Tag Archives: Jam & Lewis

Funky Revelations Of 1987: ‘Keep Your Eye On Me’ by Herb Alpert

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Herb Alpert really never stopped recording in the years between his Tijuana Brass and his late 70’s comeback album Rise. And he never stopped recording between that album and this either. Yes both of albums have two important things in common. They both bridged different areas of his career. They also allowed him to reinvent his music for different generations. The Herb Alpert that made this album was not the relatively new record label mogul developing very individual artists like Gino Vannelli and recording albums with people like Hugh Masekela.

THIS Herb Alpert is a well oiled record mogul pressed into service to developing careers of videogenic megastars such as Janet Jackson. So he didn’t have to go far to find the right producer for this project. Jam/Lewis,even though really only four years into their career as producers were at this point already establishing what 80’s funk would sound like with Janet’s Control. So it was no surprise what so ever that their rhythmic but highly stylized dance/funk style would have the effect it did on Alpert as well. So here we have it: Herb Alpert’s Jam & Lewis album!

Starting off with the title cut,we’re instantly dealing with a bassy,deeply funky number where the sound of Alpert’s horn is used more as a percussive effect than anything,pushing out the melody in spurts rather than extended notes. “Diamonds” and “Making Love In The Rain”,the two Janet Jackson songs here were seen as the real draw on this album and really have more of Janet’s sound with Alpert more as a guest musician. And they are strong numbers for sure.

But there’s much more here than that. “Hot Shot” and “Traffic Jam” are two more heavy instrumental funk grooves where “Cat Man Do”,”Our Song”,”Rocket To The Moon” and especially the closing “Stranger On The Shore” really bring Alpert back as the star of the show as the primary instrumental soloist. And his distinctive,hyper melodic,vibrato heavy “bull fighting” trumpet style hasn’t changed one iota for this occasion either. On “Pillow” Herb takes over on vocals himself with Lani Hall so,in any spot where he may be vocally weak she can take over a little bit more. This dual lead harmony effect also serves to bring out the moody melodicism of the composition.

I’ve only really listen to this album once but I can already say from listen to it that this is the sort album that you will tend to get more out of each time you listen to it. It owes as much to the artist as it does to the producers. They both know how to keep the songs musically and melodically filled with just enough surprises to keep the music fresh and interesting with each listen. Again as with most things from this era a lot of people are bound to give this album some less than stellar commentary simply because it’s based in the production of the late 80’s.

And that’s not an era seen as very potent in pop music. All the same there was still enough of the kind of arrangement and melodicism that made music of the previous couple decades what it was. And in the era before the beat heavy hip-hop beats took over both R&B and jazz-pop even as the dominant rhythmic pattern that’s,along with Herb Alpert’s musical potency is part of what helps this to be a stand out album all the way.

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Anatomy Of THE Groove Special Presentation-Wishing A Happy Birthday To Mr. Leee John: “Music And Lights” by Imagination:

Perhaps in the US? It did seem as if the post disco backlash (and subsequent freeze out) did reduce the progress of black dance music to a slow crawl, at least commercially, during the early 80’s. Still there was boogie/electro funk,developing often rather more underground. On the UK music scene? The post punk and post disco scene were developing together,and very successful in it’s own context. There was no “death of” syndrome per se. The funky dance music scene was just allowed to evolve through the synthesizer/new wave era. Enter vocalist/keyboard player Leee John,guitarist/bassist Ashley Ingram and drummer Errol Kennedy.

The band emerged in 1981 with the album Body Talk and became a huge international success. Because John was also becoming interested in acting around this time? Their music started appearing in films-with John himself eventually appearing in the 1983 Doctor Who serial Enlightenment. A year before this in 1982? The trio of multi instrumentalists released their sophomore album In The Heat Of The Night. It continued the creative and commercial success as an album and through my personal favorite song from it “Music And Lights”.

It all begins with a round,mid toned bass synth pulse that goes into a slow,stomping rhythmic beat. Even with that? There’s also several pulsing melodic electronic keyboards each playing accompanying melodic parts. One is a straight up,bluesy melody. The other is a pulse that separates each instrumental refrain. And the final,which shows up in the first bridge of the song, is a glassy and almost otherworldly sounding jazzy piano. John’s vocals,presented both in his mid tenor and higher falsetto accompany the chorus and refrains until a complete break down of the chorus INTO the refrain near the end of the song.

To me anyway? This song represents some of the strongest musical qualities of the early 80’s electro funk sub-genre. Much in the style of the then enormously influential Minneapolis Sound pioneered by Prince,Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis? This song represents the idea of using synthesizers to replicate the horn and string parts that were still in use on some popular music even though-though for different reasons less so. While the music and lyrics have an airy space disco dressing-with it’s disco era glamour tale? The basic core of the song is a straight up blues/funk stomp-with a raw,prickly rhythm attitude. And that’s why,at least subjectively this song functions so well for me.

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Filed under 1980's, Blues, Disco, Doctor Who, electro funk, Imagination, Jam & Lewis, Jazz, Leee John, Minneapolis, post disco, Prince, synth bass, synth funk, UK Funk