Friday, 21 February 2014

Drew Schultz

Washed ashore on a lonely island in the sea is my latest guest, the wonderfully talented Drew Schultz.
Starting at the age of nineteen, Drew Schultz earned his stripes as the drummer, percussionist, archivist, and substitute conductor of the legendary Motown group the Four Tops. During his time with the Tops he also performed with artists including The Temptations, Aretha Franklin, Martha Reeves & The Vandellas, The Dramatics, The Miracles, The Contours, Harold Melvin’s Bluenotes, The Velvelettes, Chairmen of the Board, Freda Payne, and more. 
As a journalist, he has published several articles on soul and R&B musicians in Modern Drummer Magazine.

Drew is the spearhead of the "Back To Class" project, a series of his original songs featuring legendary soul artists, with 50% of profits benefiting the music programs of the Detroit Public Schools. Special guests on the project have included the Four Tops, Funk Brothers, Melvin Davis, Spyder Turner, Dennis Coffey, James Jamerson Jr, Pat Lewis, McKinley Jackson, Lenny Pickett of Tower of Power/Saturday Night Live, Ken Knox of Chairmen of the Board, Joey Kingfish, and many more. 
He hopes to continue to spread the legacy of his heroes and mentors, keeping the soul alive!

"Here it is !!!  Picking only five songs is TOUGH though!"

Earl Van Dyke - The Flick

Written by James Jamerson, Earl Van Dyke, and Robert White
"I think this song is a fantastic example of the pure energy and virtuosic ease of The Funk Brothers, the legendary studio band who played the instruments on nearly every hit Motown song from 1959-1972 regardless of songwriter, singer, or producer. Lead by organist Earl Van Dyke on this 1970 live recording from Detroit's Hi Chapparal night club, the guys are absolutely tearing it up. Along with saxophonist George Benson, Earl is joined on stage here by several of the Funk Brothers' key members; drummer Uriel Jones, guitarists Robert White and Eddie Willis, percussionist Eddie "Bongo" Brown, and the game changing bassist James Jamerson. These guys truly play as a cohesive unit, with the simple song form of "The Flick" breathing alongside Van Dyke's flitting organ fills, Benson's jazzy saxophone spotlight, White's blues drenched guitar solo, and the airtight rhythm section of Willis, Brown, Jones, and Jamerson.

The jaw dropping, head bobbing climax comes when the band breaks down to let Jamerson just sit in the groove out front while Uriel's hi hat pattern and Bongo's bed of hand percussion surround his creative bass lines. Van Dyke sneaks back in with another section of organ soloing, and the entire band just barrels full force into a final hold at the performance's finish. I believe that the slick, effortless combination of jazz, blues, and raw funk on this song is a testament to how these musicians, along with the rest of the regular cast of The Funk Brothers, could feasibly be responsible for more number one hits than the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Beach Boys, and Elvis combined!" 

The Impressions - Keep On Pushing

From the 1970 album 'The Best Impressions: Curtis, Sam & Fred' written by Curtis Mayfield.
"Originally released on the 1964 LP of the same name, Curtis Mayfield & The Impressions' anthem "Keep On Pushing" is one of my all-time favorite songs. Whenever I'm hitting a patch of difficulty and self doubt, this song is always there. It might sound simple, but a line like "I've got my strength and it don't make sense not to keep on pushing" can be exactly what I need to hear at times like these. In my eyes, this tune is the epitome of persistence and motivation. It's fascinating because the lyrics never give an idea of what Curtis is pushing for, and the song never gives closure with a moment of completing the tasks at hand. It just simply says that someday he'll get there, he'll push past the obstacles ahead, and keep on keeping on.

While the original version has been a staple of radio play and compilations for the past five decades, I actually prefer the obscure, oddball re-recording that The Impressions created in 1970. At that time, having recently split with ABC-Paramount to join Curtis Mayfield's own independent Curtom Records, The Impressions were compiling a "best of" album. Instead of licensing the original recordings of their early hits from ABC, they opted to entirely recreate them specifically for this release entitled "The Best Impressions: Curtis, Sam & Fred." This new version of "Keep On Pushing" has a brand new arrangement, with the very first horn stab hitting hard like a punch in the gut. Fred Cash and Sam Gooden sound like they're quite literally pushing harder in their vocals too, with the initial harmonies in the song cutting like a hot knife through butter. A brand new vocal arrangement brings some intricacy to the verses, and Curtis even throws in a nice call back to his seminal hit "People Get Ready."
As a drummer, I'm absolutely floored by the playing on this recording. Based on the intricate, intelligent, and ballsy fills played here I would guess that the drummer is Tyrone McCullen, who was part of Curtis' band on his Curtis/Live record from NYC's Bitter End night club the following year. The fills played during the transition into the prechorus each time get more and more complicated, eventually abandoning the swung eighth note feel for mind bogglingly arrow-straight sixteenth note riffs across the kit. This is some absolutely fearless playing, and it's genius!"
Tower of Power - Both Sorry Over Nothing

From the 1973 album 'Tower of Power' written by Stephen "Doc" Kupka, Emilio Castillo, and Lenny Williams.
"Man, I'm such a sucker for a funky ballad. You know what I mean, those songs that aren't quite dance songs, but still a little too groovy to be considered a slow jam. "Both Sorry Over Nothin'" fits like a glove right into that walking tempo feel that I love so much, and it's absolutely beautiful.
The song starts right into the extremely catchy chorus, and drops into a sullen verse as the horns build up behind some tasteful guitar fills, then smoothly dropping right back into the chorus. Lenny Williams delivers a crystal clear, completely heartfelt vocal while the Tower of Power horn section weaves in and out of each phrase. After the second chorus, a series of hits and vocal riffs just melts into a smooth bridge section before shifting back into a third verse and chorus.
While all of this is some pretty creative song structure, what happens next is a totally unexpected change of pace. The last section of the song is a completely different groove introduced solely for the fade-out. Williams' vocal improvisations leave ample room for some staccato horn hits while David Garibaldi's churning, syncopated drum beat snakes between them both. On top of this bubbling beat, a subtle clarinet solo by Lenny Pickett enters, only playing for a few seconds before the song begins to fade. This last section feels like a huge tease, as the band had just reached this incredible moment that I could have listened to forever. That final section makes the journey through the song pay off in a huge way only to fade out and end far, far, far too quickly. Whoever made the decision of how quickly to end this song created an addict of me, continuing to hit the repeat button to get that final feeling of the song just opening up into that perfect groove."
8th Day - You've Got To Crawl (Before You Walk)

From the 1971 album '8th Day' written by Angelo Bond, General Johnson, Greg Perry, Ron Dunbar.
"It's hard to explain, but I feel like this song is just perfect. It was written by an absolutely all star cast of Detroit Soul legends. Angelo Bond, Ronald Dunbar and Greg Perry had collectively written for acts including Shorty Long, Freda Payne, 100 Proof Aged In Soul, Glass House, Honey Cone, and many more. General Johnson was the iconic, pleading lead singer and songwriter for Chairmen of the Board, famous for their smash hit "Give Me Just A Little More Time." On top of it all were the owners of the record label for this release, the powerhouse writing/production team of Holland, Dozier, & Holland. HDH were responsible for countless hits by the Four Tops, Supremes, Marvin Gaye, Martha Reeves & The Vandellas, and more. 
The 8th Day was a fascinating group - the name was originally used as a vehicle for a one-time release called "She's Not Just Another Woman," featuring lead singer Steve Mancha. That song became a surprise hit, but Mancha had since been assigned to the group 100 Proof Aged In Soul, responsible for the lead vocal on their hit song "Somebody's Been Sleeping In My Bed." HDH was left scrambling to find a new lead singer for a follow up release under the 8th Day name. Upon choosing Detroit drummer/writer/singer/producer Melvin Davis to lead the new 8th Day configuration, they struck gold. Melvin had been a writer responsible for tons of songs recorded on artists including J.J. Barnes, Darrell Banks, Dennis Coffey, Johnnie Taylor, Steve Mancha, Edward Hamilton, and many more. His first group, The Jaywalkers, included future Temptations' lead singer David Ruffin, and you can hear a similarity to Ruffin's gruff phrasing in his lead vocal on "Crawl." 
Melvin's vocal on this song is a powerful display of gritty chops and musical consideration. His past as a drummer with groups like Smokey Robinson & The Miracles and the Dennis Coffey Trio allowed him to apply some creative rhythms to his singing, which frequently switches between a regimented eighth note phrasing and a more conversational cadence. The record feels like a live performance with Melvin giving his all, including the entertaining stage antics that might go with it. The first line feels like he's speaking to an audience, preparing to tell them a story of a woman scorned. The insanely catchy chorus repeats his girl's insistence that he apologetically crawl back to her. The song builds into a fantastic interlude where Melvin finally gives in, breaking down onto his knees, all the while making sure that no one is around to witness him swallow his pride. The song is playful, clever, and incredibly hard to get out of your head. Just by listening to it, it's easy to picture Melvin crouched on stage, bashfully looking around as he prepares to beg for forgiveness. Underneath all of this is another masterful performance by The Funk Brothers, moonlighting for HDH's own label.
This is Detroit Soul at its finest!" 

Four Tops - (It's The Way) Nature Planned It
From the 1972 album 'Nature Planned It' written by Frank Wilson and Pam Sawyer.

"I think this might be my favorite song.
The year was 1972, and Motown was moving. The label had been slowly building a presence in Los Angeles with the MoWest label, Berry Gordy's new motion picture efforts, and productions on artists like the Jackson 5 being recorded out west. As the company was migrating away from Detroit some artists followed suit, while others remained in the Motor City. One of Motown's flagship acts, the Four Tops, wanted to stay in Detroit. Deciding to take more creative control of their music, they did not to renew their contract with Motown, and this tune was their swan song from the label that had made them superstars.

What a fitting send off it is - the song is a combination of thick harmonies from the Tops, a raw and earnest lead vocal by Levi Stubbs, and a lush arrangement. An orchestral swell builds from nothing, and Levi quietly enters before a guitar flurry announces the song's introduction. The verse settles into a laid back groove with sparse drums and percussion, floating strings, and flowing woodwinds. A quick set of hits gives way to the chorus, while an inhumanly quick switch from drums played with sticks to drums played with brushes betrays the Funk Brothers' subtle use of two drummers on the track. 
The LP that houses this song was one of the few to credit the musicians by name, and it appropriately lists "Bass (Personified) - James Jamerson." In addition to another typically incredible performance by The Funk Brothers, the lyrics on this song always get me. It initially sounds like a sweet love song, with Levi explaining that the love he feels is as natural and inexplicable as the sky, explaining that he'll never leave his woman. However, the very last line of the song turns the entire meaning around. As the song fades, the very last thing you hear Levi say is "why do I feel this pain?" Suddenly it's clear that this love is an unrequited one, and the song is now accompanied by a melancholy weight that might have otherwise gone unnoticed. I'm not sure whether this was a written segment of the lyrics on the part of Frank Wilson and Pam Sawyer, or if it was a simple improvisation by Levi, but it's absolutely brilliant."

Drew's excellent 'Back To Class' is available as both audio CD and MP3 download from the usual sources, including Amazon, CD Baby and iTunes, with 50% of profits benefiting the music programs of the Detroit Public Schools.

available here



Unknown said...

great choices!

Unknown said...
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