Less Stripes more Zags

I shall not forget the first time the White Stripes invaded my brain. Jack White is a brilliant songwriter / musician and Meg is the kind of drummer that demonstrates how less can be more. Together, the White Stripes are (in my mind anyway) the Beck of this period of music – oddly familiar, yet ground-breaking-ly unique. Yes, that’s a word.

Jack White

It’s rock baby! This is elemental rock’n’roll. Then along comes the album Get Behind Me Satan. It starts out innocently enough with Blue Orchid and you’re thinking, “OK, more of the same…….” Then The Nurse throws you a curve ball with marimbas – yes you read that right – marimbas. But tucked in there is that unmistakable rock punctuation. It’s almost as if Jack is trying to say, “OK….. OK……. It’s different, yes, but it’s still rock……..”

Forever for Her is as close to a piano ballad as you’ll ever get from this dynamic duo. This is powerful, powerful stuff. But more importantly, it’s proof that Jack’s wish to try new stuff wasn’t going to be limited to his production of Loretta Lynn’s Van Lear Rose. But my favourite track on this album is My Doorbell. It screams fun like no other song they’ve written. I want to see this song redone by an R&B outfit. Anyone?…

STEVE PARKS + 3 PIECES: GROOVIN’ IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION

parkspieces

Steve Parks: Movin’ In The Right Direction
From Movin’ In the Right Direction (Solid Smoke, 1980)

The 3 Pieces: Backed Up Against the Wall
From Vibes of Truth (Fantasy, 1975)

I don’t profess to know much about so-called “modern soul.” In fact, I think one sure sign of knowing nothing about modern soul is actually using the term. Well, maybe that’s not exactly right…our valued colleague over at The Number One Songs In Heaven has a “brief history of modern soul” which defines the genre vis a vis Northern Soul.

When I use the term, I’m mostly talking about a sound – it’s a style of soul that’s slicker than the R&B of the early ’70s, more “shiny” if that makes any sense. It’s timeline and style definitely brushes up on disco but it’s not disco. Confused yet? Just listen to the songs and maybe that will make more sense.

Wish I knew more about the Steve Parks LP…it’s a local, Bay Area album whose title track has gotten a lot of play on comps and want lists. And…that’s about all I know. Song is great though – buttery smooth and though it might be Bay LP, it sounds like something more apt for a cruise down HWY 1 in Southern Cali.

The 3 Pieces were a Washington D.C. group that Donald Byrd helped assemble in the mid-1970s. Apparently, group member Lincoln Ross was a student of Byrd’s at Howard University and helped bring in two friends of his, percussionist Andre Richardson and vocalist Jerry Wilder, all of whom were in the their early 20s (I think) when the went off to Fantasy Studios in Berkeley to record Vibes of Truth. The album is a mix of both more straightforward soul cuts like “Backed Up…” and a few instrumental pieces that loosely resemble something the Blackbyrds might have done. Nice stuff, especially “Backed Up…”…