More "Fruitman"


Seems odd that a band most of the contributors to this site seem to feel completely meh about is now up to three posts, but there you go. In any case, this one isn't about Kool & the Gang per se, but about J Dilla. From the new issue of Scratch, ?uestlove: "It all goes back to Jay Dee. There's a Kool & the Gang song he sampled, 'Fruitman' [Ed. Note: used for 'The Diff'rence' on Donuts]. That was one of the songs I first sampled when I got the SP-1200. I always gave up on that song because the drummer would fluctuate. He would never do a straight four-bar meter I could sample. I always got frustrated cause I could never quantize it perfect. I was asking [Jay Dee], 'How the hell did you do that shit?' He was like, 'Oh, the MPC.' I was like, 'I got the same MPC, how'd you do it?' I didn't know there were options in the MPC where [it] can fix the loop, if you want it to be 98 beats per minute it knows how to manipulate it. There's a part where he's, like, reversing, where you can edit, do Pro Tools tricks inside of it. There's a whole bunch of stuff I never knew about it until, 'Yeah, it's in the MPC.' I lost the manual instructions but you can look online. That's the story of most hip-hoppers. They only get 'How can I sample? Okay, I got it from here.' They never go from chapter two to 13 which is a whole world of music."

Right, pretty techy. But the piece does have one rather amazing quote, at least for Netbound dorks like me. "'Jay[-Z], his whole thing is "Don't embarrass me,"' ?uest says of his boss. '"I want an art record. Don't come in here with no Hot 97 bullshit. I want that shit to be dope in your hearts first." He's like, "I don't want to look like a nut saying this is a group with artistic integrity and the next thing you know [the website] Pitchfork is giving you guys a 2.8. That's going to make me look bad."'"

Grey Dulli

Boogie Oogie Oogie Fever no. 1


Gloria Gaynor, “Never Can Say Goodbye” [October 26, 1974]
It was all downhill from here. Well, not really--some just-as-good (and maybe even better) records replicated this one’s showing--but you see my point. I have a hard time thinking of a vocal as unstintingly intense that makes less of a show of it--Gaynor just rides up, up, up, without showing any strain or even effort; the falsetto whoo-hoo-hoos are more of a breather than anything, before she goes back into business of selling the lyric. Even with a guitar part that gallops harder than anything in the country chart at the time, this is a colossus, everything you want strident pop to be, impossible to get out of the way from, not like you’d want to anyhow. 10

Boogie Oogie Oogie Fever Intro


Because moving across the country (I have left a newspaper job in lovely Seattle in favor of a fine MP3 establishment in lovely New York) and its attendant packing and hauling apparently does not keep me busy enough, not to mention the fact that I haven't written anything for Boogie Fever in a good long time (the reviews up so far were all done at least a year ago), I have decided to add another ongoing project to this site. Where Boogie Fever seeks to review all the number-one R&B hits from the inception of Billboard's "Harlem Hit Parade" chart in 1942 to the present, Boogie Oogie Oogie Fever will attempt to do the same for all the records that headed Billboard's Hot Disco/Dance/Club Play chart from its inauguration in late 1974 onward.

I figured this might be equally fun, and it looks to be; I also thought it might be a bit easier to track these songs down than the 60-year-old R&B chart-toppers, and in some ways it is. Needless to say, there will undoubtedly be some logistical problems here. For several years, the Disco/Dance/Club (it's been all three at various times) chart is a club-DJ's domain, not a radio DJ's or programming director's, which makes a difference when it comes to records being played and reported. This means that in a number of cases, not only were multiple album tracks counted in a final tally, whether or not they'd appeared on the same 12-inch (or, chuckle, 7-inch), but entire albums were counted, with the helpful caveat "(all cuts)" added at the end. Most of the albums receiving this honor are obvious enough, though I'd rather not spoil the fun if you don't happen to have the spare $50 for a copy of Joel Whitburn's reference book of this particular chart and/or imeptus to go to the library yourself and photocopy the list of Number Ones in the back. (I paid for mine, then went to the library and Xeroxed it while copying other stuff, covering all bases.)

Of course, like most lists of this sort (I copied the Country-chart Number Ones from Whitburn, just for reference), its shape is a little strange. It seems like these charts arise out of need--an emerging format/genre demanding its own recognition--and as such have, early on, giant hits that dominate for a good while. In R&B, Louis Jordan held the top spot for months at a time; in Country, established in 1944, there were a grand total of four number-one hits in 1960. Then in the '70s, things spread out a lot more, with most titles enjoying one week on top, and no more. In R&B and Pop and Country, this opens things up to a lot of weird one-shots, career water-treading, and faddism as well as deathless oldies fodder and occasional flashes of genius.

With D/D/C, though, the chart began in late '74, so the assembly line of Number Ones doesn't really begin in earnest till the mid-'80s, with 1984 the first year the amount of #1s (29) divides into a 52-week year by a number lower than 2, and from 1985 through 2004, every year has at least 30 #1s--often 40 or more. This subdivisional action resists a trend that's been endemic in other Billboard charts, which altered significantly when Soundscan was utilized to gather chart information in the early '90s: Number Ones have stayed on top longer, sometimes for ridiculous, Louis Jordan-like numbers of weeks. Not so the Club chart, where novelty reigns supreme and where Soundscan barely seems to factor.

Strictly speaking, not everything that made it onto the D/D/C charts is R&B, which may seem problematic given this blog's m.o. Nevertheless, I think it belongs, and so does Kellman, who gave me permission to do this here, for which I thank him. Now I have to actually follow through. Gulp.

By the way, as much as I like the comments boxes, if any of this blog's contributors feels like chiming in on a tune I write up here, I'd love to have you do it in a post-not-comment--seems more communally minded that way. That's what disco's about, right?


Yes, that says Kenny Rogers, and Kim Carnes, too, and as for James Ingram, well, he's always seemed a bit Caucasian as a vocalist, at least to these ears. And yes, this song, a top 15 pop hit in '85, was written by - wait for it - Richard Marx. All of that, however, makes this no less a soul song, if a kind of white-soul (which is not the same as blue-eyed-soul) song. It belongs here, period.

First of all, Rogers has got an absurdly great - and soulful, natch - voice. I think he might be to country-pop what Luther Vandross is to R&B music, an immaculate singer, utterly pure of tone, and capable of wringing any emotion from a song (by which I also mean he can imbue a song with any emotion he chooses). Carnes' voice is by and large the leather to Kenny's lace, all rasp and growl, reminiscent of a butcher Nicollete Larson. The addition of Ingram adds an element of smooth, cool soul; even on the likes of "Just Once," he's never been one to get overexcited.

Let's say Aretha Franklin did "What About Me?" as a triad with Michael McDonald and Patti LaBelle - no one would question its soul credentials. While Rogers/Carnes/Ingram may not be vocalists of the caliber of Franklin/McDonald/LaBelle (though I'll argue Rogers over McDonald), they're no less soulful; they're simply soulful in a different way. The song itself is about a classic soul topic, a love triangle, handled expertly by this trio of expert singers. (They're nothing if not professional.) "What About Me?" oozes pain as it dares you to turn away from the pile-up, the carnage, the aftermath. While hearing Franklin/McDonald/LaBelle, say, would be interesting, it wouldn't be better - or, in this case, more soulful. Kenny and company nail it on one of the most soulful songs to make the country charts in the mid-'80s.



If only children's programming these days were this awesome...



The Brides of Funkenstein - "Never Buy Texas from a Cowboy" (Atlantic 1979)
André Cymone - "Kelly's Eyes" (Columbia 1982)

Within its first 20 seconds, it's easy to tell that the Brides of Funkenstein's "Never Buy Texas from a Cowboy" was made in the image of the parent band's "(Not Just) Knee Deep." Maybe that's why it flopped in comparison to "Disco to Go," the Brides' gapingly inferior hit from 1978. "Texas" and "Knee Deep" have similar tempos, viscous synth-bass ripples, extended instrumental breaks, and much jubilant nonsense, and they both sound a whole lot larger than life. Both last 15 minutes and never derail. "Texas" peaked somewhere in the 60s of the Black singles chart, I think, while "Knee Deep" went to number one.

I wonder what would happen if George Clinton went back into time and switched the songs' release dates. Would the roles reverse? Probably not -- "Knee Deep" would rise to the top of a list of electro-funk masterstrokes regardless of the forces working against it, but I do firmly believe that "Texas" would not meet its obscure destiny so fast. "Texas," ultimately, is not "Knee Deep" (what is?), but it is almost as pleasurable. Rhino Handmade should put the album of the same name back in print.

André Cymone was in a no-win situation when he split from Prince. If his solo material resembled the first three Prince albums, the argument that he didn't receive the credit he deserved would carry more weight, but if it didn't sell nearly as well (of course it wouldn't sell nearly as well), he'd be seen as a coattail rider. And if he totally changed his style, and sounded nothing like the first three Prince albums, his argument would be thrown out and his label would want nothing to do with him at all. Another blow to his cred came when he and Prince reconciled and put together 1985's "The Dance Electric," which became his most successful single. He then went to work extensively with Jody Watley, along with Pebbles, Evelyn King, and Adam Ant.

"Kelly's Eyes," from 1982's Livin' in the New Wave, has something in common with "When You Were Mine." They're both supremely catchy and lighthearted new-wave funk songs. A couple verses in, "Kelly's Eyes" remains a sweet song of affection, with Cymone sounding boyishly innocent, but he suddenly switches from being in love to being in heat, and his teeth start to gnash a little: "Sick and tired of this phone affair/I wanna get into your underwear." So -- surprise! -- it turns out he's full of shit. He doesn't just want to look into his Kelly's eyes after all. If you're hearing the song for the first time, you might think something like, "Alright, this is nice, but it's going in one ear and right out the other," but you might be surprised a few hours later when you find yourself doing some humming. Cymone also earns bonus points for mentioning his full name, even if he's quoting Kelly.

No broken crowns (no Raydio content, either)


This thing of magnificence, mixed (meaning actually mixed) by Rich Juzwiak, is like the WJLB noontime mix of my dreams, only it's 67 minutes long -- not 10 or 15 -- and there are no explosions or station IDs involved. I can forgive the CMB (my first concert, not by choice, a Cross Colors nightmare) since everything else is 100% loveable, whether well-known (the mightiest New Edition single) or forgotten (Tené Williams, for fuck's sake!). Download it three times.

Sa-Ra - "Nasty You"


Apparently from the album due to be issued on Kanye's G.O.O.D. label, "Nasty You" has the snaking machine strut of Vanity 6's "Nasty Girl," the uninhibited spunk-funk of Digital Underground's "Kiss You Back," and the mischievous co-ed teasing of both. (In short: you're a freak, and I'm a freak, so let's freak. No big surprise.) It's more space-age strip club music, "crack on acid" (their words) style, which is what they do most effectively. (Their pair of Roy Ayers/Andy Bey/Cameo/zippers-zipped-up-type tracks on the Dwight Trible album -- especially the one with Brother J from X-Clan [!] -- are not to be missed, though.) What I want out of this album: 40 minutes of modern day Dirty Mind, no minutes of forced eclecticism, no guests (apart from some female vocals). What I'll likely get: 20 minutes of modern day Dirty Mind, 20 minutes of satisfactory-to-good hip-hop, 10 minutes of untethered cosmic otherness (i.e., interludes), 10 minutes of silence before an unlisted "Glorious," and at least three guest MCs. I'll take it.