Friday, December 26, 2014

"It's Ecstasy When You Lay Down Next to Me" by Barry White

Barry White lit up the airwaves and got folks moving on the dance floor with this irresistible disco/funk smash back in 1977.  The song is hooked-filled and superbly arranged and orchestrated. And it nicely showcases White’s rich bass-baritone, which drove all the ladies crazy back in the day. The intro’s nothing short of epic; it kicks off with a bumpin’ backbeat coupled with a bodacious bass line, and the soaring strings eventually set in, lifting the groove to the heavens; it’s pure sonic joy. The song was written by Ekundayo Paris and Nelson Pigford, and was produced and arranged by White.

"It's Ecstasy" was the lead single from White’s 1977 album Barry White Sings for Someone You Love. The song performed extremely well on the charts, shooting to #1 on the U.S. R&B singles charts, where it remained for five weeks. And it peaked at #4 on the pop charts. It's one of White's most popular tracks, and it still gets a lot of play on old-school R&B stations. Also, it was featured in a steamy scene between John Leguizamo and Mira Sorvino in Spike Lee’s controversial 1999 film Summer of Sam.

White had the Midas touch during the 1970s. The gifted musician, composer, arranger, producer and singer/songwriter released a string of hits in that decade, including the R&B classics “You're the First, the Last, My Everything,” "I'm Gonna Love You Just a Little More Baby," “Can’t Get Enough of Your Love, Babe” and "Never, Never Gonna Give Ya Up." During his amazing music career, White accumulated a heap of gold and platinum records and had international sales of more than 100 million--making him one of the world's best-selling music artists of all time.

White enjoyed a big career resurgence in the late ‘90s when some of his hits were featured on the popular TV series Ally McBeal. The Maestro made three guest appearances on the quirky series, including its finale in 2002.

It's Ecstasy When You Lay Down Next To Me at Amazon

Saturday, December 20, 2014

"Ball of Confusion (That’s What The World Is Today)" by The Temptations

The Temptations reflect on the troubled state of the world on their powerful political track “Ball of Confusion (That’s What The World Is Today),” released in 1970. It was written by the legendary Motown songwriting/production team Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong. This hard-hitting slice of psychedelic soul is among the best of the Whitefield/Strong compositions, which is saying a lot considering their sterling oeuvre. The track effectively captures the chaos, uncertainty, fear and collective anger during that period. The instrumentation—provided by the Funk Brothers—is tremendous. Bob Babbitt sets the tone with a foreboding bass line, giving the feeling of a ticking time bomb counting down to detonation. It’s one of the most iconic and recognized bass lines in popular music.

Additionally, the track is filled with ferocious horn lines and trippy sound effects provided by guitarist Dennis Coffey using Echoplex.  It also contains some marvelous harmonica work from Mike Campbell. And the Tempts bring tons of soul and passion to their vocals. Lead singer Dennis Edwards really shines on this track. His gritty vocal performance is filled with righteous anger and conviction, and his rapid-fire delivery on some of the verses gives the song a strong sense of urgency. The song touches on many of the hot-button issues of the early 1970s: rising unemployment, segregation, drug addiction, civil unrest, racism, corrupt politicians, gun control and war. Sadly, most of these issues are still big concerns today, making the song as timely and relevant as ever.

“Ball of Confusion (That’s What The World Is Today)” had a very strong showing on the charts, peaking at #2 on the U.S. R&B single charts and #3 on the pop charts. It also charted in other parts of the world, climbing to #7 on the UK singles charts and reaching #5 on the singles chart in Norway. The song was featured on the Temptations’ 1970 album Greatest Hits, Vol. 2.

The track has been covered by a slew of artists from various genres. Some of the notable artists who have covered the song include Tina Turner (with the B.E.F.), Love and Rockets, The Undisputed Truth, Duran Duran, Anthrax and the Neville Brothers. And Whoopi Goldberg performed it in the 1993 comedy Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit.

The lineup for the Temptations at the time of the song’s release was Dennis Edwards, Eddie Kendricks, Paul Williams, Melvin Franklin and Otis Williams.

Ball Of Confusion (That's What The World Is Today) at Amazon

Monday, December 15, 2014

Top 14 "Crazy" Songs

Time to get wild and crazy! I’ve made a list of my favorite songs with the word “crazy” in the title. Check ‘em out:

14) Crazy Chicken – Graham Central Station (1977)

Larry Graham and GCS get busy with some fowl funk on this percolating, irresistible groove. It’s from the band’s fifth studio album Now Do U Wanta Dance (1977).

Crazy Chicken at Amazon

13) My Ladies Run Me Crazy – The Ohio Players (1976)
This loose funk groove is a track from the Ohio Players’ excellent Contradiction album. The track features tight horn lines and some badass drumming from James “Diamond” Williams.

12) I’m Crazy ‘Bout My Baby – Marvin Gaye (1963)
Marvin Gaye laid down some of his patented smooth soul on this this catchy R&B/pop cut. The song was the B-side of the Motown legend’s hit “Can I Get a Witness.” 

I'm Crazy 'Bout My Baby at Amazon

11) Crazy – Seal (1990)
This atmospheric electronic/pop/soul track was Seal’s big breakthrough hit and put him on the map in the U.S. music market. The British singer’s vocals are soothing, soulful and reassuring; there is a richness and depth in Seal’s voice that just works so well on this track. “Crazy” peaked at #7 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart and #2 on the UK singles chart. It topped the singles charts in Belgium and several other countries. It was the lead single from Seal’s self-titled debut album, released in 1991.

Crazy at Amazon

10) Crazy on You – Heart (1976)
Legendary Seattle rock band Heart scored their first hit single with this dynamic, mesmerizing rock track. The song is noted for its unique mix of electric and acoustic guitars. It boasts a cool quasi-classical acoustic guitar intro from Nancy Wilson. And her sister, Ann Wilson, delivers a searing lead vocal performance. This track nicely showcases Ann’s considerable vocal power. Lead guitarist Roger Fisher provides the memorable main electric guitar part, which is one of the most instantly recognizable guitar riffs in rock music. “Crazy on You” was written by the Wilson sisters and is from the band’s debut album Dreamboat Annie (1976). The track peaked at #35 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. It’s one of Heart’s signature songs and still receives heavy airplay on classic rock stations.

Crazy On You at Amazon

9) Crazy Train – Ozzy Osbourne (1980)
 Heavy metal pioneer Ozzy Osbourne burned up the airwaves with this powerful, high-voltage track. The Ozzman delivers a rousing vocal performance, and Randy Rhoads’ fantastic guitar work keeps the rock factor high. And the hard-driving main guitar line is lauded as one of rock’s most iconic guitar riffs, and it’s also for noted for using the full minor scale. “Crazy Train” was the lead single from Ozzy’s solo debut album Blizzard of Ozz, released in 1980.  The song climbed to #9 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart in 1981 and peaked at #49 on the UK singles chart.

Crazy Train at Amazon

8) Crazy Little Thing Called Love - Queen (1979)
Freddie Mercury channels a bit of Elvis on this irresistible rockabilly track. In addition to singing lead vocals, Mercury plays the acoustic rhythm guitar part. And Brian May keeps things rockin’ with some sweet rockabilly licks, and John Deacon anchors the groove with his solid bass playing. The track was the lead single from Queen’s multiplatinum-selling album The Game (1980). The track became the band’s first #1 single on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart. It also topped the charts in several of other countries, including Australia and Canada.

Crazy Little Thing Called Love at Amazon

7) Crazy in Love – Beyoncé, ft. Jay-Z (2003)
Beyoncé kicked off her solo career in style with this infectious slice of R&B/pop. The song has an indelible horn-driven hook, which was sampled from the Chi-Lites’ 1970 song “Are You My Woman? (Tell Me So).” The celebratory horns fit nicely at the intro, sounding as if they’re heralding Beyoncé’s arrival as an exciting new artist on the R&B and pop scene in the early 2000s. The young singer/performer shows off her impressive vocal chops here, and future-hubby Jay-Z lends the track a bit of street cred with his smooth rap verses.
The song shot to the top of the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 singles chart in 2003, where it remained for eight weeks. It ended up being one of the best-selling R&B singles of all time, with sales of more than eight million copies worldwide. It’s also recognized as one of the top songs of the 2000s by a number of noted music publications. British music publication New Musical Express (NME) named “Crazy in Love" the #1 song of the decade (2000-2010), and it placed at #3 on Rolling Stone’s 100 Best Songs of the 2000s. The song also won two Grammys (Best R&B Song and Best Rap/Song Collaboration). It was the first single off  Beyoncé's multiplatinum-selling solo debut album Dangerously in Love (2003). And the song’s music video is pretty iconic in its own right.

Crazy In Love at Amazon

6) Crazy – Mud (1973)
English glam rock band Mud thrilled fans with this dark, mysterious track. The song has a nice fuzz bass part and some quality guitar work from Rob Davis.  And Les Gray’s haunting lead vocals add to the track’s sinister vibe. “Crazy” peaked at #12 on the UK charts and was the first of a succession of top-20 UK hits for Mud.

Crazy on vinyl at Amazon

5) Crazay – Jesse Johnson, Ft. Sly Stone (1986)
Guitarist/songwriter Jesse Johnson teamed up with music legend Sly Stone for this bass-poppin’, synth-filled funk party. The former Time member and Sly really gel on this high-energy groove. Sly’s voice is in top form here, and he really belts out the funk on this cut. The song was the lead single from Johnson’s second solo album Shockadelica (1986). It had quite an impressive showing on the charts, peaking at #2 on the U.S. R&B singles charts and #53 on the pop  singles chart.

Crazay at Amazon

4) Still Crazy After All These Years - Paul Simon (1975)
This beautiful, poignant tune is one of Paul Simon’s most beloved songs. The song’s narrator quietly reflects on his life as he approaches middle age. He’s set in his ways and no longer feels the need to try to change in order to please anyone else. The song has a bittersweet quality and sentiments that many can relate to.  “Still Crazy After All These Years” is the title track from Simon’s 1975 Grammy-winning album. The song peaked at #40 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the U.S. and climbed all the way to #5 on Billboard’s Adult contemporary chart.

Still Crazy After All These Years at Amazon

3) I’ll Go Crazy  - James Brown & the Famous Flames (1960)
This early James Brown classic was released five years before he blessed the music world with The Funk. The young Mr. Dynamite’s musical gifts are in clear evidence on this hard-groovin’ R&B cut, and the Famous Flames show why they got their name with some soulful backing vocals. The track was written by Brown and was his fourth R&B hit, peaking at #15 on the R&B charts. It was also the first single from his landmark album Live at the Apollo, which was released in 1963. 

I'll Go Crazy at Amazon

2) Crazy – Gnarls Barkley (2006)
In 2006, dynamic musical duo Gnarls Barkley (Cee-Lo Green and Danger Mouse) dropped this brilliant track, which is about the potential positive aspects of losing your mind and the freedom and peace it can bring.  “Crazy” was the first single from the duo’s critically acclaimed debut album St. Elsewhere (2006). The track’s huge success marked one of those rare occasions in which a truly unique song became an international smash. The song topped the singles charts in several countries and peaked at #2 on the U.S. pop charts. And it won a Grammy for Best Alternative/Urban performance at the 2007 Grammy Awards. It also topped Rolling Stone’s 2009 list of the “100 Best Songs of the Decade” and placed at #32 on NME’s list of the “150 Best Tracks of the Past 15 Years.” And it has made a ton of other best-song lists from major music publications.

Crazy at Amazon

1) Let’s Go Crazy – Prince & the Revolution (1984)
Prince showed the world that he could rock with the big dogs on this galvanic rock/funk transatlantic smash. The track features a monster rock-guitar riff and a face-melting solo served up by His Royal Badness.  It was the second single from Prince’s phenomenally successful Purple Rain album and was featured in his blockbuster film of the same name. The song topped both the pop and R&B singles chart in the U.S. in 1984. It’s one of the Purple One’s most famous tracks and a crowd favorite at his concerts.

Let's Go Crazy at Amazon

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band Blowing Up The Funk Scene

Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band (YMBFBB) is one of the baddest funk outfits on the scene at the moment. The Asheville, NC-based band has been killing it for several years now with their dynamic sound and electrifying live shows. YMBFBB was formed in 2002 and quickly established themselves as a great live act who brought massive doses of funk and excitement to each of their performances. And the band has shared the stage with esteemed groove masters such as Parliament-Funkadelic, Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk, Galactic, Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Bootsy Collins and Maceo Parker.

 In 2007, the Booty Band released their debut album, Now You Know. The album was well-received by critics and music lovers and was named Album of the Year by Home Grown Music Network. The network also crowned YMBFBB its Band of the Year. The band released their gritty second album, Doin’ It Hard, in 2012, which also received high praise from music critics and fans. The collection was followed up by the extra funkified remix album Re-Doin’ It Hard.

Over the years, YMBFBB underwent a few personnel changes before becoming the super-tight unit  they are today. The members of the talented quintet are the following: Mary Frances, aka “Mama Funk” (keyboards, vocals); Al Al “Sweet Nasty” Ingram (bass, vocals); John Paul “Smoke Machine” Miller (guitar, vocals); Derrick “Dr. Ock” Johnson (trombone, vocals); and Lee “Insta Funk” Allen (drums).

The band has a distinct and unique sound that encompasses funk, soul, rock and old-school rap. And they have a pretty eclectic selection of influences, which include P-Funk, James Brown, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Dr. Dre, Frank Zappa, Bootsy, OutKast, Poets of Rhythm, Sly Stone, Snoop Dogg and Fishbone, among others.

 In October of last year, Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band dropped their most recent album, titled ONWARD! The eight-song album is a marvelous collection of funk, rock, soul and rap. One of the album’s highlights is the Middle Eastern-tinged rock/rap cut “Precious Moments.” The track is superbly arranged, with powerful horns and keyboards and some sweet guitar riffs. And Lee Allen tears it up on the drums.

“Sanchez” is a sizzling, high-octane instrumental with a cinematic feel. I can imagine this full-throttle groove being used as background music for a high-speed car chase scene in an action flick. The infectious “Ante Up,” is another strong cut, which is elevated by Mama Funk’s soulful, sultry lead vocals. And “Trunk Fallin’ Off” is an irresistible hip-hop track that boasts a sick beat and a dope vocal hook from Mama Funk. And Al Al Ingram and JP Miller add to the booty-shaking festivities with their humorous rhymes.

Additionally, the band gets smooth and mellow on “Let Me In,” which features some stellar fret-burning from Miller. And “Juices and Berries” is a badass retro groove with percolating wah-wah guitars and blazing organ. Ingram accentuates the groove with a mackin’ bass line, and Derrick Johnson delivers the heavy-duty funk on his trombone. 

ONWARD! is a very strong and consistent effort; all the tracks are quality and nicely complement one another. The collection shows the band further expanding their singular funk sound. The guest musicians on the album are Greg Hollowell (saxophone on all the tracks and flute on “Reasons”), Mike Dillon (percussion on “Precious Moments”) and Cactus (aka “Agent 23”) wrote lyrics for “Precious Moments.”

Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band have been busy bringing their powerful brand of funk to appreciative audiences across the U.S.  The band plays an average of 150 shows per year and has a bunch of tour dates lined up for this month. Their next show is scheduled for Thursday, December 11 at Holy Mountain in Austin, Texas.  Check out YMBFBB's website to learn more about the band and get tour info.

Live Version of  "Ante Up"

Onward! at Amazon