Results for Herbie Hancock

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The Moog

Guitars, bass, drums…blah blah blah. This week it's all about the Moog! The Bob Moog-invented synthesizer has experienced a resurgence in popularity in the past few years. New artists love the analog sound, and many are gathering at next week's MoogFest in Bob Moog's adopted hometown of Asheville, NC. Jim and Greg talk to Brian Kehew, the Bob Moog Foundation's official historian, about the synthesizer's history and legacy. Kehew also co-founded an all-analog band called Moog Cookbook in the '90s and has worked in the studio with Fiona Apple, Aimee Mann and Moog superstars, Emerson, Lake & Palmer. In addition to ELP, Kehew points to the following as great synthesizer musicians:

Go to episode 256

The Moog

The Moog company of Asheville, North Carolina recently announced it would end production on its flagship synthesizer, the Minimoog Voyager. That got Jim and Greg to thinking about the incredible influence the Moog synthesizer has had on rock and pop music since it debuted in 1964. Robert Moog's invention has seen a renaissance in the past decade, as acts ranging from M83 to Future Islands to Taylor Swift have taken inspiration from the synthpop sound.

To get some perspective on the Moog's history and legacy, Jim and Greg turn to Brian Kehew, the former official historian for the Bob Moog Foundation. Kehew also co-founded an all-analog band called Moog Cookbook in the '90s and has worked in the studio with Fiona Apple, Aimee Mann and Moog superstars Emerson, Lake & Palmer. In addition to ELP, Kehew points to the following as great synthesizer musicians:

Go to episode 522
classic album dissections
Songs In the Key of LifeSongs in the Key of Life available on iTunes

Stevie Wonder Songs in the Key of Life

Every so often, Jim and Greg like to get all professorial on us and dissect a classic rock album. Stevie Wonder's 1976 album Songs in the Key of Life turns 30 this week, so what a perfect opportunity to delve into the making of the record and why it still means so much to so many people. The best way to kick off a dissection is with a sampling of Wonder's music. Of course, Songs in the Key of Life was released as a two-LP set with a bonus EP for a total of 21 songs. We couldn‘t squeeze ’em all into this two-minute montage, but here is what you do get to hear:

  • "Sir Duke"
  • "Knocks Me Off My Feet"
  • "Another Star"
  • "Summer Soft"
  • "Love's in Need of Love Today"
  • "I Wish"

One of the reasons Songs in the Key of Life stands out so radically in Wonder's catalog is that it was such a massive undertaking. Having had huge success with earlier albums, Talking Book, Innervisions and Fulfillingness First Finale, Motown gave Wonder the freedom to stretch out — for two years, in fact. Jim and Greg speak to two men involved with the recording. The first is keyboardist Greg Phillinganes. Wonder himself is an amazing keyboardist, but Phillinganes explains that the songwriter liked the idea of having some fresh blood in the band. And you couldn't get much fresher than Phillinganes; he was only 18 when he signed on, making this session his first job.

John Fischbach, the second voice we hear from, was one of two engineers recording the session. Fischbach explains that of the many artists he has worked with in the studio, no one compares to Stevie Wonder. He says Wonder was the consummate professional and highly prolific, but also had rather atypical work habits… like calling in his musicians in the middle of the night. One such late night session resulted in the classic "I Wish."

To cap off this album dissection, both Jim and Greg pick one signature track from Songs in the Key of Life. Jim's pick is "Pastime Paradise." Many listeners will recognize the instrumental as the basis for Coolio's 1995 hit "Gangsta's Paradise," but the original far surpasses that soundtrack song. Jim explains that this Stevie Wonder album can be a bit too sweet for his punk rock tastes, but "Pastime Paradise" is reminiscent of the funkier, more political songs Wonder previously released such as "Living For the City" and "Superstition." He says Wonder is calling out for the listener to take action against a list of woes —“Dissipation, race relations, segregation…”Ultimately, though, the song is brought to an upbeat, optimistic point that matches the attitude of the rest of the record.

Greg's pick is the anthemic track "As." One of the important things to note about the recording of Songs in the Key of Life is the emphasis Wonder put on having a band and a band-like atmosphere. Certainly, as we heard from Greg Phillinganes and John Fischbach, Wonder could play almost any instrument himself, but he wanted guests to join him and bring life to the music.“As”was definitely recorded live, and the highlight of the song for Greg is Herbie Hancock's Rhodes piano part. According to Greg, Hancock“dirties”up his playing, making way for Stevie (and an overdub of multiple Stevies) to come in with huge gospel vocals. The result is an epic love song fitting an epic album.

Go to episode 45
Songs In the Key of LifeSongs in the Key of Life available on iTunes

Stevie Wonder Songs in the Key of Life

Every so often Jim and Greg like to get all professorial on us and dissect a classic rock album. Stevie Wonder's 1976 album Songs in the Key of Life will be turning thirty-five next year, so it's a perfect opportunity to revisit their 2006 discussion about this album. Songs in the Key of Life was released as a two-LP set with a bonus EP for a total of twenty-one songs.

One of the reasons Songs in the Key of Life stands out so radically in Wonder's catalog is because it was such a massive undertaking. He had great success with the albums released prior, Talking Book, Innervisions and Fulfillingness First Finale, so Motown gave Wonder the freedom to stretch out-for two whole years. Jim and Greg talk to keyboardist Greg Phillinganes about the recording sessions. As many listeners know, Wonder himself is an amazing keyboardist, but Phillinganes explains that the songwriter liked the idea of having some fresh blood in the band. And you couldn't get much fresher than Phillinganes; he was only eighteen when he signed on, making this session his first job.

To cap off this album dissection, Jim and Greg each pick one signature track from Songs in the Key of Life. Jim's pick is "Pastime Paradise." Many listeners will recognize the instrumental as the basis for Coolio's 1995 hit "Gangsta's Paradise," but the original far surpasses that soundtrack song. Jim explains that this Stevie Wonder album can be a bit too sweet for his punk rock tastes, but“Pastime Paradise”is reminiscent of the funkier, more political songs Wonder previously released such as "Living For the City" and "Superstition." He says Wonder is calling out for the listener to take action against a list of woes –“dissipation, race relations, segregation…”Ultimately, the song is brought to an upbeat, optimistic point that matches the attitude of the rest of the record.

Greg's pick is the anthemic track "As." One of the important things to note about the recording of Songs in the Key of Life is the emphasis Wonder gave to having a band and a band-like atmosphere. Wonder could have played almost any instrument himself, but he wanted guests to join him and bring life to the music.“As”was definitely recorded live, and the highlight of the song for Greg is Herbie Hancock's Rhodes piano part. According to Greg, Hancock“dirties”up his playing, making way for Stevie (and an overdub of multiple Stevies) to come in with huge gospel vocals. The result is an epic love song fitting an epic album.

Go to episode 265
reviews
River: The Joni LettersRiver: The Joni Letters available on iTunes

Herbie Hancock River: The Joni Letters

So did Hancock deserve the award? Herbie Hancock is a critically acclaimed pianist who many listeners will remember for composing the 1983 jazz-hip hop fusion track "Rockit." But, according to Greg, this is a case of“right artist, wrong year.”Hancock's winning album River: The Joni Letters is by no means the musician's finest work. With the exception of the one track on which Joni Mitchell sings, most of the songs have unsuccessful vocals. Greg gives this“muzak”album a Burn It. Jim calls River a“stultifyingly mediocre record”that isn't a fair representation of the year in music. The Recording Academy might give the album an award, but he gives it a Trash It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 116
New Amerykah, Pt. 1 (4th World War)New AmErykah, Pt. 1: 4th World War available on iTunes

Erykah Badu New AmErykah, Pt. 1: 4th World War

Ever since 2000's Mama's Gun, Erykah Badu fans have been waiting for a follow-up. Jim and Greg are included in that anticipatory group. She's finally back with New AmErykah, Pt. 1: 4th World War, but Jim and Greg warn that listeners should not expect the same sound. Badu has taken "neo-soul" to an even more neo level. Greg describes it as a murky, psychedelic sound that owes as much to Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock as it does traditional soul artists. While it's not an easy listen, it's worth your effort according to Greg. Jim asks the listener to imagine Badu jamming with George Clinton, Curtis Mayfield and a psychedelic band somewhere in New Orleans. If that sounds like something you'd like to hear, both hosts urge you to Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 118
news

Music News

Jim and Greg don't like to give too much airtime to the Grammy Awards, but there was one upset worth mentioning (other than Amy Winehouse not getting a visa). Beating out big names like Winehouse, Kanye West, The Foo Fighters and Vince Gill for Album of the Year was veteran jazz musician Herbie Hancock.

Go to episode 116

Music News

After recovering from the intense musical spectacle at this year's Superbowl, viewers were ready for the Grammy Awards. But, it seems 11% less viewers were ready. Those that tuned in witnessed Beck's surprise win for Album of the Year and the coronation of Sam Smith as pop music's new prince. But, they also had to sit through an out-of-left field tribute to ELO and bizarre performance pairings including Jessie J and Tom Jonesand Ed Sheeran and Herbie Hancock.

As always, Jim and Greg note that the collection of Grammy-winning tunes and albums does not provide an accurate picture of what was really the best of 2014. A better barometer has always been the Village Voice Pazz & Jop Poll of critics. This year's list includes D'Angelo, St. Vincent and even Taylor Swift. An even better barometer? Sound Opinions' Best Albums of 2014, of course!

Go to episode 481