Thursday, June 21, 2012

Phil Spector; The man and his music

After his mother moved the family from New York to Los Angeles in the 1950’s to get a fresh start on life after Phil’s father committed suicide Phil found his love for music, and while in high school he found two friends with whom to make his dreams come true, The group called themselves The Teddy Bears. They recorded a song called "Don't You Worry My Little Pet" that landed a four song contract with a small label and the B-side "To Know Him Is To Love Him," hit #1 on the charts. After the break up of The Teddy Bears and some solo failures Phil made a name for himself as a successful producer after a string of hit records.

He built his reputation on his Wall of Sound at Gold Star Studios in Los Angeles by recording guitars, bass, strings and brass and feeding them through an echo chamber and then recording that entire echo back to tape. From 1961 through 1965 he was the producer of choice in the Rock scene. He produced Tina Turner’s "River Deep - Mountain High," but it was another failure that sent him into seclusion until his work with John Lennon and George Harrison on several hits he got his mojo back.

Phil had a love for guns from an early age after being accosted in a men’s room by some street thugs who urinated on him he started carrying a gun to defend himself against further attacks. He was known to be violent towards women and had a nasty temper and found himself on the wrong side of the law in 2003 with the murder of Lana Clarkson. Phil Spector created some amazing hits, which go down in the annals of Rock music. His achievements in the studio made him a pioneer of the girl group sound of the 1960’s that garnered him with over 25 top 40 hits with girl groups The Ronetts and The Crystals.

As a music professional his studio techniques are to be marveled and emulated, his music brought joy to many and sadness to some. I will always remember the songs by The Crystals and The Ronettes that I grew up listening to as a young boy and to this day still find the melodies in my memory banks.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Brian Eno

Brian Eno who has a very long name, Brian Peter George St. John le Baptiste de la Salle Eno, known professionally as Brian Eno and sometimes as just plain Eno, is a composer, record producer, singer, musician, and a visual artist better known as the Godfather of ambient music was born on the 15 of May, 1948 in Woodbridge, England. He’s produced some of the most famous music artist on this planet, and used every piece of technology available.

His music and the technology he used had a major impact on the electronic music and the many legends that he produced, he said “once upon a time a violin was technology, once upon a time an organ was technology” and the people who built and created them were “working at the cutting edge of the technologies of their time”. For Brian he had a building block approach to making music and this made for great dance music.

Brian was greatly influenced by African music and saw his music as “unlock music” meaning a lot of things drift separately and we listen to the results. Brian coined the phase ambient music after a near fatal accident while recovering. He had what is called a minimalist sensibility and his sound processing technique created an amazing album that he collaborated on with guitarist Robert Fripp called “No Pussyfooting”, according to David N. Howard’s book Sonic Alchemy his pioneering utilization of studio-facilitated tape-looping and sampling techniques became widely used in hip-hop and electronica, this helped him to see the studio as a place to change music instead of reproducing it.

For me as a professional learning from his innovations and studio tricks I have found more ammunition for my musical toolbox, ideas that I can find useful in creating my musical productions and as a listener I have learned to appreciate this genre of music.   


It was during the German krautrock music scene of the late '60s that two young men, Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider who had met while studying classical music at the Dusseldorf Conservatory, started their collaboration as the group known as
Organisation and so began their quest to change the music scene and create a different type of music that was unlike anything at the time.  They released their first and only album in August 1970 titled “Tone Float”, after that they took the name Kraftwerk meaning “Power Plant” and released their self-titled album that same year with its pop-art imagery in the straight-faced manner of a Duchamp or Warhol. Their sound was pretty revolutionary for its time, and their imagery was shrouded in mystery, they made a big impact across the many genres of modern popular music. They had many changes in band members until they added

After the release of Ralf and Florian in1973 Klaus Roeder and Wolfgang Flür joined the band, between 1974-1981 Kraftwerk released five albums recorded at their studio Kling Klang name after a song from Kraftwerk 2 album. The first of which found immediate success and reached #5 on the charts in the US was Autobahn about a journey on the German–Austrian superhighway, this was followed by Radio-Activity in 1975 about radioactivity and the other half about activity on the radio and Trans Europe Express about celebrating Europe in mid 1976 which became a big “Disco” hit. In 1981 they released The Man-Machine with it chart topping single “The Model” that builds on Trans Europe Express. Computer world released in May 1981 with it themes of the rise of computers in modern society and its release of the track “Computer Love and “The Model” as double A side 12” single made the #1 on the UK charts.

The band use various electronic instruments to create their signature sound, and their use of the vocoder helped make great strides in popular Rock music, and inspired such musicians as David Bowie and Brian Eno. The band had a visual appeal with its pop-art imagery added to their instrumental music; they would dress up in mannequin outfits that gave them that robotic look to match their compositions, Kraftwerk’s albums had that
Conceptualistic image and their multi-lingual lyrical themes made them a hit on both sides of the Atlantic.

As a listener Kraftwerk’s works have always inspired me I am big on the disco movement and their production inspired many funk group of the 70’s  with their use of the vocoder, and as a professional their production is very useful to me for use in my production toolbox.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Marvin Gaye Podcast

In this post is a podcast of Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On" Album.

I hope you enjoy it....

Friday, June 8, 2012

Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On

It was a time of upheavals and unrest, the war in Vietnam Race Riots, and the Anti war movement in the US and the music was changing from love songs to protest songs. In the mist of all this chaos came Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” a concept album that Marvin produced with the help of some great songwriters and arrangers.

Before recording “What’s Going On” Marvin fashioned himself as a “Sinatra-styled balladeer” determined not to conform, and his work with various producers in the early 60’s made him a solo star in the Motown machine. The many jewels in the Motown crown were his hit songs with Smokey Robinson’s production of  ”Ain’t That Peculiar,” and  “I’ll Be Doggone”, Holland-Dozier-Holland’s ”How Sweet It Is,” and “Can I Get A Witness” pushed him to the top of the charts, he also had great success as a duet partner with Tami Terrell. He greatest success as a solo artist came when he teamed up with Norman Whitfield with songs like   “I Heard It Through The Grapevine”, “That’s the Way Love Is” and “Too Busy Thinking About My Baby” Marvin’s star climbed the charts.

There was a song “What’s Going On” written by Renaldo "Obie" Benson of the Four Tops and lyricist Al Cleveland that addressed the issues of the day. This song was first offered to The Four Tops who turned it down, and with Marvin’s rebellious nature and being a spiritual guy they had a match for the song. Marvin broadened his vision after Benson and Cleveland dropped the song on him and decided what his next project would be. After hearing the horrors that his younger brother faced in the war and how his reward for sacrificing for his country was no jobs, and being hated for fighting the war, and his sorrow for the loss of Tami Terrell and his artistic frustrations and the social climate would help his project.

 As far as Motown was concerned this album would ruin Marvin’s career and put a blight on Motown because of its protest nature and Barry Gordy was having none of it after all Marvin was their “hottest artist, the sex symbol of the '60s and '70s” and Marvin changing his appearance by growing a beard and the wearing of jeans would do more harm to Motown’s clean cut image. Barry Gordy said of the song "the worst thing I've ever heard in my life". Because of Gordy’s reaction to the song Marvin issued his ultimatum that when Gordy released “What’s Going On” Marvin would not record anything for Motown. Finally in January 1971 without Gordy’s knowledge “What’s Going On” was released, Barry Gordy hit the roof when he found out because he hated the song, after the first days sales of 100,000 Barry’s attitude changed. “What’s Going On” made it to the #2 spot on the Pop charts and #3 on the R&B charts.

The album “What’s Going On” impressed me, it was a anthem back in the day and in the community we played it all the time. I am moved by the production and the vocal arrangements on this album.

The Velvet Underground & Nico

In the history of Rock Music The Velvet Underground & Nico are considered to be one of the most influential bands ever, their first album The Velvet Underground & Nico  was recorded in 1966 and released in 1967. The album was produced by Andy Warhol whose his banana art design was used for the cover, and even though Andy Warhol had no musical background his pop-art attitude would propel the group to the top of Rock ‘n’ roll world.

It was Andy Warhol who introduced Nico to the group that consisted of Lou Reed, Sterling Morrison on guitars, John Cale, Maclise on drums who was later replaced by Maureen Tucker their music became a sonic confrontation, and Cale proclaimed that the group wanted to annoy people. The music of The Velvet Underground & Nico had plenty guitar feedback, unyielding percussions, and Cale’s contribution on the Viola, Bass, and Piano gave the band their signature sound. Combined with music and art they became the first-ever 'alternative' band.

According to Anthony Carew’s article on Alternative music The Velvet Underground & Nico were a group with lots of moving parts from the tuneless moans of Nico and John Cale’s piano riffs to the sound of Indian Raga, and the guitars weaving in and out of the songs they weaved together their experimental music. They considered their sound to be much different than that of the West Coast with its “drugged-up suburban kids” thinking they will be saved by using hallucinogenic and psychedelics drugs. After their first album’s disappointing sales their relationship with Andy Warhol fell apart and the band fired Warhol and said goodbye to Nico and recorded their second album with Tom Wilson as their producer. The band was plagued by personal upheaval and financial struggle and soon would disband.

I found this album very hard to listen to with the music going in all directions it was hard for me to stay focus on the beat, and made me feel like I was tripping. Some of the songs on this album were tolerable, but mostly I had a hard time focusing while listening.