Went to see Maceo Parker perform in the park by my house last night. It was cool until some young fella named Prince came out on stage and took over the whole thing. That’s just unprofessional! Seriously, though, I’ve always kind of felt that Maceo was a frustrated Jazz musician who, on some level, thought that funk was a little bit beneath him. This worked well in other contexts, like James’s band and especially P-Funk, where he could represented the Jazz aspect and other people could represent the other aspects (political, scatological, drug-induced), etc. But without those other folks to balance him out, it becomes a little…unbalanced. I mean they’re wearing suits, the guitar tone is that highly-flanged "Jazz" timbre, the lyrics are all these puns where they say "funk" but it’s supposed to mean "fuck", but then when you think about it, the non-pun version doesn’t actually make any sense (e.g. "what the funk"), so it’s not even really a pun and you get the impression that they might rather be playing a different kind of music altogether.* My point is that, when Prince came out onstage, I felt no such conflict…he is as sophisticated as anyone, but it never seems to conflict with his ability to get loose. Afterward, my pal Jalylah and I noted that an additional benefit of the event was that, now that we’d seen Prince, we wouldn’t have to get up early to see his free 7 am performance in Bryant Park. Then we kind of simultaneously realized how unbelievably jaded that makes us and agreed that we’re true New Yorkers now.** *Just for comparison, this is what I would consider a real funk lyric: "Fish, Chips and Sweat"Funkadelic (1970) Two o’clock in the morning All the joints had just closed We picked up a bag of fish and chips And we headed for this place called home Love is on our mind Hey, hey, hey, we’re in the mood Now it’s just a matter of time Hey hey hey, and that’s a groove My imagination is something else It’s like looking through a crystal ball And what I see looked good to me As we climbed the stairs and walked down the hall [unintelligible] Hey, hey, hey I had to try My baby turned and kissed me [unintelligible] Dig, that’s a groove Sweat was poppin’ off of my face Fish and chips were all over the place You shoulda seen my baby move Hey, hey, hey, we got us a groove Sweat was poppin’ off of my face Fish and chips all over the place You shoulda seen my woman move Hey, hey, hey, we found our groove **I did watch the performance on TV though and noticed something that speaks to my earlier comments: Back in the old days, an electric guitarist defined their sound by their technique, their guitar, their amplifier and a series of effects pedals that each altered the guitar’s sound in a specific way (i.e. distortion, chorus, wah pedal, etc.). As you might imagine, there are subtle differences between brands and years, and as a guitar player (I am one, you know), one naturally develops preferences (I am looking at the Musician’s Friend catalog right now and see 26 different types of distortion pedals alone). An added benefit of effects pedals is that they are relatively inexpensive, so you buy them individually as you can afford them and gradually build up your sound. The downside of that is that you eventually end up with six or seven pedals all attached by little cords and it becomes a big tangled mess, not to mention if you have a problem with one of them, it screws up the whole chain in a way that can be very difficult to figure out, especially if you’re in the middle of a show. Nowadays, though, improvements in digital technology allow you to simply buy (or have made for you, if you’re rich and/or famous) a single unit that can simulate the sound of all those pedals with a high degree of accuracy, nuance and reliability. So my point, after all that, is that Prince was playing through a bunch of effects pedals, rather than such a unit. That says to me that he is willing to do things the hard way in order to get the result he wants. And I appreciate that.
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