Tag Archives: Rose Royce

In Full Bloom Approaches 40: Rose Royce Do Their Dance On This Sophomore Success

 

Rose Royce had a massive hit right out of the box with their 1976 soundtrack to the motion picture Car Wash. In fact, it marked the beginning of funk functioning for the disco scene. And Rose Royce retained their crown for the rest of the 70’s as part of the funkiest royalty of the disco era funk bands. Between Norman Whitfield’s productions on them and the very strong caliber of the band themselves, it all made it possible for their second album, 1977’s In Full Bloom to retain the hit status of its predecessor. Here’s an Amazon.com review I did about the album seven years ago.


Rose Royce made it clear on this album that not only was their life after Car Wash for them and producer Norman Whitfield but that they fully intended to forge ahead with their sound. By the time the 70’s was at it’s midpoint synthesizers and electronics had become an enormous part of funk music,especially in the hands of people such as Stevie Wonder and Billy Preston.

While that had come into play to a certain degree on previously,the fact that Rose Royce were one of the few bands ever to debut on a soundtrack recording meant that they were going to save certain types of experimentation for their next album,if any. Turns out they were so big from the start a sophomore set was almost guaranteed. So it was basically on this album that Rose Royce…well basically became Rose Royce as it were.

While very even keel in terms of fast and slow songs,this album is primarily devoted to funk. It showcased that this was what they intended to base their sound in. But right away the bands unique sense of reinventing their influences within their groove became apparent when they unconventionally opened this album with the ballad “Wishing On A Star”. It’s one of the finest crafted slow numbers they ever did and deservedly one of their classic songs. “Ooh Boy” and “You’re My World,Girl” are the two other ballads here.

And the most soulful of them too,very much in the spirit of Chicago and Philly styles of 70’s soul balladry. On the funk numbers,needless to say it really comes to a head. On “Do Your Dance” and “It Makes You Feel Like Dancin” represent Rose Royce’s signature funk sounds where every part of the band became a purely rhythmic element-chugging like a freight train with the percussion,synthesizers,bass,guitar and cosmic vocal harmonies. It’s very much a futurist concept to how modern hip-hop producers such as Timbaland and The Neptunes approach their style of funk as well.

“You Can’t Please Everybody”,”Love,More Love” and “Funk Factory” are potent reminders of their more straight ahead,horn based danced funk sound they already showcased on their debut. Weather on cosmic electronic/space harmony based funk to chunky,hardcore brassy grooves and ballads this outfit proved to be one that had it all,could do it all and did it all when it came down to it. Gwen Dickey proved the master of funky femininity,wrapping her very girlish but very confident voice.

Even though she would come to represent some interpersonal issues within the band in the coming years,at this point she was very much part of the “funk factory” the band were starting to become. One wonders,if things had been different if Whitefield records could have had Rose Royce be part of a movement that would do for funk what Motown had done for R&B. They were very innovative and experimental in their genre of music. But also were very commercially viable. In many ways that style seemed to end with them rather than begin with it as Ricky Vincent’s “united funk” era was coming to an end with albums such as this. But still,the deed was done.


In Full Bloom represented something very important for the all important 1976-77 period of disco era funk. Just as much as it represented that potential unexplored direction at Motown (through Norman Whitfield while he was still there) as well. One element is the bands combination of thick slap bass lines combined with heavily rounded Moog bass. That gave the grooves an enormous and up front bottom to work with-along with the wah wah guitars,strings and the sweet voice of Gwen Dickey. As such, it might very well be one of the most important disco era funk albums of its day.

Leave a comment

Filed under Rose Royce

Andre’s Amazon Archive Special Presentation: ‘My Life’ by Mary J. Blige

My Life

An astounding album and an EXTREMELY HUGE creative leap from her debut What’s the 411?! Contemporary hip-hop and new jack considerations were very strong on her debut album and there was the awkward step between that and somewhat mechanical 80’s musical flavors. This album changed all of that. In their hearts it was the funk/jazz/R&B of the mid 70’s that was the musical bag of both Puffy and Mary and the result of their enthusiasm is a fusion of that concept soon came to be known as neo soul. Along with D’Angelo’s Brown Sugar this is one of the earliest album smashes to use the form and it’s one of the most overall successful.

Along with the instrumental samples Puffy built these grooves on and Mary J’s new found fondness for jazzy vocal turns and scat singing provide great results on the drippy disco-funk “Mary Jane”,”You Bring Me Joy” and the bass popping-happy closer “Be Happy” are such excellent tunes that if these were the only good songs on the album it would still earn a five star rating. But happily the news always gets better from there. “I’m The Only Woman” really puts the title track of Roy Ayers Everybody Loves the Sunshine to work and considering his position as something of a godfather to this then new genre it is a beautiful use of form. Of course Mary’s cover of “I’m Goin’ Down” rips the entire instrumental track of the song and I’ve heard it to death but hearing it again reminds me of the excellence and broad vocal inflections she brings to the song.

The original ballads including the title track and the deeply spirited “You Gotta Believe” follow in the same path and completely undo some of the mild sterility of the previous albums approach. Ditto for the slightly more uptempo hip-hop inflected jams such as “Be With You”,”Mary’s Joint”,”Don’t Go” and the clever,well composed “I Love You” all have possess that spark needed to make them really stand out as impressive songs. From this point on in Mary J’s career she would be forever known not as “the new Chaka Khan” but as The Queen Of Hip-Hop/Soul and all hype set aside the high quality of this album is one of the reasons why she’s known for that.

Originally Posted On January 24th,2010

Happy birthday Mary! Link to original review here*

Leave a comment

Filed under 1990s, D'Angelo, Hip-Hop, Jazz-Funk, Late 70's Funk, Mary J. Blige, Puff Daddy Combs, Rose Royce

The Anatomy of THE Groove 6/13/2014 Andre’s Pick: Mary J. Blige’s “All That I Can Say”

Mary J. Blige was an artist that I had a deeply rooted respect for when I first heard her interpreting Rose Royce’s 1976 slow jam funk classic “I’m Going Down” in the mid 90’s. And what was most refreshing is how instrumentally oriented and close it was to the original. Of course as was typical with a lot of people in terms of the press from that point on through the turn of the millennium? The saturation press Mary received,likely for all the wrong reasons, turned me off to the point where buying any of her music during that time wasn’t a very appealing notion. It wasn’t until Mary had been a seasoned artist for a decade by around 2003-2004 did I start to really reach out to her earlier music to which I’d once given the slip. It was my love of photography that drew me like a moth to a flame when I saw the black & white side profile portrait on her 1999 CD Mary. Something about that imagery,similar to that of Cicily Tyson on Miles Davis’s Sorcerer album in 1967,bought me into mind that his would be an elegantly funkified affair. And that opinion was intensely upgraded upon putting the CD on for the first time and hearing it open with “All That I Can Say”.

Produced,written and arranged by Mary’s musically vital contemporary Lauryn Hill,the song begins with a lilting,lowly mixed Spanish guitar with a sunny,pre-dominating high pitched synthesizer solo that continually pitch bends between major and minor chords. Shortly a percussive,mid tempo electronically dirived Afro-Latin rhythm kicks in. This instrumental bed is joined by a glockenspiel-like ringing keyboard that scales downward in a dream-like way on each instrumental refrain. At this point Mary’s low,plaintive tenor successfully follows along the songs elusive melody with a lyrical tag stating first “loving you is wonderful/something like a miracle” and going on to add “meeting you,it isn’t hard/with you I can’t let down my guard/stay secure,that’s all I’m asking of you”. By the time the chorus,which repeats the title with a call-and-response bit of vocalese from Mary singing in her higher voice? The melody of the song has likewise gone up a lot higher in pitch-with Mary again keeping up with the elaborate chord changes. By the end of the song,it fades out the way it begun with Mary adding some extremely jazzy,wordless scat singing that expresses the general mood of the song.

From the first time I heard this song? While realizing so many early retro and neo soul artists were attempting to replicate his sound? I was convinced that it was Stevie Wonder himself who played the overriding high pitch-bent synthesizer solos on this song. It was actually someone named Loris Holland,whom I’d never heard of before. As my friend and blog partner here on WordPress Henrique pointed out to me the other day? The fact that Lauryn Hill and the musicians on this album could so thoroughly replicate not only the sound but the melodic language of Stevie Wonder’s challenging instrumental approach on keyboard is a tribute not only to her talent,but musical connectivity as well. This constantly shifting melody,which embraces soul music’s classic structural complexity,is totally reflective of the fact that Mary is alternately overjoyed and cautious in regard to the prospect of the new romantic partner in her life that she portrays on this song. Its seamless mix of both dreamy fantasy and uncertain reality was a balance that was rarely felt in the “keeping it real” era. In the end,I thank Mary J Blige and Lauryn Hill both for their contribution to helping the late 90’s soul/R&B listener to understand what it was they might’ve really loved so much about the 70’s funk era in the first place.

1 Comment

Filed under 1990s, Funk, Lauryn Hill, Mary J. Blige, Neo Soul, Stevie Wonder