Tag Archives: Slave

Slave@40: All I Had To Learn And Everything I Know From A April 1977 Funk Album

Image result for Slave 1977

Slave’s debut album is going to celebrate its 40th anniversary a month from now. In fact,2017 is going to be a 30th and 40th anniversary for a lot of classic funk albums. This Dayton,Ohio funk band is one that I first learned about through Rickey Vincent’s major funk literary tome in the late 1990’s. The album cover album had me seeking out the CD reissue still available at the time. Wound up picking it up at an HMV record store while vacationing with my family in Montreal. It was an eleven hour car ride back to where we lived then. So it was just one of many CD’s I listened to on the way back.

Six years ago coming this Sunday,the bands bassist Mr.Mark passed away. And in four months,it’ll be the anniversary of of guitarist Mark Hicks,known as Drac.  It was he who formed the band with Steve Washington,funky innovator of the electric trumpet,in 1975. This high school band got signed to the Cotillion label in 1977 and released their self titled debut the same year. It put them on the R&B and pop charts with the funk classic “Slide”. The album mixed jazzy and rock elements into the sound of funk. At the same time,its recently been made clear I had a lot to learn about this album at one time.

Slave is always an album I’ve loved to listen to. But in the now 20 years since I purchased my copy of it, its an album I’ve only returned to about three or four times in those years. Since beginning music blogging and knowing more musically inclined people,its helped in reviewing albums and songs. On both this blog and sites such as Amazon.com. Usually, I endeavor to present Amazon.com reviews on this blog that reflect well on the music being discussed. Today,I am going to present to you an Amazon review that I wrote of this album that reflects an understanding that has definitely been grown since it was written.


This CD has been in my collection for many years.Bought for it’s reputation and it’s fantastic album cover-one of my all time favorites.”Slide” is a great yowling funk tune,cool gimmicky bicycle horns too.”Screw Your Wig On Tight” is cool too-rocks a little harder but cool.As for the rest of the album?Well it jams and jams and jams and jams and jams and jams and JAMS!!!!!All Slave tend to do on this album is endless funky jamming-very true to the form but kind of boring sometimes.Those in the state of mind to hear singable,written tunes won’t find music to their liking here.

‘Slave’ is an album you put on after you’ve been listening to James Brown and early Tower Of Power.It is not in keeping with the funk of the late 70’s and what other music Slave would become known for in the years to come.There are no electronics and even a hint of dance or pop influence here-it’s straight ahead classic funk and nothing more. Amateurish,plain jane horn heavy funk without the frills so keep that in mind when you get this.


Its hard to believe that 12 years ago,I’d ever write a review calling anything Slave did “amateurish”. Of course,this was also around the time when I thought of the James Brown song “Get On The Good Foot” was dull because it repeated itself for far too long. Of course,that is an element of funk itself. Also,had no idea at that time that Slave were essentially a high school dance funk band in the beginning. Much as with Prince in his earlier bands,the songs he wrote tended to drag into into instrumental jams at times. Slave revealed more over the years since that review than even this.

Especially with their bass/guitar work melodic exchanges,have also come to realize just how far reaching songs like “Screw Your Wig On Tight” and “Separated” actually are in their funk. Along with grooving ballads such as “The Happiest Days”. Within two years,Slave had Steve Arrington aboard. And the band became masters of melodic funk such as “Just A Touch Of Love” and “Watching You”. On their first album however,it finds the band in a very different places that’s rawer and very powerful. And represents the band with the most hardest,instrumentally based type of funk.

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Anatomy of THE Groove: “Watching You” by Slave

Slave are a band that I’ve desired to talk about for some time now. They were among one of the great late 70’s/early 80’s Dayton Ohio bands along with Heatwave and Zapp. What made them unique in their time however is that they were likely the first Generation X funk band-all of its members still in high school when they formed in 1976. Their first album the following year got them an instant smash funk hit with the song “Slide”,now a mainstay of what many funkateers refer to as “Dayton funk” subgenre. By their 1979 album Just A Touch Of Love,singer/songwriter/drummer Steve Arrington joined the band.

Arrington was only a member of Slave for four years,before leaving to form a successful solo career of his own starting in 1983. But in the early 80’s,Arrington’s unique (and occasionally idiosyncratic) vocal approach allowed Slave to become one of the bands to lay the building blocks for what is now known as the post disco/boogie funk sound. Their first album of the 1980’s (and second album to feature Arrington) was called Stone Jam. Its one of the few Slave albums to remain consistently in print over the years. One of its most well known (and successful) jams is called “Watching You”

Arrington throws the strong dance beat along with Mark Hicks high,clean guitar tone that revs up into the main chorus of the song. This features Ray Turner’s high pitched synthesizer melody and and the late Mark “Mr. Mark” Adams delivers a great walking,slapping bass line holding the whole thing together. The falsetto choral vocals transition to Arrington’s narrative vocals on the refrains. The bridge of the song has Arrington’s drums showcasing M. Mark’s powerful bass line as a solo-with Turner’s synths on the accents. A new chorus with both vocal parts continues until the song fades.

My friend Henrique and I often have a lighthearted dialog about a “super hip young brother in the early 80’s” driving around in a sporty little car trying to impress the ladies around him. “Watching You” brings up this image strongly. Its got the thick,bass/guitar oriented groove that was Slave’s stock and trade. That combined with its playful lyrics of young black people giving each other the admiring,romantic eye made the song and the Stone Jam album Slave’s biggest commercial success since the bands debut four years earlier. And this helps to define “Watching You” a post disco funk masterpiece.

 

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Grooves On Wax: Black Wax In Black Music Month

James Brown Showtime

James Brown’s albums up to the beginning of the mid 60’s seem to be helpful in showcasing what was influential on the future Godfather Of Soul. This 1964 album,his debut for Smash,is an excellent example of this. JB starts out with a spirited cover of the R&B classic “Caledonia”,originally by Louie Jordan & The Timpani Five. As a studio album overdubbed with applause,these songs find JB singing the blues on a number of rhythm & blues shuffles-removed for the most part from his typical live show of the era.

Key Jams: “Evil” and “Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens”

Mirium Makeba

Miriam Makeba is an artist I’ve always interesting in hearing more from. This is an excellent album from 1967 for her. It really does a lot to bring out the sound of African soul-with a lot of elements that would eventually go into the world fusion sound in the future. Especially with the songs not all being sung in English. She even adds a folk song called “A Piece Of Ground”-which runs down the horrid inequity of apartheid in South Africa.

Key Jam: “Pata Pata”

Odyssey Of Iska

Wayne Shorter made this 1971 avant garde jazz album as he was transitioning from Miles Davis’s second quintet of the mid/late 60’s onto fusion pioneers Weather Report. And it really shows as Gene Bertoncini’s guitar-with it’s rhythmic overdrive along with former quintet made Ron Carter’s bass and Alphonse Mouzan’s drumming give this album the kind of Afro-Brazilian jazz/funk process sound Miles himself was already diving headlong into.

Key Jams: “Storm”,“De Pois Do Amor,O Vazio” and “Joy”osibisa-woyaya(16)

Osibisa are a  British,mostly Ghanan Afro pop group who were first described to me as being called “Obsidica”,and sounding like the Isley Brothers. Neither of those things being true of course,this 1971 album is in the Afro-Latin funk/rock/soul collection jamming much in the style of Mandrill and Santana.

Key Jams: “Beautiful Seven” and “Move On.

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Roberta Flack is someone who today could almost be considered the godmother of neo-soul. Her understated vocal approach and naturally based instrumental style was a precurser of that. Especially on her earlier albums.  On these records though,they caught some heavily funky fire on a song or two. This 1971 release actually has a bit more than others-especially her ultra gospel drenched version of the Bee Gee’s “To Love Somebody”.

Key Jams: “Go Up Moses” and “Sunday And Sister Jones”

Edwin Birdsong

Edwin Birdsong,keyboardist and songwriter for the Roy Ayers Ubiquity who later worked with Stevie Wonder,really put himself out on this ultra funky 1972 debut album. He was a heavy purveyor of sociopolitical “people music” message songs as well. Even the lone ballad “It Ain’t No Fun Being a Welfare Recipient” tells the kind of story you generally don’t hear on too many slow jams. Birdsong’s holds-no-barred approach to humanitarian lyricism really inspires my personal funky emotions.

Key Jams:”The Uncle Tom Game” and “When A Newborn Baby Is Born,The Gets One More Chance” 

Open Sesame

Kool & The Gang totally reinvent the chemistry of their groove on this 1976 album,in their positions as The Scientists Of Sound. The jacket folds in half on the front to find portraits of the band members in the garb of Morrish royalty. From the casting of the “genie of sound” on the title song onward,this album finds their sound in direct transition from the heavy jazz/funk based sound of their earlier music to the disco era soul/funk melodicism of their under appreciated late 70’s pre JT Taylor period.

Key Jams: “Open Sesame”,“All Night Long” and “Super Band”

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Brick’s sophomore album was where I discovered this heavily jazz based disco funk band. This 1976 debut album for them really helped put together their “disco jazz” type of music very well-with songs that featured more instrumental oriented jamming on many of the songs rather than the more heavily constructed pop type songs they would be known for on their following recordings.

Key Jams: “Dazz” and “Brick City”

Melba Moore

Melba Moore’s Broadway experience really helped her theatrical variety of heavily orchestrated soul balladry and disco/dance records she recorded during the 70’s. This 1978 album from her,produced by the Philly team of McFadden & Whitehead,contains one of my very favorite songs by her in the funkified “You Stepped Into My Life”.

Key Jams: “You Stepped Into My Life” and “It’s Hard Not To Like You”

Ohio Players - Jass-Ay-Lay-Dee -

The Ohio Players final album for Mercury from 1978 has gotten very mixed views from fans of this classic funk band. Yet from the very beginning,they make it more than clear that the then burgeoning disco sound was not yet effecting their heavy funkiness. As a matter of fact,this particular album is home to some of the hardest hitting funk the band ever made.

Key Jams: “Funk-O-Nots”,“Jass-Ay-Lay-Dee” and “Dance (If You Wanta)”

Pleasure

Pleasure’s jazz-funk sound out of Portland,Oregon is one that I am just beginning to explore. This 1980 album of theirs has become something of a big deal in recent years. With their sophistifunk production and jazzy instrumental solos,the band seem to have made their mark in the annals of funk as it transitioned from the 70’s onto the 80’s.

Key Jams: “Now You Choose Me” and “Yearnin’ Burnin'”

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Brass Construction’s title song for this 1982 album was one I thought came from Cameo due to a mislabeled MP3 sometime ago. It led me to the vinyl album,which is now recognizable as the bands transition to the stripped down,electro/naked/boogie funk sound of the early 80’s. It’s almost completely uptempo funk based saved for the jazzy mid tempo ballad “ETC”.

Key Jams: “Can You See The Light”,“Forever Love” and “Attitude”

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Slave were the last and youngest of the classic Dayton,Ohio funk bands,and were some of the architects of the boogie funk sound. That’s very prominent on this 1983 album,their first album of the 80’s without Steve Arrington. Actually,it’s a strong transition from their original live band approach to their more electro funk oriented sound that was about to come.

Key Jams: “Steppin’ Out” , “Turn You Out (In & Out)” and “Show Down”

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Ernie and Marvin Isley along with Chris Jasper struck out as their own trio in 1984. This debut album from the same year is actually one of the strongest boogie funk albums of its era. That’s because the brittle drum machines are accented by the same powerful percussion the 3+3 Isley Brothers were known for.  That rhythmic approach mixed with layers of synthesizers,bass and guitar make this an superb extension  of the Isley sound as heard on the Between The Sheets from a year earlier.

Key Jams: “Serve You Right” and “Break This Chain

 

 

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Filed under 1960's, 1970's, 1980's, Afro Funk, avant-garde, Blues, Brass Construction, Brick, Edwin Birdsong, electro funk, Funk, funk albums, Isley-Jasper-Isley, James Brown, Kool & The Gang, Melba Moore, Miriam Makeba, Ohio Players, Osibisa, Pleasure, rhythm & blues, Roberta Flack, Slave, Uncategorized, Vinyl, Wayne Shorter

Anatomy of THE Groove for 6/5/2015: “Don’t Stop” by Brian McKnight

It wasn’t too long ago that I paid absolutely no mind whatsoever to the musical output of Brian McKnight. He seemed to be one of many groups and soloists who came out of the early/mid 90’s contemporary pop/soul scene. Most of these artists came across as possessing a docile performance ethic. And possessing little to no vocal and/or musical vitality. Without any undue cruelty? These artists didn’t seem capable of creating much in the way of uptempo dance music, let alone anything that was all that funky at all. One night while channel surfing half a decade ago,however? I came across The Brian McKnight Show.

This was an interview show at at contemporary artists involved in the creative process of music. Watching it a bit? McKnight revealed himself to be the same kind of multi instrumentalist (not merely a synthesizer/drum machine programmer),producer and composer he would generally be interviewing on the show. Often showcasing the artists and himself playing piano,bass and guitar? This got me curious enough to seek out some of McKnight’s current music. One such album, More Than Words opened with a song that continued this change of mind in the form of “Don’t Stop”.

Beginning with a jazz  fusion style drum roll and synth-horn improvisation,the song goes into a pulsing drum beat (accenting by the snare on one occasion) that is accompanied by a thick,phat and very funky slap bass line mixed right up front. That drum then turns into a rolling dance floor friendly,slow groove while the rhythm guitar comes in to play the higher pitched variation of the bass line right along with it. Along with the fusion like intro introducing each chorus? Not to mention the electric piano accompanied refrain? This groove keeps grinding itself into the listeners subconscious until it finally comes to an end.

While McKnights light (and often mildly over souling) vocal doesn’t add a great deal to the song itself? The way the chunky style bass/guitar funk groove holds up the songs extremely sensuous lyrical content provide some of the heaviest and strongest funk that Brian McKnight has ever produced in his long career. In a similar manner to Trombone Shorty’s “Long Weekend”? This songs slow grinding uptempo groove evokes the work of the underrated Ohio funk band Slave. Especially the bass playing of the late Mark “Mr.Mark” Adams. By focusing more on the instrumental groove than the vocals? This song,as Rique might put it,evokes a hip young middle class black American male circa 1980 driving around in a small car blasting Slave’s song “Watching You”. That plus it’s jazzy flavor make this a high water mark for instrumental funkiness for Brian McKnight

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Filed under 2013, Brian McKnight, Funk, Funk Bass, guitar, jazz fusion, Mark "Mr.Mark" Adams, Ohio, Slave

Anatomy of THE Groove 9/5/2014 Andre’s Pick: “Bread Sandwiches” by Bernard Wright

Bernard Wright is probably one of the more significant instrumentalists in terms of my own musical progression. He is not only the first I discovered completely online,but also one of the first that I discovered without any word of mouth recommendation from family,friends,books or magazines. He still doesn’t have the hugest recorded catalog. But he was an important part of the early 80’s Jamaica,Queens jazz/funk scene alongside luminaries such as Lenny White,Tom Browne and the late Weldon Irvine. In addition to that he was also a youth prodigy-still high school age when he released his debut ‘Nard  for Dave Grusin’s then fairly new GRP label. This album was my first introduction to Bernard Wright-having been a recommendation on Amazon.com when it was available on CD as a Japanese import. Of the many exciting and lovable grooves on the album was an instrumental called “Bread Sandwiches”.

Starting off with a dramatic piano scale from ‘Nard himself,the song goes into some of the most pleasurable combination of highly melodic and percussive piano playing I’ve ever heard. Wright’s fingers can be clearly heard dancing and bouncing on the keys. During the song he plays a beautifully chorded,phat synthesizer harmony. On the bridge he plays what I’d call a jazz/funk version of stride piano,with a more spacey synthesizer accent. After this,before a break going back to the main theme Mike Flythe,one of two drummers on this album,plays an attention getting marching band type drum solo send off. After another complete round of this,there’s another bridge where in front of a buzzing bass synth bed,Wright plays a more bop style piano solo before the song fades out the same repeated melodic phrase right before Flythe’s drum solo before the second refrain of the song.

Musically speaking? This song brims over with a potent blend of learned instrumental ability and completely youthful enthusiasm of style. Bernard Wright himself is very much the embodiment of,as my blogging partner Henrique and I might describe it,of a super hip young black middle class man who might be driving to a gig where he’d be rehearsing Miles Davis or Thelonious Monk compositions while listening to the funk band Slave on his car stereo. This song is very much in the Crusaders /Stuff/ Steely Dan type studiocentric jazz-funk bands of the mid/late 70’s. And coming out in 1981,it was a very important time because a huge musical transition was occurring in NYC during this period. Hip-hop was beginning to emerge-partly of out the fact that aspiring musicians in Wright’s age group found themselves perhaps unable to have access to musical instruments and good instruction as the music scene was dividing up.

In one sense,”Bread Sandwiches” represents the end of an era. But also would eventually open the door to a new beginning. I have my issues with what some commercial hip-hop has ended up doing conceptually. But during the sample heavy era,it did serve as an important archive for music just like this. The ‘Nard album came out during what Henrique and myself refer to as the post disco radio freeze out. Basically any uptempo,danceable music made by black artists (funk in particular) went unheard and heatedly debated in literature due to the anti disco backlash of 1979. However a decade later? This album,which might’ve been rather unnoticed in its time emerged as being among the many albums whose grooves and breaks become the bedrock for the sampedelic end of the jazz hip-hop sub-genre of the mid 90’s into the early aughts. Today many musicians and funkateers likely celebrate Bernard Wright for his own merits either through hip-hop or the online music world-which is how I discovered him. So especially in the sense of songs such as thing? Progressions in in both music and technology have surely been a good friend to Bernard Wright!

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Andre’s Amazon Archive for 6/21/2014: ‘Think Like A Man Too,OST’ by Mary J Blige

Think Like A Man Too

At the end of 2013? It was A Mary Christmas that really made a huge difference during what amounted to a needlessly strained late December. I was very impressed by the eloquently soulful and jazzy environment it presented. It seemed that Mary J. Blige was finally on a path to becoming more musically herself. Throughout the her career? I’d always felt that her albums showed,at the very least enormous potential. And at best even funkified,soulful greatness. On the other hand? She was “the queen of hip-hop soul”. This meant that many of her albums became saddled down by guest rappers whose often profane narcissism seemed too awkward a fit with Mary’s frank,raw emotional expression. The “two sides of the same coin” theme that presented itself stopped being a musical revelation after a time. Today its really a formula. And a sometimes tragically overused one. Mary always seemed more about vocalizing and instrumental showcases/interpretation than merely being a vehicle for carrying people from another genre on her back all the time. A month or so back? This album was announced. Its a soundtrack of a sequel to a film I’ve never actually seen. But one thing I always felt was an almost ideal vehicle for vital soul/funk music is the soundtrack medium-extending as far back as Uptight by Booker T & The MG’s in 1968 and Isaac Hayes’ iconic,Academy award winning Shaft four years later. So this was something I was anticipating hearing and,as typical with a Mary J. Blige album? Entered into the listening experience without prejudice based on anything positive or negative regarding the past.

“A Night To Remember” opens the album with a bright,open ended late 70’s funk extravaganza. Its full of the sort of celebratory bass,guitar,drums,
horns and keyboards right out of the Slave/Michael Jackson/EWF school of that era. And lyrically eluding to many of the greats of that era. “Vegas Nights”,featuring guest vocals (as opposed to a rap) by The-Dream is a strongly percussive and fast paced number that embraces both the multiple synthesizer squiggles of electro-funk while also having the dynamic sonic melodicism of the boogie sound. “Moment Of Love” is a furiously funky,stripped down number where Mary’s melodic chorus is matched to a thumping bass/guitar line. Pharrell Williams shows up for one of (if not my favorite number here) in “See That Boy Again”. This is a complex number that actually brings out the strong Latin/Brazilian element in its hybridizing of the melodically surprising and strong Stevie Wonder/Gamble & Huff sound-full of that soulfully jazz/funk twist Pharrell is often more than capable of infusing his music with. “Wonderful” is another melodically complex piece with a thumping,bassy modern hip-hop friendly funkiness that never takes its eye of it’s classic hard funk orientation. “Kiss And Make Up” is a sleek,grooving disco-funk era urban contemporary mid-tempo ballad while “Cargo” has a soul/jazz type electric piano based groove about it. “Suitcase” and “Power Back” are the only songs I am not instrumentally wowed by as they seem to be somewhat self consciously trying to be “new” rather than making any creative statement of their own.

“I Want You” is a heavily orchestrated,cinematic soul/rock with a rising chorus and gospel oriented climax. “Self Love” is a Minneapolis sounding electronically oriented new wave/funk ballad where the character in the song is wishing for her lover to show her the affection he does for himself. “All Fun And Games” does try to mix the “newness” with Mary’s love of 70’s cinematic soul and does pretty well. “Better” is a breezy,stripped down funk/soul/pop number with one of the most unusual low,distant keyboard sounds I’ve ever heard. “Propose” is a powerful ballad closer to the album that plays to the strong gospel oriented side of Mary’s soulfulness-with it’s huge piano chords and rhythm hand clapping throughout. As with just about every Mary J. Blige album I’ve ever heard? There are at least one or two very generic contemporary hip-hop/R&B numbers on this album. And they do drag the quality down just a notch. And that’s especially vital here as,especially at the beginning this sounds as if Mary is for once fully embracing the richly produced 70’s funk/soul/pop sound that’s always been key to her music. But which she only really broadly hinted at. Lyrically this album does tell a certain story of the distrust in a relationship that probably deals directly with the characters in the film. Which is interesting since not all of these songs are heard in the film according to the cover-proclaiming “All New Music From And Inspired By The Film”. For all intents and purposes? This is overall a very good,many times spectacular Mary J. Blige studio album. If she were to keep total focus on musicality rather than pandering to the “queen of hip-hop/soul” moniker more or less placed upon her? She would have an amazing body of music ahead of her!

Originally Posted On June 17th,2014

*A Link To My Original Amazon.com review:

http://www.amazon.com/review/R1M04NYS165X4H/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm

 

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Filed under 1970's, Amazon.com, Funk, Funk Bass, Hip-Hop, Jazz, Late 70's Funk, Mary J. Blige, Minneapolis, Pharrell Williams, Soundtracks

Anatomy of THE Groove 4/11/14 Rique’s Pick: “Magnificent” by Steve Arrington & Dam-Funk

 

Steve Arrington and Slave, are one of the more underappreciated pure funk groups from a pop standpoint. However, in Urban communities, for a certain late Baby Boomer and early Gen X funk audience, they’re right up there at the top with Prince, Rick James, Cameo, and others who were hot in the late ’70s and ’80s. Lead vocalist Steve Arrington originally joined the group as a drummer, but his unique nasally, well enunciated vocals were discovered during the recording of Slave’s 1979 disco-funk classic, “Just a Touch of Love.” Arrington went on to make several important records himself, including “Weak at the Knees” and “Dancing in the Key of Life.” Arrington is a first rate drummer, of a heavy jazz fusion bent, and his vocals are very unique, influencing such later day artists as Keith Sweat. Arrington is also a pastor and imparts a positive, upbeat spiritual message to everything he does, encouraging and uplifting people.

Dam Funk of Stones Throw Records, the master of a genre he’s innovating called “modern funk”, did an album this past year with Arrington.  The album is a triumph of fat bottomed, big beat, West Coast funk, with Arringtons nasally, silky, langourous vocals motivating, serenading, and persuading. Dam Funk’s funk is clearly a West Coast vibe, and extension of the G Funk of Dr. Dre, DJ Pooh, Battlecat, Above the Law, E-40 and Too $hort, all West Coast Hip Hop artists who used instrumental funk to back up their raps, based on the late ’70s synthesizer “video game sound” of P-Funk, the music of Roger and Zapp, and several other artists who’s sound made up a transitional early ’80s funk sound called “Boogie”, a bridge between the disco-funk of the late ’70s and the electro-funk and freestyle of the mid to late ’80s.

“Magnificent” is a dreamy, heavenly ode to a special lady from Steve Arrington and Dam-Funk’s album, “Higher.” The track begins with a big, solid drum beat, reminiscent of a fat boogie beat like One Way’s classic, “Cutie Pie.” The hi hats play what I call a ‘Time Bomb’ pattern, tight, ticking 8ths, like the O’Jays intro to “Give the People What the Want”, minus the washed out reverb. Over the phat drumbeat, Dam-Funk layers his trademark synth pads, a bright, beautiful sound of discovery and new dawns. Dam Funk uses this pad sound to play the chord progression for the song, but it’s very dreamy and functions as sound as well as music. The connection is also there to the modern “chill” movement. It’s a sound very reminiscent of the Los Angeles life and sunshine.  The song also features the hallmark of the West Coast sound, fat analog bass. The groove is one that is great for getting going in the early morning or cruising around town with the top down.

Steve Arrington uses his plain, direct, well spoken lyrical style, articulated in his classy, well pronounced, crooning vocal manner. It’s a song of praise that is old school in it’s approach, how many R&B artists praise women these days? But it also has that modern edge Arrington has always had, “You know you treat your homie like a King/You know I treat my shorty like a queen”, “you’ve got that way/with so much swag/what can I say.” It works instead of falling flat because Arrington is a cool uncle, compared to other funk stars who’ve passed on to being father, even grand father figures. Arrington even delivers a spoken interlude toward the end where he rips off synonymous superlatives for “magnificent”, like “indefatigueable.” Most def a lesson in many ways.

Arrington and Dam Funk are doing a great thing here. The song is laid back Cali vibe , as is most of the album, and I was hoping for a little more of the dry, driving funk Arrington delivered on songs such as “Weak at the Knees.” But stylistic parsing of hairs aside, the pair deliver the goods in a positive, funky, chill way. Their album should be in the possession of anybody who needs good, positive kicking it music!

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Anatomy of THE Groove 3/21/14: “Long Weekend” by Trombone Shorty

Since it would seem that that New Orleans has the reputation of being the birthplace of the concept of funk itself,what with the first acknowledged jazz musician’s Buddy Bolden’s song “The Funky Butt”,it makes perfect sence that an important element of the modern funk revival would emerge with the Crescent City’s own Trombone Shorty. Originally named Troy Andrews,he grew up in the cities Treme’ region-playing in the local marching bands and eventually becoming a featured member of Lenny Kravitz horn section in 2005. Having already entered into rising adulthood having been reared with a musical synergy of the traditional Dixie Land marches of his local area as well as the late 80’s funk revelations such Cameo’s “Word Up” and Prince’s “Housequake” ,Andrew’s had the musical wherewithal to zero in on a somewhat under-explored middle ground between both those divergent funk approaches on Trombone Shorty’s 2013 release Say This To That with a groove entitled “Long Weekend”.

Kicking off with an announcing drum kick,the rather percussive and slow crawling drumming is immediately joined by a cleanly played,melodic funk guitar line with a high electric organ swirl slowly building in the back round. Another drum kick announces the introduction of Andrew’s expressively earnest lead vocals. When singing the chorus of the song,he’s joined by his own multi tracked backup vocals when the songs title is mentioned. The bass line of the song isn’t generally as prominent throughout the song as the guitar and drum/percussion part is. However at the end of each instrumental chorus,especially before a drum kick,the popping jazz/funk bass line comes to the forefront much more heavily. On the bridge and during the outro of the song,the melodic and rhythmic structure of the song totally changes. The bass is lifted to the forefront scaling down to a powerful bass/guitar chord that intensely amplifies the funkiness in the center and end of the song.

While funk is not as widely known as a musical genre as some of its admirers might think that it is, a majority of musicians performing funk are doing so very much in the late 60’s/early 70’s raw live band type James Brown/Tower Of Power style. Considering his music is strongly based in jazz-fusion/blues and psychedelic soul/rock, Trombone Shorty and his bands’ approach to this song emphasizes a trend in contemporary funk music that seemed to have spawned from Pharrell Williams productions for Justin Timberlake,Robin Thicke and Daft Punk. And that is a strong emphasis on the production style of late 70’s Ohio based funk bands such as Heatwave and Slave. This is a style where the bass/guitar/drum interaction is still hard grooving funk. But the sound is more studiocentric than developed mainly for live performance. Of course Andrew’s adds a more jazz oriented electric piano groove on the bridge to give the song his own type of flavor.

Another element of “Long Weekend” that’s very similar to the music of Slave in particular is how close the lyrical and melodic content of the vocals are to that Ohio bands adolescent party funk aestetic. In particular the way Andrew’s is pitching woo to an older woman,once the subject of a high school type unrequited love and is now old enough to appreciate her-particularly on a somewhat scandalous “long weekend” with this lady that even includes “a trip to the liquor store” to ensure a little physical adventure-even though he doesn’t feel able to tell his peers. Of course this attitude lends itself very well to the near perfect balance of studio production and live instrumental production. Judging from what I have seen in a video of Trombone Shorty performing this song live? Today that late 70’s style of recorded danceable funk music is just as viable on stage as it is on record. And “Long Weekend” emphasizes that very strongly.

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Filed under 1970's, Blues, Funk, Funk Bass, Late 70's Funk, New Orleans, Rhythm, Trombone Shorty

Anatomy of THE Groove 3/7/14: “We Are On the Move” by Zo!

 

Bass. In Your Face. Not an 8 track….or is it? Pristine audio fidelity aside, Detroit multi instrumentalist and producer Lorenzo “Zo!” Fergeson’s “We Are On the Move” sounds like it’d be right at home coming out of some Kenwood speakers in an early ’80s Trans Am with T-Tops. The song begins deep in some funk, with a  taut yet nimble bass guitar line stepping in velvet slippers over rock solid drums, establishing a funky strut up the yellow brick road before it meets it’s companions for the voyage, beautiful Rhodes piano chords, strings, percussions, and a rhythm guitar that acts like smelling salts to a punch drunk boxer – makes you get UP! By the time it reaches the first go round of the chorus you’re dancing there (or bopping, or snaking, or just groovin’, but sitting is out of the question) wondering how somebody can create this type of early ’80s but right now funk vibe in 2014?

The pedegree of the artists in question would provide a hint. Zo! is a member of the Foreign Exchange, who’s last album, “Love in Flying Colors”, was one of the freshest examples of quality, song constructed, danceable R&B/Funk/Soul love songs this writer has heard for forever. Lead vocals are handled by Neo-Soul master Eric Roberson, and he sings in a straight, direct emotional way that any man singing this ditty to his lady should be able to muster. And it’s worth mustering too, “There are times in the night/when I wish to spend/time after time/looking deep within/but if there’s a girl/to bring me out of my shell/it’s you”, goes one of my favorite lyrics. “We Are on the Move” is a buyount, funky, sophisticatedly hip song of appreciation for that special someone who makes your life better, and it imagines an even better life in the future, with music and lyrics that make that point and then deliver on it, in real, sweaty, happy terms. MC/Vocalist Phonte gets involved here in back grounds, as does singer Gwen Bunn and percussionist Brevan Hampton, and they give the song an orgiastic, gospel Afro dance joy climax. “We are On the Move” is the type of song I could wake up every morning too, and much like Mr. Pharrell Williams recent smash, “Happy”, actually live to, based on the inspiration it provides in both lyric and groove.

And the video! Wow. Zo! Roberson and Phonte all strut down the street sharper than rat turds, yes, that’s sharp on both ends, in the manner of the Whispers in their classic “Keep on Loving Me” video. The Whispers vid is one of my favorite, four super well dressed black men strutting and stepping in downtown LA near dusk. There is really nothing quite like it in the catalog of American music images, and the dudes have big fun recreating it here. Have fun grooving to this song and then be sure to check out Zo!’s album, ManMade, for more good feeling music.

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Filed under Funk