Wednesday, February 20, 2008

What's Going On

David Fincher’s latest movie, Zodiac is a thoroughly engaging thriller about a serial killer in the city of San Francisco during the 60’s, and 70’s. Adding the right flavour to the mood of the times, the movie is full of some great music from the shifting decades. The likes of Santana, Donovan, Miles Davis, Gerry Rafferty, Steely Dan etc are beautifully placed throughout the movie.

The usage of Marvin Gaye’s ‘Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler) from the absolutely incredible 1971 album, ‘What’s Going On’ made me want to mention a few things about the song and the album. Why? Because it’s been inside my CD player for a couple of months now and many of my mornings begin with it and the last track (Inner City...) of the album sees me walk outside the door.

Ranked number 6th on the all time greatest albums by the Rolling Stone this creation is as relevant today as it was in 1971. With introspective lyrics on poverty, drug abuse, Vietnam war, ecological problems etc this one set a new trend in the genre of ‘Soul’. Nine tracks, one leading up to another in a song cycle manner as it ends on a reprise to the album’s opening theme. One of the best opening themes, ever!

A simple, subdued tone is held throughout, pillowed by a densely-textured instrumental and vocal backing. At first this sameness in sound persisting from one song to the next is boring, but gradually the concept of the album takes shape and its wholeness becomes very affecting.

The style is set in the first cut, "What's Going On," with its sweet horn opening theme; Gaye's soft, simmering voice reflecting in on itself beautifully from two or three tracks; the contrast of congas and strings; breaks an exciting jumble of street-corner jive and scatting.

Now about the last track...Inner City Blues. For me, it’s the finest cut. Beginning with the Bongo beats and Gayes soft Dah Dah Dah, the song sets in the mellow funk mood which always gets me moving! Lyrically, it talks about the difficult life in the ghettos of inner-city America (and that’s why it will ‘make you wanna holler’). The contrast of difficult times with the funky beat makes this one memorable, forever, reminding me of the usage of ‘Layla’ solo in Goodfellas. Taking the album full circle, the track beautifully blends into the opening theme of the first track, ‘Whats Going On’.

Pick up this one and then give it some time inside your music system to know why it’s such a landmark album. Trust me, you will get addicted to it. Below is an excerpt from the RS write up.

Producing the album amid a haze of marijuana smoke, Gaye made one intuitively brilliant decision after another -- from letting the tapes roll as his friends mingled and chatted to recording the rehearsal exercises of saxophonist Eli Fountain. When Fountain complained that he had just been goofing around, Gaye replied, "Well, you goof exquisitely. Thank you." And that's how the plaintive saxophone line that announces What's Going On came to be.

10 comments:

Raj Dutta said...

first time suna, aaraam mila.
kuchh aur aise 5-6 morning albums bataa. subah ka stock khaali ho raha hai.

mr bojangles said...

landmark album.. I must listen too!
next time

meraj said...

raj,
some of my favorite morning ones are:
- the white album: the beatles (though both the cds become too long for one morning...youve gotto split it)

- tupelo honey/greatest hits 1 & 2: van morrison

- kill to get crimson: mark knopfler (latest addition)

- sticky fingers: rolling stones

- ziggy stardust: david bowie

- highway 61 revisited/blonde on blonde: dylanman

- american beauty: greateful dead

- meddle: good ol' floyd

- andaz & baiju bawra(old hindi movies) - great score by late naushad

- madhumati: salilda

- greatest hits: op nayyar

- canon in d major: pachelbel

- gymnopaedie 1, 2 and 3: satie

- clair de lune: debussy

- great waltzes: johann strauss

- air on g-string: bach

- morning ragas: pt bhimsen joshi/fayyaz khan saaheb, amir khan

cheers!

Bhaskar Khaund said...

yeah , its a classic - one i haven't heard yet - must check it out - keep the list going pls !
on another note , so help me god and kill me meraj , CITY of San Francisco or STATE of California is what you mean...;-)

meraj said...

yeah...it should be CITY. later, i remembered making that mistake and had all the intentions of correcting it till i forgot about it completely. will amke the change immediately. thanks again!

Naked Cricket said...

m- know you're not into symbol(s), but Prince?

Smiling Dolphin said...

please could you audio blog? please.

phish said...

watched the film sometime back. want to watch it again because of what you wrote. preferably with a wider ear.

the suggestions, as always are brilliant.

meraj said...

dolphin,
am trying to figure out something in that direction

phish,

i missed out on rehman and illaya's Tamil numbers in the list.

reptile said...

If you liked Zodiac, think you'd like these as well;

Lock, stock & two smoking barrels: assorted eclectic
About a Boy: Badly Drawn Boy
Into the Wild: Eddie Vedder
Vanilla Sky: Assorted
Midnight Cowboy: Assorted
Collateral: Assorted
High Fidelity (who can resist this classic): Assorted
..And of course, Steve Zisou & The Life Acquatic: Seu Jorge

Enjoy!