Friday, 19 May 2017

Greg Phillinganes - Behind the Mask (1985)

Greg was definitely taking some cues from Michael Jackson in this track with his vocal performance, and you know what, it is awesome. It's kind of a neat thing that Michael Jackson created almost a genre of sassy and confident male singers who would just make a bunch of weird noises now and then.

Aside from that, this is just shy of being a synth anthem. The main synth chords that come in when the songs gets going are something you would probably have heard in a hockey arena in the 80s, and I ain't hatin' it. The synth bass is fairly mild. Not center stage or anything, but I give this track a complete and total pass for just being pretty much synthed out of it's gourd.

For those who enjoy keytars, here's the video as well :)

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Vince DiCola - Legacy (Audition Piece for the Transformers Movie) (1986)

Vince DiCola is such a cult favourite. The work he did for the Transformers movie stands the test of time as one of the most bombastic and progressive movie scores of all time. And it was entirely created during the absolute peak of 80s synthesizers. Everything in the score is digital, but not only that, everything is on fire! He doesn't relent, and he rarely repeats himself. Every bar presents new challenges and new directions and new textures. But he does it all masterfully. I am never not blown away when I listen to his work on the film.

So, interestingly, this track was not from the film. It was released well after the fact, due to the sheer fan support for DiCola. In the late 90s he was brought back to perform at some Transformers conventions, and it was there that a new and complete version of the movie score was released. That release had on it this song, which was listed as the "audition piece" for the film.

You just have to put yourself in Vince's shoes for a second. he has one shot to land the gig of scoring the film, and this was what he came up with. This insanely progressive ultra energetic synth laden anthem. And amazingly, the people in charge went with it!

This kind of thing almost never happens. The track with this much energy and hubris never gets to the top of the heap. I think if it were not for how drenched with character all of his many song sections are he would not have secured the job. But it was to his great credit that he managed to show them almost an entire sound track's worth of potential ideas in one track. and while the score itself did  not feature this song, you can hear in the finished product so much of the character and the potential from this track become reality, while also spiraling off in to dozens of their own potentials.

This is an approach to song writing that I have always shared as well, so I definitely see Vince DiCola as a bit of an icon. and just as quickly as he became one, he very nearly disappeared from the scene. Outside of scoring Rocky 4 (another great score) he seemed to never headline a project again.

Amazingly, when the first real life Transformers movie was coming out, I remember reading that he once again auditioned to score the film. I don't think I ever got to hear his audition, but you can imagine how easily they would shut down a song like this, right? That's why it was so amazing that it all came together in 1986... When synths were high tech, and you were practically a wizard if you could get them to make any noise at all.

Vince, hat's off to you, my friend.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Dave Lawson - News Of The World (Bruton BRI - 16) (1981)

I don't want to alarm anyone, but I am about to go ahead an blow your mind. Most people, I should say, aren't aware of library music. Library music is what you would call royalty free music that is made by a production company, that large companies pay a subscription fee to use whole cloth with no need to ever pay royalties.

While there are still tons of library production companies out there today, everything has gone digital, and you subscribe to those services much like you would iTunes or Spotify etc. But in the 70s and the 80s especially, Library music took on a very special role.

Synthesizers. Not everyone had the money just go out and by a synthesizer in the late 70s. The price of the highest end most popular synths were enough that regular people would have to take out a mortgage for just to be able to have. So people who did have these synths, or had access to them, were quite a hot commodity.

Library music of the early "synth" era was unbelievably well created. It seems like the companies like Bruton in this case, would just hire dream teams of good studio musicians and pretty much leave them to create. Otherwise I can't really tell how this music got created the way it did. I would love to hear some postmortems from some of the composers about what it was like.

The really interesting thing is, for a long time, these library records were actually sent on on Vinyl to the news stations and TV stations who had memberships. And these records now seem to litter dusty bins at vinyl shops. There is a large community of people on the internet who are trying to complete these collections in mp3 format, to preserve this music for the glorious compositions that they were. And we will reap the benefits by getting crashing wall after crashing wall of amazing music from the era.

Burton is the name of this library production company, and "BRI" in this case is the genre of record it is. BRI was the label applied to library albums that had a heavily synth based focus, so you can see how it becomes a really fin thing to try and "catch'em all". When you find a new BRI, you know you are in for a treat.

One last interesting tidbit about library albums is that on the back of the vinyl sleeve, each song would have a description of the mood associated with the song. It would say stuff like, "Corporate driving beat" or "mellow down tempo" or "pulsating rhythms". What I love about this is, the people who had the records, and who would put them in their TV shows, would basically look at these descriptions to decide what they wanted for their media.

I like the idea of a musician writing a bunch of stuff, then telling the director and editor this is what it would be especially well used for. Love it. More to come.

Denis & Denis - Dvadeset i osam minuta do pet (1984)

This one has been a guilty pleasure of mine for a few years. This is a Croatian synthpop group that put out some really charmingly unique lofi synth stuff. One of the things that immediately appealed to me about this particular track is that is was blazing fast. I can't imagine this track being played in Croatian clubs. How would people even dance to it? Would it be some flailing crazy dance to match the pace?

In any case, this is not an amazing track, but it is a quirky track that deserve a shout out somewher. What better place than here?

Also, hot damn that album cover is eye popping...

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Koo Dé Tah - Missed You All Along (1985)

As far as I am concerned this was New Zealand and Australia's answer to Madonna, Cyndi Lauper and EG Daily all at once. It doesn't quite live up to any of those acts, but there is clear flavours all throughout the one debut album put out by the band.

It's not a bad album at all, it's just really raw, which gives it a ton of character. And thankfully, a ton of synth bass!

Ton Scherpenzeel (featuring Chris Rainbow) - The Lookout (1984)

This was one I accidentally stumbled on to 7 years ago. A solo album by the Dutch keyboard player Ton Scherpenzeel, featuring vocals by a guy named Chris Rainbow. I mean, that's all I need to hear to know that this album is going to be worth checking out, and it delivers.

This is an ultra uplifting track with nothing but synths, synth bass, and four on the floor drums. It definitely gives me that Never Ending Story vibe. Synthy, a little majestic, a little mysterious, but ultimately is feels like a sci-fi fantasy.

But in addition to that, these vocals are really something else. Only in the 80s could you be this deadly serious while sounding like, well, this. It's almost hard to fathom, but it never gets old for me knowing that what this is something that is not being marketed to me at all. A song out of time, with it's messages long since gone. It is whatever I want it to be.

Vesta Williams - Don't Blow a Good Thing (1986)

Lovely use of vocal jazz chord progressions and vocal phrases mixed with some slammin' FM bass. And aren't we in luck, a music video to boot. Vesta Williams is pretty hypnotic. She makes every single "sing" face in the book. That's how it's done!

As always, I am more than happy to hear some low register female vocals pop in and out throught this track. Vesta has a pretty decent register actually. Pretty diverse vocal track.

For the purists out there, his is the album version. Slightly higher quality, but no sing faces... *frowns*

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Millie Scott - Automatic (1986)

Coming out of no where, this track blind sided me. Neither the vocalist, the writer or the producer are musicians I had heard of before, and thus a new rabbit hole is opened.

Super fat and steamy synth bass, perfect for smokey 80s photo shoots. This sound never ceases to conjure the images so perfectly captured in this music video, haha.

Gotta love that nearly everything in this track is subtle synth too. Even the horn solo is synth, I think. And very reminiscent of some of Blade Runner's chiller moments. It's all very subtle though. Something I still have yet to put in to practice, less really can be more. Just slap a fat bass line on a slammin' drum track and lightly pepper those synths in just enough to give it a futuristic 80s vibe. That's the ticket.

Friday, 27 January 2017

Junko Yagami - Communication (1985)

As far as I am concerned, this was Japan's answer to Madonna in the early 80s. A lot of the instruments are similar and the particular type of synth pop mixed with very light elements of rock really just scream Madonna. The vocals as well seem to be a J-Pop emulation of what Madonna was doing. Not that this isn't an original track. Anything but!

The song writing of this track is really interesting because they seem to toy (torture) the listener with very catchy and addicting pauses in the song. They also seem to employ this really sneaky method of coming back in to the swing of the song after a pause, almost like there are false starts, but on purpose. The track has always stood out to me because of it. And wouldn't you know it, rocking that Synth Bass the whole time.

Is it just me or do I also hear some RAH Band in there? And while I am at it, is it just me or do I hear a very slight bit of Daytona USA in there?

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Pebbles - Take Your Time (1987)

Coming out of now where, here is a real banger. This would have been perfect for the Summer Of FM, as this is an FM synth bass going to town, but as long as we are dealin' with synth bass, we're golden, and boy does this one get the job done.

These are some of my favourite kind of chord progressions. The ones that feel just a little sly, and a little bad ass. It's kind of a repetitive track, but when you get it right, sometimes you just gotta roll with the riffs. You might even say sometimes you have to take your time...

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Imagination - State of Love (1983)

I only recently found out about this band, but I am absolutely sold. It's not necessarily the best stuff out there, but I feel like these guys gave it everything they had. Despite the absolutely bizarre outfits on the cover, and indeed, in their videos, they plow forward with no shame. And that's the way it should be.

Honestly, I am more curious about these outfits than anything. Even for the 80s this is weird. But in addition, we have a nice sampling of synths and synth bass all throughout this track. With some legit nostalgic 80s hooks. I feel like some of these melodies died in the 80s. You just don't hear them any more.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Bonnie Pointer - The Beast in Me (Heavenly Bodies Soundtrack) (1984)

Bonnie Pointer is killing it once again. This time I found a rare track she made specifically for the 1984 aerobic dance movie "Heavenly Bodies". In other words, this track wasn't on any of her solo albums. But wouldn't you know it, it had a dedicated music video. Man alive, Bonnie Pointer's performance here is mesmerizing! That look, that confidence, that voice. She is not messing around in the slightest.

Take that look and back it up with a slamming hot synthy four on the floor dance track, chalk full of Simmons drum fills and melodic hooks? It's a winner folks. Check out this video if you have a shred of common sense in your body.

If you miss this you better be dead, or in jail, and if you're in jail BREAK OUT!

And because the video version is not quite the highest audio quality, for your convenience, here is the record version:

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Delegation - What Took You So Long (1982)

Something I don't have enough of on this list is resonant synth bass lines. By resonant, I just mean a synth bass patch that has the resonant knob up high enough to make it have that nasally sound. Much like how when you hold your nostrils closed, you get a funny voice, turning up the resonant knob gives your bass patch a quality similar quality.

I've been meaning to do a video lately about what synths actually are. a lot of people think they are this really complicated thing, but in most cases, they are volume envelopes and filter envelopes, over top of simple wave forms. A lot of the character actually comes from how they are utilized and how they are played.

You can hear the envelope of the filter is actually accentuated by the relatively high amount of resonance. Such a lovely sound.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Haywoode - A Time Like This (1985)

And the hits don't stop! I have a ton of new tracks to share on this blog, but this one just strolled right to the top of the heap. Again, I've heard this album before, but I never really noticed this track until I was actually looking for good synth bass. With that in mind, my god, this track is a prime example. This is synth bass at it's best. This player in particular is going off. Full on runs up and down, punctuated by ultra bouncy stabs that make this rhythm section unbelievably good.

Let's also give a little love to the original 1983 version of the song, which is much less produced, but a lot more hinged on the synth bass and brass. This is a good example of the differences in sensibilities from 1983 to 1985. the later in to the 80s you get, the sharper and more metallic everything becomes. On average.

Monday, 16 January 2017

SSQ - Synthicide (1983)

This track and this video has become pretty famous on the internet. It was uploaded years before Youtube let you make your own thumbnails, but somehow managed to get the perfect screen shot to lure people in. The best part is, everything this thumbnail looks like, this song delivers on and then some. It's so spot on you would swear this is a modern band trying to appear like a band from the 80s.

Nope. Just pure, raw, early 80s synthy goodness.

And wouldn't you know it, our good friend John Van Tongeren was one of the 3 or more synth heads manning the helm on this one. I can't be sure if he is the one playing the synth bass, but it doesn't matter anymore. This guy is the key to a fantastic treasure trove of rad jams and killer albums. It's only now that I know his name that i see how many great albums I already enjoy that he was a part of.

It may not be ultra obscure anymore, but this track has to be on this list. It has everything I am looking for, with a killer video to boot. Stacey Swain (aka Stacey Q) does a phenomenal job of being lead man surrounded by all these synth nerds. Synth nerds in synth branded jump suits, haha. Who wouldn't want a Simmons jump suit? I'd wear that right now!

Bonnie Pointer - Premonition (1984)

The Pointer Sisters can do no wrong. They were one of those groups who were famous for a couple tracks, like "I'm So Excited". When a band gets a song to be that well known it's really easy to assume that's all the good stuff they had to offer, otherwise, why haven't you heard anything else from them, right?

Well the Pointer Sisters were a group that turned everything they touched to gold. They were fantastic vocalists, and great showmen, and they really seemed to care about their craft. they also surrounded themselves with great musicians, which is where I am coming from today.

The synth bass player on this album appears to be John Van Tongeren, who was the synth bass player on the last track I posted, Mr. T's Commandments. That's how this works. You find one good synth bass on a track, you don't look for the artist who the track is named after, you look in the credits to see who was credited on synths and keyboards, then see what else they were on, and BAM, you find more magic!

That was exactly how I stumbled on to this. I had already heard this solo album from just one of the Pointer Sisters (Bonnie Pointer) before, but some how this song got past my detectors. It's loaded with what I believe is a unison and detuned thick synth bass from the Sequential Circuits Prophet 5 keyboard. But I could be wrong. What is important is just how damn good this track happens to be as well. This is what #SynthBassNight is all about.

Also, elephant in the room, this is quite the provocative album cover... And I ain't hatin' it!

Mr. T - Mr. T's Commandments (1984)

So, Mr T had a full length album in the 80s, and it is loaded with FM synth bass... And it is actually really good! His vocals are the week point in the song, depending on your point of reference. if you like Mr T then this is a double whammy of goodness. If you don't think Mr T is a genius with an angelic voice, then this is still worth checking out just for the slamming instrumental components.


It's not as good without the video, but because I am a swell guy, here is the album version in all of it's crystal clarity. Love this bass so much!

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Marilyn Scott - Only You (1983)

This is not the first time I have gushed about this track, but once again it finds itself dead center on my list of criteria. My man Michael Sembello is taking care of the synth on this track, which includes the synth bass, and damn is it a stellar synth bass track. He is really riffing his buns off the entire track, and once again, with out the use of midi. Just a dude on the keys taking care of the bass. I love it.

Marilyn Scott's vocal performance here is insanely memorable. On the entire album this was really the only track with an energetic pace, but she really brought the thunder here. A total gem!

Jeff Lorber - In the Heat of the Night (1984)

While I am on the subject of Jeff Lorber today, why not just get some of his jams on this list. This is a track that I like not just for it's fat synth bass and keyboard shredding. But because the chorus sounds like it fell right out of Sonic the Hedge Hog 2... I can't remember which song, but there are hooks all over this track that give me Sonic flashbacks... Am I crazy?

Howard Johnson - Take Me Through the Night (1982)

This Howard Johnson and Kashif combo is so good. Good enough for a double shoutout. This is just such a phenomenal example of the best analog synth bass sounds.

Howard Johnson - So Glad You're My Lady (1982)

Howard Johnson featuring synth bass wizard Kashif! This is a prime example of analog synth bass once again. Kashif has been on a couple tracks in this list so far, but this is possibly one of the most spot light performances for him. It's almost nothing but a synth bass and drums carrying the rhythm section.

So fat, so warm.

Kenny G - The Shuffle (1982)

I've been saying this for a while now, but 80s Kenny G is legit amazing. Especially those first few  albums. And wouldn't you know it, the enjoyment of those albums happen to coincide with how much synth they have on them. It's almost as if making music during that era made you better sounding in my ears...

Obviously I am an extremely biased individual, but you know what, I don't really concern myself with that. I love the way this sounds, and I want to play this song as loud as possible in my car.

Jeff Lorber on synth bass here, rocking a classy subtle square wave synth bass with chorus\detune. that dude always keeps it classy.

Let's all do the Kenny G Shuffle.

Friday, 13 January 2017

Melba Moore - Love's Comin' At Ya (1982)

Time for some good old fashion analog synth bass and some scantily clad leotard backup dancers. How can you tell it's analog? Look at the year the song was made. How can you tell they are leotard backup dancers? Just look at how none of the goofy 80s mustache guys are looking at or even pointed at the singer, haha. Possibly an ill planned out placement of women in low cut leotards.

In any case, the bass here is as analog synth bass as it gets. I love this sound, and I respect it for how simple it is. When you have a synth bass like this, everything comes down to the envelope of the filter and the amplitude. For the people that don't know what the hell I just said, the quick and dirty explanation is how bouncy the bass is going to sound. But it isn't just as simple as setting that values, the player, themselves, also has to get in tune with the timing of those values and play it appropriately.

This is what sets the good players apart from the mediocre ones. I guy like Stevie Wonder or George Duke can make any patch sound amazing because they have unbelievable finesse with their keyboard skills.

With this song as well, the player himself is actually playing every note. When the key is pressed and released is under his finesse, and it's why this genre of music is so damn good.

There is definitely something incredible about cold sterile midi synth sounds in the mid to later 80s. But those early 80s had a brand of synth stuff you didn't really hear ever again. Shout out to Kashif on synth bass here.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Wax - On the Water Front (1987)

This is a fan made music video for this song, which was apparently the intro them to a show called UK? I don't think the full version of the song was featured in the show itself, but the complete recording was eventually released in 2000. Much to everyone benefit.

This track never fails to make me smile. It is ridiculous, but in the way where it disarms you and turns you in to a fan no matter how much you don't want to admit it. And personally, I have never heard the word waterfront since hearing this song, without laughing and humming this song to myself. And I live in a coastal town, which means I hear it a lot.

The perfect song to put on for a drive to the beach or the coast, I can assure you!

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Madonna - Think of Me (1983)

The thing that is particularly amazing about this album is not Madonna, it's the fact that the entire album is almost all synthesizers and drum machines. In fact, the earliest version of the album featured even less fiddly guitar bits and was all the synth parts by itself. Only in post were guitar bits added in tot he album to give it a more organic feel.

Quite simply, this album has that perfect sterile 80s tone to it that only synth could provide. It's that weird sheik futuristic sound that the 80s became known for. First with synths, then with FM synths. There is something about a cold instrument being played by a live player that really just creates a juxtaposition of expectations.

Then, of course, Madonna's performance is oozing with character. This was her at her best, before she was trying to be too weird and varied in her approach, she was just full of great pop energy. You get all those players, and her singing, with so much performance and delivery, through these sterile and cold new instruments.

Consequently, the drum machine used throughout this album, the Linn Drum was an absolute staple of the 80s as well. before samplers and midi, if you wanted some guaranteed punch to your drum track, a drum machine was the way to go, and the Linn Drum was the cream of the crop for a long time.

The 80s were great.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Deniece Williams - Let's Hear it for the Boy (1984)

I never really paid much attention to this song until the last few years when it came on during an episode of American Dad. Only at that point did I notice that it was full of synth bass, and thus permanently found itself on my radar.

It's just in my nature to reject most popular music. It's almost like I need to discover music before I can really connect to it. I think a part of that is creating a personal context for the song, rather than just having the most well known stuff shown to me. But, there is absolutely something to be said about rad stuff being shown to you. No matter how much you want to reject something that exists in the center of a Venn diagram, sometimes it just happens to be excellent and worth your attention.

This is a classic pop track which also just happens to have a stupidly juicy synth bass through out the entire thing.

Rah Band - Clouds Across the Moon (1985)

Rah Band is fantastic. Every song of theirs has a quality to the rhythms that stays and stays and stays with you. This song in particular really shines for not just the memorable melodies and hooks, but also the lyrics and the vocal performance.

This is possibly one of the saddest songs I know of. Every time I sit down and analyze the lyrics and the lyrical themes I really do get a lump in my throat. And this music video makes it so much worse.

This poor woman in the story of the song. She is separated by her husband and father of her children by a space war. Her husband being some sort of military spaceship captain. Due to whatever circumstances of the war itself, she is only able to communicate with her husband once a year, and even then, the call can be disconnected for no reason at all.

So she uses her one communication to essentially tell her husband that she can't stand to be alone anymore. However, the moment when she calls he happens to be with another woman, and it's a little grey whether or not he even responds to her on the phone. She suspects someone else there with him, but still takes the time to innocently express her sadness, while never losing faith in her husband. At which point the call gets connected, and she says she'll try again next year.

Now, far be it from me to condemn a man on the front lines of a space war, where any moment could be his last. But in the context of her perspective, she assumes the worst, but never expresses it. The video is most likely a representation of her mind running wild, but still, when you put yourself in her shoes, and listen to her voice, you can't help but feel pretty bad.

When you put it all in to context, this performance just crushes me every time, haha. But hey, there is some synth bass in there to cheer me up.

Patrice Rushen - Long Time Coming (1987)

Just stumbled on to this one tonight because someone shared a much older song of hers on my Facebook wall. As is my way, I immediately researched her other albums, and very systematically I went to the years that would most likely harbour some synths and, as expected, found a synth bass gem!

This one features FM Bass again. Honestly, I was having such a hard time finding FM tracks toward the end of the Summer of FM, now I just keep finding more FM! It's all good though, as long as I am finding rad stuff it's all gunna be oooooookay.

Monday, 9 January 2017

Giorgio Moroder & Limahl - Never Ending Story (Never Ending Story soundtrack) (1984)

It's never a bad time to hear this song. Fresh off the success of his band Kajagoogoo's "To Shy" somehow Limahl managed to write the most uplifting song the world has ever heard, and wouldn't you know it, synth bass!

Never Ending Story was just one of those movies that every kid rented multiple times. How many mystical set pieces and amazing characters did they manage to cram in this one movie, and one one budget. It's hard to believe that at one point in time, a large budget movie would also commission this song to be played in it's most triumphant moments. But that is all part of the joy in reminiscing over the 80s. it literally was a different era, with vastly different sensibilities. When you look back now, far removed from all pretentiousness, and long after the sales have dried up, you still have this nugget of distilled truth from a time long forgotten.

It's all in the music.

Michael Sembello - Maniac (Flashdance Soundtrack) (1983)

Michael Sembello is a true unsung hero of 80s music. This track is one that everyone has heard, but very little people probably know who made it. That's partly due to the extremely eye catching video that is absent of Michael Sembello entirely. I can't blame them, they made a pretty excellent video!

But we are here for synth bass, and synth bass we shall have! This is a perfect example of an analog synth bass. Where every pulsing staccato note has just a little variation to it due to being created by actual voltage, detuned oscillators and tape chorus. It's just so damn warm as a result, and laid the perfect foundation for this legendary track. We've enjoyed the video, we've enjoyed the irony. Now, enjoy the synth bass!

And to right some of the wrongs of the past, here is Michael Sembello and crew in all their glory performing a staged version of the track. It's very hard to me to pick which one makes a better music video. yes, Michael Sembello is quite the beefcake... But Leotards are leotards...

Sunday, 8 January 2017

John Farnham - Thunder in Your Heart (Rad Soundtrack) (1986)

Carrying on with the theme of 80s montages that broke my brain as a lad, here is a real banger. I shared Break the Ice in the Summer of FM, but was saving this one for the right occasion. Well that time has come. This might be one of the best songs to have come out of the 80s. I can't tell. again, if you didn't experience this song and those montages back in the day I can't tell what the impact would end up being.

These lyrics never fail to make me rise to the occasion, whatever it may be. I love how the 80s could get away with lyrics and passion like this. Nowadays it seems like being this passionate about something isn't cool, which is kind of bogus if you ask me. it also means we haven't had a non-ironic inspirational track like this in a long time. I don't know if it could even be pulled off these days, even with the best of intentions, so that is why I will continue to look to the past and hold these tracks up as high as possible.

Hey, you want inspiration? I guess all we have now are Shia Labeuf videos. Take your pick?

Mark Safan - Win in the End (Teen Wolf Soundtrack) (1985)

Just one of those songs that stays with you from your childhood. Party due to that damn montage of Scott and his team rising to the occasion. These montages had such a crazy amount of power on impressionable young kids. Right up there with Karate Kid's "Your the Best", Rad's "Thunder in Your Heart" and Wildcats' "Show me How it Works".

It's almost hard to tell if these songs hold up on their own if you haven't had this intense reaction to these songs in films when you were a tyke. Some of you will have to tell me,  I guess. All I know is this song gets me fired up, and it's got some FM Bass to boot.

Valerie Dore - The Wizard (1986)

There is something about an Italian 80s pop star passionately singing about a wizard that just hits all the right beats for me, haha. The entire album was focused around fantasy themes, and has a notable Tangerine Dream (from the score to Legend) and Never Ending Story vibe. Not as good as either of those two, by any stretch, but good enough to make it's way in to this list!

Obviously, loaded with synth.

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Sandy Lam - Late Night Solitude (1988)

I had no idea how good Cantopop was until I heard this song. The Cantonese language is already a very relative based melodic language made up of multiple tone inflections. So, to create a melody within a melodic language is pretty impressive and kind of an incredible thing to hear be done in the style of synth pop.

This track is absolutely anchored on the synth bass which is completely played in a sequencer. I know that because the songs tempo doesn't waver at all. that's kind of the big difference between the early 80s and the later 80s. The early 80s had super rudimentary sequencers and almost no midi functionality, so the synths were performed live. Whereas the later 80s had composer who could record their performance in a sequencer and fix all the mistakes in timing. As a result, the 80s got more and more robotic and metallic as they went. Further and further from the warmer swimming fat tones of the early part of the decade.

Having said all that, I absolutely love the vocal performance in this track as well. Sandy Lam is a legitimately entertaining vocalist who is still making music these days. Though the real gems are the stuff she did in the 80s.

Most of which came with Cantonese music videos which I find super fascinating. Observe:

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Eddie Murphy - Party All The Time (1985)

It's a little regarded fact, but this track is loaded to the brim with synth. In fact, there is nothing but synth, vocals and drums. There isn't even a little fiddly guitar section until suddenly there is a shredding solo. It's just synth until then, and I could not be happier.

Now, I realize that this song is easy to make the butt of a joke, but let me tell you something mister, this track destroys! This is a synth pop anthem up there with the best of them! It's nothing but synth!

Once again this is a Rick James track. The credits essentially read that he made the song by himself, and maybe Eddie came in to record that chorus and called it a day. That's fine with me, I actually like the idea of a supremely talented and driven musician just reaching out and bringing in people to make new stuff. We wouldn't have this track otherwise. A real oddity of the 80s.

Den Harrow - Mad Desire (1984)

I hope after the #SummerOfFM you aren't all FMed out. We have more work to do!

Den Harrow absolutely destroying this track with some beefy FM patches. Of course there is a nice punchy metallic synth bass, but there is also so many luscious metallic tones swirling all around this track. This track feels like it should have been on the Teen Wolf soundtrack. if that makes any sense, it will make a lot of sense.

Don't get too attached to his picture here. Apparently this was a classic Milli Vanilli situation. The real name of the singer is Silvio Pozzoli who is not actually an Italian male model like Den is, haha.

Days of Sorrow - Wild World (1986)

I'd be blowing it if I didn't share some minimal new wave. I am not really an expert on the movement, what started it or why. I don't want to make an ass of myself and fill in the backstory without knowing anything about it, but all I know is there is a lot of it out there. It always seems to be accompanied by a sullen vocal style with, depressed lyrics, and very minimal instruments. The best is when one of those instruments ends up being a synth.

When you wanna see how much a synth can do on it's own, just sit a depressed young adult with no money down in front of one and maybe give them a sampler.

It's kind of like the synth pop equivalent to black metal?

Dakota - Runaway (1984)

This album is a real gem of the 80s. This is the an album that was almost exclusive rediscovered by people on the internet. I believe this because I remember when this album started making the rounds on the music blogs and everyone, myself included was like, what the hell is this and how had I never heard it before?

What's the big deal? It's basically a "What If" situation. What if Journey used a a bunch of synths? The answer to that is, it would be amazing! Dakota are basically the answer. Oberheim style brass patches and a pulsing synth octave bass galore. With some pretty ripping guitar work as well. The result is absolutely gorgeous. Not to mention well mixed too.

That's kind of why it caught so many people off guard. Usually discoveries of this calibre are already well known, but this one, even right down to the album cover, was of the highest quality that just slipped through the cracks of the 80s. Well, let's do our part to make sure it never slips again.

Carl Carlton - Dance With You (1982)

One look at the year should tell you that this is a special track. 1982 completely predates digital synths completely, yet the entire backbone of this insanely infectious track is synth bass mixed fat and prominently. It's also played live, by a real player, which I can not stress enough how much I enjoy.

This is a track that is enjoyable on it's own. I am sure even if there were a real bass player this would still be a banger. But the fact that it has synth bass mixed right along side a real brass section for example, really just takes it over the top for me. That is a reverence and respect for the sound that is completely gone now. a track like this becomes an embodiment of that era. it's essentially still 70s funk mentality and even mixing techniques, just with 80s tech. Synth bass and vocoders? What a wondrous era to have been making music, haha. Those poor recording engineers though. They all had no idea how to record that stuff, which makes every track and every artist just that much more distinct sounding. So much today sounds like it came from the same studio. Same techniques.

With a name like Carl Carlton, you know it's not gunna let you down.

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Ronnie Laws - Big Stars (1983)

Ah hah! I found a way around the fact that this song has embedding disabled. Not sure why they would want to deprive the world of something this good.

Listen, this song has almost been a life changer for me. For as simple a song as this is, I have probably listened to it a hundred times over the last 8 years. This is one of the songs that I always go to when I am trying to reference what synth bass should sound like. It's just a single synth with some chorus on it, and seemingly no volume or filter envelope. I don't have the guts to break out a patch like this that has no envelopes, but I respect the hell out of the way this track did.

It's amazing to me that this was "good enough", and they chose to go with this patch instead of an actual bass player as this is a fairly simple track and a lot of the focus is carried by that synth bass. There had to be a decision somewhere where they heard this sound and were like "Yes, this beats a live bass, hands down". They wanted this sound to mix with the live vocals, sax. That is the kind of thing that makes me wonder, with a smile.

I suppose my smile would be pretty similar to ol' Ronnie Laws album cover here. When it comes to synth bass, you damn well better obey the law!

Stevie Wonder - Dark 'n' Lovely (1987)

There is something amazing about hearing a master at their craft take on synths in the era when synths were brand new. I love that Stevie Wonder totally adopted the synth sound in 1987, and was killing it on the keys the entire time. This is a banger of a track, with so much subtle articulation on that synth bass, among every thing else.

Stevie was nice enough to leave the start of this song untouched with nothing but that synth bass. I think he has a bunch of stuff layered together. If I had to guess, I would say he has an FM bass and an analog synth bass layered, but it might just be a pair of FM basses. at a certain point in the song too, he throws in a Clav for good measure. But the whole time, the dude is just playing his ass off, bass, synths and all.

Paul Hardcastle - King Tut (1985)

Paul Hardcastle is a name you don't hear much these days, especially outside of the UK, Europe and Japan. At one point a track of hit reached number one on the charts there and number 15 in the US. His big appeal was that he was an early adopter of new synth and sampling tech as it was coming out, and his electro vibes were about as fresh sounding as you could get back then.

Obviously, that means there is a wealth of synth bass to be had, and refreshingly this is an instrumental track that just relies on the ultra punchy and melodic vibes with that bass tying it all together.

I am not necessarily a fan of his entirely library, but this track was my initial favourite. I first learned about him by stumbling on to the music video for this track on youtube, which is actually one of my favourite videos on all of youtube. the VHS quality to the look and the sound add so much. So damn much! Rocking that keytar and just jamming, grooving and dancing.

I encourage his dance moves to become your dance moves too.

Rene & Angela - I'll Be Good (1985)

I stumbled across this one a few years ago and immediately noticed how irrationally fat the synth bass was. I mean, before your ears acclimate to it, it's almost so fat it doesn't even make sense. But, as the song goes on, the fatness just keeps pounding you in the chest. This is the literal limit of how fat a synth bass can be before it breaks under it's own weight.

Now, oddly, this video shows Rene and Angela both playing a DX7, which is an FM keyboard. I am really having a hard time believing that this synth bass sound is coming from an FM source, but, perhaps they were doing some gnarly techniques that was uncommon. But when you add a chorus effect to any FM source, you usually get a lovely fat sound. Maybe the secret is using two keyboards at once?

In any case, fatness essentially refers to a level of detune happening, where there are several of the same notes being played, but they are all slightly out of tune with eachother. This causes the overall note you hear to wander and warble around every so slightly, and that is what gives the impression that the sound is much fatter and wider than it would have been if they were all playing an exact pitch.

I don't know if this song holds up on it's own for most people, but for me, I enjoy this song mostly because of this insanely fat synth bass. A double spinning DX7 setup isn't bad either, haha!

Deco featuring Siedah Garrett (Fast Forward Soundtrack) - Curves (1985)

I used to work at a video store during the transition from VHS to DVD, and as a result we had a ton of older movies on VHS that were totally weird. We had a huge display of screens at the back of the store that we could play movies on for the customers to watch. Typically, I used these screen to play movies that no one would want to see, and as a joke I put this movie on one night, but ended up being completely blown away by the soundtrack and this track in particular. This has been on regular rotation ever since.

This is also where I first heard Siedah Garrett. Her performance here is unbelievable and lifetime memorable. I get this song stuck in my head in an instant. So much character, and those lyrics are the best! A good example of a sexual song that isn't embarrassingly racy. The innuendo is on point, like a good Seinfeld joke.

I can't remember every track that has synth bass in it. But I am kind of just going through the archives looking for tracks that do. You have no idea how pleased I am that this one is loaded with some choice synth bass.

What's a synth bass night without a few curves?

Quincy Jones - One Woman Man (1989)

Quincy Jones is a guy who is behind the scenes even more than George Duke and Giorgio Moroder combined. This guy's name is attached to what seems like thousands of projects. I am not even really sure what he does, I just see his name all over the place. I gather that he is a producer, but it struck me as interesting that he had some albums with his own name on them. Upon inspection, I was ultra pleased with this track.

Guest starring vocalist "Siedah Garrett" who has a special place in my heart because of her work on the soundtrack for the 1985 movie called Fast Forward, something I'll share after this :)

Sow hen I saw both of their names come together on this track I had a feeling it was going to be a gem.

One small caveat though. I can't tell if this is FM synth bass, or some other kind of digital synth bass. The Summer of FM is over, and FM bass still has a home here. Especially if I am having a hard time determining which it is. Either way, sit back and have your self a synth bass night.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Val Young - Tellin' Me Lies (1985)

A Rick James joint. I know after that Chappelle Show sketch it is easy to write of Rick James as a kooky guy, but there is no question he was a fantastic musician, music producer and a scout of talent (Val Young for example). When you look at the credits for this album his name is all over the place, including one of several synth players. I like to imagine he is one playing the synth bass on this track.

Straight up detuned chorused saw wave synth bass directly from a synth. The purest form of synth bass there is. No modern tricks or effects or techniques. Just a dude at a keyboard. This is the joy of the early 80s synth music.

Synth bass is a hell of a drug...

George Duke - Secret Rendezvous (1984)

George Duke has an absolutely massive library of music, and guested on so many albums in so many genres. It's kind of weird that I had to stumble on to his stuff by accident, rather than just knowing who he was already like I would someone like Stevie Wonder. He was another guy that was all about the keys and vocals, and the two were very much in the same circles. And both of them were readily willing to adopt synthesizers in to their arsenal.

For whatever reason, George Duke just didn't have the mainstream appeal. But do you know what he did have? A damn fresh talent for synth bass. This is the kind of synth bass that is played live, without midi, and it oozes with flavour. Listen to him play this synth bass in the pocket. That's the kind of thing that would only naturally occur in the transition from the 70s to the 80s and just before the dawn of digital synths. I've said it before, but I will say it again. The year 1984 yields so much interesting character listening to it again now. I'll have much more to say on that soon though.

For now, enjoy!

Monday, 2 January 2017

Deniece Williams - Haunting Me (1984)

Best known for her track Let's Hear it for the Boy off this very album, I decided to get a little deeper with this cut and showcase one of her lesser known tracks. Lesser known, but so much closer to my kind of a track. More melodic.

This track still has that pulsing synth bass layer under it, but also has enough guitars and rock drums to border on being a AOR (album oriented rock). This is the kind of song that would essentially fit perfectly during a montage in a movie. Training montages especially. Just picture the Karate Kid running up and down some stairs or practicing his kicks with flashbacks of Johnny beating him up.

I am a sucker for music like this. It can't be helped.

Patti Austin - Gonna Be Special (1984)

This is one of those albums that really makes you take a step back. That there could be stuff this good and this memorable sounding that I never would have heard unless I went looking, it makes you wonder just how big it all is. This track was produced by Quincy Jones, who is a guy that has touched so many amazing albums and songs. That's a great place to start.

Anyways, this one has been in my playlists for a few years and it one of those tracks that is so good you just never feel the need to skip it. It always gets a full play no matter how many times it randomly finds its way on to my playlists.

Chalk full of raw synth bass, energy, and a powerful vocal track. This is not the last of Patti Austin we'll see on this list.

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Troy Hinton - Where's the Fire (1989)

My wife and I were watching the delightful 80s romp starring Tony Danza called "She's Out of Control" (1989) which had this song featured in it. After the movie was over I had to look in the credits to see just who in the hell made such a fantastic track. Enter Troy Hinton:

A one and done musician who doesn't appear to have done anything else. I can't even really find any information about him or who wrote this song. But what a song!

One thing I notice every time I turn it on is just how damn fast it is. What the hell is the BPM on this track?  It sounds about 10BPM faster than it should be, which is what makes it so awesome! Where else do you get to hear high budget pop music playing this fast? Sounds like the song writer is the one who is out of control. I love when drum fills and synth lines have to audibly speed up just to keep up. It's raw and energetic.

Unique as well would be Troy Hinton's ultra high pitch puberty voice. I also can't really think of too many other artists who have that sound. It's like early Bobby Brown, I guess. But he wasn't belting out tracks this fast. No one was.

Troy Hinton, you are out of control!

Janice Marie Johnson - Who's It Gonna Be (1984)

Time to kick off 2017 with some synth bass!

Fans of the the #SummerOfFM might recognize this track as the Chaka Khan track I posted several months ago. I found it odd that one live track was on her album "Destiny" (1986) with no reference to where it came from and seemingly no studio recording of it. Thankfully last night I randomly stumbled across this track and it all became clear. This was the original version of the track, and it is loaded with some thick oozing synth bass. I mean this thing is completely slathered in detuned saw waves and chorus. The best kind of synth bass!

Plenty more where this came from. Kick off your shoes, turn down the lights and have yourself a #SynthBassNight

For fun, here is the live FM Bass version performed by Chaka Khan.

Welcome to #SynthBassNight

Kick off your shoes, turn down the lights and have yourself a synth bass night.