Tag Archives: Heatwave

Too Hot To Handle: Heatwave’s Debut Album’s 40th Anniversary In the US

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Heatwave had been a huge international disco era funk mainstay from the get-go. When the late Johnny Wilder Jr began assembling the band while in West Germany-following discharge for the US Army in 1975. In 1976, the band released their debut album Too Hot To Handle in the UK. The original album cover art was a painting of a sun’s horizon over the sea courtesy of Norman Moore. The album was released on May 30th of the following year in the US. It was given a new cover. This one a comic book design of a vinyl album melting on a sidewalk-this time done by Robert Grossman.

This albums 40th anniversary has already passed. Oddly enough, it was one of the last Heatwave albums I actually investigated. Due to a broken CD player, my first copy of it succumbed to laser rot. A couple of listens to this album gave me to realize that its one of those albums that deserves a full form review of its contents. All the songs on it were written by the late,great Rod Temperton. And most of them showcased Johnnie Wilder’s dynamic, rangy vocal interpretations. So here,song by song is my own overview of the album. Not song by song exactly. But taking each of them as part of a wonderful whole.

The album starts off with a three prong uptempo punch. First is the title song-which uses call and response horn lines and slinky synthesizers playing similar melodic riffs-right along with the vocal trades of the Wilder brothers Johnnie and Keith. “Boogie Nights” starts off with a swinging,guitar based be bop type intro before heading into a driving Moog bass driven groove-one with funk functioning as top end disco. “Ain’t No Half Steppin'” is heavy bass/rhythm guitar oriented funk that’s directly descended from James Brown. Especially with its condensed, funky drum/percussion based bridge.

The album showcases a diverse range of songs from there out. The vocally epic,Philly style “Always And Forever” is a wedding dance classic now. It was recorded by Johnnie vocally as if he was performing live-ad libs and all. “All You Do Is Dial” has a gentle jazzy pop flavor while “Sho ‘Nuff Must Be Luv” has a cinematic Chi Town soul ballad approach. Those are the main ballads of the album. There’s also “Super Soul Sister”-a guitar and Clavinet fueled funk number that starts into a jazzy swing similar to “Boogie Nights” on the bridge.

“Lay It On Me” has a smooth funk vibe with a driving bass Clavinet,muted trumpet, strings and again Johnnie Wilder’s voice leading the way. The album ends with a nostalgic look back at old school child discipline on the (again) James Brown style funk of “Beat Your Booty”-this time with an open,round synth bass wash goosing the lead and harmony vocals along. Overall Heatwave got off to a powerful start with this album. Their basic sound was still built around the songs being played live. Still,their reputations as masters of the disco era funk/soul sound in the studio shines strongly too.

This band that was a little Dayton,a little continental Europe really showcased themselves as extremely funk oriented here. Not long after this, members of this group Rod Temperton and Johnnie Wilder Jr would become linked in different ways to the launching of a record breaking superstar in Michael Jackson. But with the massive hit success of “Boogie Nights” and “Always And Forever”, Heatwave came right out of the box as a funk band who could play serious grooves,right serious songs and sing serious melodies.  And for that, I have no doubt their legacy will live on.

 

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Anatomy of THE Groove: “Put The Word Out” by Rickey Vincent

Rickey Vincent is not only one of the key inspirations for this blog. But also for my own expanded funk education. Am sure that’s a story for many.  20 years ago,this occurred when Vincent’s guide book  Funk: The Music, The People, and The Rhythm of The One hit the stores. It not only offered a buyers guide,but serious literary commentary on funk as a genre and way of playing music. Vincent also hosts a radio show called ‘The History Of Funk’,whose Facebook group is also a key platform used to share the articles written here with the funk loving community.

On October 27th of this year,Vincent released an album called Phool 4 The Funk,which celebrates the genre Vincent has devoted his life to. Of all possible twists,I was personally interrupted in writing this article a month ago by the news that Donald Trump was suddenly winning the US presidential election. That event struck me with a bizarre sense of literary catatonia . Today is Mister Vincent’s birthday. So in tribute to him and his new album,wanted to discuss a version of a song he,Ziel McCarter and Will Magid did that I know very well. Its “Put The Word Out”,originally done by Heatwave.

An Afro Brazilian style conga/percussive rhythm opens the album with a jazzy bass improvising just below the groove. A somewhat scratchy synthesizer opens into the main groove. This consists if a loping drum,melodic organ along with 6 not bass riff and chunky rhythm guitar right up front with the hot horn charts. This represents the refrain. On the choruses,it comes to a hand clap/wah wah based breakdown after which Herb Alpert style trumpet solos on the bridge of the song. The chorus repeats to fade,with the trumpet eventually duetting right along with the vocals.

This might be one of the first times I’ve reviewed a cover of a classic funk song. And for what they are,both versions are theatrically funky. Rickey Vincent’s version however comes at a somewhat slower and more live band funk approach to it. And everything has a huge instrumental punch here. The drums,bass,guitar and horns all emerge as a rhythmic monster on this wonderful remake. Vincent and his band take the funkiest aspects of Heatwave’s already hard groove original.,and just builds them up with (as Vincent himself might call it) a great “united funk” groove mixed with a strong late 70’s influence too.

Rickey Vincent’s Phool 4 The Funk available in physical media here

*Also available for download on Amazon.com and iTunes

 

 

 

 

 

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Anatomy of THE Groove: “Send Out For Sunshine” by Heatwave

Heatwave are a band I tend to avoid writing about because of a perceived personal bias. Readers of this blog are well aware of how my moms 8-track copy of their Central Heating album started me on asking serious questions about music. Such as those about songwriting,instrumentation and production. The band members were and (of those still alive) are among the very best of late 70’s disco era funk. Yet this year,we lost the most prominent songwriters for Heatwave with the passing of Rod Temperton. Yet with him an Johnnie Wilder Jr now gone,one member of the band prominent for me is still alive.

Keith Wilder,brother of the late Johnnie,is celebrating his birthday today. It was an exciting day for me when Mister Wilder accepted my friend invite on Facebook. He actually contributed to a number of Heatwave songs I love in the focus department. His voice has similarities to his brothers. Yet was generally in a lower range. And while in Heatwave, Keith’s singing had a gruffer soul/funk attitude about it. That made it ideal for the bands harder edged songs. One of my favorite Heatwave songs is from Central Heating. And its called “Send Out For Sunshine”.

An catchy,up-scaling Clavinet opens before a processed guitar brings the song directly into the refrain. This is an extremely funky lead Clavinet riff on the bassiest end of the instrument,backed up by a thick conga/percussion rhythm. Some heavily filtered,bluesy guitar riffs and occasionally bouncy synthesizer effects accent this mix. Between each refrain,a chunky rhythm guitar plays along. This guitar extends into the chorus along with the strings. On the final choruses,the song moves up a chord while Keith and Johnnie Wilder duet off each other until the song fades away.

“Send Out For Sunshine” is a song that has everything a funk song could offer. The groove is very Afrocentric -especially with Johnnie on conga’s,the Clavinet grooves and rocks at the same time and the rhythm guitar of Eric Johns really brings the song to life. The production sonics on this also have a strong space funk vibe in with the rawer elements-giving it a futurist flavor as well. Lyrically,using what might’ve been seen by some as a drug metaphor really demonstrates the power of natural serotonin  from the sun as a positive element in the often bleak scenario’s painted in the songs lyrics.

 

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Filed under 1970's, clavinet, Eric Johns, hard funk, Heatwave, Johnnie Wilder Jr., Keith Wilder, Rod Temperton

Rod Temperton: The Star Of A Story I Love So Well

rod-temperton

Rod Temperton is my personal favorite composer of the last four decades. The funk and disco era he was a part of is generally thought of to be all rhythm based-simply to make you want to dance. But along with people such as Stevie Wonder,Con Funk Shun’s Felton Pilate and Earth Wind & Fire’s Maurice White,Temperton showcased how to write funky music with very singable,jazzy melodic scaling and modulation. He is yet another one of those figures who not only inspired this blog itself. But also the entire way I listen to music. And probably how I’ll continue to listen to it.

Temperton sadly passed away on October 5th,2016. Sources say of cancer,at the age of 66. His family wishes to protect his privacy. Which is totally logical as he lived as pretty much of a recluse. He was born in post WWII Lincolnshire,England. He apparently described his family,particularly his father,parenting him more with a radio by his bedside than their own presence. That began his lifelong love of music. From spending time as a drummer,working in the office of a frozen food company in Grisby he continued his fascination with music. This eventually landed him in Germany as a keyboardist.

In 1974,he answered the personal ad of Johnnie Wilder for the new band his was forming called Heatwave. He  became the chief songwriter for the band-honing his craft with hits such as “Boogie Nights” and “The Groove Line”. This earned him the attention of Quincy Jones. He than became a household name as a composer for Michael Jackson,namely the song “Thriller”.This is what Temperton is best known for. He wrote with the Westlake Studio crew for The Brothers Johnson,George Benson,Patti Austin and maintaining a songwriting relationship with Heatwave until they stopped recording after 1982.

The late Johnnie Wilder described Temperton’s personality as possessing a good sense of humor and a friendly attitude. This naturally made him a good musical partner for Quincy Jones. The man composed so many funk/soul/dance classics in the 70’s and 80’s that it would be too long to go through all of them. So today,I’m going to run down only the Rod Temperton songs that personally moved me the most. And chances are,many of them are being played on a radio station in your town at this very moment too. And that level of popularity is part of what makes many of these songs so enduring and distinctive.


Heatwave

“Boogie Nights” (1976)

The very idea of putting a swinging drum/jazz guitar opening and closing to the Moog bass led funky disco of this song gave it a strong and thoroughly musical sense of continuity.

“The Star Of A Story” (1978)

This might very well be my very favorite ballad of the late 70’s. With it’s processed electric pianos and orchestral sonics,its essentially a jazz tune with some tremendous multi tracked harmonies from Johnny Wilder. It was such a strong song,George Benson covered the song two years after Heatwave originally recorded it.

“The Big Guns” (1982)

In a lot of ways,this song became the instrumental prototype for what Temperton would do with Michael Jackson on the song “Thriller”. What this has is a slower,more complex percussive rhythms,jazzy scat singing and even a synthesizer solo from Herbie Hancock.

The Brothers Johnson 

“Stomp” (1980)

Temperton really know how to compose melodies spacious enough for both vocalists and instrumentalists. This song does both as a collaboration with Louis (also deceased) and George Johnson. Its a total bass/guitar showcase of course. But it also allows space for George Johnson’s vocal leads as well.

George Benson

“Give Me The Night” (1980)

This song is instrumentally a fairly close cousin of MJ’s “Rock With You”. Difference being the rhythm is far leaner-allowing Benson’s different guitar and lead vocal/scat playing parts to be more prominent in the mix.

“Off Broadway” (1980″

Oddly enough I first heard this as incidental music on a rerun of SCTV. Its built around Moog bass and horn/string interactions-all allowing Benson to shine on an evolving solo on this fine instrumental.

Patti Austin

“Razzmatazz” (1980)

This is probably one Patti’s most vibrant uptempo songs. The song is very stop heavy with horns,strings,guitar,keyboards and drums all playing the high key melody and rhythm. On the other hand,its a dance funk masterpiece where everything seems to fit just where it needs to go.

“Love Me To Death” (1981)

This album track from Austin’s Qwest debut  Every Home Should Have One is a gurgling mid tempo jazzy post disco groove with a deep,liquid guitar riff. To me a wonderful example of the clean production,molten instrumentation and harmonically powerful melody.

Michael McDonald

“Sweet Freedom” (1985)

This sonically heady dance/pop song from the 1985 comedy Running Scared is a song I remember singing to when I was 6 years old. So whether I knew it or not,Temperton’s songwriting style was deeply impacting on me before I even knew who he was. It has all the hallmarks of his writing and production style-emphasizing a rhythmically heady uptempo number with vast (in this case more electronic) instrumental sonics.

James Ingram

“One More Rhythm” (1983)

This song from Ingram’s debut album Its Your Night has an extremely singable melody. And uses modern production touches such as bass synthesizers and dancable refrains to what essentially amounts to a big band swing jazz revival. One of my all time favorite Temperton compositions-showing his understanding of Quincy Jones’ outlook on the musical continuity of black America.

Michael Jackson

“Rock With You” (1979)

One of the songs that helped launch MJ into a popular musical force of the early 80’s,”Rock With You” has such mellow instrumental sonics (including bass from Rufus’s Bobby Watson) that this steamy uptempo disco pop groove seems more like a ballad. And that’s probably not an easy quality to achieve.

“Thriller” (1982)

This is of course the song Temperton is best known for. It sounds like it sprang from a late in the day Heatwave demo. Its led by light percussion,hefty synth bass lines and a brittle liquid rhythm guitar on its bridge. Instrumentally,its one of Temperton’s finest compositions.


2016 is reminding me of the fact that today,most casual music listeners are again associating songs with singers. That instrumentalists,arrangers and composers are often afterthoughts. That’s because of the non stop parade of death this year of big musical icons. On a happier note,the internet and newer documentary films are bringing the creative history of these icons to live on a broader level. For me,Rod Temperton is such an artist. I could mention him in the same sentence as Nat King Cole and Burt Bacharach as one of the greatest mid/late 20th century musical composers.

 

 

 

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Filed under 1970's, 1980's, Brothers Johnson, Funk, George Benson, Heatwave, James Ingram, Michael Jackson, Michael McDonald, Patti Austin, Quincy Jones, Rod Temperton, songwriting, UK

Heatwave Holiday: A Summer Celebration Of A Band Too Hot To Handle

Heatwave 1978

Heatwave are a band that remind me of summertime perhaps even more than the Beach Boys do. I’ve told the story over and over of being introduced to the bands second album from 1978 Central Heating at the family summer camp during hot early 1990’s summers on 8-track tape. Sometimes,you can be very euphoric about a band’s music in the beginning. But as time goes on,the luster wears off. That’s never happened with Heatwave for me. Each time listening to them,I get something different. Much as with James Brown’s music,each listening to Heatwaves albums have me hearing things I never heard before.

2016 marks the 10th anniversary of Heatwave founder Johnnie Wilder Jr’s passing away. He was the co-founder,heart and soul of the band. And along with Rod Temperton,he helped write man songs for them as well as singing most of them. As Independence Day is on the way-with immigration is a hot topic this hot summer election year,Heatwave remind me of a wonderful cross continental American musical spirit-with members from the UK,Switzerland and the Czech Republic as well as Dayton,Ohio. So I’d like to present my favorite Heatwave jams that showcases Wilder’s amazing lead vocals!

“Ain’t No Half Steppin”/1976

It surprised me to hear such a raw live instrumental funk number from a band I’d always associated with studio slickness. But with it’s Jimmy Nolan style guitar and Wilder’s low leads and falsetto harmony vocals,this songs percussion break might possibly have also inspired Soul II Soul’s 1988 smash “Back To Life”-showcasing how one UK based live funk success could inspired one from a whole other era.

“Always And Forever”/1976

From my understanding,Johnnie Wilder’s iconic lead vocals on this classic slow jam were recorded live in a single take. The band wanted the vocal freedom Wilder would have in their live shows. And this song truly bought the stage to the studio-with  Wilder’s soulful extravaganza of vocal cries across his range talking up the entire last half of the song. It has as slow a tempo as a song could have. But it’s straight up gospel energy bursts with boundless musical magnetism.

“Put The Word Out”/1978

The intensely processed Brazilian drum breaks,percussion and atmospheric strings of the intro on this Rod Temperton song is truly an instrumental spectacle for the ears to behold. Then the rhythm guitar and bass get going with Wilder giving it his all on this melodic,harmony laden uptempo disco/funk marvel.

“The Star Of A Story”/1978

The ultra low strings,Brazilian guitar flourishes,the processed Fender Rhodes piano along with Wilder’s cosmic falsetto vocal turns showcase how amazing Temperton and Wilder’s sense of musicality was when working in close concert. This is my favorite Heatwave ballad and another technical marvel of sound and production. George Benson even interpreted this three years later-showcasing the strength this song had to a guitarist who sang too.

“Raise A Blaze”/1979

Heatwave’s third album in 1979’s Hot Property used to be one of the most obscure albums to find while crate digging. Produced by Phil Ramone,Johnnie Wilder really got a chance to shine on the bass/guitar heavy dance funk delight of this song. Again,it showcases much compositional power and energy Heatwave put in their uptempo tunes.

“Turn Around”/1980

This is one of those arrangements where the strings and horns really let the bass/guitar interaction shine as the main thrust of the rhythm. Much like Michael Jackson’s “Rock With You”, this is one of those deep soul/funk grooves whose slinky,stripped down rhythm section can fool the listener into thinking its actually a ballad. As always,Wilder shines on the vocal leads and harmonies.

“Posin’ ‘Til Closin”/1980

Something about this Temperton song,with it’s bass/guitar heavy rhythms and witty lyrical storytelling,reminds me of something from the Chic Organization from this time period. Wilder singing the line “she’s a TV star/she watches all the shows/had a face like Farrah Fawcett since they corrected her nose/that’s the way it goes” never ceases to make me giggle and hum along to this catchy disco classic.

“Find It In Your Heart”/1982

Heatwave’s 1982 album Current is probably their most underrated album-with it’s ultra glossy production,top notch compositions and aurally electric synthesizer use. This mid tempo,urban contemporary sort of funk has a strong bass/guitar part and some of Wilder’s finest vocals ever. Has a flavor similar to early Luther Vandross solo material.


Of course there are many more Heatwave songs I could go on about for many other write ups. And am intending to do just that. This particular list of Heatwave songs merely emphasizes my favorites that involving the participation of Johnnie Wilder. While there’s a lot of focus on uptempo funk and disco here,Wilder had a tremendous talent to pack a vocal punch on powerfully arranged slow jams as well. Being that listening to Heatwave will likely lead the listener to seek out George Benson,Quincy Jones and Michael Jackson albums from that same era out,turn up their music for a sizzling summer groove!

 

 

 

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Filed under 1970's, 1980's, Brazilian Jazz, disco funk, Fender Rhodes, Funk Bass, Heatwave, Johnnie Wilder Jr., percussion, Phil Ramone, rhythm guitar, Rod Temperton

Anatomy of THE Groove: “Goin’ Crazy” by Heatwave

Heatwave might be my personal favorite  of the classic Dayton,Ohio funk bands. Difficult to be too objective about that. Interesting thing is,they represented a cross continental group-many of whom derived from Europe.  The band sadly had very little recording longevity and a whole lot of bad breaks. But the five albums they recorded from 1977 to 1982 were all such well produced,well played on and well written funk/disco delights.  The groups central composer was Rod Temperton. But the heart and soul of the band rose and fell along with their late lead singer/composer Johnnie Wilder Jr.

Wilder showed a great respect for good musicianship,good grooves and good melodies. It would also seem he ran Heatwave in a very paternalistic manner too. Apparently even deciding that members couldn’t get married-due to possible interference in the bands dynamic. With all the great funky dance hits Heatwave had, a 1979 car crash left Wilder a paraplegic and unable for perform for some time. While he began recuperating,Wilder was succeeded by future Commodore JD Nichols on the bands 1980 album Candles. Wilder composed one of my favorite jams on the album entitled “Goin’ Crazy”.

Heatwave’s keyboardist Calvin Duke begins the song with multi layered lead and bass Clavinet riffs-playing in staccato to three note riffs from the Fender Rhodes piano. On the choruses the drums kick in-ably accented by the highly prolific session master Paulinho Da Costa. Derek Bramble’s bass pops hard alongside Ernest Berger’s steady 4/4 beat and Duke’s high synth melody. On each refrain,the focus returns to Duke’s Clavinet solos. On the bridge,that Clainvet powers everything from climactic strings to the stop/start horn and Rhodes breaks that eventually bring the groove to a cold start.

This jam has that rare mix of professional studio sleekness  and raw instrumental power. Heatwave are a tight unit on this song-with Calvin Duke,Da Costa and Johnnie’s brother Keith holding down the vocal fort on the refrains with his percussive “let’s clap,let’s clap”. The two types of electric piano used here are left the most raw-with the piano like tones of the Clavinet and melodic Rhodes really giving the song much of it’s instrumental power. It’s finely composed arrangement and funky danceability make this a fine example of why Heatwave threw down some of the most amazing disco era funk.

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Filed under 1980's, Calvin Duke, clavinet, Derek Bramble, disco funk, drums, Ernest Berger, Fender Rhodes, Funk Bass, Heatwave, Johnnie Wilder Jr., Keith Wilder, Paulinho Da Costa, percussion, post disco, Rod Temperton, strings, synthesizer

Andre’s Funk Essentials: Mixing It Up With The Groove’s Greatest Hits

funk

Funk has long been something that I’ve viewed as being an album oriented genre-one that blends uptempo dance music and jazzy or blues oriented ballads that has a certain approach to rhythm. But is often built around a certain concept as well. While funk albums has always been part of the family musical experience? I only fully understood funk as a specific genre due to compilations albums. In fact have often stated that at that place and time in the mid 1990’s? The only feasible and fiscally practical way in which to experience funk was through different types of compilations.

Much the same as you’d have with full length albums? The nature of compilations of pretty diverse when it comes to the funk genre. Funk is found on various artists compilations that otherwise consist mostly of rock,jazz and blues songs. They can be found on soundtracks in much the same manner. While in the 90’s there was not only a major up-swell of various artists compilations that were all funk, but also a series of compilations by a single funk band/soloist. Tracing down the timeline of where I personally started with the music? Here is a list of the various varieties of funk compilations that inspired me along the journey into the groove.


Funk Essentials

It was a cassette dub of this album from my dad, playing on the car stereo on the way home from a family trip from the city of Portland. I’ve discussed this on my previous blog The Rhythmic Nucleus. What still amazes me is that I could listen to songs such as “Let’s Star The Dance”,”Rigor Mortis” and “Flashlight” were all from a band actually called the Funk Essentials. Still this served it’s intended purpose with me: to whet the appetite to explore the artists within. And through BMG Music Service’s well stocked lineup of Funk Essentials compilations for individual artists I was able to take that journey a bit later

Heatwave Greatest hits

          Having already been exposed to Heatwave’s Central Heating album on 8 Track tape as a child? This album was a cassette of my mothers when she was unable to find that album on another format. While featuring the biggest hits from that album? It was my first exposure to classics such as “Boogie Nights”,”Always And Forever” and the 1980 jam “Posin’ ‘Til Closin”. It also led me on the path to other full length Heatwave albums like their 1982 masterpiece Current. The music of Rod Temperton and the late Johnnie Wilder have had an incalculable effect on how I perceive funky songwriting and composition.

Michael Jackson - Anthology (1986)

It’s very likely that Michael Jackson represented my very first introduction to funk music and I wasn’t even aware of it. His music was a direct link to me for the music of Berry Gordy’s Motown records where he began his career onward to Quincy Jones and the Westlake studio crew of musicians such as bassist Louis Johnson (one half of the Brothers Johnson of “Stomp” fame) and Greg Phillinganes (renowned session player for the likes of Eric Clapton,Stevie Wonder and his own solo albums Significant Gains and Pulse) as well as Toto’s Steve Lukather.

Jackson 5 Anthology

On these Motown sessions? People like the Mizell Brothers (who’d go on to work with jazz great Donald Byrd) and members of The Jazz Crusaders in Joe Sample and Wilton Felder provided the instrumental power and excitement to songs such as Michael’s early solo hits such as funked up show tunes such as “All The Things You Are” to epic fare such as “We’re Almost There” and “Take Me Back”. Not to mention a roll call of Jackson 5 triumphs such as “I Want You Back”,”Mama’s Pearl” and “Dancing Machine” along with far lesser known but still powerful songs such as “Looking Through The Windows”,”Get It Together”,”Whatever You Got,I Want” and “Body Language”.

Best Of Earth Wind & Fire Vol.1

As with The Jacksons? Some songs from Earth Wind & Fire were part of my musical core from the outset. Yet it was the experience of borrowing this vinyl from my dad in my early teens that really got me started on exploring this band. Songs such as “Shining Star”,”Fantasy”,”Can’t Hide Love” and “Getaway” were completely new to me at the time. Cannot diminish the excitement of hearing them for the first time. Add to that viewing the inner gate fold sleeve of this vinyl to see the joyous expressions of the band before I even knew names like Ralph Johnson,Al McKay,Larry Dunn or even Maurice White.

Parliament-Tear_The_Roof_Off_1974-1980

It was the Funk Essentials series that led me to this. During 1995 the name George Clinton was ringing through my head all the time. And this particular album was my entry point into the world of Parliament. Of course some of these songs lyrically made little sense to me. But it didn’t take the liner notes to begin to understand that characters such as Sir Nose,Starchild,Mister Wiggles and Dr.Funkenstein were part of a vast concept Clinton had set up that spanned across the Parliament albums as a whole. This really elevated my understanding of funk as an album based genre. And therefore was one of the key individual artist-based compilations that entered into my world at the time.

Move To The Groove

Interestingly enough? My father was more attracted to the holographic CD cover for this set than he seemed to be with the music within. Yet during the spring and summer of 1996? My father and I actually began our many musical conversations while listening to the songs here. It was my very first exposure to artists such as Roy Ayers,Mandrill and George Duke. These artists would become hugely significant in my expanding musical explorations in years to come.

Prince The Hits-B-Sides

Always compelled by the multi talented and expansively funky Prince Rogers Nelson,this album really showcased for me how versatile and entrancing  this innovator of the Minneapolis sound’s music truly was. Not only that but it included a number of non album B-sides on the final disc-the best of which (for me anyway) were the magnificent “17 Days” and “Erotic City”. When I collected all of Prince’s full length albums? I actually sold my original copy of this for pocket change basically. But I recently bought it again-not only because of the B-sides but simply because it’s a compilation of songs I still love to listen to set up this way. And from the look of the back? I feel as if I might’ve bought back my own copy I sold so many years ago.

Rick-James-Greatest-Hits

Seemed only natural to explore the music of Rick James during the same time as Prince’s. Interestingly enough? This particular collection was one of the very first CD’s bought into our home in 1990 when my father got his first CD player as a Christmas gift. It took me six more years to get into it. While I danced and hummed along to “Give It To Me Baby”,”You And I”,”Cold Blooded” and my favorite at the time “17”? Listening to this man’s lyrics provided me with a bucket list of things I would never even think of doing myself. Good example to me of funk that was almost totally lyrically un-relatable for me.

Nuyorican Soul

This mixture of Latin style acid jazz music of the mid 90’s was again something that my father purchased-during a time when both of us were on trajectories of exploring funk and it’s many tributaries. While not every one of these songs made a lasting impact on me? Singer India’s performance on the song “Runaway” helped me to understand something Roy Ayers,who also appears on this album, would continue to teach me later: how funk functioned in the context of the disco era.

Pure Disco Volume 1

It was a family friend,the late Janie Galvin,who first loaned us this CD. A lot of the songs and artists I knew well at this point. At the same time it was first hearing of Diana Ross’s amazing disco-funk extravaganza “Love Hangover”. Not to mention my introduction to two artists who would become enormous parts of my musical future in the UK group Imagination and the incomparable Teena Marie.

Star Time

I’d been reading over and over again about this man who,by 1997 I only knew three songs by. Only after being fully educated on how this man was essentially responsible for funk and hip-hop on his own? I went for it and purchased the highly recommended James Brown box set. I don’t know if I have words to described the feeling of what hearing “Think”,”Let Yourself Go”,”Talkin’ Loud And Sayin’ Nothin'”,”The Payback”,”Get Up Offa That Thing” and “It’s Too Funky In Here” for the first time. Perhaps I was more than a little late in the game to James Brown. At the same time? It actually opened the door for another,deeper stage in my understanding of the thoroughly instrumental structure of funk.

JB's Funky Good Time

On the way back from an long road trip to New York State? The two CD’s were part of the soundtrack for the trip home. At the time? I found some of these long instrumental jams a bit monotonous. Though I was deep into James Brown at this time? The idea of repetition in funk and being “on the one” was an element of the music’s core I could only take in limited doses. Still this was very educational for broadening my ability to listen to extended instrumental numbers. Somehow? The song I found myself doing a total call and response to on that road trip was “More Peas”. Today with the JB’s? Can hardly get enough of them. Proof of how funk can evolve a music lover fast!

Funk Essentials 1999

This discount compilation,found at Sam’s Club I believe,had one song on it that I kept repeating over and over again. And that was Tom Browne’s “Funkin For Jamaica”. This was a song and artist I wanted to know more and more about. This was a direct line to some of my more recent explorations of the last decade or so of artists such as Bernard Wright,Lenny White and Weldon Irvine.

Gramavision Jazz,Funk & Composers of Distinction

From solo projects by P-Funk’s Bernie Worrell onward? Grammavision was a label I was beginning to investigate during the late 1990’s. This compilation of my fathers provided me with a song by an artist named Jamaaladeen Tacuma called “Trouble” that really caught my ear. Tacuma’s music is one of my more recent investigations. And all because of this one little song that simply never left my mind upon hearing it.

Luaka Bop

The new millennium had officially arrived with this album-a free giveaway to my father from Bull Moose records,the local Maine record haunt. One song on this album excited my father so much he gleefully gave me the “you’ve GOT to hear this” routine. The song was “Masturbation Session” by a band called Arepa 3000-a P-Funk style number sung in Spanish. It was my first (and one of very few) exposures to funk sung in a completely foreign language.


After the year 2000? Compilations no longer provided any influence in my musical experiences. Full length albums were generally the route I was beginning to go on from then on- with my burgeoning interest in reissue CD’s and used vinyl. Interestingly enough? That was the year I received my GED diploma after eight years of home/un-schooling. My funk education directly coincided with my academic education: from 1993 through 2000.

One thing my blogging partner Henrique and I often discuss is how most people seem to either understand funk as a musical fad heavily connected to the disco era,nor even worse know nothing about it at all. After writing this? I am proud that funk,a music based so fully in rhythm,was as strong a musical influence on my life as rock ‘n’ roll is for the majority of people so it seems. Going from collections of songs to coherent album statements? It’s been an exciting journey which wound up with me discussing individual songs today,only in music terms,here on this blog. My own advice? Never fear changing up the groove in your own life!

~

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Filed under 1980's, 1990s, Boogie Funk, compilation albums, Funk, George Clinton, Heatwave, James Brown, Michael Jackson, P-Funk, Prince, Rick James

Anatomy of THE Groove 5/2/14 Andre’s Pick: “I Will” by Kenny Thomas

One of those fascinating coincidences in the history of soul and funk music is the tendency of the British music scene to fill in significant gaps when the music is experiencing a low popularity and audience in the United States. Funk oriented new wave era groups such as Level 42,Heaven 17,Duran Duran and Spandau Ballet provided this during the US post disco radio freeze out. Some maintained this style through mid decade even. Sade,Simply Red,George Michael and Soul II Soul continued this tradition later in the decade. Aside from American adoration’s such as Prince and Talking Heads,the popularity of funky soul grooves seemed to be in a strange holding pattern on this end of the pond. In the mid 1990’s onward through the post 9/11 world? This pattern came back in play-with 2006-08 being the height of this ethic. Years after his debut in 1991,English soul/funk artist Kenny Thomas emerged in 2006 with a song that showcased this impulse entitled “I Will”.

Starting off with a fan faring drum roll and a plast of joyful,gospel inspired horns the song gets started with thickly grooving mix of high stepping drums,highly melodic electric piano chords and the fantastically vital horn section providing the life force that keeps the entire song alive. With a chunky bass/guitar interactive holding the keyboard riffs all together, Kenny himself sings lyrics with the same level of joy expressed in the horn parts and melody revolving around the most optimistic outlook on newfound romance that one could possibly ask. On the refrains,the melody changes to include a few minor chords but when going back into the main theme of the song,the melody rises up into the major chord as Kenny declares “I WILL” on the chorus. His voice-a passionate cross between Teddy Pendergrass,Michael McDonald and Heatwave’s Keith Wilder,provides an almost ideal reflection of the songs overall joyousness.

From my own personal observations, the era in which this song was recorded was not among the happiest or secure time for the planet Earth, A never ending war on terror was going on,people were divided even more than they were in the 1960’s and that 90’s era cynicism prevented a great deal of action from occurring to counter this. Music was in a great need for empathy over apathy,release instead of tension. And for those who followed the music of Kenny Thomas (which I unfortunately wasn’t at the time),this song in particular provided just what a proverbial Dr. Funkenstein might want. Its another one of those songs defined by a hybrid sound-in this case a mixture of the Chi-town funk of Earth Wind & Fire and the sleek West Coast style of late 70’s Doobie Brothers and Steely Dan. Also there’s a strong element of Phil Collins’ early 80’s Brit-funk approach as well. This song is a perfect example of,on a purely musical level of what Mick Jagger sang in 1969: you can’t always get what you want,but sometimes you just might find that you get what you need.

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Filed under Funk, Late 70's Funk, Neo Soul, New Wave, Radio, Soul, UK

Anatomy of THE Groove 3/21/14: “Long Weekend” by Trombone Shorty

Since it would seem that that New Orleans has the reputation of being the birthplace of the concept of funk itself,what with the first acknowledged jazz musician’s Buddy Bolden’s song “The Funky Butt”,it makes perfect sence that an important element of the modern funk revival would emerge with the Crescent City’s own Trombone Shorty. Originally named Troy Andrews,he grew up in the cities Treme’ region-playing in the local marching bands and eventually becoming a featured member of Lenny Kravitz horn section in 2005. Having already entered into rising adulthood having been reared with a musical synergy of the traditional Dixie Land marches of his local area as well as the late 80’s funk revelations such Cameo’s “Word Up” and Prince’s “Housequake” ,Andrew’s had the musical wherewithal to zero in on a somewhat under-explored middle ground between both those divergent funk approaches on Trombone Shorty’s 2013 release Say This To That with a groove entitled “Long Weekend”.

Kicking off with an announcing drum kick,the rather percussive and slow crawling drumming is immediately joined by a cleanly played,melodic funk guitar line with a high electric organ swirl slowly building in the back round. Another drum kick announces the introduction of Andrew’s expressively earnest lead vocals. When singing the chorus of the song,he’s joined by his own multi tracked backup vocals when the songs title is mentioned. The bass line of the song isn’t generally as prominent throughout the song as the guitar and drum/percussion part is. However at the end of each instrumental chorus,especially before a drum kick,the popping jazz/funk bass line comes to the forefront much more heavily. On the bridge and during the outro of the song,the melodic and rhythmic structure of the song totally changes. The bass is lifted to the forefront scaling down to a powerful bass/guitar chord that intensely amplifies the funkiness in the center and end of the song.

While funk is not as widely known as a musical genre as some of its admirers might think that it is, a majority of musicians performing funk are doing so very much in the late 60’s/early 70’s raw live band type James Brown/Tower Of Power style. Considering his music is strongly based in jazz-fusion/blues and psychedelic soul/rock, Trombone Shorty and his bands’ approach to this song emphasizes a trend in contemporary funk music that seemed to have spawned from Pharrell Williams productions for Justin Timberlake,Robin Thicke and Daft Punk. And that is a strong emphasis on the production style of late 70’s Ohio based funk bands such as Heatwave and Slave. This is a style where the bass/guitar/drum interaction is still hard grooving funk. But the sound is more studiocentric than developed mainly for live performance. Of course Andrew’s adds a more jazz oriented electric piano groove on the bridge to give the song his own type of flavor.

Another element of “Long Weekend” that’s very similar to the music of Slave in particular is how close the lyrical and melodic content of the vocals are to that Ohio bands adolescent party funk aestetic. In particular the way Andrew’s is pitching woo to an older woman,once the subject of a high school type unrequited love and is now old enough to appreciate her-particularly on a somewhat scandalous “long weekend” with this lady that even includes “a trip to the liquor store” to ensure a little physical adventure-even though he doesn’t feel able to tell his peers. Of course this attitude lends itself very well to the near perfect balance of studio production and live instrumental production. Judging from what I have seen in a video of Trombone Shorty performing this song live? Today that late 70’s style of recorded danceable funk music is just as viable on stage as it is on record. And “Long Weekend” emphasizes that very strongly.

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Filed under 1970's, Blues, Funk, Funk Bass, Late 70's Funk, New Orleans, Rhythm, Trombone Shorty