Friday, October 13, 2006

Friday 8-Track

Well today's theme was a no brainer. This one's for you Big Daddy, courtesy of Hitsville, USA.

Junior Walker - "Shotgun" - Shotgun

This song gets right into it with the opening sax riff and snare fill. I imagine that this is the kind of record that people would get drunk and scream along with. "I said, shotgun! Shoot him 'fore he runs now."

The Isley Brothers - "This Old Heart of Mine" - This Old Heart Mine

One of the signature features of the uptempo Motown records was the driving backbeat. Couple that with these incredibly strong melodies and vocal performances and it is no wonder that this label is the most iconic in pop history. "This Old Heart of Mine" is a prime example of this formula and man does it work.

Jackson 5 - "The Love You Save" - ABC

Another feature that propels those uptempo tracks are the moving bass lines that are so good and just not around anymore. Dig that ascending groove in the bridge.

The Supremes - "You Can't Hurry Love" - Supremes A' Go-Go

A classic example of what made the Motown records so special and an indicator of what is so lacking in current alleged "R&B" tracks. The genius in the writing of Smokey and Holland/Dozier/Holland was their deft mix of soulful grooves and classic pop songwriting. The break before the verse with the syncopated base and drums that then runs into one of those classic Motown melodies is just sublime.

Jimmy Ruffin - "What Becomes of the Brokenhearted" - Jimmy Ruffin Sings Top Ten

I love this song. The Motown records were supposed to be for "young people" but the songwriting was so beautifully complex. This record just aches with soul and the subtle way that it modulates up a whole step from the verse to the chorus and back down again helps add to the tension. Magnificent.

Smokey Robinson & the Miracles - "Tracks of My Tears" - Going to a Go-Go

Is this record the king of the sad songs? Maybe. You can almost picture heartbroken teenagers in their rooms, clutching the album jacket to their chests, and crying with this song playing over and over again. It is so f'ing good and the bridge before the last wailing chorus, "My smile is my makeup I wear since my breakup with you." -- hell, yeah.

Temptations - "My Girl" - The Temptations Sing Smokey

What really makes a great melody is even better harmonies underneath. There is a reason this is one of the most recognizable songs ever. It's perfect.

Smokey Robinson & the Miracles - "Tears of a Clown" - Tears of a Clown

Well, Smokey is the man so he gets to show up twice today. Yet another fine example of how complex song structures and heavy grooves can come togetehr to make something special. The first time you hear this record and the little orchestral carnival music starts off you think, "What the fuck?" And then that driving beat kicks in and you are on your way. I really like how the arrangement mirrors the lyrics. I also wonder if the production on this record wasn't a litle inspired by Phil Spector. The low brass and bassoon parts that are pushed to the front of the mix during the verses have quite the "Wall of Sound" feel to them. Great tune.

P.S. - If you have not already done so, check out the wonderful Standing in the Shadows of Motown documentary about the the legendary Funk Brothers, the unheralded Motown house band.


At 10/13/2006 10:53 AM, Blogger DC Super Powers said...

Standing in the Shadows is amazing! There are so many gems and surprises, not to mention an amazing history. Damn those Funk Brothers can lay it down -and how could any person not fall a little in lust with Joan Osbourne after hearing her wail on What Becomes of the Broken Hearted?

At 10/13/2006 10:57 AM, Blogger Jason said...

EXACTLY! I never liked Joan Osbourne until I heard that incredibly right-on performance and it instantly changed my opinion of her. I was going on and on to friends about how perfectly she nailed it without overdoing it or trying to hard. And yes, I was little overheated in the theater when I first saw it.

At 10/13/2006 2:54 PM, Blogger Dara said...

I was listening to the Jackson 5 on my flight down to Florida, and I swear, it took every ounce of my (admittedly limited) self-control not to get up and dance in the aisle.

There's just something about that bass.


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