Tag Archives for " Motown "
Most musicians and producers hold Motown in a certain reverence, and well they should, since the music has influenced a few generations of artists, players, arrangers and producers. One of the icons of the Motown studio band is bassist James Jamerson, and it’s always fun to listen to anything that shows his genius. Here’s the isolated bass and drums from the Marvin Gaye hit “Ain’t That Peculiar” that doesn’t so much show James’ technique as it does his ability to lyrically pick what to play.
1. The sound of Jamerson’s bass is a little on the distorted side, and what you’re hearing is a miked Ampeg B-15. He also muted the strings on his Precision bass with foam to get his unique sound.
2. There’s lots of leakage, but that’s because the whole band (piano, horns and all) recorded at the same time in a relatively small room about the size of a double garage. When you look at it in that context, the leakage really isn’t that bad.
3. Jamerson plays a repeating line that’s unusual in where it fits with the rest of the song, but listen to the notes he plays around the line. Once again, the notes never seem to fall into the places on the bar that you’d expect, and that’s what made him a genius.
4. The drums are pretty straight, but again, when there are fills they usually aren’t what you’d expect. The sound of the drums is also pretty flat, but that was before we knew what “big” drums sounded like.
5. The interplay between the bass and drums is fairly loose. If you’re used to being in the studio a lot, it’s even a little jarring at first, but by the end of the song it just feels so right!
Oh, for the good old days of people playing together in the studio! Here’s to the great James Jamerson.
One of the best things about listening to an isolated or instrumental track of a hit is hearing how intricately designed the arrangement is. Such is the case with The Four Tops version of “Baby, I Need Your Lovin,'” played by the Motown studio band The Funk Brothers. There’s a lot going on within the track that you don’t hear until the lead vocal is muted, as you’ll hear below. Here’s what to listen for.
1. The dynamics of the track are outstanding. Listen to how the band backs off the intensity during the verses. Sometimes this is done by just eliminating some arrangement elements (which also happens here), but in this case you can actually feel the band holding back a little to leave room for the vocal. It’s a classic example of how it’s done.
2. Listen to how important the finger snaps are, as they act as the backbone of the song. This is actually brilliant in that they replace the snare with a softer sound that better fits the arrangement.
3. Take notice how the brass provides a quiet counterpoint to the guitar on the right side during the verse.
4. The song was cut in the early days of stereo, so the panning is interesting. The drums, bass and piano are on the left side, while the guitar, horns and strings are on the right.
5. This is one of the few Motown songs where the bass isn’t featured. In fact, it blends into the track so well that the notes are difficult to distinguish. It also sounds like an upright rather than the standard Precision bass used on most of the label’s hits.
6. The band is made up of the best jazz players in Detroit, but yet they play ver disciplined parts, which isn’t easy for fluid players with a lot of technique. Like The Wrecking Crew from LA, these guys knew how to make a track work.
It’s always a pleasure to hear an instrumental track of a big hit, and “Baby, I Need Your Lovin'” is no exception. We get an X-ray view inside a great arrangement.
There’s so much to learn from the old Motown records in terms of arrangements and groove. You can hear more when you strip off the lead vocal and just listen to the instrumental track laid down by The Funk Brothers (the Motown house band), which is what we’ll do today with Smokey Robinson and the Miracles 1965 hit “Going To A Go Go.” Here’s what to listen for.
1. This was the early days of stereo when all you had available for panning on consoles was hard left and half-left, hard right and half-right, and center. As a result, most instruments are panned in one of those left or right positions except for the bass. Most instruments are panned in the half positions (about 10:30 and 1:30), drums are left, tambourine right, guitars and horns right. Ad lib vocals and claps are hard left and piano and the sax solo is hard right.
2. The guitar sound is very interesting because its three guitar players all playing the same line, so it sounds like a huge 12 string.
3. The long and smooth Motown reverb blends everything together.
4. There’s some background vocals that you don’t hear that well on the final mix that can be clearly heard here, like the “Go go’s” during the second verse, the “ooh’s” answering the sax solo. and the “Come on’s” during the third verse.
5. What’s interesting is the drums are fairly buried in the mix and its the claps and tambourine that carry the groove of the song.
6. James Jamerson’s bass plays a very disciplined line that doesn’t vary much, which is very different from other Motown records that he played on.
All in all, this is another great example of why Motown’s Detroit-made hits were so appealing. When you had a studio full of great musicians playing at the same time, coupled with some great songs and arrangements, it’s hard to go wrong and listening to this instrumental track shows why.