound. Not to mention a more stable and distinctive group lineup as well.

Key Jams :“Hard Times (It’s Gonna Be Alright)” and “Take You To Heaven”

Ronnie Laws Mr Nice Guy

Ronnie Laws is basically the sax version of George Benson in terms of his ability to play and sing. While he obviously isn’t quite as distinctive (or virtuosic) on either level as Benson,his instrumental and vocal style have that amiable big brother type attitude that translates well across each album. On this set,he began to add more synth horns and new wave style instrumentation into his general mix. But his love of classic R&B shuffles and funky grooves remained fully intact.

Key Jam: “Can’t Save Tomorrow” 

Phyllis Hyman Living All Alone

Phyllis Hyman seems to have had a quality similar to Anita Baker and Chaka Khan. No matter what era she recorded in,if the song was a slow ballad for fast funk or disco, Hyman’s music never ceased to endow full albums with anything less than first rate musical content. This 1986 album is a latter day Gamble & Huff production-a classy mixture of jazzy urban contemporary soul with some serious funk in their for good measure.

Key Jams: “If You Want Me” and “Screamin’ At The Moon”

Morris_Daydreaming

Morris Day’s second solo album from 1988 features a somewhat more pop oriented type of dance funk than his old group The Time had. Again though,the man has a knack with both uptempo tunes and ballads-especially featuring the piano work of Herb Alpert alumni Salvatore Macaluso on side 1’st closing torch ballad “A Mans Pride”.

Key Jam: “Fishnet”

 

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Filed under 1980's, Airto Moreira, Al Wilson, Barry White, Change, cinematic soul, Deniece Williams, disco funk, elecro funk, Eumir Deodato, Funk, George Benson, jazz funk, Morris Day, Phyllis Hyman, Quincy Jones, Ronnie Laws, Sylvester, The Main Ingredient, Vinyl

Andre’s Amazon Archive for 6/6/2015: ‘Big Love’ by Simply Red

simply red

Looks as if I’m going to have to add Mick Hucknall/Simply Red to my list of groups and artists with the “fine wine” syndrome-of just having a musical sound that just gets better with time. Since the group first implanted their ear worm of “Holding Back The Years’ from their debut Picture Book? Their music has always keenly interested me. The question I’m always asking myself is…why do I tend to ignore their new releases when they come out every 5-8 years or so? The answer is I didn’t know then,don’t know now. After 2008? I vowed that the next new Simply Red album I’d pick up because of my own negligence of this group I really enjoy and appreciate. Finally I made the right decision with this album all the way!

“Shine On”,opening with album with a big arrangement,”Daydreaming” as well as the more hyper-kinetic grooves of “Tight Tones” and “WORU” are all rhythm guitar heavy disco/funk dance numbers with creamy wah wah’s and uptown melodies all the way. The title song is a piano/guitar driven mid tempo soul ballad,with the sound and flavor that had me falling in love with the music of Simply Red from the get go. “The Ghost Of Love” and “Love Gave Me More” are lusciously orchestrated funky/soul numbers while “Love Wonders” and “Coming Home” are more atmospheric,cinematic numbers while “The Old Man And The Beer” is a ,slow swinging soul jazz style number. The album is rounded out with the more pop/rock style mid tempo melody of “Dad” and the more baroque pop ballad of “Each Day”.

From beginning to end? This album distills what makes this groups music flow as well as it does. For sure they have a well oiled sound that is distinctive and instantly recognizable. Yet it’s a style that can adapt itself to different variations very easily. The focus of this particular album is very much on orchestration. In this particular case in the Barry White/Marvin Gaye/Gamble & Huff mode. Happily Hucknall’s highly melodic and well constructed songwriting is of course very well suited to this. And everything from the rhythm section to the arrangements are extremely strong and well done. This is superb and mildly lyrically nostalgic/reflective adult funky soul from 2015 at it’s finest. And one I very highly recommend you give a try to!

Originally posted June 2nd,2015

Link to original review here*

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Filed under 2015, Amazon.com, Barry White, cinematic soul, disco funk, Gamble & Huff, Marvin Gaye, Mick Hucknall, Music Reviewing, Simply Red, Soul, soul jazz

Anatomy of THE Groove 2/20/15 Rique’s Pick: “Sho You Right” by Barry White

In retrospect, the year 1987 was the most meaningful,
impactful and enjoyable musical year of my childhood. In that particular year, the sounds of the past, present and future came together, all providing musical enjoyment on the one. I recall in particular my dad taping radio broadcasts on the local soul stations to carry on a trip he was making to Liberia, West Africa on business. Liberians have always been fans of the up to the minute latest in soul, funk, jazz, R&B, Gospel and eventually, hip hop too! What makes ’87 so special for me is the fact that veterans such as Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight, Smokey Robinson, The Bar Kays, and The Commodores put out powerful, funky music right next to the Kings and Queens of the era such as Michael Jackson, Prince, Janet Jackson and Jody Watley. They were also joined by the beginning of the golden age of hip hop, with artists such as Big Daddy Kane, Public Enemy, Eric B & Rakim, Boogie Down Productions, Kool Moe Dee, Ice-T and N.W.A all dropping their ’70s funk sampling hip hop. Among the many artists who enjoyed comebacks that year was the Maestro, Barry White, who hit with today’s funky classic, “Sho You Right.” This song stands tall alongside cuts such as “Skeletons” by Stevie Wonder, “System of Survival” by EWF, and of course “Housequake” by Prince and “The Way You Make Me Feel” by M.J. “Sho You Right” would begin a comeback path that would peak with the 1995 hit “Practice What You Preach.”

One of the things I love about “Sho You Right” is it translates White’s classic rhythmic sense into the contemporary idiom of drum machines and synthesizers. It might have been jarring when an artist like Barry went electro. After all, he was a pioneer in bringing a rich symphonic layer to the primal pulsations of Rhythm and Blues. But one thing some fans miss is the fact that Barry White often had a powerful, Afro-Latin rhythm underneath his symphonic soul that could definitley stand alone when called upon to. This funky hump is present on the classics such as “It’s Ecstacy When You Lay Next to Me”, “I’m Gonna Love You Just a Little More”, “Love Serenade”, “Your Sweetness is My Weakness” and countless other classics.

“Sho You Right” was based on a track White’s long time collaborator Jack Perry brought in. The Maestro himself played the many electronic instruments on the track. The song begins with a funky Carribean sounding drum roll which leads into a hard, semi industrial ’80s beat. Sometimes the industrial side of the ’80s drum machine programs can sound a little harsh to my ears, but on this cut its well modulated with more mid range warmth than usually heard on such a beat. The beat is centered around an eighth note drum kick that sounds like its main purpose is to lead you to the abnormally loud snare drum sounds on the 2 and 4. The kick drum is very syncopated and sets the stage for the multiple syncopations of the song. BW gives a shortened version of his classic love raps from the ’70s saying simply “Baby you got my undivided attention.”

A mean, strutting, jumping Afro-Carribean-Latin groove is introduced with keyboard horns playing on the “1” beat and the “3”. With the horns on the 1 and 3 and the heavy snare on the 2 and 4, the groove has the irresistible push and pull, jumpy quality. While I’m generally not crazy about synth horns, the horns here are wisely programmed like a horn section and restricted to a brief clipped horn burst, which heightens their effectiveness. In the background there is a synth guitar part seemingly played with some sort of bending effect that allows it to effectively mimic a real guitar. The groove breathes with vibrancy through its synthesized textures and BW and Perry introduce all kinds of fills, syncopations and Reggae style off beats that keep the groove vital and moving.

As far as The Maestro’s vocals? I always loved the way he slurred out his lines on this song. The lyrics are built around the line “Baby I’m relating” which was a finalist for the song title, with Jack Perry choosing “Sho You Right” out of the two song titles Barry presented him. The Maestro was back, turned on, and ready to relate!!!! This song along with many others was a soundtrack to many bike rides, basketball games and long weekend afternoons for me back in ’87 and ’88. And although I didn’t understand the sensual text of the lyrics, I surely understood the vitality of the groove! Proving that whether the Maestro is orchestrating men and women or machines, his wand will always direct something funky!

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Anatomy of THE Groove 9/26/2014 Andre’s Pick: “Do It Again” by Paul Hardcastle

First time I heard Paul Hardcastle was on an 80’s CD compilation-as usual playing on the car stereo while running errands. The song was called “19”. It featured the British songwriter/producer/multi instrumentalist integrating sound samples about from the Vietnam War with female vocals and strong electro funk.  The music,lyrics and innovative use of samples were very pointed and topical. It really helped me bring to mind how,despite how music press propaganda at the time was being delivered to both the public and eventually other musicians,that contemporary protest music was of course very much alive and well in the mid 1980’s. Interestingly enough? He was actually still operating. But had since taken a new musical course.

With the realization that smooth jazz mainly had to do with a production approach more than an instrumental one,Paul Hardcastle championed an instrumental style from the 1990’s onward that emphasized sleek production values,pan ethnic polyrhythms and his inventive use of sound samples. This music was referred to not as jazz,fusion or new age but rather as “chill”. It arose from the variety of funk that came from bands such as Sade as well. So it made sense that,after almost two decades of furthering this “chill” subgenre that Hardcastle would notice the Nu Funk movement,which sought among other things to clear the air about a perceived gap between 70’s funk and disco,by releasing his contribution to this with his second album of 2014 called Moovin’ And Grooin’. And in particular with the song “Do It Again”.

The song starts off with a sound sample saying “This should be heard at high volume,preferably in a residential area”. Then the very percussive drumming comes in (of a type where I can’t really tell if it’s a live drum or synthesized) over which a woman’s voice is breathing sensually in time to the rhythm. Then an accompanying counter hi hat cymbal rhythm kicks in before this round,ring modulated layers of keyboards come in playing a very jazzy melody. What sounds like a quartet of vocalists sing “let’s do it/do it again”-seeming,as Hardcastle himself put it to reflect disco’s “meaningless” lyrics’. Only almost each time these vocals show up,the instrumentation grows in intensity. By the time the swirling,orchestral Barry White type strings show up? Everything from the rhythm to melodic instrumental elements are behaving in funky,danceable unison until the song itself fades out.

On this song,there is an interesting mixture of the disco era’s dancability with the somewhat stiffer rhythmic accents of house-creating a digitized yet rhythmically loose hybridized groove. Peel back the production layers a bit? And I immediately heard another groove that I have a degree of familiarity with. And that would be Brass Construction’s 1975 funk/disco process classic “Movin'”. It was a mixture of quick tempo’d,percussive funk with a strong and persistent Afro-Latin rhythm that’s difficult to avoid in the genre,but showcasing funk and disco’s roots in African dance music that goes back for centuries. I was very impressed to see that Hardcastle is acknowledging not only the important of heavy rhythmic funk in the music of the disco era,but also it’s link to Africa. A link where any vocal element is advancing and conducting the instrumentation like a totally rhythmic orchestra.  Understanding this from a somewhat culturally outsiders perspective is,from my point of view,what makes this song move.

 

 

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Filed under Chill jazz, Disco, Jazz, Jazz-Funk, Nu Funk, Paul Hardcastle

Anatomy of THE Groove 8/22/2014: Andre’s Pick-“Love Can” by Lisa Stansfield

            As a UK understudy of Barry White,Lisa Stansfield took the late 80’s/early 90’s by storm with her strong vocalizing of the sort of orchestral soul vision that White had helped pioneer. Always creatively strong and vital,Stansfield didn’t continue the same commercial success in the US that she maintained in the UK throughout the 90’s. Her comeback’s became less frequent-culminating in a decade absence after 2004. There was in fact a three-four month waiting period between the UK and US release of her new comeback album Seven. On the other hand,the US version was released just in time for summer. And concluded with a song entitled “Love Can”.

           Opening with a percussive drum beat with a deep,thumping bass line playing the accenting the rhythm a jazzy electric piano solo comes in. This is followed by a burst of string and horn orchestration-with a flute and violin playing their own counter melody before Stansfield’s deep,rangy and resonate vocals some in. While the melody of the some seems a bit mysterious, even reflective at first,by the time the chorus arrives? The mood of the song turns excitedly aroused-both lyrically and musically as she sings of the need to be vulnerable in love. The mood of the instrumentation raised from somewhat quietly funky to enthusiastically dramatic as the song builds from beginning to end before ending with an unaccompanied violin crescendo.

            While surely extending on Stansfield’s love of the Barry White/Marvin Gaye style funk soul groove of the mid 70’s,she extends it even further on this song by employing live instrumentation. This is especially bought out when it comes to the live drumming. This presents a very different milieu than the programmed rhythms I was more used to hearing on her late 80’s/early 90’s recordings. What is most pleasing is how much she understands the funk she has continued to grow into musically. The rhythm and bass line are presented in a spare way,but she maintains her bold orchestral settings as well. Its a wonderful example of how live instrumentation,produced with eloquence,can sound in a crisp digitally recorded setting.

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Filed under Barry White, Funk, Funk Bass, Lisa Stansfield, Marvin Gaye, Rhythm, rhythm & blues

The Anatomy of THE Groove 6/6/2014 Andre’s Pick: Mariah Carey-“Meteorite”

Ever since my early adolescent years,there’s always been a part of me that really wanted to truly appreciate the music of Mariah Carey. She tended to view her multi octave vocals as an instrumental element and did embrace strong musical values. Trouble was she seemed to all too easily embrace the surface level “R&B diva” mentality a bit too readily on occasion. Sometimes the imagery surrounding her was such a turn off,I tuned out her talents. In recent years Mariah has has begun to change all that. Especially after a very genuine marriage to singer/comedian Nick Cannon and having delivered two fraternal twins a few years back. We’ve seen in history family and childbirth enhanced the creative output of Stevie Wonder,Sly Stone and Prince. After six years of dealing with marriage and child rearing? Mariah stepped back into the recording studio and released a new album Me.I Am Mariah…The Elusive Chartreuse ,one that shows an enormously varied stylistic and very gospel/soul/funk based depth. The first song that caught my ear on it was “Meteorite”.

The song starts out with a video game style electronic effect over which Mariah remarks about Andy Warhol’s remarks that in the future,everything will be famous for fifteen minutes. Than this steady,fast tempo’d Afro-Latin percussion part kicks in along with a series of dynamic,spacey synthesized keyboards playing parallel counter melodies. On each refrain there is a big band muted trumpet that again adds another counter melody for…an instrumental sound pastiche that does indeed bring to mind the imagery of meteorites shooting across the cosmos.  Mariah’s voice is featured here in her lower vocal towns-very much an overdubbed symphony of them much in the Marvin Gaye tradition. One voice is singing that sampled/cut up style techno type part,the other is a drawling voice singing the refrain and Mariah’s lowest gospel/soul belt singing the chorus.  Lyrically she uses the age of metaphor of the “shinning star” to describe the “musical star” with very funk/disco era lyrical imagery such as “As they watch you burn up,turn up,turnt up all the way”.

Over the years I’ve heard many different types of Hi NRG techno dance songs-mostly all of a very derivative piece. This particular song not only brings to mind many of the best qualities of acid house music. But this also embraces some fascinating and somewhat under explored musical directions from when the disco era came to a direct halt. The big band muted trumpets have the flavor of the electro swing movement,which in itself owes to the big band styled disco records of Dr.Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band and Barry White’s Love Unlimited Orchestra. Also Mariah’s assertion of fame as a source of spiritual guidance through connecting with a larger audience adds some hope and imagination to today’s often more pensively cynical viewpoints on achieving success.  Above all? The steady house rhythms are very fast and funky poly-rhythms. And although the song has no discernible bass line? That strong percussive rhythm gives the song all the bottom it would ever need to seriously groove-which it does. Its wonderful to see Mariah Carey,a biracial singer who chose the soul spectrum of music from which to create,has embraced elements of the Afro-futurist funk/disco/dance ethic in order to expand her grooves.

* For my full Amazon review of Mariah Carey’s new album,follow the link below:

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Filed under Acid House, Disco, Electronica, Funk, Mariah Carey, Psychedelia, Rhythm, Soul