Tag Archives: Soul Train

Anatomy of THE Groove: “Rocker” by Shalamar

Shalamar are the vocal group Soul Train created. And the more I get into their music,the more I realize its potency. The band were the youthful embodiment of the post disco/boogie sound of the late 70’s to mid 80’s. It was also the springboard for the solo careers of the rangy singer Howard Hewett and the ultra funkified Jody Watley. One of the key members in terms of their performance ethic was guitarist,songwriter and above all choreographer Jeffrey Daniels. He’d been a partner dancer with Watley on the Soul Train line during the shows salad mid 70’s era. By the early 80’s,he was an unsung icon.

The reason I view Daniels as an icon today is because he showed Michael Jackson the dance move that made MJ’s career. Originally referred to as the back step,it became more popularly known as the Moonwalk-originally the name for the dance done in a complete circle. Daniels eventually helped choreograph the music videos for “Beat It” and others. On his own,Daniels ended up living between Osaka Japan and Nigeria,the latter of which he’s a judge on the local Idol program. His biggest creative input  for Shalamar was on their 1981 album Go For It. In particular its closing jam “Rocker”.

Crowd sounds regarding band producer Leon Sylvers begin the song,continuing throughout. First the stomping,percussive funky drum kicks in. Then the thick,chord heavy slap bass kicks in before an open wah wah guitar kicks into the similarly themed refrain during the drum break. That refrain adds multiple keyboard and synth brass into the same brew with Daniels’ leading backup vocals. Towards the end of the song,the synth brass takes a strong and sustained presence over the main groove and crowd sounds. The lead vocals return as the song fades out.

“Rocker” has a rather different flavor than most uptempo Shalamar jams. Most of them were more lead/harmony vocal based in terms of the groove. Everything on this number is built around percussive drum breaks and slap bass solos. It was composed and sung primarily by Daniels himself. With its stripped down rhythms and atmospherics,this is the perfect type of funk for popping,locking or just about any type of 70’s era funk dancing Daniels was continuing to innovate during the videocentric early 80’s. On a purely musical end,its also some of Shalamar’s heaviest straight up funk.

 

 

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Filed under 1980's, Boogie Funk, dancing, drums, Howard Hewett, Jeffrey Daniels, Jody Watley, moonwalk, post disco, Shalamar, slap bass, Soul Train, synth brass, wah wah

Anatomy of THE Groove 2/20/15 Rique’s Pick: “Sho You Right” by Barry White

In retrospect, the year 1987 was the most meaningful,
impactful and enjoyable musical year of my childhood. In that particular year, the sounds of the past, present and future came together, all providing musical enjoyment on the one. I recall in particular my dad taping radio broadcasts on the local soul stations to carry on a trip he was making to Liberia, West Africa on business. Liberians have always been fans of the up to the minute latest in soul, funk, jazz, R&B, Gospel and eventually, hip hop too! What makes ’87 so special for me is the fact that veterans such as Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight, Smokey Robinson, The Bar Kays, and The Commodores put out powerful, funky music right next to the Kings and Queens of the era such as Michael Jackson, Prince, Janet Jackson and Jody Watley. They were also joined by the beginning of the golden age of hip hop, with artists such as Big Daddy Kane, Public Enemy, Eric B & Rakim, Boogie Down Productions, Kool Moe Dee, Ice-T and N.W.A all dropping their ’70s funk sampling hip hop. Among the many artists who enjoyed comebacks that year was the Maestro, Barry White, who hit with today’s funky classic, “Sho You Right.” This song stands tall alongside cuts such as “Skeletons” by Stevie Wonder, “System of Survival” by EWF, and of course “Housequake” by Prince and “The Way You Make Me Feel” by M.J. “Sho You Right” would begin a comeback path that would peak with the 1995 hit “Practice What You Preach.”

One of the things I love about “Sho You Right” is it translates White’s classic rhythmic sense into the contemporary idiom of drum machines and synthesizers. It might have been jarring when an artist like Barry went electro. After all, he was a pioneer in bringing a rich symphonic layer to the primal pulsations of Rhythm and Blues. But one thing some fans miss is the fact that Barry White often had a powerful, Afro-Latin rhythm underneath his symphonic soul that could definitley stand alone when called upon to. This funky hump is present on the classics such as “It’s Ecstacy When You Lay Next to Me”, “I’m Gonna Love You Just a Little More”, “Love Serenade”, “Your Sweetness is My Weakness” and countless other classics.

“Sho You Right” was based on a track White’s long time collaborator Jack Perry brought in. The Maestro himself played the many electronic instruments on the track. The song begins with a funky Carribean sounding drum roll which leads into a hard, semi industrial ’80s beat. Sometimes the industrial side of the ’80s drum machine programs can sound a little harsh to my ears, but on this cut its well modulated with more mid range warmth than usually heard on such a beat. The beat is centered around an eighth note drum kick that sounds like its main purpose is to lead you to the abnormally loud snare drum sounds on the 2 and 4. The kick drum is very syncopated and sets the stage for the multiple syncopations of the song. BW gives a shortened version of his classic love raps from the ’70s saying simply “Baby you got my undivided attention.”

A mean, strutting, jumping Afro-Carribean-Latin groove is introduced with keyboard horns playing on the “1” beat and the “3”. With the horns on the 1 and 3 and the heavy snare on the 2 and 4, the groove has the irresistible push and pull, jumpy quality. While I’m generally not crazy about synth horns, the horns here are wisely programmed like a horn section and restricted to a brief clipped horn burst, which heightens their effectiveness. In the background there is a synth guitar part seemingly played with some sort of bending effect that allows it to effectively mimic a real guitar. The groove breathes with vibrancy through its synthesized textures and BW and Perry introduce all kinds of fills, syncopations and Reggae style off beats that keep the groove vital and moving.

As far as The Maestro’s vocals? I always loved the way he slurred out his lines on this song. The lyrics are built around the line “Baby I’m relating” which was a finalist for the song title, with Jack Perry choosing “Sho You Right” out of the two song titles Barry presented him. The Maestro was back, turned on, and ready to relate!!!! This song along with many others was a soundtrack to many bike rides, basketball games and long weekend afternoons for me back in ’87 and ’88. And although I didn’t understand the sensual text of the lyrics, I surely understood the vitality of the groove! Proving that whether the Maestro is orchestrating men and women or machines, his wand will always direct something funky!

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