Tag Archives: Motown

Top 10 of 2011 – #10: “Summer Song” by Matt Duncan

20 Dec
And it begins! The top 10 of 2011 begins with, well, number 10. The owner of this home is Matt Duncan and his infectious throwback “Summer Song.” Matt Duncan is a “sporadically ambitious nobody, reluctant bandleader, and eremitic songwriter/producer. From Lexington, Kentucky.”
Hey, don’t look at me, you see the quotes. This is the description that Duncan gives on his website. He has been in bunch of bands in Lexington over the years.  Duncan released an album/EP entitled Beacon in 2010 on the Lexington label Hip Hop. It can be purchased here for $4. He, in August of 2011, released single entitled “Summer Song.” It is free…for now. It can be listened to below and purchased, or rather, acquired here. It is catchy as hell so be warned.
Matt Duncan, while currently an enigmatic figure to me, will soon be well known. I obviously have no control over this but I do have this handy blog format to describe to you why “Summer Song” is an exceptional song that most definitely deserves to be in our top 10 countdown and on most people’s iPods or whatever music listening device. By now I will presume you have listened to the hit. Let’s talk about it, shall we.
With the rising popularity of bands like Fitz and the Tantrums, indie/soul is on the up. I personally love the Motown/soul sound and these retro performers and songs evoke doo-wop, coordinated dance moves, and names like the Four Tops and the Temptations. Music that can/will make you smile. Music that will also latch on and never let go. Seriously, you can mention “My Girl” or “I Can’t Help Myself” and the songs will get stuck in my head. Damn! “Summer Song” evokes a similar feeling. It is a fun-loving, uplifting song equipped with deep harmonies, moving horns, and even an end-of-song funk breakdown.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the band behind Duncan on this song.
Ryan Moore- Euphonium, Trombone, Evan Belt- Trumpet, Andrew English- Lead Guitar, Larry DeVivo- Mastering
I love when the impact of all can be clearly deciphered in a song. The arrangement of this song is masterful. The song begins with rhythmic snapping and some talented baritones providing this insanely catchy bass-like riff similar to the “My Girl” opening bass line. This neatly glides into the first part of the vocal. Matt Duncan’s smooth, Paul Simon-like vocal is balanced out initially by some doo-wop like back-up singers, and then by lively horns. Let me say that the bass in this song is wonderfully done. In a lively song with soul elements, an excellent bass is essential. And that bass was provided by Duncan – so were the rhythm guitar, piano, saxophone, backing vocals, and drums.
I absolutely love the beginning, and the verses, in my opinion, are stronger than the chorus. The verses transport me back to an ideal soulful late 60s scene. The chorus is well done, but the verse progression is magical. The second verse premieres what sounds like a muffled euphonium, but, it can also be the trombone. This washes over Duncan’s vocal like a warm wave or a cool beach breeze.
After the second chorus, the baritone brigade is welcomed back to the recording and it introduces my favorite part of the song. A melodious vocal harmony replaces the baritones- a cappella – jam-packed with snapping, humming and a bit of delayed overlay. Then the drums come back in and Duncan jumps into a falsetto that he holds over a funky, Jackson 5-like guitar riff that remains in the background of a horn version of the chorus and a neat guitar solo. The song ends on a perfect little twist on the lyric “Summer Song” and, just like that, summer ends.
In a way this song is a microcosm of a summer day at the beach. You ride in on the low groan of a car’s engine, are welcomed by the bright sun and sea breeze, play in the steamy orange sand and salty seawater, and then, just like that, it’s gone. But boy, it was one hell of a day – and song.
By the way, Duncan hopes to tour once he finishes his full-length so keep an eye out.
There you have it. “Summer Song” is #10. Tune in tomorrow for #9 as the countdown continues!

“It’s the Same Old Song” – No, Really, It Is!

2 Nov

The Four Tops

The Four Tops was a perfect example of a fantastic band. Not just a premier, Motown hit-machine, but a solid, long-lasting band; one that could only be separated by death. The Tops were together from 1953-1997. 1997 is when Lawrence Payton passed away. Today, only Duke Fakir remains. Sadly, both Obie and lead-singer Levi Stubbs have passed away in recent years. But, and I know this sounds awfully corny, the Four Tops created a legacy that transcends time and death.

When I think of Motown, I think of the Four Tops, The Temptations and The Supremes. These bands jump to the forefront of my mind because of their sheer level of success. In Berry Gordy‘s tightly run Motown machine, if you could snap your fingers and harmonize, you could almost be guarenteed a hit. He, and his illustrious group of songwriters and background musicians, pretty much created inevitable success for so many acts. The Four Tops had more success than most.

The reason for this can be boiled down to three reasons. Levi Stubbs’ vocal was distinctive, smooth, exciting, and a whole bunch of other adjectives. He certainly had one of the best lead vocals of all the Motown acts. Seriously, in my opinion, just as good as Diana Ross,  David Ruffin, Smokey Robinson and Marvin Gaye. Perhaps, the two best voices to come out of Motown were a little young during the label’s glory days. That being Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder. They would mature. Yeah, they had/have pretty amazing voices. Anyway, Levi Stubbs’ voice fit Motown R&B/Soul exceptionally well, and it worked even better with his bandmates. Number 2: the band was loose, fun, and performed with zany vigor. Number 3: The songs.

Today’s song of the day: “It’s the Same Old Song.” And it really is, trust me:

The dance moves are legit. Let me explain to you how this aptly title song got its apt title. You see, Berry Gordy, like I said above, ran a tight ship. After The Four Tops hit #1 with “I Can’t Help Myself” in June of 1965, Gordy wanted to reap the most out of the band as possible. So, he ordered a new song to be written for them in a day. That’s right, a day. Go! So Motown’s principal production team, the Holland brothers and Lamont Dozier, got to work. As Duke recalls:

“Lamont Dozier and I were both a little tipsy and he was changing the channels on the radio. He said, ‘It sounds like the same old song.’ And then he said, “Wait a minute.” So he took “I Can’t Help Myself” and reversed it using the same chord changes.”

Yeah, that’s it. And, keep in mind, “I Can’t Help Myself” is practically the same song as The Supremes’ “Where Did Our Love Go,” obviously one of the most inspirational Motown classics. The team worked around the clock creating the song, and by 3 p.m. the next day, the song was released and sent to radio stations, where it eventually hit #5 on the Hot 100 chart and #2 on the R&B chart. Yeah, it’s the same old song, but it is awesome.

Landfall – Please Remember Me Mr. Postman – Green Hornet Opera

27 Jan

Jimmy Buffett Has a Few Too Many Margaritavilles

Jimmy Buffett © David Atlas

Jimmy Buffett did not play his famous song “Landfall” during last night’s concert in Sydney, Australia. If he did it would have just been cruel irony. Buffett was released today from an Australian hospital after taking a sober plummet off the stage during his show Wednesday.

“Jimmy has been released from the hospital and is doing well,” read a statement on margaritaville.com.

The concrete floor did not provide much padding for Buffett’s head and the collision caused him to temporarily lose consciousness. Buffett is a trooper though and he has yet to cancel his next concert on the 29th. Get well soon Buffett. We need our only vacation troubadour to continue lecturing us on the importance of relaxation.


Gladys Horton Dies

Gladys Horton, who co-founded Motown’s Marvelettes, died Wednesday night in Los Angeles. She was 66

The Marvelettes hit it big with their 1961 song “Please Mr. Postman” that characterized classic Motown style in both beat and dance. Horton sang lead in the band at only 15 years old

The song reached #1 on the pop charts and was an inspiration to later Motown super girl groups like The Supremes.

My condolences go out to her family. May she rest in peace.

Check out this old recording:


Wait Kato Can Sing

Seth Rogen and Jay Chou star in the remake

Many reading this remember the old TV version of the Green Hornet where Bruce Lee played the ace kong-fu master, Kato. In the movie remake of the classic 60’s show, which is currently playing in national theaters, Kato is played by Taiwan’s Jay Chou, a 32-year-old rap and R&B star from Taiwan, where he is most known.

Chou, who has appeared in numerous Chinese films, added a music to Kato’s character, unlike Lee’s straight kong-fu approach.

“I hope to show Western audiences that Asians don’t just do kung fu, but also sing, write songs and play the piano,” he said in an interview with the Associated Press. “So I put the musical element into my Kato.”

Chou plays piano in the film and it ends with a Mandarin language song called “The Nunchucks” that he wrote 10 years ago, inspired by the weapon that his idol Lee made famous years ago.

“When I got a chance to play a hero, I told myself I couldn’t give up,” he said.

The movie has already spawned a promised sequel and Chou will stay on for the production of it, but afterwards he will return to what he loves, music.

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