Tag Archives: Kashif

Funky Revelations Of 1987: ‘Whitney’ by Whitney Houston

Interestingly enough, I didn’t hear this particular album until well over a decade after it came out. Some of it might’ve been a degree of overexposure,even within the family to her self titled debut album. Even after this had been out for some time. Produced as before with the Narada Michael Walden/Clive Davis team who were also churning out mid 80’s hits for Whitney’s godmother Aretha Franklin,boogie funk maestro Kashif is also on board for this session. Over the years, I’ve read in many publications that all these “cooks in the kitchen” (when it came to producers) diminished Whitney’s vocal presence.

Considering  how much I’d felt Whitney had been bound by her producers when she first came out, this album gave me the impression of being nothing but surface glitter for a wonderful vocal talent. Whitney is also someone who at the time everyone was really rooting for positively. And perhaps we all still do musically anyway. But once I took the negativity of some writers and that of musical pop culture in general,the whole “antieightiesitis” deal,out of the context of this album and really listened to it there’s a possibility this may be Whitney’s most varied and accomplished work of the decade.

For sure the production is big, bright,full of life and major chords but so is Whitney. Her utter joy and rapture in succeeding so much musical blood already in her family is more than apparent. First off this album is home to two of her brightest dance numbers. “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)” is a complete late 80’s dance/pop tune but with enough of that gospel/soul style joy from Whitney to make it work. “So Emotional” is meaner and funkier,with something of a Minneapolis/Janet Jackson synth influence.

In a lot of ways Whitney is a far more uptempo based album than her debut,with far more danceable songs. My two personal favorite in that regard are the sleekly jazzy/funk style of “Love Will Save The Day”,featuring a vibraphone solo from Roy Ayers himself and a cleverly chorded hook. “Love Is A Contact Sport” showcases this shuffling retro Motown/Holland-Dozier-Holland type rhythm and a sassy pop/soul atmosphere. Of the ballads my favorite here, probably one of my favorite slower tunes of all of Whitney’s is “Just The Lonley Talking Again”,a reflective,jazzy heartbreak type slow groove.

Ideally, Miles Davis would’ve been perfect playing on “Just The Lonely Talking Again”. And while the name of Kenny G being on it might induce some to cringe…his sax solos do actually gather some some quiet fire here. Of the slower material I honestly prefer Kashif’s “Where Are You” and the gospel powered “I Know Him So Well”,a mother/ daughter duet between Whitney and the husky voiced Cissy. “Didn’t We Almost Have It All”,”You’re Still My Man” and “Where Do Broken Hears Go”? Well two of them were huge radio smashes but were somewhat predictable with what her debut had to offer.

If your a fan of that “big ballad” thing of Whitney’s, the songs just discussed  are great examples of that. And taken as they are they really do complete this in terms of being a pop package. Aside from these matters, the album is actually full of some exciting and energetic vocal and compositional surprises. And in the end,the mix of four producers including Jellybean and Michael Masser (along with Narada and Kashif) actually don’t end up being very intrusive at all. Everyone involved realized how to accommodate the “star” vocalist here.

I imagine her abilities and enthusiasm more than carried the sessions too. Not to mention Whitney also doing her own vocal arrangements here. As with the female soul vocalist greats Whitney admired and came from,she elected to remain an interpretive force strongly involved with the creative process. And on these upbeat songs about love,longing,devotion and joy itself are a reminder of all of her talents. And why so many including myself will miss her being around.

 

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Retro-Contemporary: Nite-Funk Gets Physical

nitefunk

I’m unofficially the ’80s funk guy here at Andresmusictalk, but occasionally I also like to post about new music that’s in my wheelhouse. And for almost the last decade, one of the more reliable purveyors of contemporary ’80s-style funk (i.e., a big ol’ part of my wheelhouse) has been the Los Angeles-based keyboardist, vocalist, and producer known as DāM-FunK. His latest project, Nite-Funk, is a collaboration with another retro-minded independent artist from L.A., Nite Jewel; and I think it’s safe to say that, if you’re a fan of either artist or their shared pool of musical influences–Prince, SOLAR Records, and the recently-departed Kashif, to name a few–it’s well worth a listen.

Nite-Funk’s self-titled EP has actually been streaming since early July, but the record really got my attention when I heard about the limited vinyl release that’s scheduled to come out later this month. I mean, look at this thing: it’s gorgeous, with some clever visual references to Prince’s debut album For You, from the font on the cover to the peach-on-black design motif to the fact that Side 2 is called “the Other Side.” It isn’t often that I can be persuaded to drop $18 on a record (an EP, no less!) that I can already listen to for free; Nite-Funk, however, pushes my physical-medium-fetishist buttons in just the right way. I’ve already preordered a copy.

Of course, even the nicest artwork can’t make a record worth buying if the music isn’t up to snuff, but Nite-Funk excels on that level, too. DāM-FunK’s synths are as sonically lush as ever, sounding for all the world like they’re being piped in direct from 1983; and Nite Jewel’s vocals and keyboards both add a layer of icy cool to tracks like “Don’t Play Games” and “U Can Make Me.” The best thing about both of these artists is that, while their aesthetic sensibilities (DāM’s in particular) are definably “retro,” they’re also timeless. Nite-Funk doesn’t play “’80s music” so much as they play contemporary music on ’80s-vintage equipment; and I don’t think you’d have to be at a “retro night” to pack the dancefloor with a song as hot as “Let Me Be Me.”

Nite-Funk releases in physical form on October 25; the pressing is limited to 500 copies, but at least as of this writing, there are still some available. If you like what you heard above, think about preordering a copy of your own. Music this good deserves to be on your turntable and on your smartphone.

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Filed under 2010's, 2016, 80's revival, Dam Funk, Los Angeles, Uncategorized

Anatomy of THE Groove Special Presentation: “The Mood” by Kashif

It was Henrique who brought to my attention today that Kashif Saleem,born Michael Jones in NYC,passed away this last Sunday. The causes is still unknown as of now,and not that important. What does matter is that while Kashif was well known as a producer for other artists,it all stemmed from lesser sung achievements of his own. He joined the disco funk band B.T Express as a teenager for their third album Energy To Burn in 1976. He began producing for Evelyn King on her 1981 hit “I’m In Love”-beginning a long tradition of him producing funky female talent in the early 80’s. His talent went even further than that.

Alongside Stevie Wonder,Kashif is known as a synthesizer pioneer in funk/soul. He extended on Wonder’s work by creating sounds that became known as the boogie funk sound. That is mixing live rhythm sections with electronic orchestrations and melodies. He was an orphan who managed to get up of a very abusive foster family. While in primary school,he focused strongly on music. Even learning woodwind instruments-pretty rare for even multi instrumentalists. His self titled solo debut came out in 1983. The song that epitomizes his artistry on it for me is an instrumental entitled “The Mood”.

A strong,space heavy Afro Latin snare/hi hat drum starts off the song. The remainder of the song consists primarily of Kashif’s vocals and many layers of synthesizers. There’s a fluttering synth string,a wispy higher tones one in the back round and a brittle bass one accompanying the multi tracked layers of Kashif’s almost operatic,jazzy vocalese. On the refrains of the song,the melody goes into a higher key and a high funky rhythm guitar assists the melody. On the final choruses of the song,Kashif sings vocalese through a Vocoder  before the song fades out.

Kashif’s boogie funk production style is generally spare but glistening enough to appeal to 80’s soul singers. But the moment I heard this instrumental 12 years ago,it was entrancing what a sonic marvel this really is. Its basically an Afro Latin jazz/funk number produced in the more electronic boogie style-with some beautiful chordal modulations and…just a general magical quality to the synthesized sounds created. Kashif will be remembered for me as someone able to get the most warmth out of 80’s era synthesizers. And I am hoping that will continue to be his most enduring musical legacy.

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Filed under 1980's, Afro-Cuban rhythm, Boogie Funk, drums, electric sitar, jazz funk, rhythm guitar, synthesizers, vocalese, vocoder

Andre’s Amazon Archive for 1/17/2015: ‘1980’ by B.T. Express

B.T. Express - 1980 - Front

On their final 70’s album Energy To Burn,BT Express showed themselves to be a band who was in the process of slickening up their sound. One year after that their keyboardist Michael Jones,key to their new sound,left the band under his new name of Kashif Saleem. He would of course go onto become one of the premiere producers of the next decade and a key architect of the boogie funk sound. What would be left for guitarist/singer Rich Thompson and company to do within the band who had only a few years earlier been so successful. Similar to Gil Scot Heron and Brian Jackson,B.T Express elected to title their 1980 album after the year itself-every bit as symbolic of their comeback as with the changes any musician could see coming up from under the groove at the time.

“Takin’ Off” begins the album with a symphonic fanfare of horns before launching into a hyper kinetic,percussion dance/funk number. “Heart Of Fire” literally doesn’t skip a heart beat,with a rhythm helped along by a punchy had smooth as glass synth bass intro that repeats on the refrains of the song. “Does It Feel Good To You” has a strong choral melody and a bass/piano led disco friendly dance/funk number with some powerful horns and percussive effects. “Give Up The Funk (Let’s Dance)” leaps right out as a possible best track on the album with it’s rapped intro increasing in volume until the slow 4/4 beat and percussive early drum machine kicks in to Thompson’s hard groove rhythm guitar and the classic B.T. Express call and response horns,vocals and percussion.

“Closer” and “Better Late Than Ever” are both fine ballads that are beautifully orchestrated and melodic while “Have Some Fun” is another disco friendly melodic dance/funk groove. “Funk Theory” ends the album on a rhythmically and melodically dynamic Brazilian dance/funk note with lyrics that talk about how especially in uncertain times,funk music has enormous power to bring different people together to do their dances-whatever they may be. Musically speaking this album has exceptionally high energy level. Possibly taking cues from Barry White and Quincy Jones’ productions of that era,the sound is extremely crisp and studiocentric rather than the more live sound the band was noted for. Not only that,but it really tuned into funk futurism. What with the mixture of drum machines and live drumming and at least one nod to the oncoming presence of rap. A wonderfully funky B.T. Express intro to the 80’s. And very likely more important to where the music had been and where it was going than anyone may even still think.

Originally posted on January 16th,2015

Link to original review here*

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Filed under 1980's, B.T.Express, Disco, drums, Funk, Funk Bass, Gil Scott Heron, Kashif

Andre’s Amazon Archive for 12/27/2014: ‘Love Changes’ by Kashif

Kashif Love Changes

Almost since the very start of the 80’s Kashif had been one of the key innovators of a style known as boogie funk,which was very complimentary to the Minneapolis sound of the era as it created a cinematic dance/funk sound with electronic rather than live band orchestrations. His first three solo recordings were solidly in this style,with some wonderfully creative jazzy musical ideas present as well. By the time 1987 arrived,funk/soul music had suddenly moved on in such a significant way that there wasn’t much room left for the innovation of boogie to go that far forward anymore. Lucky for Kashif he was also expert at a type of sound that suited every period of the 80’s very well:the urban ballad. And that is largely where he focused his energies on this album. But in terms of the uptempo music? That was another story.

Kashif begins the album with the title song,a sleekly produced ballad with the talented,gospel drenched singer Meli’sa Morgan,who even does a bit of in studio patter with Kashif vocally. Towards the end of the album he turns up the class even more with Dionne Warwick on the elegant “Reservations For Two”. These songs remind me of Brenda Russell only with somewhat of a harder edge,which also defines his solo ballads here such as “It All Begins Again” and “Somebody”. “Midnight Mood”,featuring a solo by Kenny G (whose rather gutsy early solo records benefited heavily for Kashif’s imput) is a very inspiringly composed instrumental with some jazz-like bass/guitar harmonies around the middle as well. One of the highlites of the album as far as I’m concerned. With the slow,pounding go-go shuffle and guest spot by Doug E Fresh “Loving You Only” is only beat out by the Force MD’s and Keith Sweat as the earliest New Jack Swing type dance number.

“Fifty Ways To Fall in Love”,”Who’s Getting Serious?” and “Vacant Heart” are the main uptempo funk material here. They are well down and very much on the Jam/Lewis style of things but don’t possess Kashif’s more destinctive touch with uptempo music he’d begun with earlier in the decade. This album is one that finds Kashif looking to rediscover his musical identity,after his pioneering days of boogie funk had officially come to an end. He had the general musical ability and strong association with other popular talents that gave him a bit more breathing room than a lot of his contemporaries to reinvent himself in this way. The overall effect of this album is one of searching. Luckily though his personal songwriting stamp and way with melodies remained perfectly intact. So nothing on this albums comes close to being badly done in any way. It’s more a question of how smooth a ride the music is. But it’s at least a pretty all inclusive journey he takes us on.

Originally Posted On August 22nd,2012

Link to original Amazon.com review here*

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Filed under 1980's, 1987, Amazon.com, Boogie Funk, Funk, Go-Go, Kashif, Music Reviewing, quiet storm