Tag Archives: Motown

Peter Senior Gets Listeners In The Anthem Spirit For This Season With Album On The Edge

25 Nov

Tony Bennett, Billy Joel, Elton John, and countless other iconic musicians come to mind when one thinks of Peter Senior. When you close your eyes and envision the musician entertaining you and wanting you to connect with the music, you know you’ve found a musician at a person’s core. Hailing from Sydney, Australia, it’s no surprise that Senior has been surrounded by music his whole life and furthermore he comes from a musical family. Notably starting his performances around the high school period of his life, he honed in on his talent on the piano and performed in local musicals as well. Those two things paired together would go on to shape Peter Senior’s future. Overall, the variety of tracks on On The Edge span across the genres of Country, Rock, and even a dash of Motown. The themes of the songs on the album range from feel good anthems to songs that are odes to other periods of life and the concept of time. If you are wanting to take a listen to a musician that carries a strong voice, has a strong band ensemble, and gets you connected with his music and energy upon listening to the first time, go ahead and listen to Senior as soon as you can. Rest assured, you won’t regret it.

For more listening:

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Top 10 Songs of 2015 – #3: “Coming Home” by Leon Bridges

24 Dec

Leon Bridges

Here is an immediate fun fact about Leon Bridges. He is not Otis Redding, Sam Cooke, or Marvin Gaye. He is, however, young enough to be any of those singers’ grandsons. That’s surprising isn’t it, especially after you listen to the following:

Let me repeat my earlier statement: Bridges is not one of those seminal soul artists; that said, he is doing his best to assure that the legacy of these individuals is not spoiled. I am going to make a proclamation; it’s bold, I’m just giving you bold morning. If Bridges had been his age in 1965, we would be talking about him in the same breath as the singers I mentioned earlier. Bold, yes. Reckless, no. Bridges is already a consummate musician and performer; he is deft and adroit, a passionate performer and baby-face smooth singer. Bridges is tremendous in every sense of the term. If he represents the future of music, music is in good hands.

For an “oldies” music lover like me who adores both Motown and STAX records, Bridges is refreshing. He is a chip off the old block. He is what music should be, what it should sound like. And the fact that Bridges’ song “Coming Home” was a Top 10 Most Viral Track on Spotfy that is a good sign for the direction of music. His debut album of the same name as the title track hit #6 on the charts depicting an insatiable urge of individuals for pure, old-fashioned, unadulterated music. There are no special effects here. It is Bridges, a keyboard, two guitars (one of bass variety), and some drums. The formula for great music is not complicated. When I wrote about this song some time ago, I also had some flattering comments about the song, which I will share below.

“Coming Home” immediately takes on the feel of “You Send Me” with tastes of “A Change is Gonna Come,” and Bridges soft croon, a smoother Hozier (to make a modern comparison), has a rich Gospel feel to it that is just the right kind of sweet, not mawkish and not overpowering – it’s a voice that you can sink into, like silky gelato. The song itself is classic early Motown. It is carried by a bluesy piano and guitar mixed with traditional percussion. It is not difficult to imagine Sam Cooke or Otis Redding singing this song, and Bridges’ voice is not really a step down; heck, I am almost willing to go so far to exclaim that Bridges parallels the singers in a sense. Not too shabby.”

To the Moon and Back with Topher Mohr

3 Sep

topher mohr

It should come to no surprise that musician Topher Mohr grew up in Michigan. His eclectic music, which aptly pieces together elements from several genres suggests inspiration, and what better motivation than the elaborate music history of Detroit? While Mohr is impossible to pigeonhole, his music did spark a thought. If Michael Fitzpatrick (of Fitz and the Tantrums) is today’s modernizer of old-school Motown hits than Topher Mohr is reviving the old art of tender crooning. It seems like a lofty proclamation until I introduce you to:

His gentle voice is soothing but subtly strong and passionate. His vocal is saturated with emotion, and the soaked feeling is easily identifiable in his airy guitar plucking. While Mohr does not have the dark, coffee-roasted voice of the traditional old-school, five-pack-a-day crooner, he does, however, revive the old sound and modernize it. It’s exciting to listen to him make an old standard like “Fly Me to the Moon” ring with a contemporary flair.

Beyond his black-and-white performance of “Fly Me to the Moon,” Mohr released his new LP Phlotilla earlier this year. Prior to the LP release, he toured the world with his friend Mayer Hawthorne, another artist who features an eccentric style of music creation. Mohr’s album focuses on vintage pop, and “Ruthless” stays true to the genre.

The rhythm is similar to Fitz’ Motown-inspired hits, but Mohr combines the rhythm with a Maroon 5 meets the 1980s melody. This combined with Mohr’s versatile vocal creates an intriguing hit that even has room for a clean guitar solo! It’s a moving piece and one of the strongest on the new album.

Find out more about Mohr (yes, I went there) at his Website. You can also check out his Facebook and Twitter.

The First Man of Motown – Marv Johnson

25 Apr

Marv Johnson

Here is a good trivia question. What was the first song ever released by the Motown/Tamla label (In 1960, the Motown and Tamla Records merged into Motown Record Corporation)? Miracles, Supremes, Vandellas, Four Tops, Temptations? Nope. Try Marv Johnson, the singer and co-writer of “Come To Me,” which, after it was released in 1959, would go on to reach number 30 on the Billboard Top 100 and number six on the national R&B chart. Since Motown was a fledgling label, Berry Gordy, the founder and king of “The Motown Sound,” sold the rights of this incipient piece to United Artists.

Berry Gordy first met Johnson at a carnival in Michigan. Johnson was performing with a doo-wop group called the Serenaders, and Gordy, a tremendous evaluator of vocal talent, implored Johnson to join his label. “Come To Me” was recorded in February of 1959 at United Sound Studios in Detroit. Johnson recorded with future Funk Brothers bassist James Jamerson and drummer Benny Benjamin. Take a listen to the song:

And, as they say, the rest is history. For good reason, Motown burgeoned like a pandemic. But, for a second, let’s imagine we are back in 1959 and listening to Marv Johnson performing this new song “Come to Me.” The song shares similar doo-wop qualities with the popular music of the time, but, the instrumentation and arrangement is different. It’s, dare I say, modern. More than 50 years later, it is easy to say that such characteristics helped spring Gordy, Smokey, and the talented folk at Motown to the cockaigne of music.

On Saturday, I will venture into NYC to see Motown: The Musical. If you have seen it, let me know what you thought of it. All I know, is that there will be the great music of Motown, and that is all I need.

Top 10 Songs of 2011 – #6: “MoneyGrabber” By Fitz and the Tantrums

26 Dec

And it works because there are six people in the band!

Michael Fitzpatrick is industrious. He is also quite ambitious. While most people suffer post-break-up torpor, Fitzpatrick responded to a break-up by choosing to release his energy into canorous, Motown-esque, music. Music that fuses bitter lyrics with lively rhythm and melodies. Shortly after a break-up, he began making music, and in 2008, after receiving a call from the same ex-girlfriend that inspired him to make music in the first place, Fitzpatrick acquired an organ that her friend wanted to given away, and started to pump out hit, after hit, after hit. Talk about a muse.

He envisioned the need for horns in his musical compositions so he called on a college friend and saxophonist named James King who joined Fitzpatrick’s musical pursuits. The guitar-less sounds were pretty sweet so he decided to keep the six strings out of it. He then figured he would need a full band and a female vocalist. At King’s suggestion, Fitzpatrick called on soul vocalist Noelle Scaggs. A few more phone calls to other instrumentalists brought the bunch together and after the first rehearsal Fitzpatrick sensed they were ready to play a gig. Wait, what? After one rehearsal. Like I said, Fitzpatrick had a vision and, well, was lucky enough to meet it quickly.

One week after the initial rehearsal, Fitzpatrick booked the band’s first show and, you know what they say, the rest was/is history. It is current history. The band is on our 2011 list.

Lesson learned - Michael Fitzpatrick reacts best to negative love events.

Pickin’ Up The Pieces, the band’s debut release, was released in 2010, but the song featured in our countdown was released as a single in 2011 so it counts. What is perhaps most humorous about the 2010 album is the place of recording. The band couldn’t afford a studio so opted to record the album in Fitzpatrick’s living room – which was not soundproofed. The carefree nature expressed in the melodies was also evident in this situation where the band chose to just go with it.

Fitz and the Tantrum’s musical styling may come off as a direct homage to the sweet Motown soul and gritty Stax soul of the 1960s. The band makes use of the Motown organ, an airy, bubbly, and inviting organ that was popularized by bands like Motown’s Four Tops. But there is something else there. I believe it can best be described as 60’s R&B/soul a la Indie flavoring with drippings of 80s new wave. A tasty harmonious concoction.

“MoneyGrabber” begins with the pre-described organ that supports a percussion introduction and even some echoed ohs. And then BAM! The song explodes with sound. The horns sound off over heavy percussion and Fitzpatrick and Scaggs scream out (with excellent vocal interplay):

Don’t come back anytime, you’ve already run me dry
This is your pay back, money grabber

I think we know where this song is going. The verse features Fitzpatrick singing over a simple keyboard and light percussion. It is very stripped down. There is almost something Talking Heads or just David Byrne about his voice and demeanor. The song then enters the chorus on the tail of rising horns and then we get to experience the diapason again. And if there is any question of what the song is about how do you like the lyric featured in this amazing Sly and the Family Stone-like bridge:

One. Two. Leave
One is for the money
Two is for the greed
And three times that I told you you’re the one
I just don’t need

Just awesome!

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