Tag Archives: Generation X

‘What’s Going On’ at 45: The Time Marvin Gaye Reminded Us That Only Love Could Conquer Hate

Marvin Gaye (1971) - What's Going On (Deluxe Edition 2001) (A)

Marvin Gaye had to fight Berry Gordy at Motown to get this album made and released. The label was transitioning from Detroit to Los Angeles at the time. Vietnam kept raging on,President Nixon was blowing a dog whistle to bring down the sociopolitcal revolts of the 60’s and Marvin was depressed. He decided to write an album from the point of view of his brother Frankie-coming back into an unwelcoming America from Vietnam. With the help of the Four Tops’ Renaldo “Obie” Benson and Motown’s bass maestro James Jamerson, Marvin came up with a musical masterpiece whose appeal is still evolving.

What’s Going On has a basic groove-a cinematic soul jazz sort of sound on just about every song. Marvin scats and improvises many of the vocal adlibs himself. The title song begins the album on a happier note-hoping that people will come to deal with the racial,political and ecological concerns Marvin is so troubled by. By the time of the instrumentally brilliant,percussive Latin soul stomp of “Inner City Blues”,Marvin has given up. He sings “make me wanna holler/throw up both my hands”. To this day,it’s really up to the given listener whether they feel Marvin’s mixed emotions here are cathartic or enervating.

Berry Gordy turned out to be very wrong that this album had no potential. Not only was it a huge commercial success for Marvin Gaye,but he could hardly go one concert after this without inserting the title song of this album into his set. That goes to show how sometimes,the artist making the music really has more of a finger on the pulse of the people than those peddling their raw creative material. In 2001,the album was expanded into a 2 CD deluxe edition. Upon hearing it,I went to Amazon.com and reviewed this new presentation of this 1971 classic on thoroughly musical terms:

How do you make a overly reissued album classic better? Well actually this one DOES-I love all the songs on ‘What’s Going On’-it’s a great album but I always felt that it was highly overproduced.This one starts with the original followed by a different variation on the same album called ‘the original Detroit Mix’-THIS version is far more understated in the finest Donny Hathaway tradition and truly brings out the richness of Marvin’s voice and the depth of his vision-the sparer arrangement actually better expresses the music’s message of urban and environmental blight.There’s still orchestration but it isn’t mixed so high.

It’s also forcing one to acknowledge how great a pianist Gaye is.And that’s why I highly recommend that those who purchased previous issues of this CD should go out and pick this set up-that along with a bonus disk of live material and outtakes make this the definitive version of this album-to such an extent myself bought this and gave my original CD issue of this album (in this case the tepid ripoff of 1994’s so called ‘deluxe edition’) to my dad,a fellow music lover who I felt would benefit from having the album in his collection alongside his other classics like The Beatles White Album,Curtis Mayfield’s ‘Superfly’ and John Coltrane’s ‘A Love Supreme’ where it belongs!For those who want to replace an old copy of this CD with a better one LOOK NO FURTHER!For those you for whatever reason haven’t been initiated-well,what more can I say-there is no better place to come!

Marvin was seeking with this album,to quote George Clinton about funk in general,not to tell people what to think but that they CAN think. It begins with a black man who’d made good in the world. And him looking through the eyes of a loved one who wasn’t so lucky in that regard. He starts out with a degree of optimism. By the end of the album,one realizes how much of a thoroughly human figure Marvin Gaye was. By the time it ends, he has almost lost  hope. Especially with Jamerson’s bass lines,the instrumentation is what tends to carry the positivity through when even Marvin can’t anymore.

This is the type of album inspired a lot of artists to make what I refer to as “people music”-a type of message music that takes the ethnocentric melodies and rhythms of the artists back-round to express important ideas. Unintentionally, this album became the “people music” for Generation X . This is an intelligent and aware generation of Americans who often lacked focus and interest. And with the election of Gen Xer Barack Obama for two presidential terms in America, this album seemingly succeeded in getting a generation who didn’t want to get involved to find that way to bring  loving here today.

 

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Filed under 1960's, 1971, Berry Gordy, cinematic soul, Detroit, Frankie Gaye, Generation X, James Jamerson, Los Angeles, Marvin Gaye, message music, Motown, people music, Renaldo Obie Benson, Vietnam War, What's Going on

Anatomy Of The Groove For 2/27/2015-Andre’s Pick: “Waterfalls” by TLC

As readers of this blog may have noticed? I’ve done previous little coverage of the 1990’s in Anatomy Of The Groove. My reasons for that,complex and subjective as they are,can be found over a number of my music reviews on Amazon. At the same time? I was very caught up in loving the music of TLC: T-Boz,Lisa Left Eye and Chilli. These were a trio of very funky divas who came around just after En Vogue with their own particular take on the music of that era.

Beginning with a loping drum shuffle and round keyboard warble,the music takes shape into a wah wah guitar playing the basic melody of the sung accented by a horn section of muted trumpets playing a jazzy counter accent. T-Boz throws down her best Sly Stone style vocal drawl  into this and with all three singing the chorus together of “don’t go chasing waterfalls/just stick to the rivers and the lakes that your used to/I know your gonna have it your way or no way at all/but I think your moving too fast” before the song fades on the same instrumental phrase on which it began.

One of the deepest things about this song for my personally is that 1994 was the year in which I had totally embraced the funky soul jazz spectrum of music as the sounds which influenced my own creative heart,mind and soul. Even than I recognized that this song,completely contemporary for it’s time,was completely embracing all the elements of that music. The vocal delivery was directly out of the trio’s Southern fried funk roots and it actually had a live instrumental backing of wah wah guitar and horns-which were just as distinctive and memorable to the song as the vocals and melody.

Thematically it is only recently that the wonders of this songs virtues actually revealed themselves to me. In a very poetic 70’s funky soul style? It finds TLC rhapsodizing the tale of a contemporary male urban teenager from a good family whose mother has concerns about the secrecy about his life,yet remains in the dark about the gangsta lifestyle he’s become involved in. It’s basically an image right out of what Maya Angelou refers to as “the thirteens”-seemingly a specific word for black American Generation X’ers.  This song takes the street sounds of mid 70’s hard funk,mixes it with a hip-hop style beat,live instrumentation and a message to young black men in particular what it might really to keep it real.

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Filed under 1990s, Chilli, Funk, Generation X, Lisa Left Eye Lopez, T-Boz, TLC, wah wah guitar, Waterfalls

Anatomy of THE Groove 11/7/2014 Andre’s Pick: “Trouble” By Jamaaladeen Tacuma

As a bass player for free jazz saxophone innovator Ornette Coleman’s band Prime Time,Jamaaladeen Tacuma bought the idea of funk’s “bass up front” ethic to Coleman’s harmolodic approach to music during the late 70’s and early 80’s. Especially since he’d already come to Coleman after playing for Charles Earland during his teens in his native Philadelphia  In 1984,the musically precocious Tacuma went out on his own with his group Cosmetic,and pursued an accompanying solo career.His sound grew heavily funk oriented during these this time. In 1991,he released an album called Boss Of The Bass. This album featured a more hip-hop based new jack swing groove-closer to  a harder edged Chuckii Booker than Ornette Coleman. One of the songs on the album stood out not only from this,but also as  social barometer for it’s time frame. It was appropriately called “Trouble”.

Starting out with Tacuma’s bass revving like a motorcycle engine the slow,thick,drum machine and electric slap bass fueled funk jam gets into gear as as the deep,husky soul singer Aziz’s vocals suddenly come on declaring “we’ve got trouble all over the land,we’ve got to make a stand”. The lyrics present the theme of an article in the “dirty press” and and asking why poverty is so ascendant when very few can live like “heirs to a throne”. After the two succeeding choruses,there are two instrumental breaks.  The first showcases Tacuma playing a dirty,snarling funk slap bass solo. The second is begins with a sample of a TV news report talking about an increase in the nuclear arms race before going into an electronic piano solo from Kae Williams Jr-late of the late 70’s/early 80’s  funk band Breakwater.  The main chorus of the song then repeats  itself until the song fades out.

The years between 1991 and 1993 showcased an America that was under pressure in terms of being able to maintain a universalist attitude between all fifty states. In more rural areas,you had the effect of trickle down economics causing mass decay. And in more urban areas,racial profiling and violence became a fact of life all too often. During the time the USSR fell,than US President George Bush got America involved in Operation: Desert Storm in Iraq and than came the senseless beating by Rodney King by the LAPD-following by the LA riots.  Hip-hop has been addressing the matters associated with this for many years before this-from KRS-1 and Public Enemy’s Chuck D. This song bought that sense of social urgency of political hip-hop to a more jazz inclined crowd,many of whom had difficulty with the blunt and sometimes profane language of rap.  And it framed this lyrics,set to a more 60’s/70’s preacher style of lyrics to a hard late 80’s style of funk.

Still this song retains hip-hop’s angrier tone in some of the lyrical content. Aziz’s blunt vocal approach has a very direct flavor to it. Also,while the lyrical content seems directed at working adults-perceiving the ills of the world and their community as they live their lives rather than idealist young people looking to change the world immediately,the lyrics maintain some of the “don’t believe the hype” attitude of late 80’s/early 90’s hip-hop. Generationally speaking? This isn’t surprising since Tacuma and his band mates were generally latter day baby boomers similar to Prince and Michael Jackson-often referred to today as “Generation Jones”. They were the same age as first generation hip-hoppers. So it was only natural that the lyrics of this song reflect both hope for the future and a sense of worried earnestness. Having first heard this closer to it’s time on one of my father’s jazz sampler CD’s? I’ve long considered this an unsung “people music” message song funk anthem for the early 1990’s!

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Filed under 1980's, 1990s, Funk, Funk Bass, Hip-Hop, Jamaaladeen Tacuma, Jazz, Jazz-Funk, Ornette Coleman, Public Enemy

Andre’s Amazon Archive for 7/19/2014: ‘A.J. & The Jiggawatts’

AJ & The Jiggawatts

 

Its been known to me for quite a few years that,even after the crossover potency of funk had diminished on the radio,that the music still had a home on radio and in the record stores of the American South. That extended onward into the 90’s era when the Southern hip-hop sub-genre emerged with acts such as Mystikal,The Goodie Mob and of course OutKast as some of the most thoroughly funk oriented of hip-hoppers of their era. With the emergence of the whole Dap Tone scene during the new millennium,it also seemed that large live funk bands were suddenly becoming the domain of indie record labels-much the same as the earliest music of the original funk and early disco era had actually been. While randomly leafing through the R&B section of the record store,I came across this album. It was a large horn funk band from Nashville,usually known to me as a mecca for country music. It described AJ & The Jiggawatts as a blistering live band. But what would the studio make them out to be on this CD?

Right of the bad with the intro the album is of course abound with fast paced,uptempo horn funk such as “Throw A Fit”,”Get Wild”,”Pushin’ Forward”,”98 Degrees”,”Once And A Lifetime”,”Don’t Mess With Me” and the intense “The Drop”. These numbers are some of the most hyperactive funk I’ve ever heard,since its usually a genre I tend to associate with a slower rhythmic structure. Might be good to use James Brown’s “I’m A Greedy Man” to describe the tempo and flavor of the funk on those songs. “Back Alley Beale St” and “Brown Bottle Fever”,both with a bluesier New Orleans groove,use the lyrical metaphor of intoxication. “Typical Feeling” is a sunny,melodic groove that deals with the virtues of skepticism and reason-citing what sounds like the contemporary climate crisis as an example. “Shake It For Me” has a commanding horn fanfare throughout it while “Pimp Decisions” espouses the virtues of balancing ones needs with those of others while “Stand Up” ends the album (as a bonus track) with some strident,wah wah heavy funky soul.

Musically this is a fantastic album through and through. One of the best things about it is that it updates the sociopolitical lyrical impulses of classic funk for the post Generation X years. The ideas of “do what you want to do” and “come together,people” are superseded with the concepts of reliance on ones own views and abilities. There’s also a strong working class sensibility about the album as well-dealing with people in tight economic situations trying to keep relationships and the like afloat amid their stresses. The musicians,especially the cracker jack horn section are superb. And the production is clean and loose as they come. The only thing I am not 100% taken with is AJ Eason’s singing. While he has a powerful,assertive vocal tone and is an extremely strong songwriter/lyricist? His vocal technique itself is extremely sloppy,similar to the lead singer of the Intruders where he often loses control of his voice and is very badly off key on the choruses. While people probably have their own ideas about Eason’s singing that will differ from mine,its not enough from keeping this a stand up example of a contemporary live band funk juggernaut!

Original Review Written On July 14th,2014

*Link to original review:

http://www.amazon.com/review/R1JKY3VXYHMOQL/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm

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Filed under A.J. & The Jiggawatts, A.J. Eason, Blues, Funk, Generations, James Brown, Nashville, New Orleans