Ray Parker Jr.’s career in his native Detroit began while playing with Hamilton Bohannon’s band at the city’s iconic nightspot 20 Grand. This got the teen’s guitar wiz the attention of the Motown crew-for whom he began playing and writing in earnest for the likes of Marvin Gaye and even outside the label for Honey Cone’s hit “Want Ads”. This led to the man become a mid 70’s session ace for everyone from Stevie Wonder,Aretha Franklin,Rufus and Herbie Hancock-playing and writing songs for each one of them. Not to even mention being a sideman in Barry White’s Love Unlimited Orchestra.
In 1977,Parker had amassed more than enough experience as a session player/composer to become a bandleader. This lead to him forming Raydio. It was himself playing many of the instruments alongside vocalists Arnell Carmichael,Jerry Knight and Vincent Bonham. After their self titled debut and hit “Jack And Jill” the next year,Raydio was Parker ,Carmichael and an array of additional session players such as Ollie Brown and former Motown Funk Brother Jack Ashford. This led to the release of their second album in 1979’s Rock On, with one of my favorite tracks on it being “When You’re In Need Of Love”.
The song begins with a heavy thump on the bass ans snare drum-punctuated by Parker’s phat synth bass. This brings in a thick,quaking Bootsy Collins’ style “duck face bass” that is present the entire song. After several verses of this,percussive hand claps enter into the mix that eventually brings in some brittle,higher pitched synth brass charts from Parker. As the chorus starts in,Parker brings in two lead guitar lines. One is a dramatic,low thunder and the other is a more bluesy down scale. After two rounds of the refrain and chorus,the intro that opened the song basically repeats to the songs fade out.
Raydio’s second album is very heavy on funk. Originally picked it up on vinyl only on the basis that I knew the name of the band and Ray Parker Jr. The name Raydio actually came from a written documentary I had on a good point of reference for Parker’s musical approach: Prince. Ray Parker Jr. was right there in the late 70’s with the Purple One really helping to innovate with the idea of synthesizer’s playing traditional horn charts. As with most of Raydio’s funk,this groove stays on the one with the rhythmic influence of the Isley Brothers and P-Funk’s heavy still and electronics running on full throttle!
Filed under 1970's, Arnell Carmichael, Detroit, drums, Funk, Funk Bass, Ollie Brown, Ray Parker Jr., Raydio, rhythm guitar, rock guitar, session musicians, synth bass, synth brass, synthesizer, Uncategorized
One of the things that made Bobby Womack have such musical longevity is the fact that he was such a renowned songwriter playing even outside his own field. This was particularly true for the jazz world. George Benson’s iconic instrumental hit “Breezin” was of course composted by Womack. He also worked with Crusader’s sax/bassist Wilton Felder on the 1980 album Inherit The Wind. This album became a smash in London,and was likely part of the still gestating UK acid jazz scene. The man still continued to maintain his solo career-making a new album every year throughout the 7o’s. The decade ended in a very unexpected way for him however.
After dealing with a cocaine habit during his time recording with Sly Stone on his There’s A Riot Goin’ On,Womack lost his four month old son Truth in 1978. This apparently turned the habit into a serious addiction over the next decade. Still the man was on a musical roll. In 1979 he released his final album of the 70’s on Arista Records entitled Roads Of Life. I first encountered the CD during the late 90’s at Borders Books & Music. And only recently picked it up as part of a classic album vinyl reproduction box set of Womack’s Arista period. The album is seriously funky overall. The song that said it all for me was called “Mr. D.J. Don’t Stop The Music”.
After a screaming call to “come on with the music!”,the percussion accented drum beat rolls on with a wah wah pedal fueled Clavinet rings in the song. As the percussion increases,Womack and the band vocally contribute to the songs party atmosphere while a round,pulsing synthesizer and a funky harpsichord really pump up the choruses of the song. After the third chorus of the song, Womack plays one of his amp’d up blues/rock guitar solos. This goes into a piano solo fueled by climactic strings-bleeding into a wailing sax and back into a more rhythmic piano call and response. The strings segue out of this into the repeated chorus that continues on into the songs fade out.
Recorded at Muscle Shoals studios with former Motown Funk Brothers Jack Ashford and Eddie Bongo Brown (on drums and percussion),this song is another superb example of the type of orchestrated,danceable funk that could function very easily under the mirrored ball of the disco floor. The party sound vibe that always worked so well for the stomping disco/funk sound really brings out the groove as well. Womack’s ability to play and write funky music had really come into it’s own by the end of the 1970’s. And it really shows how much clout he held among the big funk/soul/jazz session players at the time that he could get together with them to jam out strong grooves like this one so regularly.
Filed under 1970's, Bobby Womack, clavinet, disco funk, drums, Eddie "Bongo" Brown, guitar, Jack Ashford, Muscle Shoals, piano, Saxophone, strings, The Funk Brothers, Uncategorized