Results for Motown

interviews

Spoon

One of Jim and Greg's favorite albums of the year so far comes from the indie rock band Spoon. Despite the odd title, they fell for the combination of minimal art pop with Phil Spector-like arrangements and orchestrations. This is the band's sixth album, and the fourth they've made with indie label Merge (also home to another indie success story — Arcade Fire). Jim and Greg start by asking lead singer and songwriter Britt Daniel about the approach to this album. He explains that the band was definitely inspired by Motown groups like The Supremes — something that may come as a surprise to fans who are used to a sparser sound.

One of the people responsible for the“Spoon sound”is producer Mike McCarthy. But, the band also worked with Jon Brion on a couple of songs. Other surprising influences: Queen and AC/DC. Songs like "We Will Rock You," and "Back in Black," are fairly simple and minimal, but they have that rhythm and that“thing”that draw you in. Listen to Spoon's take on that“thing”in the songs "Don't Make Me a Target," "Rhythm and Soul," and "Don't You Evah."

Go to episode 102
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
Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (Bonus Track Version)Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga available on iTunes

Spoon Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga

The final album up for review is Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga from Spoon. That's right: five Ga's. The title gives us a tip to the band's attitude. As Greg notes, it seems like they're“intentionally screwing with us.”Taking a cue from Wire and The Talking Heads, Spoon has always specialized in a minimalist sound that is heavy on the rhythms and keyboards, and easy on the frills. That sound continues on Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, but Jim was pleasantly surprised to hear the band striking out by including a Stax/Motown sound. He's really excited about this album and gives it an enthusiastic Buy It. Greg agrees, adding that it's how the band uses different elements that makes the sound so special. Nothing lingers for too long, and nothing lacks that all important groove. He also gives Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 84
The Odd CoupleThe Odd Couple available on iTunes

Gnarls Barkley The Odd Couple

Next up is a review of an album that's sure to make news in 2008. Gnarls Barkley has released their highly anticipated second album The Odd Couple. This is the follow-up to 2006's successful release St. Elsewhere, which featured the hit single "Crazy." The genre-blending duo consisting of singer/songwriter Cee-Lo Green and DJ Danger Mouse went for an even darker mood on this album, and both Jim and Greg think it's a success. Jim loves the psychedelic universe Cee-Lo and Danger Mouse created-one that's part soul, part rock, part hip-hop. He admits that there are no "Crazy"-style singles, but gives The Odd Couple a big Buy It. Greg was impressed by how the two men take traditional pop genres like British invasion and Motown, and update them for the 21st century. And beneath the psychedelic swirl of sounds are great melodies and complicated lyrics. Greg seconds the Buy It rating.

JimGreg
Go to episode 122
dijs

Greg

“Let’s Start The Dance”Hamilton Bohannon

This week, Greg takes us all on a trip to the desert island to put a quarter in the jukebox. He chose the track "Let's Start The Dance" by Hamilton Bohannon. Bohannon is a legendary drummer who provided the sound for many classic Motown songs by artists like Stevie Wonder and The Supremes. Greg wanted to ring in the new year by giving some love to Bohannon and hitting the dance floor!

Go to episode 685

Greg

“Pouring It All Out”Graham Parker

Jim and Greg continue to inspire one another. Last week Jim chose a track by Australian punk band The Saints (inspired by Greg's Australian pick the week before). Now this week Greg wanted to continue highlighting an artist who, like The Saints, kept soul music alive. British“Pub Rocker”Graham Parker emerged out of a very white, male scene in the 1970's. But he also incorporated the Stax and Motown sounds he grew up loving. Greg adds Pouring It All Out to the Desert Island Jukebox. And you know who else loves Graham Parker? Judd Apatow and Adam Carolla, to name a few. Pub Rock fans should also check out our interview with Nick Lowe.

Go to episode 408
lists

The Best Albums of 2006 (So Far)

While most pop culture mavens wait until the end of the year to tally their favorites, Sound Opinions is so list-crazy, that we've decided to take 2006's half-way mark as an opportunity to take stock. Here are the albums Jim and Greg are loving so far:

Jim DeRogatis:

  1. Gnarls Barkley, St. Elsewhere (hear Jim and Greg's original review)
  2. Van Hunt, On the Jungle Floor (hear Jim and Greg's original review)
  3. Misson of Burma, The Obliterati (hear Jim and Greg's original review)
  4. Wolfmother, Wolfmother (Interscope)
  5. The Bellrays, Have a Little Faith (Cheap Lullaby)
  6. Art Brut, Bang Bang Rock & Roll (Downtown) (hear Jim and Greg's interview with Art Brut)
  7. Belle and Sebastian, The Life Pursuit (Matador) (hear Jim and Greg's original review)
  8. Neko Case, Fox Confessor Brings the Flood (Anti) (hear Jim and Greg's original review)
  9. Dilated Peoples, 20/20 (Capitol)
  10. Alejandro Escovedo, The Boxing Mirror (Back Porch Records) (hear Jim and Greg's original review)
  11. The Flaming Lips, At War with the Mystics (Warner Bros.) (hear Jim and Greg's original review)
  12. Grandaddy, Just Like the Fambly Cat (V2) (hear Jim and Greg's original review)
  13. Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins, Rabbit Fur Coat (Team Love) (hear Jim and Greg's original review)
  14. Prince, 3121 (Universal/Motown) (hear Jim and Greg's original review)
  15. The Raconteurs, Broken Boy Soldiers (V2) (hear Jim and Greg's original review)
  16. Secret Machines, Ten Silver Drops (Reprise) (hear Jim and Greg's original review)
  17. The Strokes, First Impressions of Earth (RCA) (hear Greg's original review and interview with Julian Casablancas)
  18. The Subways, Young for Eternity (Sire)
  19. Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs, Under the Covers Vol. 1 (Shout Factory)
  20. Neil Young, Living with War (Reprise) (hear Jim and Greg's original review)

Greg Kot (in no particular order):

  1. Art Brut, Bang Bang Rock & Roll (hear Jim and Greg's interview with Art Brut)
  2. Love is All, Nine Times That Same Song
  3. Ghostface Killah, Fishscale (hear Jim and Greg's original review)
  4. Neil Young, Living With War (hear Jim and Greg's original review)
  5. Dirty on Purpose, Hallelujah Sirens
  6. Parts and Labor, Stay Afraid
  7. Alejandro Escovedo, The Boxing Mirror (hear Jim and Greg's original review)
  8. Mission of Burma, The Obliterati (hear Jim and Greg's original review)
  9. Gnarls Barkley, St. Elsewhere (hear Jim and Greg's original review)
  10. Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins, Rabbit Furcoat (hear Jim and Greg's original review)
  11. Neko Case, Fox Confessor Brings the Flood (hear Jim and Greg's original review)
  12. Anthony Hamilton, Ain‘t Nobody Worryin’ (hear Jim and Greg's original review)
  13. Mary J. Blige, The Breakthrough (hear Jim and Greg's original review)
  14. Midlake, The Trials of Van Occupanther
  15. Van Hunt, On the Jungle Floor (hear Jim and Greg's original review)
Go to episode 31

Unsung Heroes of Rock

Now it's time to hail the Unsung Heroes of Rock. The Micks and Bonos of the world may get all the acclaim, but it's often the little guy who deserves much of the credit. Jim and Greg have gone through the rock canon to honor these lesser-known musicians.

Jerome Green

Without Bo Diddley, there wouldn't be a Mick Jagger as we know it. And without Jerome Green, there wouldn't have been a Bo Diddley. His maracas helped to create Diddley's signature“shuffling freight train”sound, and his cool attitude helped to create the performers signature style — one that would be emulated by many.

Hal Blaine

Blaine is responsible for one of the most famous drum intros in rock. Just listen to "Be My Baby," by The Ronettes, and you‘ll hear how Blaine is as important to that era’s sound as producer Phil Spector was.

Ben“Bosstone”Carr

There's a history of go-go dancers in rock, but of course, they're hard to showcase on the radio. Jim thinks Ben“Bosstone”Carr deserves credit for bringing style and maniacal energy to the band.

Augie Myers

The name might have you drawing a blank, but Myers is a critical figure in rock. Greg is most impressed by how his vox continental organ managed to add a greasy, Texas sound to what was essentially another imitation British invasion band.

John Paul Jones

John Paul Jones deserves credit simply for keeping his own among the three biggest figures and egos in rock. He could pretty much play anything he got his hands on, but it was with the bass on songs like "Black Dog," that he really shone.

Ringo Starr

Onto a man who was easily the least important member of a very important band. Or so you might think. Jim says he'll fight anyone who underplays his drumming. He was never a show-off, allowing the vocals and guitars to shine when they needed to. But when there was an opportunity to come to the center, Starr accepted the challenge. Jim's been trying to master the drumming in "Rain" since he was a kid.

James Jamerson

The Motown band members weren't even given credits on most of the songs they played on, but the reason you“move your butt”to most of those songs is because of James Jamerson. He not only played rhythm, but bass melodies, injecting a whole new style into rock.

Malcolm Young

With his knickers and beanie, everyone recognizes younger brother Angus. But, it was Malcom who gave AC/DC their signature riffs. And one of their best, and one of the best in all of rock music according to Greg, is "Highway to Hell."

Go to episode 112

Anti-Love Songs

With the ghost of St. Valentine looming over us all, this week's show is dedicated to those music fans for whom "Love Stinks." Jim and Greg discuss their favorite anti-love songs and hear some listeners' picks. Here are some songs to get you out of the mood for Valentine's Day.

Go to episode 11
news

Music News

A year after they started their“pay-what-you-want”experiment for In Rainbows, Radiohead has finally revealed the results. It was a complete success. The album sold three million copies at various prices, as well as 100,000 box sets at $81. And, the band gets to reap nearly all the profits since they don't have to divvy it up with a record company or middle man. Jim and Greg wonder why they waited so long to give numbers, especially since Trent Reznor was quick to reveal his success with a similar sales plan. But they are encouraged by Radiohead's success, and hope other bands will follow suit.

Another band experiencing a financial windfall is U2, but their new deal lacks the same punk spirit. The Irish rockers have linked up with corporate concert giant Live Nation for a 12-year deal that includes touring, merchandising and their web site. U2 will receive an estimated $19 million, but in Live Nation stock rather than cold hard cash. Jim thinks concertgoers can now hold Bono and his bandmates responsible for any anti-consumer practices on Live Nations' part.

Just when you think the music industry has embraced the digital revolution, you find out about another attempt to get consumers to purchase files. The latest web store is Lala.com. It is being supported by all the major labels, and many of the indies as well, and offers music to fans for only 10 cents. But, there's a catch. Lala only leases you those web songs to play online. You can‘t download or burn tracks unless you pay an additional 79 or 89 cents. Jim and Greg think a 10 cent price tag is terrific, but aren’t sure consumers will find the leasing structure that appealing. They hope that the music industry will introduce a happy medium where consumers can purchase songs at a low price and actually own them.

In one of the worst public relations moments of the year, Ringo Starr told his fans that after October 20th, he would no longer be accepting any fan mail or signing any autographs. What was his reason? It's not to be more“green,”as one might suspect. It's simply that the former Beatle is just too darn busy. Jim and Greg can‘t wrap their head around what’s filling up all his time. But, in the meantime, they have offered to accept any of Ringo's fan mail.

Levi Stubbs, lead singer of The Four Tops, passed away last week at the age of 72. As Greg explains, he's one of the great voices of the Motown generation, but never tried to overshadow the group. Despite that effort, it's hard not to notice Stubb's tremendous voice and emotional singing style. You can hear this in one of the classic pop songs of all time, "Bernadette."

Go to episode 152