Continued from The Albums That Left An Impression (Part 2)
Live At Velfarre (Earth Wind & Fire)
With ‘live’ versions of ‘In The Stone’, ‘September’ and ‘After The Love Is Gone’, this album is a must-study for anyone wanting to learn about band arrangements, and also how to adapt a song for live performances. I would go as far as calling this album my ‘Music Director 101’ class, because I learned so much about ‘live’ playing, and that knowledge has remained with me until today!
The other thing that attracted me to this album was the incredible vibe of the whole recording. I mean, EWF produce fantastic studio albums but they take that to another level with this live performance. I could almost feel the excitement, the vibrance of all the musicians performing onstage, their joy of playing their music was somewhat tangible. This is one album you where might suddenly find one of your body parts moving without your knowledge.
My musical ‘relationship’ (if you can call it that?) with Kenny ‘Babyface’ Edmonds is a strange one. I am such a big fan of his musicality, his compositions, his vocal arrangements and even his guitar playing. However, I’m not too keen on some of his end products like ‘Unbreak My Heart’ and some of his other R&B stuff. So when I first heard ‘Playlist’, it was the perfect album for me because it had all of the things I love about Babyface. Funny enough, this album was his interpretation of famous classics by James Taylor, Eric Clapton etc. In fact, when I first met him some years ago and asked for his signature on this CD album, even he seemed surprised with his comment, “this one, huh?”… and then commented about how worn-out it looked. I replied, “love reading album credits”, to which he answered, ‘music producer, right?”.
Strange conversation aside, the production values of this album is ‘off the charts’. I still reference my own productions against this album every now and then. If you ever get the chance, check out his cover of James Taylor’s ‘Fire & Rain’ and Kenny Loggins ‘Please Come To Boston’… they are amazing Babyface re-interpretations of American pop classics. On top of that, having Dean Parks (guitar) and Greg Phillanganes (piano) makes this album even more musically delicious.
Listen (David Guetta)
Every time people find out I listen to Guetta, they give me that dreaded ‘look of unbelief’. I really don’t know if it’s just me not being associated with the genre of electro-dance music or what, but hey, this guy writes some amazing melodies and produces it with amazing quality. Anyhow, this album has certainly influenced the way I make music nowadays. Many may not realize it, but today’s music has changed in context of instrumentation, chord choices, sound, melodic composition and even song form. That’s EVERYTHING in music, really! So, as a music producer, I need to at least know about these things, right?
Also, listening to this kind of music is the bonus of having two young sons who have great taste in music… keeps you connected to the rapid changes in the world’s music scene.
24k Magic (Bruno Mars)
To be honest, it’s more ‘all the songs of Bruno Mars’ than just this album itself. This artiste is just an epitome of ‘hip’ and musical’ rolled into one. But ‘24k Magic’ had such a mature and clever sound to it. You could just hear the transformation from his earlier albums growing into 24K. Great melodies, witty lyrics, hip rhythms and musical arrangements… sung by someone who studied and impersonated the best during his developing years as a musician/artiste. That’s right, Bruno is one of the rare people who can be called musician/artiste. I can’t wait to hear what’s next!
If I alluded to how Phil Collins’ ‘But Seriously’ and EWF’s ‘Live at Velfarre’ taught me about rhythm, Bruno Mars’ ‘24K Magic’ is the modern version of those albums. Somehow, even ‘groove’ and rhythm have been ‘updated’ over the last few years, so as a music producer, it pays to study all these changes. Did you know, I spent two whole days studying the details of just the bass part on ‘24k Magic’ and ‘That’s What I Like’? What an education.
I guess that’s one of the ways to keep myself relevant in these ever-changing music trends. I shudder every time an older musician makes a comment like, “today’s music is soooo not the same (or not as good) as our time…”. Nah, music is like anything else, keep with it or it will leave you far behind.
So, there you have it. Twelve albums that have shaped my music. My first list had 18, but I didn’t want to bore you all to death. [Yes, you’re welcome!] But like I said in one of my recent articles, I’m glad to be living through this era that has seen so many changes in the music world. Makes music interesting and keeps me on my toes, I guess.
Maybe, that’s how I keep my music REAL!