Professional Sound - Indepth

The Battle Of The Knob Twiddlers: Perfectionism vs. Soulful Music, Part 1 By Dave Clark

Soul-stirring lyrics, catchy melodies, sensual grooves, unforgettable riffs, and the transference of unbridled energy from artists at their best makes the music that you and I love.

What a joy it is to listen to music and get uplifted and swept away by the hypnotic waves emanating from the souls of the musicians who so dearly wanted to record where they were at in their time in history. So many of these courageous artists recorded with a sense of immediacy, confidence, and strength based on heartfelt stories and truckloads of hard work.

This is as true now as it was when music was first scratched onto wax cylinders. Listen to the Louis Armstrong Hot Five recordings and he sounds like he invented the trumpet and time traveled back from the future just to let folks know what could be done with the thing.

Still, there is plenty of latitude in the grooves and attitude of those tracks. You can put on a Duke Ellington record and feel the sway of the band as the solo melodies shift and push the boundaries of tempo and chordal colouration. You can feel the excitement as James Brown and his band lay down stone cold soul. They push the tempo; James eggs the band on and shouts out cues. You can feel those tracks scintillating. You can hear how the Beatles are so young and excited on their early recordings as George drops a note out of a riff or John’s voice cracks. Johnny Cash sounds dangerous and ready to fray at the edges on his early tunes, even though Nashville producers tried to rein him in. You can hear Stevie Wonder moving the groove around and playing with time as if it were a toy on his classic solo discs. We hear Neil Young and know he doesn’t worry about the sweet notes as it were because he was shooting for soul.

The Likes of Jack White, The Dap Kings, The Black Keys, and The Foo Fighters follow along with a similar ethos. And so it goes and goes on your most cherished recordings and on mine. You hear it from those big hit makers and from your friends’ indie bands. Hopefully you hear it on your own recordings. What I’m referring to here is humanity, honesty, and the courage to bear your soul without fear.

Dave Clark is a musician, recordist and educator who lives in Toronto. His latest work has been with Gord Downie and the Country of Miracles and with his own band the Woodshed Orchestra. Dave toils away in Bon’s Cave making musical cookies for all the folks to eat.

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About Andrew King
Andrew King is the Editor-in-Chief at Professional Sound. He is also a co-host of Canadian Musician Radio and NWC Webinars’ series of free music and entertainment industry webinars.
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