Upon starting this new feature on Andresmusictalk, the subject of 12″ inch singles was something that was always intending to be covered. With their extended,often remixed versions of the original album versions,the 12″ inch single is a format that derived from the disco era. And actually started in it with DJ’s playing the records for dancers as opposed to live bands. It was about a year or so ago that I started collecting these 12″ inch extended/remix singles again. So here is the first ones of this semi regular aspect of this feature. And it actually starts out just as the disco era had peaked.
On Your Knees (1979) is a very funky Eurodisco number,whose single featured eye catching cover art by Bronx born art/fashion photographer Richard Bernstein. The B-side “Don’t Mes With The Messer” deals more with the Broadway musical style of theatrical disco Grace was so known for in her 70’s era music. So you hear two sides of Tom Moulton’s late 70’s disco productions for Grace.
Listening to Edgar Winter’s Frankenstein 84 remixes from…1984,it becomes clear just how much this early 70’s glam rock classic makes a lot more sense in a mid 80’s electro funk setting. With the used of sequencers and Vocorders,Winter creates a break beat/hip-hop friendly variation on himself. Especially when his very strong,often outright growling,rap comes in on the “Monster Rap” mix.
1987’s Characters album is my favorite Stevie Wonder album of the 1980’s. On his 12″ inch single for “Get It”,his duet with Michael Jackson from that album,the drums shuffle more than on the album. And the break beats are re-sampled heavier. This gives it a flavor closer to the then emerging new jack swing variety of funk coming out of people such as Teddy Riley and Chuckii Booker.
The 12″ inch single for “Skeletons” from the same Stevie Wonder album is it’s own matter entirely. The DX-7 synthesizer on the intro is replaced with a thick,funky rhythm guitar for one. Also on the drum and synth bass interludes,Stevie’s call and responses of “hmm hmm hmm” and “oh wow” are set to samples of Ronald Reagan speeches. It really showcases what Stevie means singing”somebody done snitched on the news crew/it’s gettin’ ready to break”.
It was somewhat surprising to find a 12″ inch vinyl single from 1999. But on this set of remixes of Destiny’s Child’s “Say My Name”,you get Rodney Jerkin’s original hip-hop/pop version,a Daddy D remix that has an Afrika Bambaataa style electro funk groove while Maurice’s Last Days Of Disco has a late 70’s dance/early 90’s house flavor. It showcases how the song might’ve sounded in three different eras of time.
One thing about 12″ inch singles that I’ve forgotten about is how much they bring out that punchy,analog sound that vinyl is so renowned for. Some of these were actually 33 RPM,but the majority were 45 RM so that probably helped out a big in that regard. It also lasted far longer than I knew-about up to the advent of the MP3 and today they are making a comeback with the big vinyl revival. Creatively speaking,they allow remix producers, sometimes even the artists themselves,re-imagining their own work in new,unexpected ways. And this makes the 12″ inch vinyl single a format worth expanding on.
Filed under 12 inch singles, 1970's, 1980's, 1990s, Destiny's Child, Disco, Edgar Winter, elecro funk, extended mixes, Grace Jones, remixes, Rodney Jerkins, Stevie Wonder, Tom Moulton, Vinyl
Brandy Rayna Norwood has had a fascinating career behind her. Following very much on the path of Whitney Houston’s transitions from audio to visual media, she was actually quite a bit more successful as a singer/songwriter/producer and TV star on her late 90’s sitcom Moesha than she was on the silver screen. Personally I always had a creative appreciation for Brandy. With her fluid physical features and polished braids,she proudly and elegantly exhibited a strong Afrocentrism that maintained a street level identification with American hip-hop. As she grew from a teenager into a young adult,her music continually evolved along the same lines as her outward persona.
Today Brandy is a 37 year old with a 13 year old daughter Sy’rai Iman and is engaged to be married again. In addition to having a six album strong discography. In the early 2000’s, she teamed up with then up and coming producer Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins. Jerkins himself has a gospel back-round and had been mentored by new jack swing pioneer Teddy Riley. As electronic instrumental programming moved on from it’s brittle beginnings,by the early aughts it developed more of a flow in terms of sound. This was excellent for both instrumentally oriented producers like Jerkins and nuanced vocalists such as Brandy. The title song of her 2002 album “Full Moon” is a superb example.
A high pitched mid 80’s new wave style synthesizer opens up the album playing an introductory melody and continues as throughout the song. The refrain of the song maintains a funky,slower crawling 1/2 beat dance tempo. This is accompanied by a crackling bass synthesizer and a bleeping,percussive synthesizer. On the swiftly sung choruses,on which Brandy duets with multiple harmonies of herself,all these electronic solos come together. On the bridge,Brandy’s vocal harmonies beautifully layer over each other while a synthesized duck face bass pops along with her. This is just before the main chorus repeats on into the fade out.
“Full Moon” showcases a magically romantic new groove-with Jerkins skillfully blending a strong post millennial electro funk rhythmic framework with European classical compositional content. Instrumentally the song blends both the more brittle new wave and new jack electronic approach with the beautifully fluidity that modern synthesizer’s were beginning to create. Vocally many early ladies of neo soul such as Alicia Keys and India.Arie were deeply influenced by Brandy’s funky sea of vocals-a technique coming through both Chaka Khan and Janet Jackson. Still it was this song’s embrace of glossy production and strong,funky rhythms that make it perhaps my favorite Brandy number.
While greeting it with a great sense of both surprise and anticipation? I was extremely disappointed in one thing about Mike’s first posthumous album Michael: the fact that it used impersonators (and incredibly inaccurate ones at that) to fill in any unrecorded vocal parts by the man himself. To me it was a tacky way to present his musical legacy. Especially only a year after he passed away. That CD has been relegated to the bargain bins where I live now. And very likely for similar reasons to the ones that troubled me about it. So when this album was announced,again somewhat surprisingly? I was a bit concerned. However this time? Some important precautions were made on this particular set to give it a more cohesive flavor. A deluxe edition,this one,was released which contained the original eight song set along with the original demos to which the songs were based. The “new” tracks on the album were produced by and remixed under the supervision of LA Reid and Timbaland-who is also one of the producers behind guest artist on this album Justin Timberlake. Mostly originally recorded between the Bad and Dangerous,the happy news about this album is the simple fact that none of it features impersonators. They are all original MJ vocal tracks of some form or other. While set up to be an excellent set upon inspecting the liner notes,there was still the curiosity to find out about the contents within.
“Love Never Felt So Good”,a fabulously arranged uptempo “sophistifunk” number is classic early 80’s Mike: the sound that made him and has influenced so many others. Its presented three times: one solo,one the original mix and the other as a duet with the completely Mike influenced (and if I may say so,extremely talented in his own right) Justin Timberlake. As for the main album itself “Chicago” and “Blue Gangsta” are the more contemporary hip-hop/soul arrangements. On the other hand? They are not far removed from how Mike himself was approaching his own outlook on that form in the early/mid 90’s-with the funk at a premium. “A Place With No Name”,with it’s heavy beat boxing and bass synth led,shuffling R&B type tempo along with the electronically textured “Loving You” both showcase how much the sound Mike pioneered in the 80’s is actually effecting music today. “Slave To The Rhythm” and “Do You Know Where Your Children Are” again feature densely percussive dance/funk tracks that are not only ideal to move to but are full of consciencous and thought provoking lyrics. The title song ends out the album with another strong funky dance jam.
The original version of “Chicago” is my favorite of the unmixed versions-a strongly Thriller era sounding number that uses those pitch bended synthesizer melodic phrases I love about some jazzy mid 80’s funk-pop. “A Place With No Name” was of course a lot closer to the America hit which inspired it-with a strong West Coast folk-pop guitar flavor about it. “Slave To The Rhythm”,”Do You Know Where Your Children Are” and the title track all have a similar flavor to the funkier end of Mike’s late 80’s sound while only “Blue Gangsta” isn’t far removed in quality from the original. Including a DVD documentary about the making of it,this album represents to me the album Mike would’ve been good to release before he passed away. Quite frankly the instrumentation,compositions and vocal performances completely blow away anything on either Invincible or Michael in terms of quality. For one thing,Reid never takes his eye off the fact that part of what made Mike such a musical icon was his reliance on uptempo music-especially FUNKY uptempo music. And honestly? This album gives you nothing but that. This is the Michael Jackson that I loved and who inspired my own musical journeys. And I think those who admired his musical melodies and grooves might feel the same way.
Originally Posted On May 13th,2014
*Here is my original Amazon.com review: