Tag Archives: Todd Rundgren

Anatomy of THE Groove: “Tin Foil Hat” by Todd Rundgren featuring Donald Fagen

Todd Rundgren has been one of those DIY singer/songwriter/musician/producer’s who was successfully able to meld his many talents into collaborative projects. Coming out of The Nazz into his own solo career,through Utopia and onward. Yet it wasn’t until his most recent solo album White Night,released just over a month ago. The majority of the album concentrated on collaborations with a diverse range of artists. Among them old friend Daryl Hall and one particular partnership that really got me personally interested: one with Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen.

This particular collaboration came during a time when America and to a degree much of the Western World is in great turmoil. It was turmoil that actually stopped me from writing this blog for a week or so. Unlike the post 9/11 years happily, very few American artists have any fear in challenging the disastrous presidency of Donald Trump. In fact,Rundgren made news (even on Fox) regarding his desire not to have Trump supporters in his concert audiences causing trouble.  All of this is presented as part of his collaboration with Fagen entitled “Tin Foil Hat”.

A bluesy,vibraphone like two note keyboard line opens the song unaccompanied. Following that,electronic drums come in playing what seems to be a slow jazzy swing in 6/8 time. After that another keyboard comes in playing an organ type part-with that opening line assisting a swinging bass keyboard and guitar (or guitar like) tone. On the choruses,the chord changes to a slightly higher one before descending back into the refrain via a brief re-appearance of the organ style solo. By the final choruses, a bluesy piano joins the affair before the songs comes to an abrupt stop.

“Tin Foil Hat” is a song that addresses the entire Trump fiasco so well. Instrumentally,its a classic R&B/jazz/blues shuffle in Fagen’s classic style-with Rundgren’s vocal effects and own musical touches going right alongside it. Presented here is an accompanying music video,which has the songs wry and biting humor but also has a mild dire element of conspiracy theorists in high positions constantly foreseeing a coming apocalypse. Its an example of a funky,bluesy and soulful type song in 2017 delivering a message for the American people with both humor and effective social commentary.

 

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Filed under Donald Fagen, Todd Rundgren

Anatomy Of THE Groove 4/10/2015: “Earth Mother” by Todd Rundgren

Soul and funk music have consistently been intertwined into Todd Rundgren’s solo career. It’s gone hand and hand with his ability to fuse his capabilities as a multi instrumentalist and working with other musicians with strong creative personalities-such as Utopia’s Roger Powell and Kasim Sulton. Celebrating an near half century in the music business? Rundgren is about to launch into a brand new tour with the boogie/electro funk revivalist Dam Funk as guest artist. His new album Global showcases how this has musically influenced him. Especially on one of it’s songs entitled “Earth Mother”.

A didgeridoo effect begins the song that goes into a hand clap powered rhythm as Rundgren does a call and response with female backup singers (including his wife Michelle) that goes into an isolated bass Vocoder vocal that goes into an organ sounding one before a slow,loping digitized go-go style drum stomp comes in accompanied by a round and again digitized bass synthesizer. This accompanies both the main lyrical body (where the synth bass line is expressed very subtly) of the song as well as the refrains. And in each refrain? A similar call and response vocal comes into play even up to when the song concludes on the Vocoder based statement.

Musically speaking? Rundgren does some amazing things with this song. He goes right for the jugular of the DC based go go funk sound-celebrating the idea of funkiness coming from slowing down a danceable tempo. Yet he also presents it in a song under four minutes as well. Instrumentally several things are happening here. The same gospel type call and response of the go-go/new jack era funk scene is present in the vocal arrangement. As well as the very strong aspect of the gritty “video game” style electronic bass synthesizer and digitized funk groove of early 80’s P-Funk that artists such as Dam Funk have bought into their musical orbit as well.

On the lyrical end Rundgren is paying serious tributes to woman’s right along racial and educational lines. The song itself references the Pakistani student activist Malala Yousafzai as well as the iconic historical story of Rosa Parks. This gives birth to my personal favorite lyrics from this song: “Rosa sat in the front of the bus/the driver start to make a fuss/the end result was so unjust/but she was sitting in front for the rest of us”. For his part, Rundgren clearly sees the entire matter of civil rights and racial justice as the ultimate service humanity can do itself. His frank yet thoughtful manner evokes genuine affection for the Curtis Mayfield’s,Stevie Wonder’s,Marvin Gaye’s and Gil Scott Heron’s who came before. And provides a modern day industrial electro go-go funk “people music” message song for 2015!

To learn more about Malala Yousafzai’s and Rosa Park’s importance in the history of human rights? Please click on the links provided below:

http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/2014/yousafzai-facts.html

http://www.history.com/topics/black-history/rosa-parks

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Filed under 2015, bass synthsizer, call and response, civil rights, Dam Funk, electro funk, go-go funk, Kasim Sulton, Malala Yousafzai, message songs, Michelle Rundgren, Rosa Parks, synth funk, Todd Rundgren

The Anatomy of THE Groove 7/11/14 Andre’s Pick : “Touch” by Omarion

Never ceases to amaze me how much Pharrell Williams was involved in so many of what I feel are the most instrumentally exciting funk of the past decade or so. As one half of The Neptunes with Chad Hugo,Pharrell helped spin musical gold for everyone from Kelis,Justin Timberlake,Jay Z,Snoog Dogg and even Britney Spears. And by 2004 Pharrell on his own was already being singled out as a pie in the sky artist/producer whom,like Quincy Jones before him was able to showcase the connectivity of soul/funk through the post millennial hip-hop era. Then in 2005,Pharrell turned his magic to Omarian,lead singer of the hip-hop/dance boy band B2K,as he released his debut solo album ‘O’ and,most impressively on the song “Touch”.

Follow a soft “huh” by Omarian,the song kicks right into gear at full power. The drum machine kicks out a very percussive Afro-Latin uptempo groove. Layered carefully within this rhythmic bed are two powerful synthesizer lines. One is a higher,almost digitized clavinet style effect playing a complex three chord sequence in very syncopated time. Below that is a very rubbery and flamboyant Moog bass line that has a lot of jazz/blues oriented “blue notes” and is almost played in fast paced be-bop style. As Omarian asks us to get comfortable,he begins to illustrate how he has “visions and fantasies”,and lyrically stays on the one with them throughout the song-illustrating both lyrically along with The Neptunes instrumentation the seductive energy of the song itself.

It was actually my blog-mate here Henrique who first introduced me to this songs several years ago. Having had a musical education that was equal parts Stevie Wonder,Prince,Teena Marie,Steve Winwood and Todd Rundgren? I always had the utmost admiration for musically eloquent multi instrumentalists. This song simply gave me goosebumps when I first heard it. So much so I totally forgot it even had any lyrics to it. The instrumental futurism and complexity of the drum machines and harmonizing lead/bass synthesizer was simply amazing. Especially with the tremendous physical energy and vigor with which it was played. This song revealed itself to me as an outstanding template for modern day,electronically derived instrumental funk. And forever had me digging deep to see what this apparently musically ingenius Pharrell Williams was up to.

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Filed under Funk, Hip-Hop, Omarion, Pharrell Willaims, Quincy Jones, Radio, Stevie Wonder, The Neptunes