[100 Days] Day 6: Shalamar – Friends

By September 1, 2015100 days

One of my working partners told me to listen to this album because of the production value.  Sometimes, I play “Take That To The Bank,” but I play “A Night To Remember” a lot in my funk sets.  It’s a complete feel-good song for me.  On top of Shalamar having hits and making a great name for themselves, Leon Sylvers III handled production on this whole album, and apparently, he is a genius.  He produced “Misdemeanor” for his brother, Foster Sylver, which Dr. Dre sampled for The D.O.C.’s “It’s Funky Enough.”  The bassline on “Misdemeanor” is crazy dope, and word is Leon was 20 when he did that.  Crazy.

D06 - Shalamar - Friends

Shalamar was an influential group as they came out of Soul Train.  They also had success in the UK.  This particular album did quite well for them as it had a string of hits.

(Fun side note, Michael Jackson was a fan of the group.  He wanted to learn the moonwalk after seeing Geron “Caszper” Canidate, Derek “Cooley” Jackson, and Jeffrey Daniel premier the moonwalk on a Soul Train episode.  And he learned it from Caszper!)

Let’s get into the music.  This tracklisting might not be in the correct order, but this is what Spotify had, soooooooo:

A Night To Remember – My favorite Shalamar song.  As I’m critically listening, I’m struck by the openness of the mix and the ease of following each instrument in here.  It’s not too complicated.  And when I follow the lyrics, I just love the ease of what they say, how they say it, and how easy the melody flows.  No wonder why this song was a hit!!
I Can Make You Feel Good – More feel good (no pun intended!).  I like the driving lyrical melody.  Great groove.  They make listening to the song easy with the production arrangement.  Nicely done.
There It Is – Funky start.  Catchy ass hook!  This songs feels like a great study in lyric and melody writing.  The song has a great flow.
Don’t Try To Change Me – Funk nods for sure, especially because of them strings!!  Jody Watley on lead vocals.  I notice that lyrically, the hook is the main point, and the verses support the main idea.  It’s not telling a story.  It’s making a sort of musical argument.  Way different from the Beatles or The Police.  But the music makes me bounce!
Help Me – Damn, that bassline grooves.  A nice ballad.  Probably the funkiest 80s ballad I’ve heard.
On Top Of The World – Dope.  Funky joint, great structure, easy to catch.
I Don’t Wanna Be The Last To Know – This has to be the most 80s vibe on the album with the drum machine and synth patch.  The synth is probably the DX-7!  Lyrically, wow…it’s an almost breakup song!!  Never heard a song like this.
Friends – I like the funky bass hits.  Great lyrical melody and structure.  I like the “ahhhs” background singing in the second half of the verses.  And the musicality of the hook is great.  I like how the song starts to minimize toward the end.  Hot.
Playing To Win – I can hear some Roger and Zappy influence.  Sounds G-Funk’ish, at least with the drums.  Oh yeah, I hear the vocoder.  Yup, very Roger and Zappy.  I can feel the 808s as well.  I’m not too crazy about this song, but it could grow on me.
I Just Stopped By Because I Had To – Another ballad.  It sonically leans more into 80s world.  I like his confessional behind the lyrics.

I can hear the disco and funk influences.  But this album was released in 1983.  Although you can hear the disco/funk influences throughout the project, it isn’t until toward the end that we hear more of the 80s sound incorporated more.  Sonically, I love the mixing.  Each person has their space, each instrument has their space, everything is well defined, and it all sounds good.  The music is very accessible to everyone.  I really can understand why this band had success.  It really is a great study for song structure, song writing, and melody.  I really dug it.  Looks like I’ll be throwing more Shalamar into my sets!!!

EDIT: I forgot I did this before I posted up the review.  Enjoy:

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