11 posts categorized "Marquee Names"

June 02, 2011

BeatTips MusicStudy: Gladys Knight & The Pips - "No One Could Love You More"

Steady Swing-Beat Anchors this Little-Known Gladys Knight & The Pips Gem


One of the greatest benefits of being a beatmaker (particularly one that scours through scores of old records) is discovering "new" musical gems by some of the titans of recorded music. Such is the case with the wonderfully arranged "No One Could Love You More" by Gladys Knight & The Pips.

Driven by a swinging backbeat that places emphasis on the traditional "2" rather than the "1," (a beat emphasis pioneered by James Brown and his funk sound, first introduced in 1965), "No One Could Love You More" features a groove that churns and turns over as the song progresses in all of its repetitive glory. Look inside the hood of the groove, and you will find that it's flanked by several engaging musical components. First of course, there's the classic Motown tambourine dropping in on the "1;" then there's a light, pitter-patting, syncopated snare pattern that oozes with old rent-party celebratory charm; and finally, there's a silky 4-note bass line that rumbles, glides and "walks," as it ascends every two bars, before returning to the bass line's core pitch.

Recorded ca. 1971 and released by Motown the following year in 1972, one might say that "No One Could Love You More" was overlooked. Buried deep in the album as song number 10, the last track on the entire album, perhaps it was thrown on to the LP as a bonus—considering the fact that plenty of albums during the same era routinely carried just 7 or 8 tracks. "No One Could Love You More" was never released as a single, and this proved to be one blunder that foreshadowed Motown's inability to retain Gladys Knight & The Pips.

But whether "No One Could Love You More" was intended for obscurity or not, no doubt a casualty of Motown's—and the music industry's—hit-first ethos, its drawing power is absolutely undeniable. Here, before their explosively popular albums Neither One of Us and the Curtis Mayfield produced Claudine, Gladys Knight & The Pips are in top form. The naturalness of family harmony is here; The Pips' incredibly nuanced vocal stylings are here; and of course, Gladys Knight's piercing, beautifully raspy voice is here, breathing a heart-torn life into every lyric as only she can. Having discovered "No One Could Love You More" much later than some of their other music, I can't help but wonder how much of my musical understanding could have (would have) benefited, had I "found" Gladys Knight & The Pips' "No One Could Love You More" much sooner.

The music and video below is presented here for the purpose of scholarship.

Gladys Knight & The Pips - "No One Could Love You More" (1971)

The BeatTips Manual by Sa'id.
"The most trusted source for information on beatmaking and hip hop/rap music education."

December 10, 2010

BeatTips MusicStudy: Jimi Hendrix - "Hey Joe"

A Blues Man Was Arguably The Greatest Rock 'n'Roll Guitarist In History


As broad as my musical tastes might seem, I've finally come to this realization: At the core of my interest in any music form is my fundamental affinity for the blues. In particular, I'm engaged most by those musicians who use the blues as the basis from which they draft their core sound.

Interpretations of the blues can be heard in every twentieth-century American popular music form. And translations of the blues in rock 'n' roll offer up some really great tunes. And among the rock greats who best fed the blues into the roots of their rock 'n' roll, stands Jimi Hendrix, whose rock-blues I believe has no rival.

The music and videos below are presented here for the purpose of scholarship.

Jimi Hendrix - "Hey Joe," Performed Live!

The BeatTips Manual by Sa'id.
"The most trusted source for information on beatmaking and hip hop/rap music education."

November 01, 2010

BeatTips MusicStudy: Gamble & Huff

Music Producers Worthy of Serious Study


Kenneth Gamble & Leon HuffSoul music historians can say what they will about the Motown Sound. Many argue that it is the most recognizable sound ever recorded by any single record label. That’s cool. But the “Philly Sound,” the sound relentlessly ushered forward by the famed production duo, Kenneth Gamble & Leon Huff, is, in my opinion, the meanest, most soulfully consistent sound ever recorded. Pure inner city soul music that just cooked! Their sound was one of the most disciplined, gimmick-free, distinctive sounds that I’ve ever heard.

In 1971, Gamble & Huff started Philadelphia International Records. Throughout the balance of the 1970s, the pair worked jointly on songwriting and production for many of the biggest soul recording artists of the era. In their prime, you could stick any artist with Gamble & Huff, and it was a guarantee that that artist would improve 100% fold! When they produced for an artist, they didn’t just rent out their sound, like many of today’s prominent hip hop/rap production teams. On the contrary, Gamble & Huff lent their sound to an artist, and asked that artist to simply enhance it.

The team put together by Gamble & Huff also included arrangers Thom Bell (who grew up with Gamble in the same neighborhood) and Bobby Martin. And like Motown’s Funk Brothers, Philadelphia International Records’ house band, MFSB, (a rough-city group made up of Philly veteran studio session and road players), kept Gamble & Huff’s signature sound steady and ready with smooth time, velvet harmonies, and pulsating rhythm.

Whether it was love slow jams, disco, or raw soul, the duo injected their sound, which was an infusion of different eras of soul music (notably doo woop and 60s R&B). Gamble & Huff were also champions of humanitarianism. Much of their songwriting contained unflinching social commentary. In fact, Gamble once stated: “We wanted to take social themes and translate them to commercial recordings.”

For educational purposes...

The O'Jays "Who Am I," produced by Gamble & Huff

The BeatTips Manual by Sa'id.
"The most trusted source for information on beatmaking and hip hop/rap music education."

September 26, 2010

BeatTips MusicStudy: New Birth - "I Can Understand It"

One Of The Most Formidable Funk Bands Of All Time Cover's Bobby Womack Classic And Makes It Their Own

By Amir Said (Sa'id)

For educational purposes...

New Birth - "I Can Understand It".

September 06, 2010

BeatTips MusicStudy: The Beat - "I Confess," Up-Tempo 2-Tone Classic

Lyrics, Drums, and Horns Collide For Dope Ska Song

By Amir Ali Said

The Beat (The English Beat) is certainly one of my favorite soul/ska bands. My father (Sa'id) and I have a greatest hits album that we always listen to. It's really hard to maneuver through the CD because we like every song. We both have many favorites; "Mirror in the Bathroom," "Twist & Crawl," "Save It For Later," "Too Nice To Talk To," and many others. But, my favorite song is "I Confess."

"I Confess" starts off with a high-pitched piano riff. Then slow tempo rhythmic drums come into the picture, along with some vocals. For the chorus, the song goes into an up-tempo relaxed mode. Horns are coming in and out, and the bass guitar stays strong in the backdrop. The drums are moving all around, and the song has a nice swing to it. Another highlight of the song is the vocals.

Dave Wakeling's vocals in all of The Beat's songs are energetic. In almost every song, he has a touch that makes you think about any and everything when listening. In "I Confess" his tone is up-tempo and almost sad. He's singing about how he ruined a couple lives, and now he realized he ruined his as well. That base of the lyrics is incredibly cool.

The Beat had three albums together, and a number of singles. Most of those singles made their way onto the Beat's best hits album that Pop and I have. Since the first time I heard the Beat, I liked their sound and the unity in the songs. The Beat is certainly a group to be studied because of their music. In those three albums the Beat illustrated Jazz, Funk, and Ska effortlessly. Unfortunately, The Beat broke up in 1983, after their final album, Special Beat Service. Although The Beat broke up in 1983, they are one of my favorite groups and the songs they had together are to be remembered.

For educational purposes...

The Beat (aka The English Beat) - "I Confess"

August 14, 2010

Bob James Says Sampling, In Some Cases, Is The Best Of All Possible Worlds

Famed Jazz Fusion Artist And Sampling Mainstay, Discusses His Views On The Art Of Sampling In Hip Hop/Rap Music

By Amir Said (Sa'id)

I've been diggin' thru and for records since I was a little kid. My parents, like most (if not all) other black urban dwellers of the late 1970s and early 1980s, had a quality vinyl record collection. And since my mother was an avid Motown fan and my father a strong Stax supporter, their collection—together—was massive. Indeed, when I became conscious of "diggin' in the crates," I went about packing their collection into separate milk crates. Total count of milk crates from that weekend? 15.

Even though I had thought that I was a kind of a serious digger, I really wasn't. But when I turned 19, and started actually listening to ALL of the records in my parents collection, I realized that I had a hunger for more. And thus, began my first real trips to used vinyl stores, Salvation Army stores, Goodwill stores, garage sells, and vinyl record conventions. And early on, there was one record that I felt I had to have: Bob James' One.

Bob James's music has been sampled by a bevy of beatmakers, and one song in particular, "Nautilus," has received a number of dope transformations. So for me, any interview with Bob James—a musician I truly admire—is well worth watching. But a Bob James interview in which he (1) reconciles his views on the art of sampling in hip hop/rap; (2) discusses sampling in a creative context; and (3) sheds light on how he structured his record contracts, after his departure from the CTI label? Aw, man, that's absolutely priceless!

For educational purposes...

Bob James Interview (via Mixery Raw Deluxe)

For educational purposes...

Bob James - "Nautilus" (from the album One, (1974)

August 07, 2010

Jerry Wexler, How Quiet the Loudest Drumers Go

Remembering A Music Critic Turned Music-Maker

By Amir Said (Sa'id)

Naturally, I favor critics who can actually excel in the field in which they criticize. Such is the case of the late Jerry Wexler, a former music journalist who went from covering music to making music. Wexler didn't play sax or piano; he didn't play drums or guitar; but he made music still the same.

As a co-owner of Atlantic Records (before the big conglomerate sell-off), Jerry Wexler didn't just peruse financial statements like many of today's label execs; on the contrary, he participated wholeheartedly in the music process. During his tenure at Atlantic records, Wexler (along with partner and Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegun), signed and produced a wide range of recording acts, including most influential to me, Aretha Franklin and Led Zeppelin. Though he's probably most well-known for his work with Aretha Franklin (he produced 14 hit albums for her between 1967 and 1975), and Ray Charles, there are two other contributions that Jerry Wexler made that are equally if not even more impressive.

A little-known bit of trivia is the fact that it was Jerry Wexler who coined the term "Rhythm & Blues" (R&B). Before this, this deeply rich, inviting blues-based music was commonly known as "Race Records." Wexler's coinage helped project a level of dignity over an important lesser known black music, in a time steep with racism and cultural oppression. Another little-known fact is Jerry Wexler's involvement with seminal soul recording label Stax Records, the nurturing home of the likes of Otis Redding, Isaac Hayes, Al Bell, and Booker T. & the M.G.s. More specifically, Jerry Wexler played a pivotal role in the development of one of the best soul rhythm sections of all time, the Muscle Shoals rhythm section.

Jerry Wexler and Wilson Pickett

Aretha Franklin and Jerry Wexler

Led Zeppelin and Jerry Wexler

Jerry Wexler

August 02, 2010

BeatTips MusicStudy: James Brown - "Papa Don't Take No Mess" And "My Thang"

Once We Were Warriors

By Amir Said (Sa'id)

There's this movie, Once Were Warriors, that tells the story of a small family in New Zealand, struggling to make it in a world that is quite unfamiliar to their tribal ancestors. In the movie, the main character—the matriarch of the family—comes to a bittersweet but redefining point: She realizes that all of her immediate family's woes have occurred because of their disconnect to their heritage and tradition.

Watching the following performance of James Brown on Soul Train, gives me such a bittersweet feeling, because it speaks to a time where there was no disconnect to heritage and tradition...

For educational purposes...

James Brown - "Papa Don't Take No Mess"

James Brown - "My Thang"

June 21, 2010

MusicStudy: Led Zeppelin - "Hey Hey What Can I Do"

Down-Home Blues Driven Rock Marked by a Rock Steady Central Groove

By Amir Said (Sa'id)

For educational purposes...

Led Zeppelin - "Hey Hey What Can I Do"

One of Led Zeppelin's finest offerings, "Hey Hey What Can I Do" is yet one more demonstration of the group's ability to interpret the blues within an amped-up "rock" context. In fact, as is often the case, Led Zeppelin didn't as much play "rock" with a blues feel as they actually played the blues with various rock nuances.

June 16, 2010

Musical Nourishment Marks Generations

Lest We Forget, Music Appreciation is Also Learned Behavior

By Amir Said (Sa'id)

Many 20- and 30-somethings are betraying their kids. Worst part is, most (if not all) don't even know it. In fact, many of them don't even have kids yet. Bizarre? Nope, stick with me for a moment...

The parent/child relationship is not merely a testament of love, it's an agreement. For better or worse, when a man and woman (intentionally or unintentionally) have a child, they, in effect, sign on the dotted line (willingly or unwillingly), and agree to provide nourishment for their child. This nourishment can take on many forms other than the standards of food and shelter. And the one form that plays one of the greatest roles in American culture is musical nourishment.

In today's world of hyper-active marketing, massive numbers of people willfully endure promotional practices that are designed to seemingly shame them into buying products, regardless of their quality or merit. The idea is to just pile-drive the concept of conspicuous consumption into the minds of people, and then turn them into a zombie-race of conspicuous consumers, who buy into to the "what's in" or "what's hot" line, without any critical analysis of its creativity or actual worth. And all it takes to set this dastardly chain of consumption into motion is this: Take one so-called "taste maker" and/or widely considered "hip" person, have them announce that they like something, (typically, without ever clearly saying why, and using some retro slang that they don't even understand, like "dope" for instance), and boom...product sold, zombies unite!

Parents are supposed to screen their children from becoming zombies. That is to say, in no small degree, they are charged with nourishing the musical education and understanding of their children. In the early part of our lives, mostly everything we learn about music comes directly and/or indirectly from our parents. Well, at least that's how it used to be. These days, the marketers, promoters, hype people (and the media-massives that back them) have figured out that the earlier you can convert someone to a zombie, the better the chance at suckering them into buying woeful products for the rest of their lives! So as it is, on the pop side of things, kids are shot at with boy-band bullets and stabbed with out-of-tune (and autotune) tween Madonnas, or worse, Justin Biebers... On the "urban" side of things (read black, hip hop/rap, and R&B), the young (and often the "old") are strangled with whiny, often incoherent vocals, meaningless concepts, and rampant duplication. And yes, bi-partisanship is in full effect in hip hop/rap and R&B; underground and commercial.

Sometime ago, the notion was passed on that kids are not supposed to like, relate to, feel, and/or understand the music of their parents. Here, I have to provide some sobering context. This "hate your parents music" complex is rooted in the fact that during the middle of the twentieth-century, many white teens were breaking away from the chains of American-style racism, and consciously (publicly) listening to black music, then known as "race music." By the late 1960s/early 1970s, public attitudes towards race and music in America had all but inverted. And the children of these "radical" parents of the 50s, 60s, and 70s received a musical nourishment that underscored as much as 30 years of the highest quality of American popular music. Some of the children of the musically radical would go on to create the punk music genre; others would go on to help develop hip hop/rap music; and others still would get together and form groups like Metallica and Nirvana... Believe me, pedigree dictates much!

So what about the children of today, and more importantly, what of the children of the soon tomorrow? Are their parents—many of the now 20- and 30-something retro hip-stylers, robotic followers, and autotune accepters—going to be able to provide the quality musical nourishment that they deserve? Probably not. Moreover, by then, these parents will perhaps be so accustomed to labeling their own kids as "haters" (some do already) that the brightest kids will simply reject their parents and see to their own musical nourishment. I mean, let's open up the hood on this one: Will the children of the "now generation" be impressed with their parents and their music? Or will they be so utterly unimpressed with their parents musical choices that they begin to question and reject other qualities about their parents? My grandmother (a self-taught pianist from Georgia) really liked Mahalia Jackson and Aretha Franklin. My mother really liked Mahalia Jackson, Aretha Franklin, and Smokey Robinsion and The Miracles. I like Mahalia Jackson, Aretha Franklin, Smokey Robinson and The Miracles, Curtis Mayfield, and The Jackons. My son likes Mahalia Jackson, Aretha Franklin, Smokey Robinson and The Miracles, Curtis Mayfield, The Jacksons, and Gladys KNight and The Pips... But 10, 20, 30 years out from now, will the then "grown-ups" really still like Lil Wayne and Drake? That's not a knock against these two. In fact, in lieu of Drake's new release, I'm reminded exactly of the function that both play: club music; fun-now music. I appreciate them for that. So my question about Lil Wayne and Drake's "parent appeal" decades from now is a valid one, especially from someone who has received a great deal of musical nourishment and did NOT ignore and/or reject it...

Oh, and as to why I'm not so easily impressed by any of the so-called "R&B" *artists*, of today, well, below, I present to you Aretha Franklin, sans the autotune.

For educational purpose...

Aretha Franklin - "Don't Play That Song (You Lied)"

The BeatTips Manual by Sa'id.
"The most trusted source for information on beatmaking and hip hop/rap music education."

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  • Top 5 Myths About Sampling and Copyright Law

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