Bringing ’88 Back: Al B. Sure! – “In Effect Mode”

This was another “lemme go to the Wrecka Stow and see what’s going’s on” type of album release. I had been vibing for a couple of months to the lead single “Nite and Day,” and by this time of the spring that record had made it’s way to #1 (this week in ’88).

Time for the album… I’m checking, what’s the movement here, willing to take a chance on the strength (boyyyyeee) let’s put these coins down on the counter. Done. Head to the parking lot. Shrink wrap you must go. Ignition and cassette into Pioneer Deck. “Nite and Day” with that unmistakable intro, yeah we’ve been cool with that, what’s this next joint with the descending bass line that cycles around? Oooh is right. I’m loving this joint. A Roberta Flack cover? Nice. I’ve been inside that song because I learned to play it on piano from my sister’s left behind sheet music. This is in ’88 terms moving from Fresh to Dope. We’re about to finish the Nite said yes we are, yes we are, yes we are. But there’s more a flip, can side Day be like Nite with no skips in sight.

Do you wanna, wanna we’re hyping up the tempo the rhythmic delivery is a New Jack flow. There’s the instant earworm of “Off On Your Own” which I heard sung by many a bro who generally fashioned a hard exterior. The declaration of “If I’m Not Your Lover” yeah felt that as mad relateable. Closing out the set with “Just A Taste Of Lovin'” we must do this again. How about right now?

Yes, repeat. I’m driving. I’m home let’s listen in a different environment, same feels. Speaking to me, my kind of young R&B with Hip-Hop sensibilities. Not to offend or unnerve anyone, but this was cool kids music no Herbs, that may sound harsh in 2018 but you must realize this is a stream of consciousness from my 1988 self and because we were about six years away from Forrest Gump, I couldn’t invoke the nom de plume Gump because that would anachronistic. So we go with Herb. Nevertheless, any issues please take that up with ’88 me.

Many things have changed for all of us since then but one thing is for sure, if in the spring of ’88 you got In Effect Mode with Al B. Sure! and let Kyle West break it down at the appointed time, I have to believe that some of the spirit of that age is still inside of you.

Ivan Orr is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, performer, and writer. A native of Charlottesville, Virginia Ivan was involved with the forming and nascent days of The Music Resource Center as its first Program Director. A graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Department of Music, Ivan currently resides in Richmond, VA where he maintains an active performance and production schedule while serving as the Music Editor for Grown Folks Music, a position he has held since 2010.

Bringing ’88 Back: “Nite and Day”

Released on this day 30 years ago “Nite and Day” is often what I like to refer to as “Smooth Jack Swing” in a nod to the musical genre grouping that often follows the early work of Al B. Sure! and his musical partner Kyle West. I make the slight distinction between New Jack and this smoother cousin because of one of the elements that is immediately apparent upon first listening to this song – the harmony.

Now if I were to transport back to my, (ahem) younger self, I know that I probably was not thinking in terms of the advanced harmonic content of “Nite and Day”. I heard it but just didn’t have the knowledge then to articulate what I was hearing in that particular analytical manner. Also, I knew immediately from that first kick drum hit and that haunting synth melody in the intro that I had not heard anything quite like this before. You see when the beat kicked in it felt like a Hip-Hop song, nice punchy drums with underlying boom, but then the aforementioned melody and a bassline that literally is a melody of its own so much so that I think it would be very easy for most fans of the song to sing the bassline as well as the actual song.

Once things get cooking in “Nite and Day” we are treated to the keyboard chop(the chords played in a rhythmic versus sustained manner)that really gives the song its drive. Now I must pause here because I must point out that this was an interesting era in music because I feel like there was a pretty decent balance between music and technology. Now I could be waxing nostalgic so you can certainly take all of this with a grain of salt. But the balance I speak of is at that time it felt like with new releases you would hear new sounds and those sounds could often be attributed to an artist and their team. How that plays into the concept of balance is that you were not inundated with the same sound over and over and over. Yes, there were exceptions like when everyone wanted to do a remix and use the drums from Soul II Soul’s “Keep On Movin” but in 1988 when “Nite and Day” dropped all of those sounds just sounded so fresh to the ears and became part of what you associated with the Al B. Sure! sound.

You know what else was fresh? I thought it was fresh to have an artist come out that was relatable through dressing and presenting an image that other young aspiring smooth cats could relate to. Now was I in that group of aspiring young smooth cats? I dunno, you’d probably have to ask someone who was around during that time who could be objectively honest. What I can say though is looking back ’88 was an incredibly great time to be part of the wave of music like “Nite and Day”, films like “School Daze” the rise of Jordan as the soon to be GOAT and on and on. We would have to wait another nine months or so for “A Different World” to stop being corny but I digress…

Listen, today is a day of celebration! We’re celebrating 30 years of “Nite and Day” which is still one of my favorites and certainly a landmark in music. Today is also “National Margarita Day” for all you imbibers of spirits out there. Here’s a thought… why not combine the two this evening? A little-frozen(not grande lol) lime margarita and salt or whatever your favorite flavor is and press play on “Nite and Day”. You may have to repeat the process a few times to get the vibe you know? Just make sure you drink and listen responsibly!

P.S. We will definitely be opening the microphones to do an Inside The Album Podcast on In Effect Mode with the GFM Crew this Spring!

Ivan Orr is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, performer, and writer. A native of Charlottesville, Virginia Ivan was involved with the forming and nascent days of The Music Resource Center as its first Program Director. A graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Department of Music, Ivan currently resides in Richmond, VA where he maintains an active performance and production schedule while serving as the Music Editor for Grown Folks Music, a position he has held since 2010.

Inside The Album Podcast – Al B. Sure “Sexy Versus” Pt. 1 of 2

GFM’s DJKKC and The Love Man go in-depth in part one of their two part discussion of Sexy Versus the third studio release from Al B. Sure! In this episode Al’s production work with the likes of Jodeci, Tevin Campbell as well as his own projects leading up to the release of “Sexy Versus”. We are releasing this podcast today in honor of the lead single “Right Now” being the #1 R&B single on October 31, 1992!

1992 was an interesting year on the R&B singles chart as it was the last year of the decade that had what I refer to as real diversity in the number of different artists to reach number one. In 1992 there were 28 different artists that hit #1. The following year in 1993 there were 13. This is a trend that would continue throughout the decade and at points would even reach the single digit artist representation numbers that we see on the charts today. I wanted to make a point of this trend because what I believe it shows is that the more homogeneous music becomes through very tight playlisting ultimately the music and folks who love music suffer. Why? Because everyone wants to be number one and if people are lead to believe that there’s only one sound that can get you there what do you think the end result will be? That’s right, a lot of folks emulating what they think the people want to hear.

Sexy Versus and “Right Now” do not occupy that space. This is an album and a recording where Al B. Sure! was concerned with what he had to say as opposed to what people were telling him that people needed to hear. Fortunately for all of us, Al was right.

Ivan Orr is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, performer, and writer. A native of Charlottesville, Virginia Ivan was involved with the forming and nascent days of The Music Resource Center as its first Program Director. A graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Department of Music, Ivan currently resides in Richmond, VA where he maintains an active performance and production schedule while serving as the Music Editor for Grown Folks Music, a position he has held since 2010.

We Will Return After These Messages

Bugs-Bunny-Road-Runner-Hour

Boogie Fever

We’re a long way from the Fall of 1979 or are we? First let me admit straight out of the gate that I spent (like most kids of that era) a lot of time with these Warner Bros. Cartoons. Admittedly though if it wasn’t Bugs, Daffy or Foghorn Leghorn I didn’t mess with it too much especially the silent Road Runner. Now when Wile E. Coyote “Supergenius” spoke I was all ears. So what’s the message here?

Rerun Stubbs

I don’t really have an answer. What I do know is the old adage about change being the only constant is incredibly true. Rarely did a day go by(save Sunday)that I did not watch one of these cartoons and ingest its messages and the messages of the sponsors of the program from age 4 or 5 until early adolescence. That’s a lot of hours. That’s a lot of messages ingested. Both from the worldview of Bugs Bunny and the worldview of Mattel, Kenner, Playskool, General Mills, Kellogg’s, Lego, Marx and on and on and on.

You Can’t Be Serious

I’m not posting the below episode(which was as a child one of my favorites)out of ignorance. I’ve studied this episode and numerous problematic episodes across a wide swath of cartoon series. The bottom line as a child in the 1970’s you were going to ingest some very racially insensitive messages from cartoons produced from the 1930’s through the 1960’s (in all reality the 70’s weren’t that much better). But I wouldn’t even begin to sit here and act like I didn’t laugh then or now at the entire interaction between Yosemite Sam and “Abraham Lincoln”. Now the older me may pause and wince at some of the dialogue between Yosemite Sam and “One Of Our Boys” but I’d be a lie and the truth would not be in me if I didn’t confess to being a kid and being outside and reenacting the dialogue in this episode and plenty of other questionable dialogue.

Even though I have a problem with so many fashioning themselves to be Social Scientists on Social Media espousing what many take to be fact without figure(data)the first, I get it. It’s emotional. Just like the nostalgia of 1979 and Saturday Morning/after school watching Bugs Bunny on WDCA 20 is emotional to me. It’s a romantic comfortable place. It’s comforting and romantic when someone confirms a bias that you hold. And that my friends is the message(confirmation bias) that we probably didn’t need to return to but unfortunately it’s here and on full display. As ridiculous as Yosemite Sam’s character is, many can’t see that their logic for lambaste of others is on par with “I’ve got to burn my boots they catched Yankee soil!” On with the show this is it!

Ivan Orr is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, performer, and writer. A native of Charlottesville, Virginia Ivan was involved with the forming and nascent days of The Music Resource Center as its first Program Director. A graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Department of Music, Ivan currently resides in Richmond, VA where he maintains an active performance and production schedule while serving as the Music Editor for Grown Folks Music, a position he has held since 2010.