Mass Production – Believe (1977)

folder

MASS PRODUCTION
Believe
1977 Cotillion Records SD 9918

Free And Happy     5:20
I Believe In Music     6:46
Being Here     6:20
We Love You     0:40
Keep My Heart Together     3:58
Cosmic Lust     5:53
Superlative     4:33
People Get Up     5:43

Bass – Kevin Douglas 
Drums – Ricardo Williams   
Keyboards – Tyrone Williams
Lead Guitar – Rodney Phelps
Lead Vocals – Larry Marshall , Tiny Kelly 
Percussion – Emanual Redding  
Rhythm Guitar – Coy Bryant
Saxophone – Gregory McCoy
Trumpet – Otis Drumgole

Producer – Ed A. Ellerbe
Engineer – Dave Whitman, Michael Frondelli
Design [Logo] – Gerard Huerta
Mastered By – Dennis King
Photography By – Anthony Loew
Art Direction – Abie Sussman

Produced for Pepper Productions
Recorded & mixed at Electric Lady Studios, New York
Mastered at Atlantic Studios, New York, N.Y.
Manufactured by Atlantic Recording Corporation


Vinyl; Pro-Ject RM-5SE with Audio Tecnica AT440-MLa cartridge; Speedbox power supply; Creek Audio OBH-15; M-Audio Audiophile 192 Soundcard ; Adobe Audition at 32-bit float 96khz; clicks and pops removed manually with Adobe Audition 3.0; resampled using iZotope RX 2 Advanced SRC and dithered with MBIT+ for 16-bit. Converted to FLAC in either Trader’s Little Helper or dBPoweramp.  Tags done with Foobar 2000 and Tag and Rename.


I know I am badly overdue for some Brazilian posts, but I feel a responsibility to write stuff and give half-informed commentary on those, and I’ve been just barely treading water in real life and unable to give the kind of TLC that the blog deserves.  So I’m opting to post one or two things that are just good fun while I catch up on work.  I don’t know why I’m worried about making sloppy half-assed posts of Brazilian music, since the Olympic committee doesn’t seem too stressed about things like preparing rooms for the athletes or non-toxic shit-free water, but let’s not get off track here.  Except that I will take the opportunity to say, if any Olympians are reading this, I have a friend with a kitchenette to rent out in Rio, right in the Copa a few blocks from the train.  He’s a really great guy.  Gymnists are preferred, not because of any fetish or anything, but because y’all are small and he can fit more of you in there.  Just call +55 21 2224-4607 and ask for Eduardo.

02 - Believe back

Now on to this record from this ten-piece band from Virginia.  Any “disco sucks” people who stumbled on this blog can just click through this and move on, unless of course you are willing to open your mind and trust me that this record will neither turn you gay nor black (the root fear of most disco-phobia).  Mass Production was also a solid funk and soul outfit but they had their own approach to rescuing dance music from the blahs, and that was to show ’em how it’s really done.  A couple of these cuts are unarguably disco, and they jam so much you’ll want to call them Smuckers.  I don’t know if maybe its the difference between a band playing a disco groove, and a bunch of session musicians assembled by a producer, but I like it.  On this record Mass Production reminds me of Gary Tom’s Empire on the upbeat cuts and maybe Frankie Beverly & Maze on the mid-tempo material (their Firecracker-era stuff often gets compared to Brass Construction).  Singer Tiny Kelly adds a nice touch, especially to “Being There”, salvaging a schmaltzy ballad with genuine feeling (“long as you’re here/nothing matters” is wonderfully succinct).  She’s no Minnie Ripperton, and tends to go off pitch when reaching for some of the high notes, but in this age of Auto-tuned everything, this imperfection is actually kind of refreshing.  Note: I’m referring to the original use of the Auto-tune plug-in, and not the modulated effect that sounds like a malfunctioning Vocoder that was on every modern R&B song for a while.   The actual purpose of Auto-tune was to correct the pitch of vocalists in the studio, to greater or lesser degrees depending on their skill and on just how sterile and slick a production was desired.  I’m only some anonymous voice on a blog, but to my ears, when literally everything sounds “perfect” all the time, I find myself profoundly bored in about two minutes flat.    So, bring on the slightly sharp or flat high notes, Tiny Kelly, and remind me that you are all living and breathing humans making these glorious sounds.  I can handle it.

Most people are going to gravitate to the rump shakers on the disc, though.  I am pretty sure the first track, Free and Happy, was the inspiration for one of Weird Al Yankovic’s early pastiche singles, Gotta Boogie.   The secret weapon of this album is the instrumental cut called “Cosmic Lust,” which nowadays sounds like it could be a brand of synthetic cannabis (melon-flavored and with aphrodisiac properties), but in 1977 was actually a hit single off this record and huge club favorite.  Love these warbly analog synths from the space age, and the saxophone solo by Gregory McCoy (who wrote the song) is nice too.

Cosmic Lust

Mass Production’s first album was in 1976, but the idea for the band was actually hatched during some house parties thrown by Frankfurt school theorists Max Horkheimer (d.1973) and Theodore Adorno (d.1969).  The two were renowned for throwing wild get-togethers involving Hollywood celebrities, music luminaries, piles of cocaine, and stag films on 8mm.    Reportedly after hearing Eddie Kendrick’s 1973 solo album, Horkheimer confessed from his death bed that one of his main regrets in life was that he was about to miss one of the crowning achievements of human creativity, the efflorescence of disco funk.  Entrepreneur and producer Ed A. Ellerbe, a regular attendee of the Frankfurt exiles’ bacchanals,  assembled the group Mass Production in his honor.

mp3 iconflac button24bitpassword: vibes

Funkadelic – America Eats Its Young (1972)

Funkadelic America blog

Funkadelic – America Eats Its Young
Vinyl rip in 24-bit/96kHz | FLAC and mp3 | LP Artwork (sans gatefold)
Funk/Rock| 1972  | Westbound/ 4 Men With Beards ‎~ 4M179 ~ 2010 180-gram reissue

A1     You Hit The Nail On The Head
A2     If You Don’t Like The Effects, Don’t Produce The Cause
A3     Everybody Is Going To Make It This Time
B1     A Joyful Process
B2     We Hurt Too
B3     Loose Booty
B4     Philmore
C1     Pussy
C2     America Eats Its Young
C3     Biological Speculation
C4     That Was My Girl
D1     Balance
D2     Miss Lucifer’s Love
D3     Wake Up

Distributed By – Janus Records (original release)
Produced For – Westbound Records (original release)
Recorded At – Manta Sound
RCA Studios, Toronto
Toronto Sound Studios
Olympic Studios
Artie Fields Studios
Mastercraft Recording Corp.
Pressed By – Mastercraft (original release)

String and horn arrangements  – Bernard Worrell (tracks: B1, D2 to D3)
String and pedal steel guitar arrangements – David Van De Pitte (tracks: A2 to A3 , B2, C2 to C3)
Produced, arranged, cover concept by– George Clinton
Vocals arranged by Bernard Worrell
Bass – William Collins, Cordell Mosson, Prakash John
Cello – Peter Schenkman (2), Ronald Laurie

Guitar – Eddie Hazel, Garry Shider, Harold Beane, Phelps Collins
Steel guitar – Ollie Strong
Juice Harps – James Wesley Jackson
Keyboards, Melodica – Bernard Worrell
Percussion – Frank Waddy, Tiki Fulwood, Tyrone Lampkin, Zachary Frazier
Alto Saxophone – Randy Wallace
Tenor Saxophone – Robert McCullough
Trumpet – Al Stanwyck, Arnie Chycoski, Bruce Cassidy, Clayton Gunnells, Ronnie Greenway
Viola – Stanley Solomon, Walter Babiuk
Violin – Albert Pratz, Bill Richards, Joe Sera, Victoria Polley
Vocals – William Collins, Clayton Gunnells, Diane Brooks, Ed Hazel, Frank Waddy, Garry Shider, Harold Beane, Phelps Collins, Prakash John, Randy Wallace, Ronnie Greenway, Steve Kennedy
Vocals [Uncredited] – Calvin Simon, Fuzzy Haskins, George Clinton, Grady Thomas, Ray Davis
Written-By – B. Worrell (tracks: A1, A3 to B1, C2, D3), G. Clinton (tracks: A1 to B3, C1 to D3)

Artwork [Cover] – Paul Weldon
Artwork [Poster] – Cathy Abel
Concept By [Cover] – Ron Scribner
Coordinator [Album] – Mia Krinsky
Engineer – Lee De Carlo
Engineer [Assistant] – Rick Capreol
Supervised By [Producer] – Bob Scerbo

A PARLIAFUNKADELICMENT THANG


Vinyl; Pro-Ject RM-5SE with Audio Tecnica AT440-MLa cartridge; Speedbox power supply; Creek Audio OBH-15; M-Audio Audiophile 192 Soundcard ; Adobe Audition at 32-bit float 96khz; clicks and pops removed with Click Repair, manually auditioned, and individually with Adobe Audition 3.0; resampled using iZotope RX 2 Advanced SRC and dithered with MBIT+ for 16-bit. Converted to FLAC in either Trader’s Little Helper or dBPoweramp.  Tags done with Foobar 2000 and Tag and Rename.


03 - Label A_2

America is on a bad trip, y’all.  The Empire is crumbling and in flames.  And I’d say that’s mostly a good thing.  Sure it’s depressing and scary. Don’t worry though, Funkadelic is here to help you pull through another day in the 240-year-old genocidal nightmare of white supremacy and capitalist greed.  Just don’t expect to feel much better when the record is done playing, though.

This one probably should have come with a warning label on it in 1972, cautioning listeners to only mix it with mind-expanding substances under supervision of a professional.  Sure there were a lot weirder records out there – Funkadelic’s three records prior to this one, in which recording sessions were reputedly fueled by manic acid binges, were more “far out” than most of what graces these grooves.  And they were peppered with meditations on death and Armageddon.  But this one has always seemed more sinister and strange to me.  It was one of the last of their classic early records that I got into, preferring the releases that bookended it (Maggot Brain and Cosmic Slop) instead.  Lots of people describe this record as “transitional” and bit all over the place, a reflection of the dissolution of the original band lineup and the presence of  over thirty musicians participating on it.  But I think there is more than just an aural confusion that makes the album dense and inscrutable at first.  It is also ideologically and spiritually incoherent, and in that sense perfectly captures where the band – and, hell, most of the world – was at in 1972.  If I take each song individually, this is classic Funkadelic, top notch material with a couple of near-misses, but taken collectively all at once they have me reaching for a Thorazine injection.

clinton_1407065371_crop_550x794Critical reception seems split between people who panned it as being “over-indulgent” (that favorite word that critics use for anything ambitious that they don’t immediately fancy), or those who want to recover it as the groups great neglected “grand statement,” like in this story on the site The Quietus that I think is kind of mediocre but still worth a read for those interested.  But whatever your take on it, there is no denying that this was an album of important “firsts,” with the departure of much of the original lineup and the inclusion of new players who would come to be major figures in the P-Funk Empire, most notably Bootsy Collins but also Gary Shider, Catfish Collins, and the funkiest Indian-Canadian around, Prakash John.  As usual, George gets (or is it “takes”?) all the credit in that Quietus story, but as this Wax Poetics feature argues persuasively, Bernie Worrell was in many ways the key to P-Funk’s genius, and this is the record where his contributions were really allowed to shine and blossom.  He arranged many of the songs, put his classical training to good use in arranging strings and horns, and his keyboard textures point the way forward for the next decade of P-funkateering.   A Joyful Process is really a showcase for this.  This cut was actually released as a single in a shorter edit (which is included with the Westbound CD version from the 1990s).  For me, one of the great things about the great, recently-departed Worrell is that his genius could be a subtle one.   On that song, as well as the B-side Loose Booty, attention to tone and rhythm helps his keyboard work to blend in synergistic harmony with the guitar work.  You can find this kind of musical camouflage throughout his career all the way to his collaborations with Talking Heads: whenever Worrell was on stage, if you closed your eyes you would probably have trouble figuring out what sounds came from where and who was making them.  And the string arrangements on this album are pretty brilliant. They seem so natural that it might it take a few minutes to sink in that “hey, there’s a string section on a Funkadelic album.”  That is,if you hadn’t been around at the time reading interviews where George Clinton was citing Sgt. Pepper and Tommy as inspirations for this ambitious double-album.  Hearing this eighteen years or so after it was released, the prog-rock allusions were not so pronounced or obvious to me.  Likewise it was hard to see how anyone expected this to be “shooting for the mainstream”.  Yes the songs are tightly composed, with none of the freeform freakouts found on the last two records, and a few tracks are rather epic in length and have multiple parts.   Perhaps George had thoughts of college kids putting this record on after Thick As A Brick left their turntable.  But even the sludge-rock crunch of “Balance” is funkier than anything you’ll find on an ELP record, so I prefer to ignore what the critics and maybe even George have to say about what the album was trying to achieve and just listen to what’s here.   That, and maybe look at what the band had been doing rather than saying, which is to say sharing bills with other Detroit upstarts like the MC5 and Iggy & the Stooges, with whom they shared a kind of anarchistic, agit-prop aesthetic.  Even their ad campaigns for this record were confrontational.

 Speaking of sludge, this is the first Funkadelic record where you can clearly hear everything going on in the mix.  Clinton once again accepts credit for this, as this was the first album where he was in charge of mixing, and apparently did many remixes until he arrived at the sound he was seeking.  But that may be less a function of him being “in control for the first time” as it is a reflection of the haphazard, spontaneous nature of the preceding Funkadelic records.  FuNCKEALDIEcADAMericAEATASitsOTOUNG_465_628_intMultiple mix-downs of a record in any genre, especially with this many players on it, is actually the rule rather than the exception, and it would probably be more accurate to say this was the first time they actually started to care how the end result sounded.

There’s some steel guitar on this record from Ollie Strong.  It’s not the first time they’ve incorporated the weepy country-and-western instrument – it also appeared on the one-off Invictus record by Parliament, Osmium, on “Little Ole Country Boy” (which you might recognize from a certain ‘Potholes In My Lawn‘ twenty years later).   Osmium (aka Rhenium)  had some other first-appearances related to this one.  “I Call My Baby Pussycat” (here retitled simply ‘Pussy’) was the opening cut on that LP.  In its incarnation on America Eats Its Young, the tempo is slowed way down, the lyrics nearly incomprehensible, the vibe lascivious.  In a live setting they often combined both approaches, as heard on the archival release “Live at Meadowbrook” that appeared in the mid-90s.  Compare and contrast if you like.

Personally, I don’t think the album is quite the magnum opus or Great Statement it strives to be, but it is still a classic, and certainly doesn’t merit the more negative assessments that some short-sighted critics gave it at the time.  There is an undercurrent of malaise and unease, no doubt tied to the sociopolitical circumstances of the darkest years of Vietnam, the fracturing of the civil rights and peace movements, and the dissolution of the optimistic utopia found in Sly Stone’s upbeat Family vision as he traded it in for the wonderfully paranoid claustrophobia of There’s A Riot Going On.  Oh and there is the matter of the band’s own heroin consumption at the time.  One has visions of them snorting lines of smack off the mixing console during this record.  But at least some of the malaise comes from its flirtation with the Left Hand Path.  For years I ignored the spaced-out diatribes in the liner notes attributed to The Process Church of the Final Judgement on this album and Maggot Brain — I had assumed it was a fictional thing in the P-Funk universe, named after a hairstyle.  But it was in fact a real organization (which may well have had an influence on that other Family, the one presided over by a certain Charlie Manson), so you also get this pseudo-occult, chic satanism bubbling up between the grooves that contributes to the hazy incoherence of it all.  Now, I’m actually an aficionado of any music tied to weirdo cults from the 60s and 70s, whether its Tim Maia’s Racional period, Father Yod’s commune, Incredible String Band’s cryptic Scientology paeans, your run-of-the-mill Hare Krishna or TM-influenced artists, or musical invocations of that wickedly bald mountain-climber Aleister Crowley.  (Edit: I forgot to add Prince’s “Rainbow Children” record to this list, which I shamefully just kind of listened to once when it came out and didn’t pay much attention to… it’s a solid and ambitious effort, albeit uneven). I’m certainly not bothered on religious grounds by these kind of antics.  But there is something just icky about Funkadelic’s relationship to the Process Church and I’m relieved they didn’t continue down that road.  In any case, that entity has swapped out its bodily vessel and now exists as an animal shelter in Utah.

Even the exhilarating, upbeat stuff here is not what it seems.  I remember the first time I heard “Loose Booty” and assumed it was a song about shaking your ass on the dance floor, only to be slightly disturbed when I began to pay attention to the lyrics, eventually learning that it was slang for a junkie, a reference to their occasional inability to control their own bowel movements (loose butt!). And yet there are also songs of delicate beauty here, like the lovely “Everyone Is Going To Make It This Time.”  The ballad “We Hurt Too” is a throw-back to the groups’ roots in doo-wop.  It doesn’t quite work, but it works better than throw-away “That Was My Girl,” which is some sort of convoluted parody of The Temptations or Motown or love songs or something.  Bootsy’s one songwriting contribution, on which he also sings lead, is a 60’s-style soul rave-up, and surprisingly unfunky.  America Eats Its Young may be an ambitious Concept Album but it seems kind of rudderless and bereft of a clearly-articulated Concept – in short, a perfect representation of their spiritual and musical transmogrification in ’72.  I for one am glad that it doesn’t have an explicit narrative like The Who’s Tommy or an Alan Parsons Project record,  because it lets the album age a little differently and survive like a kind of musical Rorschach ink blot.  One thing I think the Quietus piece gets right is that this record does sort of set a template for how Clinton & Co. would approach making records for the rest of their run.  There is usually an over-arching Big Concept, increasingly populated with figures and icons of their own mythological universe.  But unlike the majority of high-concept albums, it isn’t really necessary to fully immerse oneself or even pay much attention to any of those embellishments to fully enjoy the great music they contain.  And there is a lot here to enjoy.

mp3 iconflac button24bit16-44-magnet 24-96-magnetpassword: vibes

Prince and the Revolution – America b/w Girl (1985) (12″ extended single)

folder

PRINCE and the REVOLUTION – AMERICA / GIRL (12″ extended single)

Side One:  America (21:46)

Side Two: Girl (7:36)

ARC (Allied Recording Company) pressing
Matrix / Runout: 0-20389-A SHI [ARC logo] B-21968 -SHI SLM △ 10-764 1-1X
Matrix / Runout: 0-20389-A SHI [ARC logo] B-21968 -SHI SLM △ 10-764 1-1

Vinyl; Pro-Ject RM-5SE with Audio Tecnica AT440-MLa cartridge; Speedbox power supply; Creek Audio OBH-15; M-Audio Audiophile 192 Soundcard ; Adobe Audition at 32-bit float 96khz; ClickRepair on “Girl” only, set to “1”; clicks and pops removed individually with Adobe Audition 3.0; resampled using iZotope RX 2 Advanced SRC and dithered with MBIT+ for 16-bit. Converted to FLAC in dBPoweramp.  Tags done with Foobar 2000 and Tag and Rename.

It’s almost Independence Day in the USA.  So, a twenty-one minute jam on the funkiest single from the Around the World In A Day, because why not.  Playing until the tape reel ran out, there are some fun solos from Prince and Dr. Fink, but the group had yet to incorporate the horn parts that would become part of the instrumental workout on the road, and so this is probably less interesting than it could have been.   As the tempo never varies, I’ve found this makes a good track for when you need something epic to power a good run or workout of your own (and those versions of “A Love Supreme” or “Echoes” you have your iPhone usually result in you standing still and staring off into space).   You can hear the live treatment that this song got, which was about half as long as this, on any number of high-quality bootlegs.  They mostly seem to follow the pattern in this video clip, minus the somewhat sloppy drum solo played by P.

 

03 - Label A_2Being a godless commie my own self, I always wanted to think of this song as an ironic comment on patriotism.  Given what we now know about his truly deep religious convictions (which he insisted were sincere from the beginning), I’m not entirely sure any more.  It seems possible he may in fact be implying that Jimmy failing to pledge allegiance to the flag has some causal relationship to him now living on a mushroom cloud.  Little sister, making minimum wage and living in a one-room jungle-monkey cage, may still be better off than those Reds, who most definitely didn’t have anything this fun to dance to.  Taking it all at face value, this has to be the funkiest Cold Warrior anthem you’re likely to hear, at least until James Brown released “Living In America” in December of 1985 and sang the pugilistic praises of all-night diners and black coffee.  Prince obviously drew a lot of inspiration from James, especially on this song (and especially specially on the live rendition).  Was everyone just feeling particularly red, white, and blue in 85, or was there some sinister CIA program to accelerate Perestroika by covering the globe with feverish funk celebrating capitalist freedoms?  There’s a history dissertation idea in there for some of you grad students out there, you can thank me later in your acknowledgements.

04 - Label B_2“Girl” is not my favorite B-side from Prince, but it’s certainly not terrible either, and the extended version makes the track more, um, charming.  Dig, if you will, the picture of Kraftwerk abducting Barry White, forcing him to breath through a helium tank, and ordering him to compose and perform an erotic proclamation of lust for their new record (“Please Barry, show us how you humans make with the sexy music”), and you’ll have some idea of “Girl.”  Well, except that the mechanical rhythm that chugs along underneath the track is generated by a couple low notes on a Hammond organ rather than a synth.  The spoken parts of the extended tune, which simulate one half of an intimate conversation of some kind, are Prince at his most blush-inducing.   It features the line, “”All I have to do is think about you, and I can have an orgasm.  Sounds funny, doesn’t it?  Marry me.” Just like the track Temptation from this same album, it’s stuff that’s so over the top that only he could pull it off without appearing completely silly.  Okay so maybe a little silly, but we know the man could laugh at himself, because he apparently approved of Dave Chappelle’s depiction of him dry-humping a basketball.

The extended mix also features collaborator and love-interest Susan Melvoin reciting the lyrics backwards with “boy” switched out for “girl.”  It is only just barely audible with all the other stuff going on in the mix, and so for fun I’ve isolated it for all those people who have trouble playing digital audio backwards.  This is just the right channel (where her voice is) and with EQ applied to accentuate just the voice.

 

So whether you are enjoying beers and barbecue in the Land of the Free or just enjoying yourself in one of the lesser countries of the world, here’s a little extended paisley magic for your collection.

mp3 icon   flac button

24bit

 

Prince and The Revolution – Let’s Go Crazy / Erotic City (1984) (12″-inch extended single)

folder

02 - Back_2

 Prince and The Revolution

1984 Warner Bros. Records – 9 20246-0 A

A     Let’s Go Crazy (Special Dance Mix)     7:35
B     Erotic City (“Make Love Not War Erotic City Come Alive”)    7:24

Matrix / Runout (Side A): [SRC logo] 0-20246-A-SRI I-2
Matrix / Runout (Side B): [SRC logo] 0-20246-B SR2

Vinyl; Pro-Ject RM-5SE with Audio Tecnica AT440-MLa cartridge; Speedbox power supply); Creek Audio OBH-15; M-Audio Audiophile 192 Soundcard ; Adobe Audition at 32-bit float 96khz; clicks and pops removed with Click Repair (Let’s Go Crazy only, manually auditioned) and individually with Adobe Audition 3.0; resampled using iZotope RX 2 Advanced SRC and dithered with MBIT+ for 16-bit. Converted to FLAC in either Trader’s Little Helper or dBPoweramp.  Tags done with Foobar 2000 and Tag and Rename.

 

On days like this, I sometimes post here just to keep busy.

This is really an iconic extended single for Prince.  On the first side, you have the rousing anthem that persuaded rock fans like my brother that His Royal Badness was a force to be reckoned with, while on the flip side you had pure and nasty electro funk.

Let’s Go Crazy (Special Dance Mix)

“Let’s Go Crazy” is celebrated for good reasons. By 1984, popular songs based around guitar riffs which were also danceable were few and far between in the almost thoroughly segregated music scene of the US, yet here was a manic message of elevators and purple banana peels urging everyone to let go and shake what the good Lord gave them.  It’s Little Richard backed by Ike Turner & The Kings of Rhythm with a Juno synth and a Linn drum machine.  One of the many things I like about this song is a detail that is easy to forget when I haven’t heard it for a while: the way the guitar solo in the middle is mixed lower than nearly everything else going on around it.  It’s a brilliant strategy of psychological rock-warfare that must have led billions of listeners to reach for the volume knob at just the right moment.  This extended mix throws in a different pentatonic minor progression with a discordant piano plonking away and a portion of the opening spoken prologue repeated, then suddenly dropping into a groove that sounds like… Minneapolis soca?  There is some almost-Caribbean percussion going on in the left channel (Sheila, is that you?) that makes me imagine people celebrating más in their winter coats outside First Avenue.   And as he did for most of his career, Prince manages to cover all this ground while sounding completely natural rather than self-consciously eclectic, to the point where we aren’t even surprised when we flip the record over and have our minds blown by the non-album track “Erotic City.”  That’s not to say he didn’t know he was pushing all kinds of boundaries – not just by testing the limits of Reagan-era prudish hypocrisy, but musically.  We have to assume the the club owner in Purple Rain wasn’t the only person who must have told Prince, after one fashion or another, “Your music makes no sense to nobody but yourself.”  Well eventually even he “gets” it in the end.

3euOVig

03 - Label A

“Erotic City” is noteworthy for lots of things.  It is the first recorded Prince track to feature Sheila E. (unless she did in fact play the percussion on Side A but I don’t think there she is credited).  Although I have not been able to bring myself to watch it yet, she apparently brought down the house at the BET awards this past weekend in a medley that opened with ‘Housequake’ and ended with this track.  I plan to watch it, I just have to work myself up to it. I don’t “do” award shows, and plan to avoid some of the tribute material if possible, so I’m hoping to find just the clips of Eryka Badu, Bilal, and this medley if I can find them out there without having to suffer through the rest.

Erotic City

In the version that was unleashed on the world in 1984, she sings the second vocal part.  She has insisted that she is actually singing “funk” and not “fuck”.. Maybe some of the time, but I find it doubtful, and that’s definitely not what Prince is singing.  Anyway it didn’t stop the track from getting some airplay on R&B stations and becoming a legendary weapon in many a club DJ’s arsenal.  When Prince inducted Parliament-Funkadelic into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame a few years ago, he claimed he went home and wrote this tune immediately after seeing them play a show in the early 80s.  I can believe that.  The electro bass groove drives things for well over a minute before any vocals come in.  The guitar on this song was recorded with the tape at half-speed to give it a sped-up, hyper-space sound (if you played the 45 rpm disc at 33 and 1/3, the guitar would almost sound normal).  There is additional vocal overdubbing done at half speed too, and for brief moments the mix is suddenly filled with feral, over-sexed chipmunks.  This was a favorite encore number for Prince and I’m glad to be able to share it here.  But don’t forget to visit the Fun With Vinyl blog where there are still a couple days left of Paisley June.  DJ Ritchie there has all the extended singles you will ever want, and there are lots of them, so go have a listen!

mp3 icon   flac button

24bit

password: vibes

Prince and The Revolution – Mountains & Alexa de Paris (1986 12″ extended remix)


01 - Front_2

back

 

Prince and The Revolution
Mountains 12″ extended remix
1986 Warner Brothers 0-20465

45 RPM 12-inch single

Side 1
Mountains (9:56)
Side 2
Alexa de Paris (4:56)

Vinyl; Pro-Ject RM-5SE with Audio Tecnica AT440-MLa cartridge; Speedbox power supply); Creek Audio OBH-15; M-Audio Audiophile 192 Soundcard ; Adobe Audition at 32-bit float 96khz; clicks and pops removed with Click Repair (manually auditioned) and individually with Adobe Audition 3.0; resampled using iZotope RX 2 Advanced SRC and dithered with MBIT+ for 16-bit. Converted to FLAC in either Trader’s Little Helper or dBPoweramp.  Tags done with Foobar 2000 and Tag and Rename.


In Matt Taibi’s eulogy for Rolling Stone magazine, he mused that maybe the world had grown too angry of a place for Prince.  After waking up to today’s news headlines from Orlando, and having done some work on this post over the last few days, I keep thinking about that and wondering if maybe he’s right.  Who is going to write celestial tunes like this one, when we need them most?

Love will conquer if u just believe


I think I can measure how important the “Parade” album was to me by the fact that it was the last of Prince’s classic back catalog hat I listened to after his death.  It’s like I had to work myself up to it.  For one thing, it ended up being a swan song for this phase of Prince’s creative arc, as he dissolved The Revolution afterwards and lost a little (but not all) of the dreamy gauze of psychedelized folk-funk that took place in that unique musical alembic.  As great as the music still to come would be, I recall being distinctly bummed out when I heard that he’d fired nearly everyone.  “Parade” also marks the introduction of more pronounced jazz influences into Prince’s music, helped along by the presence and influence of Eric Leeds and Sheila E. There’s an art-house aesthetic going on too, with the monochromatic cover art (and film, which I didn’t see for years until after the record came out)… But let me save some of this energy for a full post on the Parade album (is that a promise? Sort of, I’m notoriously bad about keeping my promises here..) and get to talking about this single.

Mountains (extended mix)

Co-written with Revolutionaries Wendy Melvoin & Lisa Coleman, the  song “Mountains” encapsulates a lot of what I find so enchanting about the record.  For whatever reason, after the news of April 21 broke, it’s the song I wanted to hear.  “Sometimes It Snows In April” occurred to me instantly,  but it seemed almost too obvious, and anyway I wasn’t ready to hear it yet.  “Mountains” for me always embodied the warmth and transcendence that Prince & The Revolution were capable of at their best.  It’s truly one for the purple hippies out there.  Propelled by a Mu-Tron modulated bass riff and chugging rhythm guitar, it has an implied drone through it, which emerges fully with a tamboura-type sound at the three and 1/2 minute mark, after the bebop-inflected instrumental bridge.  On live bootlegs from 86, you can hear that they would often precede the song by an extended faux-Indian drone using this synth patch.  Prince plays finger cymbals on the tune.  The lyrics, which can be a little hard to make out as his falsetto gets enveloped by the sonic mountains, are cryptically mystical ‘love conquers all’ stuff.  In the music video he is seated cross-legged on a carpet in the middle of the band with a pair of maracas, wearing his bolero hat.  At this point Prince was a master of mid-tempo funk, and this tune lopes along like some sort of troop formation marching through the valleys of Neptune for an assault on the Holy Mountain or something else suitably epic.  The single immediately preceding this one from Parade was the number one smash Kiss,  and the lush soundscape here contrasts sharply with that tune’s austere minimalism.  In comparison this song did poorly on the charts, only reaching 23 on the Billboard Hot 100, and some fans blame that for an even worse chart performance of the next single,  Anotherloverholenyohead, with some arguing that the latter is a better song and should have come first.  I can see their point.  From one perspective, “Anotherlover” is perhaps a more immediately engaging song, a bit more melodically and rhythmically complex than “Mountains,” and it definitely has more dynamic tension.  In fact I always thought “Mountains” was the last single released from the record, maybe because it has a ‘coda’ kind of feel to it, like it should be at the end of a cycle (hell, it plays during the final credits of Under the Cherry Moon, so apparently they felt it worked as a coda too).

The extended version features Eric Leeds playing some saxophone solos worthy of the Parker Brothers (Charlie and Maceo), and some choice trumpet breaks by Atlanta Bliss.  A brief, fat-tone-with-the-treble-rolled-off jazz guitar solo bubbles up out of nowhere and quickly disappears.  There is some kind of wood flute piping out riffs that sound like some lost Traffic jam.  Dr. Fink gets to drop a few squalls of synth leads.  In all, this is one of the more interesting extended mixes in Prince’s catalog.  In fact,  it’s not just extended but fully remixed.  Compared to the album version, this mix is a lot more robust and dynamic.  (edit: Actually the vocals are a lot clearer on the album version, while this mix has more of everything else…)

From an unfinished book by Prince fan “madhouseman”:

After the original session on Saturday, November 30, 1985 at the Washington Avenue Warehouse in Minneapolis, some additional work was done on the track in Minneapolis and it was shelved until Friday, March 28, 1986, when it was edited for the 7-inch and 12-inch mixes for release (the 2nd released from PARADE). “Mountains, a song on the Parade album that I always loved which was Wendy and Lisa’s song, the horn parts on the album version are pretty sparse,’ remembered Eric Leeds. “There’s a couple of lines, but we did a 12-inch version of that which is my favorite 12-inch that Prince ever did. I think it’s a great, great performance, just the whole idea of the 12-inch. There’s nothing particularly heavy about the horns on that, but I just really like some very simple stuff. I just remember the whole thing, and just being a part of that was just really nice. I guess the horn parts in themselves don’t really stand out as being anything special, but it was just cool.“

The additional horns were overdubbed for the song on April 1, and more mixing and editing followed on April 6, 22, and 27th.

It was eventually released on May 7 1986 (single release) and the 12 inch was released on May 21.

On the flip side of this single is the instrumental Alexa de Paris which was not included on the album.  For anyone who lamented the absence of any extended guitar workouts on Parade, well then here’s a tune for you.   Although conditioned to expect the unexpected, I wonder how many fans anticipated an unabashed progressive rock -influenced track that sounds like it could have comfortably fit on a late-70s Genesis or Camel record.  The drumming is pretty unmistakably Sheila E., with her proto-metal kick and snare fills that are, again, a little unexpected from somebody who got their start playing jazz, jazz-funk, and salsa with Herbie Hancock, George Duke, and her dad Pete Escovedo.  Clare Fischer, whose understated string arrangements play a prominent role on the LP, apparently wrote charts for this entire song, but it sounds like they were only used for one brief section, settling in well like an extension of the band.  There’s a flashy drum solo near the end, but sorry – no break beats in this one.

Alexa de Paris

Although Alexa de Paris is a cult favorite among fans, rarely performed live,  and is great fun to listen to, I’m glad it wasn’t included on the album proper.  One of the things I really love about “Parade” is that, perhaps more than any other record in his back catalog, it sounds like it could have been recorded at any time in the last 30 years.  In 1986, it sounded to me like the kind of thing they could have put on the Voyager satellite to introduce Earth’s civilization to our extraterrestrial neighbors.  It’s an almost seamless patchwork of the past and future.  I am still unsure how Prince and his engineer Susan Rogers achieved some of the sounds on the record.  “Traditional” instruments often sound abstracted and processed, “synthetic” instruments sound organic and warm, and they achieve a real density to the sonic palette worthy of any of today’s avant-knob-twiddlers. And remember this was still being done on analog tape, before the days of non-destructive digital editing.   Okay, I guess the Linn drums are unmistakable 80s trademarks, but they are retro-cool again so that doesn’t count.  Anyway my point is that Alexa de Paris just screams mid-1980s in its aesthetic and doesn’t date as well as the Parade material.


On to more mundane things.  The impetus that prompted me to finally leave Blogger was  discovering a blog that a friend tipped me off to, Fun With Vinyl.  My friend, like many an unfortunate soul who either ran out of space or swallowed the industry propaganda of the time, sold or gave away all of his records at some point in the 1990s.  He’s been going back and finding all the extended 12″ Prince singles that he used to own.  I have a handful, but truth be told, although I’m plenty OCD about music in other ways, I have never been a completest collector of any single artist (that way, there is always more to discover!).  So, there is stuff on the Fun With Vinyl site that I don’t have and even things I’d never heard.  I was impressed by the clean look and easy functionality of the place, struck up a new online friendship with DJ Ritchie who runs the blog, and started planning my escape from the shackles of Blogger.

Apparently every June at Fun With Vinyl has been a Paisley June for years now, with special Prince-related posts, in honor of his June 7 birthday.  This year is obviously poignant, as he would have turned 58.  DJ Ritchie has decided to highlight the treasure trove of 12″ singles, which include many remixes and non-album cuts, by inviting guest bloggers to post their write-ups on individual releases.  It’s a great and fun idea, and there are lots of personal reminiscence and anecdotes from these bloggers – the kind of stuff I like.  I highly recommend you all check it out if you’re interested.

Today I’ve opted to share my own needledrop here, because it is something I enjoy doing and I have a near minty-fresh copy of this one.   I’ll probably post more of these singles from my stash, though not necessarily in the month of June, so head on over there to continue the celebration.

mp3 icon  flac button

24bit

The Gap Band – You Dropped A Bomb On Me (12″ extended mix) b/w Humpin’ (1982)

folder

THE GAP BAND

Total Experience Records (TED 702)

Vinyl, 12″, 33 1/3 RPM

Released:1982

A     You Dropped A Bomb On Me (Special Disco Mix – Long Version) (13:05)

    Remix  – Michael Evans 

B     Humpin’ (5:06)

    Produced For – Lonnie Simmons Productions
    Published By – Total Experience Music, Inc.
   Mastered by Kendun Recorders / Allen Zentz Mastering, Los Angeles

Welcome to the new home of Flabbergasted Vibes!

For a long time now, I’ve considered ditching the clumsy Blogger platform and moving to WordPress, but the thought of trying to migrate so many years of content was very daunting.  I finally took the plunge due to some inspiration from a blogging friend (more about him in another post, soon to come) and have been working on this in secret for the last month.  There are still a few wrinkles to be ironed out, but it’s coming along pretty well.

So, hoping that you are blown away with this news, and because I’m a corny dude, I figured the first post for the new site should be an extended mix of the monster electro-funk jam You Dropped A Bomb On Me.  Armed with an octave-splitting synth riff, a slamming drum beat, a couple of organ chords laying low like an ambush in the mix, some thunderous tympani rolls, and some toy laser guns they bought at Toys R Us, The Gap Band threatened to launch the funkiest World War III with this single.  Many rose to the dance-off challenge thrown down by a presiding DJ in 1982 over this one.  And here we have 13 glorious minutes of it, nearly 8 minutes longer than the album cut from The Gap Band IV.

Unfortunately, my copy has a tiny wobbly-warp at the tippy-top edge of the record that makes the first few seconds nearly impossible to track properly.  Luckily there is no music there: it’s an intro of somebody with a Vocoder saying something about dropping a bomb on you, followed by some laughter from the band, and then an air raid siren.  Through the miracle of modern technology, I was able to get most of this through wizardry.  Changing the weight on my turntable tonearm so that it could mostly track this intro (there is still a tiny glitch during the Vocoder speech) unfortunately makes the needle skip once the music starts, so I got creative and did two passes on this with adjusted counter weights, and then spliced them together.  Oh the things I will do for you, my beloved readers!  I bet you can’t even hear the “tape splice.” If you think you can, be the first to leave the exact time code in the comments section and, if correct,  you will win a prize of one $20 gift certificate to Toys ‘R Us.  Unfortunately the gift certificate expired in 1982, but it’s a collectors item so that should make you happy.

 

Which leads to the curious bit of trivia about this single.  When the Mattel toy corporation got wind that The Gap Band had bought an array of toy laser guns and rocket ships to take back to the studio and create the overdubbed “battle” sound effects that you hear in the second half of this extended mix, their marketing people hatched what seemed at the time like a mutually beneficial promotional campaign.  After talks with Lonnie Simmon’s Total Experience Productions, they decided to make the experience more total by shipping the first few thousand copies of the extended single with a $20 gift certificate to America’s biggest toy retailer, Toys R Us.  Mattel then released some Gap Band ray guns, boldly proclaiming “As heard on the hit song You Dropped A Bomb On Me in bright letters on the packaging, and even created a series of camouflaged action figures of the Wilson brothers, modeled on the outfits they wore in the music video.

8lK71Hv - Imgur

You Dropped A Bomb On me

The whole campaign ended up losing money, as most  fans came into the store hoping to buy a genuine air raid siren, sales of which were of course tightly restricted during the Cold War.   Disappointed, most ended up buying the electronic Simon Says game, made by Milton Bradley.  Mattel’s Gap Band Action Figures are thus extremely rare and super collectible today, almost never appearing on eBay or in private auctions.  Reportedly, Henry Kissinger has a full set on a bookshelf in his office.  I would never have thought the repulsive little man had a funky bone in his body, but when a TV reporter asked him in 1983 what kind of music he put on to relax, he answered, “The Gap Band, that’s my jam.”  It is safe to assume that this is the song that made him a lifelong fan.

In case any of you audio geeks wanted to know what one of these analog synth bomb drops look like visually, here’s a spectragram

06 - Spectral bomb

On the flip side is another hit, Humpin’, which is from their previous album, Gap Band III — which, to confuse things, is not actually their third album (any more than IV is their fourth album), but merely their third album since teaming up with producer Lonnie Simmons and signing to Mercury/Polygram.  They had also released albums on the Shelter Label and the RCA subsidiary Tattoo Records before they started numbering their releases.  Does that imply that we should consider the first two albums as non-canonical?  Prequels?  Lore?

In any case, Humpin’ is more than a little inspired by the P-Funk empire and is as infectiously fun as ‘Bomb’.  There’s no verse/chorus structure, it’s essentially all one extended chorus vamp, with delirious giggling and silly rhymes from Charlie Wilson throughout.  Chair dancing is permitted, but real dancing is encouraged.  Also I swear it sounds like Jimmy Castor doing the “heave.. ho” chant in the middle.  It should be noted that in spite of the label stating this to be a “long version,” this appears to be the same mix as the one used for the album release.

Humpin’

Thankfully, unlike Toys R Us gift certificates, great music has no expiration date.*  And, hey, neither do these links!

mp3 icon  flac button

24bit

password: vibes

*No money was received from America’s biggest toy retailer, Toys R Us, for the writing of this post.  If there had been, perhaps I wouldn’t have taken such a cheap shot at their lousy gift certificate policies.