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Friday, February 6, 2009

Have a great weekend

Comments (7)

When early synthesizers took over pop music there were some factory presets called poly brass. Musicians flocked to them for awhile - even guitarists like Eddie Van Halen on "Jump".
It was a classic case of the new technology driving the sound - a lot of musicians must have figured this would be the way music would sound from then on.

Of course, once the fad element passed, the sound was virtually abandoned leaving a ton of songs left behind stuck forever in poly brass. This is one. The category? Songs that shout out, "the 1980s!"

Ironically, Steve Winwood's older keyboard sounds with the Spencer Davis group on a tune like "Gimme Some Loving" have held up, while this great modern leap forward in synthesizers now sounds dated. Not to criticize the song though.

Then there's songs like Steve's "Back in the High Life" also from the 1980s with James Taylor singing the harmony. Because it bags the synthesizer and goes traditional, it remains fresh, while so many pop hits from the 80s are trapped in time. It's a classic case of buying into something that doesn't last.

And then there's the early Yamaha drum machine stuff with the shaker sound that's a little like a washing machine. Don't get me started on those. If the poly brass pre-sets yell "1980s!" those early Yamaha drum machines scream it.

I'd love to hear this song played by a symphony orchestra.

Or even on a big church pipe organ.

Well, say what ya will about Little Stevie Winwood's synthpop phase, I loved it to death and still do. I much prefer his pre-Michelob solo output, when he was synth-addicted, to what came after. Loved Arc of a Diver

Dated? I supposed dated is in the ear of the beholder (although this song made a good case for it, I'll allow)

But if I hadn't been hooked by the signature Winwood synthpop-synthAOR sound, I'd of never discovered Traffic, and I love Traffic.

But Arc of a Diver, Talking Back to the Night, Back in the High Life, that synth-y, experimental phase of the Winwood oeurve ... I love it. It holds warm fuzzy memories to me. Those are albums I can listen to all the way through without backtracking to fave songs and they still satisfy.

Man has always had a way with music. That's for sure.

My favorite Steve Winwood keyboards: His solo on "Empty Pages" by Traffic. It's on my list of coolest keyboard solos ever, alongside Chuck Leavell's piano solo on "Jessica" by the Allman Brothers. For shorter solos, I've always been knocked out by Billy Preston on the Beatles' "Get Back." How he could infuse so much life by simply pressing down keys is beyond me. Organ players can't bend notes or change individual volumes so to be that expressive anyway is miraculous. One thing they do have over guitars is sustain. You can press down any organ note and it'll play for centuries, which is why most solos feature a screaming high note held while the band rocks out below.
I also loved another Steve Winwood band: Blind Faith. Only one album - one big burst of greatness and they were done.

Billy Preston was on electric piano on Get Back, but I've seen him destroy on the organ too touring with Eric Clapton at the Rose Garden.

Actually, I must say, that I have lived a rather sheltered musical life. I like what I like; I'm not one of those folks who "love ALL music". There are some styles I have no patience for.

Reason I say that is because I'll put my cards on the table here and admit something; I'm still exploring that music you've mentioned, years after I probably should have discovered it. On the upside, I'm now mature enough to really enjoy it. So, some of that stuff you've mentioned above, I'm going to go off and discover for the first time. So I guess I'm lucky that way.

One other thing ... I will say dating is a bad thing, in as much as that video went. Two things I hate about that video:

1. Trope-laden. Intense closeups of hands playing the keyboard. Awkwardly-cropped shots of the singer and his backup lady. They seemed stiff. 80's street-scenes. This video not only took no chances, it took negative chances.

2. Radio edit of the song. Imagine how I felt when I discovered FM radio ... radio edits should die screaming.

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