Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Prince Performs Funky Mashup of MJ's “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” and The Time's “Cool”

Prince and The New Power Generation thrilled the audience with a dazzling mashup of Michael Jackson’s classic “Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough'' and The Time’s hit “Cool” at the Montreux Jazz Festival 2013. The Purple One and his talented groove squad served up massive doses of funk as they flawlessly integrated the two songs. The songs complement one another so well that it feels like they were always meant to be in a funky mashup one day. This mashup showed Prince’s genius at arrangement and unfailing ear. He just knew that those two cuts would sound amazing together, and it was also a really cool way for him to pay homage to MJ. And the NPG Hornz were on fire, even throwing in horn lines from Stevie Wonder’s “Sir Duke,” Weather Report's "Birdland" and Con Funk Shun’s “Ffun” to further raise the funk level. The rest of the band were also killing it. This roof-raising performance showed that Prince was still bringing the funk in large supply well into his 50s.

Some of the NPG players for this performance included Hannah Welton-Ford (drums), Andrew Gouché (bass), Donna Grantis (guitar), Cassandra O’Neal (keyboards) and Ida Nielsen (guitar). 

It’s fitting that Prince paid tribute to Michael Jackson musically rather than through a written or video statement online. Music was both his and MJ’s language, so it was the perfect medium to celebrate the pop legend, who was Prince’s contemporary and friendly rival. The two artists had a tremendous impact on music and pop culture during their relatively short time with us. Their influence is felt in many corners of contemporary music and will no doubt continue to be in the decades to come. They left such an indelible mark that it's hard to imagine what music would be like today without them. You can spot their influence in many of today’s artist/performers and their music, particularly in the genres of R&B, pop and hip hop--and even in rock and alternative in Prince's case. It’s a shame that the two never collaborated. That definitely would have been a world-shaking event for the books.

Sunday, June 19, 2022

“Too Hot Ta Trot” by The Commodores

The Commodores dropped this underappreciated groove nugget in November of 1977. The band definitely delivered the funk on this rousing cut. Walter Orange handles lead-vocal duties, serving up ample helpings of gritty funk in the process. The track features blazing guitar licks, a wicked beat, brawny bass and super-charged horn charts.

The band was on fire during this period. Earlier that year, they released their hugely successful self-titled fifth album, which contains the classic hits “Easy” and “Brick House.” And they were selling out large venues across the country and abroad, thrilling audiences with their dynamic brand of Southern-fried funk and Lionel Richie’s superb balladry. 

“Too Hot Ta Trot” was written by all six Commodore members. It was co-produced by James Anthony Carmichael and the Commodores. It topped Billboard's R&B singles chart, peaked at #24 on the Billboard Hot 100, and climbed to #38 on the UK singles chart.

The Commodores performed “Too Hot Ta Trot” in the 1978 disco comedy Thank God It’s Friday, which starred Donna Summer, Debra Winger and Jeff Goldblum. It was also a studio single from their album Commodores -- Live! (November 1977). It had a strong showing on the charts, peaking at #3 on the Billboard 200 album chart and #2 on Billboard’s R&B album chart. It also saw significant chart action in other parts of the world: The Netherlands (#7),  New Zealand (#8), Canada (#26) and the UK (#60).

“Too Hot Ta Trot” was also included on the Commodores’ 2001 compilation album Anthology.

The band lineup at the time they recorded “Too Hot Ta Trot” was Walter Orange (drums, vocals and keyboards), Ronald LaPread (bass and trumpet), Lionel Richie (vocals, saxophone, piano and drums), Milan Williams (keyboards, trombone and rhythm guitar), Williams King (trumpet, rhythm guitar, synthesizer and vocals) and Thomas McClary (lead guitar). 

Saturday, June 11, 2022

Lizzo's Uplifting Hit "About Damn Time" Is The Perfect Summer Jam

R&B/hip-hop/pop superstar Lizzo is kicking off the summer in style with some brand-new music. The three-time Grammy winner recently dropped her hot new track “About Damn Time.” It’s the lead single from her upcoming fourth album Special, which is set for release on July 15. The irresistible feel-good groove has a retro disco-funk vibe. Lizzo infuses the track with her usual unapologetic brashness and cheeky charm. It's impeccably arranged and features some excellent bass work from producer Ricky Reed. The upbeat song is the perfect soundtrack for the summer months.

Lizzo’s goal with “About Damn Time” was to uplift listeners and herself. During her interview on the radio platform Audacy, she explained her motivation for writing the song: “I think life had thrown some major traumas and hard experiences at us,” she said. “And I wanted to write a song that allowed us to take a moment to celebrate our survival, and celebrate how far we’ve come. And I think ‘About Damn Time’ does just that – it does it for me honey.”  

“About Damn Time” has been burning up the charts across the globe. It’s currently at #4 on the Billboard Hot 100, and it’s been sitting atop Billboard’s R&B singles chart for three weeks. The song has reached the top three on the charts in Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand and the UK–as well as making the top 10 in several other countries. 

Lizzo previewed the song on The Late Late Show With James Corden in March, and she performed it on Saturday Night Live on April 16, in which she was also the host.

In addition to bass, Ricky Reed played the synthesizer, piano, glockenspiel and guitar. The other players on the track were Nate Mercereau (guitar), Victor Indrizzo (drums and percussion), Terrace Martin (vocoder), Michael Cordon (trumpet), Jesse McGinty (trombone and saxophone). Additional vocals were provided by Doshiniq Green, Chawnta Marie Van, Mike Wright, Shelby Swain, Blake Slatkin and Ricky Reed. “About Damn Time” was co-produced by Ricky Reed and Blake Slatkin.

The song has a fun dance-filled video, which was directed by Christian Breslauer; he has also directed videos for well-known artists such as Lil Nas X, The Weeknd and Roddy Ricch.

Lizzo has some tour dates lined up for September, October and November this year.

Lizzo performing "About Damn Time" on Saturday Night Live

Related blog entry: "Worship" by Lizzo

Saturday, June 4, 2022

5 Fantastic Covers Of The Rolling Stones' "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction"

The Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” is the ultimate rock anthem and one of the most iconic songs of all time. Keith Richards’ rousing guitar riff is forever etched in pop-culture consciousness. Just hearing it at the start of the song gets your blood pumping. Mick Jagger's narrator voices his frustration and dissatisfaction with life and its many pressures, obstacles and daily annoyances. The song also takes a jab at commercialism in modern society and how living in a consumer culture can often make a person feel alienated and insignificant if they don’t live up to the perfect image disseminated by the media via television commercials, movies and TV shows. Many listeners could relate to this, and that’s one of the factors that gave the song such widespread appeal. And although "Satisfaction" was released in 1965, its theme is still very relevant today.

The song was a transatlantic smash, topping the charts in both the UK and the U.S. It was the Rolling Stones' first No. 1 hit in America and helped them significantly broaden their fan base there. And it reached the top spot in seven other countries. In 2021, it ranked at No. 31 on Rolling Stone magazine’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list. Additionally, it was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1998, and it was added to the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress in 2006.

Over the years there have been tons of covers of “Satisfaction,” some great and some terrible. I’ve made a list of five covers that I feel the artist didn’t try to emulate the Stones’ version but rather added their own original sound to create something unique and amazing.

Aretha Franklin  (1968)

Aretha always made any song she covered her own, no matter what the music genre or who originally recorded it. And she did the same with “Satisfaction.” The Queen of Soul infuses some church into her powerful roof-raising rendition of the Stones classic. Her fiery vocal performance brings a whole new dynamic to the song and helps underscore its theme of feeling dissatisfied and alienated in today's consumer-driven society. It was a single from her album Aretha Arrives (1968), and it charted at #37 on the UK singles chart.

Aretha's cover of "Satisfaction" at Amazon

Otis Redding (1966)

Otis Redding injects a shot of Southern soul into his dynamic rendition of “Satisfaction,” which he performed on the popular British television show “Ready Steady Go!” in 1966. The soul supernova electrified the studio audience with his powerhouse performance. And the band was cookin’. They definitely matched Otis’ energy. Watching this clip is all the evidence you need to see why he's so revered and celebrated. His studio version of “Satisfaction” was a single from his third album Otis Blue/Otis Redding Sings Soul (1965). And it saw significant chart action, peaking at #4 on Billboard R&B singles chart and #31 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

The studio version of Otis Redding's cover of "Satisfaction" at Amazon

Alice Phoebe Lou (2015)

Indie artist Alice Phoebe Lou performs a mesmerizing rendition of “Satisfaction” during a 2015 street concert in Berlin. Her hauntingly soulful vocals will give you chills. She brings an underlying sense of hopelessness and despair to the Stones classic. The South African singer-songwriter has been performing since 2013 and has released four studio albums to date and two live albums.

Alice Phoebe Lou's music at Amazon

Quincy Jones And His Orchestra (1965)

Quincy Jones and his talented troop of musicians give “Satisfaction” a big-band makeover. Q’s fantastic arrangement and his orchestra’s impeccable musicianship elevate this cover to sublime heights. It’s from Quincy And His Orchestra’s 1965 album Quincy Plays For Pussycats. 


Quincy and His Orchestra’s cover of "Satisfaction" at Amazon

Devo (1977)

Pioneering new wave band Devo put their unique sonic stamp on this thrilling reinterpretation of “Satisfaction.” It shows what a talented band Devo were in that they were able to take a beloved rock classic and turn it on its head to create something new and utterly brilliant. If robots from the future formed a band and covered “Satisfaction,” it would probably sound something like this. Devo plays the herky-jerky, hyperkinetic groove with flawless precision and complete detachment as if programmed by a computer. This is a prime example of new wave at its most creative and audacious. The “Satisfaction” cover was the lead single from Devo’s debut album Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! (1978). It charted at #41 in the UK and #98 in Australia. 

Devo's cover of "Satisfaction" at Amazon

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Review of Michael Jackson's Off The Wall Album

Michael Jackson released his landmark album Off The Wall on August 10, 1979, just a few weeks shy of his 21st birthday. It was his first solo album release as an adult. It was also his first solo album that wasn’t released on Motown. Instead, it was released on Epic Records. Michael and his brothers signed with Epic following their acrimonious split with Motown in 1975. Jermaine—who was then married to Motown head Berry Gordy’s daughter Hazel—was the only Jackson brother to remain with the legendary label. Moving to Epic turned out to be a godsend for Michael and his brothers. The label provided them the freedom to spread their wings creatively in the studio, which not only recharged their careers but also their love of making music. The Jacksons had their most successful album to date with Destiny (1978), which they wrote and produced on Epic. The album features the funky dance-floor smash “Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)." The song, which was co-written by Michael and his younger brother Randy, charted in the top ten in several countries and went on to sell over two million copies. 

This newfound artistic freedom opened the way for Off The Wall to happen. Michael would have never been able to make such a personal musical statement with Motown, which creatively hamstrung him and his brothers at every turn. The label prohibited them from writing their own songs or even choosing the songs that would appear on their albums. Producers and arrangers were also chosen for them by others. However, with Off The Wall, Michael was directly involved in every step of the album’s creation. He chose the producer (Quincy Jones), had a hand in song selection, and played a significant role in the branding of the album. Additionally, he wrote and composed two songs for Off The Wall–"Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” and “Working Day and Night”–on his own. He co-wrote “Get On The Floor” with bass legend Louis “Thunder Thumbs” Johnson. And Michael co-produced all three of these tracks with Quincy.

Since Off The Wall was Michael’s first solo album in which he had considerable creative input, he seized the opportunity to show that he was capable of making great music on his own terms; and those who doubted his songwriting and arranging abilities would have to eat crow. Also, Off The Wall was his first musical statement as an adult artist who was finally free of the creative shackles that Motown placed on him and his brothers. With this album, he shed his squeaky-clean teen-idol image for good and replaced it with a more mature, sophisticated artist who was prepared to explore more grown-up themes in his music.

The album’s lead-off single is the incredible dance/funk classic “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough.” It still sounds just as fresh and original as it did when it first hit the airwaves 43 years ago. The song nicely builds up tension at the beginning with Michael speaking softly over just the bass part and a shaker; and with a rousing “Whoo!,” the song erupts into an exhilarating rhythmic explosion with all the instruments whirring in brilliant syncopation. The energy coming from this track is palpable. Louis Johnson’s hypnotic bass line is the heartbeat of the song. Keyboard wizard Greg Phillinganes adds some synth bass on top of Louis' bass line, giving it a thicker funk sound. The track features a unique percussion-heavy rhythm arrangement, and Michael infuses his falsetto lead vocals with tons of energy and soul. The song is further elevated by Ben Wright’s superb string arrangement and Quincy Jones’ immaculate production. 

“Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” was a massive hit. It topped both the Billboard Hot 100 and Billboard's R&B singles chart. And it remained atop the R&B singles chart for six weeks. It peaked at #3 on the UK singles chart and landed in the top ten in several other countries. Also, the multiplatinum-selling single earned Michael his first Grammy. He received it for Best Male R&B Male Vocal Performance at the 22nd Annual Grammy Awards in 1980.

Title track “Off The Wall” is impeccably arranged and boasts a smoldering dance groove. Musically it’s sort of a precursor to “Thriller.” It has the same mysterious spooky vibe,” especially at the intro. It even has sinister cackling at the opening. However, thematically the two songs are very different. “Thriller” has a horror-movie theme, while “Off The Wall'' is about escaping the pressures and worries of daily life for awhile, whether that be cuttin’ loose on the dance floor or just getting wild and having fun with your friends: “Livin’ crazy that’s the only way.” Both songs were written by songwriter, musician and producer Rod Temperton and have his irresistible signature touch. “Off The Wall” features an indelible bass line, and Michael delivers a strong vocal performance. His harmonies on the chorus are smooth as butter. The song peaked at #5 on Billboard’s R&B singles chart and #10 on Billboard’s pop singles chart. It also saw significant chart action in other parts of the world, peaking at #4 in Norway, #9 in Sweden, #11 in Canada, #14 in New Zealand and #18 in the Netherlands.

The atmospheric, jazz-tinged “I Can’t Help It” was co-written by Stevie Wonder and singer-songwriter Susaye Greene. Stevie’s vibe is heavy on this song. It has that same dreamy flow heard on some of his classic mellow jams. Greg Phillinganes sets the mood with a haunting synth bass line. The song is beautifully arranged, and Michael serves up an exquisite vocal performance. This is definitely one of his most underrated vocals.

“Burn This Disco Out” is another great Rod Temperton-penned track from the album. The powerful groove sounds like a fleet of Mack Trucks hauling funk across the country. The track features some scorching rhythm guitar licks and a fantastic horn arrangement. And Michael keeps the groove hot with his fiery vocals. 

Louis Johnson unleashes some nasty bass-thumpin’ funk on the electrifying dance groove “Get On The Floor.” This track shows why he got the nickname “Thunder Thumbs.” Drummer John Robinson bolsters Louis’ extra-funky bass work with a sizzling beat. And Michael delivers a dynamic vocal performance that’s peppered with his signature whoops, hiccups, yelps and high-pitched squeals.

Michael and Quincy were really onto something when they brought Rod Temperton onboard for this album. All three of his songwriting contributions are straight bangers. And on top of that, he gave Michael one of his biggest hits with “Rock With You.” The track spent four weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100 Chart and held the number-one spot on the Billboard R&B singles chart for six weeks. It peaked at #7 in the UK and performed extremely well on the charts in several other countries. The song is an absolute gem from start to finish. The soothing mid-tempo groove caresses the ears. The arrangement and production are simply flawless. And Michael effortlessly delivers an amazing vocal performance. Everything just clicks on this track, from the marvelous string arrangement to the rich harmonies to the gentle synth line that turns up in the latter part of the song.

Michael cranks up the funk on “Working Day and Night.” The song has him working around the clock in the hope of winning over the affections of a certain young lady who doesn’t seem to appreciate his tireless efforts. The hyperkinetic dance groove boasts a furious bassline, supertight horns and wicked guitar licks. And Paulinho Da Costa keeps things cookin’ with his percolating percussion work. The funk on this cut is nonstop, never once giving the listener a chance to come up for air. When this song comes at a party or club, people have no choice but to “Shake it over!” 

Michael serves up an impassioned vocal performance on the woeful breakup ballad “She’s Out of My Life,” written by musician/singer/songwriter Tom Bahler. He imbues the song with raw emotion. You can hear the sheer heartbreak in his voice on each verse. According to Quincy, Michael cried after every take, so he decided to just leave it in. The song peaked at #10 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart and climbed all the way to #3 on the UK singles chart. 

The Paul McCartney-penned “Girlfriend” is a delightful pop/R&B confection. The song possesses a sweet charm and is as gentle as a spring breeze. It's enhanced by Louis Johnson's great bass work and Michael's guileless vocals. It was originally recorded by Paul’s band Wings for their 1978 album London Town. Michael and Paul would go on to record two hugely successful duets together: “The Girl Is Mine” from Thriller and “Say Say Say” from Paul’s 1983 album Pipes of Peace

“It’s the Falling in Love” is an infectious slice of R&B that features talented singer-songwriter and performer Patti Austin. She and Michael's voices complement one another so well here that it's kind of surprising that they never did another duet together. The song was written by Carole Bayer Sager and David Foster. It boasts a splendid arrangement, and Quincy’s production work is topflight as usual. 

Off The Wall was a huge critical and commercial success. It drew high marks from noted music critics and has sold more than 20 million copies worldwide to date. And the album made Michael Jackson the first solo artist to have four singles from the same album make the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 Chart. In addition to his Grammy win for “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough,” Michael won three American Music Awards for Off The Wall in 1980: Favorite Soul/R&B Male Artist, Favorite Soul/R&B Single for “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough,” and Favorite Soul/R&B album for Off The Wall. That same year, he won Billboard Music Awards for Top Black Artist and Top Black Album for Off The Wall. Additionally, it has been included on a slew of best albums lists. In 2020, it placed at #36 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. And it was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2008.

No artist had their finger on the pulse of popular music like Michael Jackson did during the late ‘70s and throughout most of the ‘80s. And Off The Wall is a prime example. This amazing collection encapsulated the very best aspects of disco, pop and R&B music. It’s a dance-based album but with Michael's singular sonic stamp, which is why it has aged so well. With Off The Wall, Michael firmly established himself as a major force in the music industry as a solo artist. He was no longer the cute little kid with the big Afro and even bigger voice singing innocent bubblegum-soul songs. He was now a focused, assured and ridiculously talented young adult who knew exactly what he wanted to accomplish in his career and had the musical gifts and drive to reach his lofty goals.

The importance of Off The Wall is often downplayed or underestimated. For instance, there are many who think that the second chapter of Michael’s extraordinary music career began with Thriller and that it was solely responsible for him reaching stratospheric heights not seen since the Beatles conquered the music world in the 1960s. However, without Off The Wall, there would be no Thriller, full stop. Off The Wall laid the groundwork and did much of the heavy lifting for Thriller to happen. Its astronomical success didn’t happen in a vacuum after all. Off The Wall is also an extremely influential work in its own right, significantly impacting genres such as pop, R&B, dance, soul and hip-hop.

Additionally, Off The Wall marked the beginning of one of music’s greatest partnerships with the powerhouse duo of Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones. Looking back, Quincy was the ideal choice to help Michael achieve his artistic vision for Off The Wall. Q already had years of experience as a producer and arranger under his belt and had worked with a slew of music legends from various genres; and he knew how to deal with many different personalities, temperaments and big egos, which for a music producer is almost as important as talent, experience and studio savvy. He was flexible and open to new ideas in the studio—for the most part anyway. And most importantly, Quincy always strove to bring out the very best in the artists that he produced and tried to create a relaxed environment where the full range of their talents could shine through on their recordings. He and Michael made three world-beating albums together that left a massive imprint on popular music and culture. 

Full Off The Wall album

Thursday, May 5, 2022

"I Like Girls" by The Fatback Band

This wickedly funky old-school joint by the Fatback Band features an absolute beast of a bass line. It’s one of the coldest bass lines ever laid on a track and that’s no joke. It’s complemented by an equally dope beat. And the smokin’ horns put an exclamation point on this ruthless groove. The song is about a pastime that dudes have engaged in since time immemorial–girl-watching. You can envision sexy mamas everywhere sashaying to this nasty groove. The track also makes effective use of rim drumming and cowbells. It’s the perfect jam to blast in your ride during the summer months with the windows down.

“I Like Girls” was a single from the Fatback Band’s ninth album Fired Up ‘N’ Kickin’ (1978). It was written and arranged by drummer/songwriter/producer Bill “Fatback” Curtis, the band’s founder and leader. The song was a big hit on Billboard’s R&B singles chart, rising to #9. The players on Fired Up ‘N’ Kickin’ were Bill Curtis (drums, percussion, vocals), Johnny "Flip" Flippin (bass, lead vocals), Calvin Duke (keyboards, lead vocals), Kenny Ballard (guitar, backing vocals), Fred Demery (saxophone), Gerry Thomas (keyboards), George Williams (trumpet, backing vocals), Lenny Fridie Jr. (congas) and Sam Culley (keyboards). The album was co-produced by Bill Curtis and Gerry Thomas.

“I Like Girls” has been sampled on four tracks, including “‘Cross The Room” by Monica, featuring Debra Killings and Afroman’s “Girls.” It was also featured in an episode of HBO’s landmark crime drama series The Sopranos. The episode was entitled “No Show,” and HBO originally aired it on September 22, 2002.

Bill Curtis formed the Fatback Band in 1970 in New York City. He was a veteran session drummer at the time with already 20 years of playing under his belt, which included session work and touring with various music acts. He had toured the country with renowned artists such as Sil Austin, Bill Doggett, Big Maybelle, Clyde McPhatter and Paul Williams. His concept with the Fatback Band was to meld the “fatback” jazz beat of New Orleans with dynamic West Indie and Caribbean rhythms. This unique fusion became the blueprint for the first disco beat. 

The original lineup of the Fatback Band was Bill "Fatback" Curtis (drums), Johnny King (guitar), Johnny "Flip" Flippin (bass), Earl Shelton (saxophone), George Williams (trumpet) and Wayne Woolford (congas). Curtis soon expanded the ensemble by recruiting sax players George Adams and Fred Demery, keyboardist Gerry Thomas and guitarist George Victory.

In 1972, the band signed with Perception Records, a New York-based imprint that focused primarily on jazz and R&B. They scored their first hit with the raw funk jam “Street Dance” in June of that same year. The song peaked at #26 on the R&B singles chart. The Fatback Band released three albums with Perception–Let’s Do It Again (which contained “Street Dance”), People Music and Feel My Soul–before signing with Event Records in 1974. 

By the mid-’70s, the band started shifting toward a more dance-based sound as well as incorporating jazz and Latin elements into their music. This revamping of their sound turned out to be a smart move as they scored their biggest hit to date during that period with “(Do the) Spanish Hustle,” released on Polydor Records in 1975. The driving, Latin-infused disco track saw significant chart action. It peaked at #12 on the U.S. R&B singles chart and climbed all the way to #5 on the U.S. dance charts. Additionally, it charted at #10 on the UK singles chart and just missed cracking the top 100 on the U.S. pop charts, at #101. 

The band landed another hit in '75 with the funkalicious “(Are You Ready) Do The Bus Stop.” The track peaked at #37 on the U.S. R&B singles chart and rose to #15 on the U.S. dance chart. It also performed well on overseas, climbing to #18 on the UK singles chart and #26 on the Australian singles chart. In 1977, the band shortened its name to simply Fatback.

In the ensuing years, the band dropped more great music, including the seminal proto-rap track “King Tim III (Personality Jock)," released on March 25, 1979. It’s credited as the first commercially released rap single. The song was released nearly six months before The Sugarhilll Gang dropped their landmark track “Rapper’s Delight.” “King Tim III” boasts a powerful funk groove and a rousing rap performance from Harlem rapper Tim Washington, aka King Tim III. The track rose to #26 on the U.S. R&B singles chart and peaked at #62 on the U.S. dance charts.

In 1980, the band released the bumpin' party jam “Backstrokin.” It’s their highest charting single on the R&B charts, peaking at #3. And it climbed to #53 on the U.S. dance charts and #41 on the UK singles chart.

The Fatback Band had a major influence on genres such as disco, disco-funk, hip-hop and dance music in general. Their electrifying sound encompasses several different styles, including jazz, funk, R&B, disco, Latin, disco-funk and rap. Their music has been sampled on 352 tracks.

The Fatback Band are still going strong and have some tour dates lined up for this summer. The current lineup is Bill Curtis (percussion), Ed Jackson (saxophone), Isabella Dunn Gordon (vocals), Ledjerick Todd Woods (trumpet), Darryl McAllister (guitar), Zachary Guinn (bass, vocals), Montreal Parker (drums) and Marell Antwon Glenn (keyboards). Visit the band’s official site for more info.

Thursday, April 21, 2022

"Changin'" by Brass Construction

Back in the day, Brooklyn groove outfit Brass Construction had folks burning up dance floors with its potent brand of funk, including the scorching dance-floor anthem “Changin'.” This funky dance track features an irresistible bass line and super-tight horns. The groove is further enhanced by hot guitar licks, a powerful beat, and a fantastic string arrangement. And musicianship on this cut is topflight.

“Changin’” was written by producer/songwriter/arranger/keyboardist Randy Muller. It was a single from Brass Construction’s self-titled debut album, which was released in 1975 on United Artists Records. It topped Billboard’s Dance Club chart and peaked at #24 on the R&B singles chart. The other single from the album was the dance smash “Movin’,” which topped both the R&B and dance charts and climbed to #14 on the pop charts.

“Changin’” has been sampled on nine songs, including Jill Scott’s “Gimme” and Schoolly D's “Black Jesus." It was also featured on the soundtrack for the 2003 film Biker Boyz as well as the soundtrack for the video game Grand Theft Auto V.

The band’s self-titled debut album spent three weeks atop the R&B album charts and peaked at #10 on the pop album charts. It ultimately went platinum. The album also had a strong showing across the pond, climbing to #9 on the official UK album chart. Additionally, it garnered high praise from music critics and was nominated for Best R&B Instrumental Performance at the 19th Annual Grammy Awards in 1977. The landmark collection redefined dance music and was highly influential to the funk genre. It also had a huge impact on the Britfunk movement (Light Of The World, Incognito, Hi-Tension, Level 42) of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. London-based Soul Brother Records re-released the album in 2010.

Brass Construction was formed in Brooklyn, New York in 1968 under the name Dynamic Soul. It was originally a rock/R&B quartet led by Randy Muller. By 1972, the band had expanded into a nine-piece ensemble with jazz and Latin influences. Around this time, Muller changed the band’s name to Brass Construction. The band continued to add more colors to its musical palette, including funk, African, Caribbean and disco. Brass Construction was signed to United Artists Records in 1975 and released their self-titled debut album that same year. The collection was produced by Jeff Lane. 

The lineup for Brass Construction at the time they dropped their debut album was Randy Muller (flute, vocals, percussion, timbales, keyboards, arranger), Wade Williamston (bass), Larry Payton (drums, vocals), Joseph Arthur Wong (lead guitar), Jesse Ward Jr. (saxophone, vocals), Wayne Parris (trumpet, vocals), Sandy Billups (vocals, congas), Morris Price (trumpet, vocals, percussion), Michael Grudge (saxophone, vocals) and Irving Spice (strings).