Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Jack Nitzsche - Here Come the Helicopters (Starman Soundtrack)(1984)

It's been a wild summer, but is time to start wrapping up the semi-daily updates to the #SummerOfFM. There are still many more FM tracks waiting to be added to this list, and I will continue to post them as I find them, but the bulk of the posting, and the nightly research sessions to find the perfect track will have to take a back seat to some other things now as this summer comes to a close.

So what better time to post a fairly ambient cinematic track from 1984 to really showcase some of the grit of the Synclavier brand of FM. It's been a while since I have seen Starman, and I certain don't remember it being this synthy of a score. Checking it out again now makes me infinitely more interested in re-watching the movie. There is something very enticing about this much synth and the fairly drab 80s trucker mountain road setting of the movie.

As for the track itself, you have to love that grimy pulsating FM staccato drone that keeps coming in and out. It's so perfectly Synclavier sounding.

I've got at least one other definitely track I want to share before I let the #SummerOfFM take a vacation. But I gotta say thanks to everyone who's shared in the fun by checking these tracks out over the summer.

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Kodomo Band - Heart of Madness (Fist of the North Star Soundtrack) (1986)

This is actually one of the few anime's I saw back in the day. Back when blockbuster would have an entire Anime section of VHS tapes. This was one of my absolutely favourites because of how unbelievably violent and well animated it was. Because it was a condensed version of the first 24 episodes of the TV series "Hokuto No Ken" (which is even more amazing then the movie), the story never really made much sense to me as a kid. But what did make sense was this song.

It plays right during a montage, where the hero, Kenshiro is stoically on his way to fight the main villain, Raoh. It always serves to get me just a little bit hyped up, so I have had it on my pre-tournament sports playlists for a few years now. It never disappoints.

I must admit, I am not 100% sure this is FM bass. If it isn't I am not sure what it actually is. It's not even particularly good FM bass either way. But this track is a gem, and one that is getting shared right now!

You are already FM Bassed! Omae wa mō shindeiru

Amy Grant - Stepping in Your Shoes (1985)


This track has everything you want in a dark horse 80s mega hit. Fantastic lead vocals, killer hooks, synth, and of course some FM BAAAAAAAASS! They seem to be layering the FM Bass with a real bass here, which seems like the take away secret move from the 80s. Where you don't just have the FM Bass or the real bass on their own, but you layer them together by carefully slotting the EQ and then sending them to a dedicated compressor buss. I am only using my ears to determine this, but when you have spent an entire summer analyzing whether a bass is FM or not, you kind of get an ear for it. I hear real bass articulation, but I also hear FM bass style sploinks and that warm metallic flavour (wouldn't be 80s otherwise.)

This is a really understated track, but there is nothing at all stopping it from becoming a regular track in your rotation. Do your self a favour and just hit play! Do it! Do it now!

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Baltimora - Tarzan Boy (1985)

This is just one of those songs that you hear so much you never think much about it. This chorus is in trailers, commercials, radio tracks. It's everywhere. But you know what know one ever mentions? How the bass for the whole thing is actually FM Bass.

FM Bass was the workhorse sound of the 80s (circa 1985-87 especially).

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Newcleus - Cyborg Dance (1985)

Had this one stored away for just being a rad track for quite a while. Going back through my archives from 1985 I ran across this track and was like, "HOLY MOLY FM BASS MOTHER LOAD!" And so here we are.

These FM bass sounds in particular sound like they came off the Genesis. Which was still several years away. I think these are some early examples of some of the "other" types of bass sounds FM could make. a little grittier and more metallic in nature.

I really like the flamenco licks in here as well, and they were not bashful with the vocoder effect. They went vocoder crazy, and I thank them for it!

This is straight up freestyle, so feel free to pop and lock while you listen to this track. Maybe I'll get my chance to dance!

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Joseph Williams - Never be the Same (198X)

Good luck picking just one amazing song off this album. Another unreleased song by this juggernaut. Since I am behind on posting, here is a lightning fast double shot of Joseph Williams! This one has a ton of FM Bass, keys, guitar solos and energy! Go go go!

Joseph Williams - Running on a Deadline (198X)

Son of famous film composer John Williams, Joseph Williams was the former singer of the band Toto. This song is actually off an album called "Early Years" which was released in 1999 but is made up entirely of unreleased singles he made during the 80s.

Joseph Williams is a fantastic vocalist that at times reminds me of Michael Jackson, but also John Farnham. His range is pretty unique, and his performance is always great!

This track also happens to have a butt load of FM bass, so it's pretty much win win from start to finish! Enjoy!

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Desireless - Voyage Voyage (1986)

I finally have a reason to share this song, and I can finally post a track that isn't in English. I am actually a dramatic sucker for songs that aren't in the English language. Mostly because I rarely if ever pay attention to lyrics or lyrical content. I seem to always be focused on tonality of the voice and the melodies sung. I have to purposely remember to listen to lyrics if I ever want to hear what the song is about. So, fortunately, with songs that aren't in English, I get to fill in all the blanks myself and just enjoy the track as a piece of sonic art on it's own. You learn to appreciate the nuances of other languages as well. It's a nice change of pace.

This song is in French, but please don't let the lack of English sway you from getting down with this delightfully synthy and crunchy FM track. Seriously, FM Bass and synth abound!

The singer, Claudie Fritsch-Mentrop, should also be noted here. Aside from the pretty stellar vocal performance, she was sort of ahead of the curve in terms of fashion and defying the social norms of the era. She was apparently part of the fashion industry before getting involved in music. I guess some of that fashion world boldness carried over. Because she was clearly not attempting to appeal to the typical look of an 80s pop starlet. In fact, she seemed to actively subvert the concept of sex appeal. With that name "Desireless" she seems to boldly say "sex appeal shmexappeal". I can respect that. I have been pretty bored with lazy attempts at sex appeal in pop culture. I am not sure if that was her intent, but since it isn't in English, I can pretend it was and no one can stop me!


Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Sharon O'Neill - In Control (1987)

This song sounds part Never Ending Story theme song, and part Raccoons theme song. But sadly, not quite as good as either. Still, here's a tasty dosage of FM presets to get you through the day!

Monday, 22 August 2016

Mariah Carey - Prisoner (1990)

Forget the name of the artist for a second and just let this bass track wash over you. No one is more surprised than I, but this track is from 1990, which was a different era entirely. I am unsure whether this is FM bass or not. it sounds like it, but it is also pretty late in the cycle of synths for it to be a DX-7. Whether it is FM or not, it is clearly FM-like, so let's just assume it is for the sake of sharing a hell of a track.

I discovered over the last few years that a lot of the artists I grew up hating and being annoyed with in the late 90s and early 2000s actually had some good tunes if you go far enough back. I don't know what the deal was, but I suspect that the instruments themselves had a large part in why the songs were more enjoyable to me during a certain era.

Think about it like this, with more advancements in the synths, and the production methods there were essentially shortcuts that could be created and utilized by all artists. Where as you used to have to rig up a daisy chain of synths and gear to achieve a sound, now you can metaphorically just push a button. Now, I am not going to sit here and say that this is *not* the greatest thing that has ever happened for musicians. I benefit from this single button future state daily. However, I have also spent a large part of my adult life embroiled in learning about the limitations of the past, and trying to put myself in the mind of the composers who had to work within them.

I don't just like the sounds (which are immensely nostalgic) I think the limitations actually affected what they would write. I feel like melodies were heavily emphasized during this period. Mostly to fill out the voided empty space of using the newly created digital sounds that had no physical sound of their own. Digital gear can be pushed further with effects like reverb, but I know from personal experience how much this voided space is easy to fill with more notes instead! That's kind of like, my thing.

Of course, this didn't stop a lot of artists from writing the slowest ballads ever during this time. The very next track on this very album is an example of that. But what I am finding, even for artists I have historically been annoyed with, is that on nearly every album there will be one or two tracks where a studio musician is hired who is deranged for more notes! And those tracks stand out so quickly, and typically become my favourite songs by the artist.

This track is the single instant classic off this album for me, and one that nearly blew me away! After a little research, I found out the programmer of the bass and co arranger of the track was named "Rich Tancredi". I suspect a further investigation on other albums he guested on will result in more fruit to bare.

Welcome to the rabbit hole of my life.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

E.G. Daily - Is Anybody Home? (1985)

Here's an ultra obscure treat. E.G Daily is not just the singer and song writer for this track. E.G Daily is actually a fairly under the radar actress and a very prominent voice actor. Most notably, she was Pee-wee's love interest Dot in Pee-wee's Big Adventure, and she was also a co star in the movie Valley Girls. More recently-ish, she also played the role of Phoebe's ex-parter in music for an episode of Friends.

However she will most notably be recognized as the voice of Tommy from the Rugrats cartoon, which is her same voice for nearly all of her voice over work in other cartoons. Coincidentally, her "Tommy" voice is exactly the same as her sultry and sassy 80s singing voice here. Who knew that voice could be sexy? Keep in mind, this was a decade before Rugrats. It was sexy before it was the voice of a bald baby.

Anyway, aside from this being a fantastic track and immensely unique and impressive vocal performance, there is a classy bed of very warm FM bass keeping things relevant. I am not going to sit here and say this is the best FM I have ever heard in a track, but I think the unique circumstances of who E.G. Daily is make this track more than worthy of being posted here. Enjoy!

Fun Fact: Harold Faltermeyer co-wrote this song, and performed all the keys. He also wrote the Axel F theme song, and the Top Gun Anthem. Dude's got skills.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Animotion - Stranded (1986)

Yes! This is what we are here for. This unashamed ultra usage of FM sounds. This intro is nothing but the most metallic sounding FM sound and it gets me so pumped up! That marching sports anthem drum beat only adds to the triumphant sound.

This is FM!

Monday, 15 August 2016

Melba Moore - Trip Me Up (1986)

Straight up Sega Genesis style FM Bass. Aside from the vocals, this entire track feels like it fell of a pretty good Genesis soundtrack. And that ain't bad. This is the only track on the album that features FM, but man, is it a banger!

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Atlantic Starr - Silver Shadow (1985)

Another new band to me. My journey during the Summer of FM has led me down some very bizarre rabbit holes. But the rewards are usually worth it. If a band was around before and after the 80s, chances are their 1985-1987 albums will have at least a couple tracks in them that are loaded with FM. It's almost as if it were mandated.

This is a pretty fantastic album overall, and yes, it only had two or so tracks that used FM. This track being the better of the two. This bass line lays down the smooth funk vibes, and that chorus delivers! This is the kind of bass riff that you want to learn on the keyboard so you can bust it out when you are surfing new presets.

For funsies: The bridge after the half way mark basically used the Sonic the Hedgehog FM "ring" sound. Brilliant :)

Welcome to the regular rotation, Silver Shadow!

Friday, 12 August 2016

Mr. Mister - Broken Wings (1985)

Mr. Mister - Welcome to the Real World (1985) is one of my top ten albums of all time. Every track on this album is a start to finish banger, and this track which they may be most well known for is actually one of my least favourite tracks on the album. But, it is also the track with the most FM bass, so it has to get a share. Because even my least favourite track off the album is a clear and true destroyer  in it's own right. This song, for me, defined the 80s sound. I swear all of my foggy memories of the 80s seem to have this song playing softly in the background. (This, and Chris de Burgh - Lady in Red...).

Honestly, this is a desert island kind of album. One thing to note in this song, and the rest off the album, is how much variety there is with each repetition of a verse or a chorus. Drum fills, synth fills, vocal hooks and one off unique synth and guitar stabs. The thing that makes this album so fun to listen to is that it is not a copy and paste kind of thing. It's pretty organic, even for how much synth was used. These guys are fantastic song writers, and this album was their finest outing.

On a side note: Singer Richard Page is one of my all time favourite vocalists. This track does not necessarily showcase all of why that claim. But him, and fellow Mr. Mister keyboardist Steve George have been putting amazing tracks together since 1978 when they were in a band called "Pages". pages put out 3 albums that really opened my eyes to just how good Richard Page is. Check out the track "Pages - Midnight Angel" for some real chills, and more of that patented Mr. Mister organic song writing. Midnight angel, sweet angel...

As for this track, and the FM. This is a straight up Yamaha DX-7 FM Bass preset. This is the sound of the 80s.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Peter Cetera - Big Mistake (1986)

Believe it or not, this is the very first time I have heard Cetera's solo albums in it's entirety. Of course, I started with his album "Solitude / Solitaire" from 1986 to see if there was any FM being used, and oh my, yes. There was.

Side note: The thing I notice with FM is that it was kind of a cheap solution for artists. Not cheap as in they phoned it in, but cheap as in, they could get a decent studio sound for less money, and it inspired a lot of people to fill out their albums, or even fill up a solo album so much easier then they had to before. I think it also allowed for some new names to enter the studio musician scenes, and it gave more vocalists a shot at putting music out there.

As for this song, I think they doubled up on the bass with a typical crunchy FM bass and a low register clavier layered over top of it for yet even more fiddly metallic sounds. There's also an assortment of FM plinks and twangs filtering in and out during the track. And man alive is this track high energy!

And we get that ultra distinct Peter Cetera vocal track really making this track something special. No one can tickle that high register like he can. I suspect his tracks are hard as hell at Karaoke, haha.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Jaki Graham - Set Me Free (1986)

I wasn't sold on posting this track until I heard the chorus. To my surprise it is full of what i would call 'fusion chord progressions'. That is to say, they sound like they belong in fusion jazz. It's hard to explain what fusion jazz is, but you know it once you hear it.

Outside of that, this song has an ultra fiddly FM bass that is plugging away from the moment the song starts, and Jaki Graham is killing it on the vocals. A bouncy energetic and direct track with some welcomed fusion touches.

James Ingram - Lately (1986)

Just randomly stumbled on to this album a few weeks ago. It's a pretty subtle track that doesn't necessarily have a huge impact. But it does have a pretty ripping FM bass, and some very killer FM keys. If you dig FM, you'll dig this.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Kenny Loggins - No Looking Back (1985)

The beard is back! Dipping back in to the Loggins discography for some more FM.

This song is practically bursting at the seams with early FM presets. For all I know, these are stock DX-7 presets. Putting them all to incredible use here, with a tantalizing layer of guitar work and really slick vocals. Kenny Loggins had a pretty unique style for his little vocals fills. he had himself a pretty distinct sound, even among a sea of lesser bearded 80s casual rockers.

This is just a feel good track all around. Perfect for the Summer of FM!

Monday, 8 August 2016

Hubert Kah - Get Strange (1986)

This is no where near the best song by Hubert Kah, and no where near the best song on the rad soundtrack. But I can't deny how solid the FM bass is. Since the best tracks from Hubert Kay are stricken from youtube under the fairly strict German laws, I had to settle for this one, which was released by western publishers. This bass is thick and velvety, while also being exceptionally metallic. You can practically taste the metal, but then why is it so sweet tasting???

I'm going to be a little bugger here and share my favourite track of theirs, both the English and German versions. The English version has FM bass, where as the German version was recorded 2 years earlier and has analog bass, but FM bamboo hits and bells. Truth be told, I prefer the German version, but the English one is great too. Why would Germany deny us in the west this amazing track?

Grab them here

I'd also be out of my mind to not mention that the 1986 movie "Rad" is the reason I like 80s stuff today at all. There was a time in the 90s when it simply wasn't cool to like 80s stuff. FM synth including. If it weren't for the track "John Farnham - Break the Ice" off this soundtrack (posted earlier in the Summer of FM), I may have ignorantly denied myself the glorious spoils of the 80s. I tip my hat to thee, Rad.

"Just get strange" are not only lyrics. They are a philosophy.

Madonna - Live to Tell (1986)

This opening riff pretty much encapsulates everything I wish I was doing with music. Way over the top serious sounding, but with way over the top old school sounds and sensibilities.

This is a pretty slow track, and probably one of Madonna's least interesting vocal performances. I don't really think she is suited for dramatic ballads like this. Fortunately the instrumental sections carry this track to the moon and back. This opening riff crushes me every time it comes back during the course of the song. it always just hits so damn hard.

FM Bass and Keys making magic happen, as usual.

Saturday, 6 August 2016

Tahiti - Mr. Sandman (The Real Ghostbusters Cartoon)(1986)

This is a real thing that actually happened. Some of you may have forgotten, or not realized, that The Real Ghostbusters cartoon often had synth pop\freestyle tracks that would play during random montages of the show. These songs were recorded by a group that may have been put together specifically for the show, called Tahiti. One of the singers, Tyren Perry, went on to record another pretty rad album in 1989 called "Don't Rush It" which just might see some wall time on this blog in the future.

Fortunately for us, Tahiti is pretty laced with FM bass and keys. I would strongly recommend following the suggested videos from this track to check out the other tracks on the album. It's a peach! And a lot of the songs are insanely nostalgic. Check out "Midnight Action" in particular. It doesn't have FM, but it is the new ultimate Halloween jam!

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Howard Hewett - Love Don't Wanna Wait (1986)

This is a really common chord progression, but it seems to be the one I gravitate toward the most. If you have this chord progression in your song, I will probably like it, a lot. It may be no coincidence that this chord progression usually results in more energetic songs, or, songs of this type of energy. Like, lone wolf, bad ass kind of energy. The NES, as it turned out, used this type of progression a lot. Contra, Double Dragon, Ninja Gaiden, Shatterhand and the list goes oooooooon.

It's simple in this case, but it is no less effective. All you need to do is have this two chord progression and the bad ass melodies and harmonies will fly. It always helps when there is a layered FM bass making this chord progression happen though. In the 80s, you could always count on that!

Alan Silvestri - The Delta Force (Delta Force Soundtrack) (1986)

Alan Silvestri is one of my all time favourite film composers. For reference, he did the Back to the Future and Predator score. What I like about his song writing is that it is razor sharp, and not afraid to write in extremes. He is one of the few film composers that will go somewhat dark with his melodies, even if it is a family movie. There are moments of Back to the Future 2 that fall right off of death metal albums (in chord progression only). Chord progressions that I find myself using when I want to sound exceptionally dark.

Even though he was an orchestral composer, isn't it amusing that he also found the time to incorporate some Synclavier style FM in to his scores? This track echoes much of the goodness that was heard earlier in the Summer of FM with the Robot Romp track from Flight of the Navigator. he pretty much uses all of the same instruments here, with all the same over the top goofiness.

When those horns come in, this track goes to the moon. Alan Silvestri: a man of extremes.

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Regina - Baby Love (1986)

Stephen Bray, one of the main producers performers and songwriters for Madonna back in the 80s, also had a hand in creating the one off album by the artist Regina. You can clearly hear the similarities, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. I don't think Regina was ever meant to be as big as Madonna so they were allowed to go in a bit of a different direction. Mainly: More energy!

This is a super energetic track with a steady pace and a lot of fiddly little bits here and there. The vocals sound almost identical to Madonnas, but without all the kind of goofy operatic bits she would dip in to, or the genre bending Madonna would do, which usually ended up being my least favourite stuff of hers.

No, this is, instead, pure, unbridled 80s synth pop. And as such, it comes with a heaping dose of FM slap bass! Though, I am torn. I can't tell if this is actually a slap bass patch from the DX-7, or if it is a sample of slap bass (possibly from a DX-7) that is coming from one of the more high tech 80s sampler synths the Emulator II. It's really hard to tell, and my ears are only so good at picking out FM sounds. at the very least, this sounds a lot like FM, and that is good enough for me.

For all I know, the Slap Bass patches on the Emulator II were sampled from a DX-7 anyway. Who knows. It was the wild west of digital sounds back then.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Chicago - Only You (1984)

You know what makes Chicago amazing, other than the obvious incredible discography? FM was a brand new digital technology for consumers at this time, and they decided to use it prominently in this track with a full spectrum of live instruments as well, including a full brass section, and multiple singers. It turns out so well when it is in the hands of some song writing masters, and some incredible performers.

I find it amazing that they didn't miss a beat with this tech, and just belted out a killer track as if it was nothing, when, in fact, it was sounds that were relatively brand new to everyone.

Related story: back in 2000, I once bought the album this song is off of "Chicago - Chicago XVII (1984)" and a death metal album "Exhumed - Slaughtercult (2000)" at the exact same trip to the record store. I still find that funny, but I stand by it.

Monday, 1 August 2016

Jane Child - I've Got News For You (1989)

Not just a one hit wonder. That huge sound that was so good in "Don't Wanna Fall In Love" is back, and just as huge.

To be honest, I can't tell exactly what instruments are being heard in this bass. It sounds like there are 2 or even 3 different bass synths playing at once. My ears wanna say that FM is in there somewhere, but it might also be sampling. I still think there is FM in here, even if it is a sample of FM.

Regardless, this sound will delight anyone who has been enjoying the Summer of FM. I really wish I could see how they made this sound. It is irrationally huge! Another solid vocal performance too. Jane Child doesn't get enough respect!

Friday, 29 July 2016

Princess - After The Love Has Gone (1986)

If Princess is going to have more videos, I am going to have to share them! This is another pretty subtle track, but it does have a number of influences. I get a distinct Billy Ocean vibe from some of the vocal hooks in this track. Which is, by all means, a fantastic thing. But I also get shades of Burning in the Third Degree, the song that was playing in the Tech Noir club in the first Terminator film.

A very cool combination that goes down smooth. FM bass and keys within.

Princess - I'll Keep on Loving You (1986)

This is a pretty subtle and unassuming track, with subtle melodic hooks and subtle use of FM bass. This chorus is really mellow, but it keeps getting stuck in my head.


John Parr - St. Elmo's Fire (Man In Motion) (1984)

I never listened to the radio as a kid (or an adult), so a lot of the recognizable hits for me come from their use in TV and movies. This song, I first heard in the episode of the Simpsons where Homer and Lisa are in the car and Homer is listening to a right wing radio station and Lisa can't stand it. Homer says something along the lines of, "When you're driving, we'll listen to your radio station."

Cut to Lisa driving the car and homer looking concerned. But not because Lisa can't even see over the wheel. Because on her radio station, this song is playing. To which he blurts out, "I can't take this anymore, let's switch back!" Pure gold, Simpsons!

In any case, that led me to check the song out many years ago, and I have always really liked it, even if it drove Homer crazy. One of the reasons which, is because that bass line is pure FM! A fairly early example of an FM bass line, too, being from 1984. And let's hear it for those breathy, darn near screaming vocals.

I can't help but listen to this song and smile, party thanks to Simpsons, partly due to the bass and vocals.

Thursday, 28 July 2016

O'Chi Brown - Caught You in a Lie (1986)

It's getting hard to find FM tracks off the top of my head, so I am finding myself randomly searching for stuff. Having FM is one criteria, but it also has to be a great track worth sharing. I was fortunate to just stumble on to this track minutes ago.

You can just tell when you hear it. that certain quality that tells you a track is going ot be melodic, energetic, and yes, full of FM.

In this case, this track has a pretty meaty FM bass line, and the player is not afraid to rock the modwheel for a little groovy vibrato. Man, I am a sucker for funky bassline vibrato.

This is a standard track that goes down smooth without a fuss. Worthy of sharing.

Aina - Target Practice (1985)

Ultra Obscure Norwegian FM Bass from 1985. I have no idea why this album didn't become more well known. Aina has the look and the sound that would absolutely have been a smash hit in the West. And maybe it was, but I was too young to remember...

Tons of energy, great vocals, and just enough FM bass to satisfy my dark desire. For Pete's sake, someone check this track out so I am not the only one rocking this at full volume in my car.

Edit: Pssssht, the owners took down the original version from YouTube. Fortunately, there is a lipsync live version of it up as well, which they have no claim to. This is not ideal quality, but it's easy on the eyes, and sounds almost like the original.

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Michael Sembello - Angelina (1986)

I'll never forgive myself for not knowing the name of the musician who wrote maniac. As in, "She's a Maniac". When I actually took the time to listen to that particular song on it's own a year ago, not being used in a commercial or a TV show, I realized how damn good it was, and how synthy and energetic it was. And how good the vocals were, and that there was a ripping guitar solo.

I made it my mission to remember Michael Sembello's name, and to check out the rest of his library. I was pleasantly surprised with his follow up album to the one that had Maniac on it. Seeing as how it landed smack dab on the single year where FM became and phenomenon (1986), there is no surprise that it is loaded with a pretty gnarly FM bassline throughout.

It's also full of some fantastic and unique vocals. Dude can belt out some notes! And just like Maniac, they found the time to add a crushing a guitar solo as well.

Remember his name. Michael Sembello: A fantastic musician that helped make the 80s better than it would have been otherwise.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Mavis Staples - Show Me How It Works (1986)

This is the song that players during the scene where Goldie Hawk proves herself to her team by outrunning every single one of them in a last man standing marathon. This is just one of those scenes in an 80s movie that sticks with you when you are a kid.

Much like Break the Ice (from Rad), and even You're The Best (from The Karate Kid), this scene is punctuated with a track that was made custom for the movie. It appears that the composer for the film's Score, James Newton Howard was teamed up with a couple of song writers, and armed with the vocal talent of Mavis Staples. Interestingly, Mavis doesn't appear to have been on the radar, or working on any albums that I can see around the time. I wonder how she became involved in this track at all. Regardless, she killed it.

This is another track that might be seen as a little light on FM, but that's kind of the idea, sometimes. So much FM found it's way in to the background of really iconic music. In this case, I am fairly certain this is a Synclavier path being layered in the background of an analog synth bass. Was it the metallic punch it provided that everyone just couldn't get enough of, that they would have to layer it in the background of other instruments?

In any case, this is a cool example of when song writers, film composers, and performers come together to make some magic happen.

Monday, 25 July 2016

Greg Phillinganes - Signals (1984)

Not an overly FM kind of song, but it has a very juicy FM clavinet sound that really thickens up the low end of the chorus and intro sections. I suppose it is also full of some tasty FM keys as well, so the quota of FM sounds is fulfilled.

I just wanted to share this track because the album in general is fantastic Greg Phillinganes doesn't get enough recognition. he only had two solo albums of his own, but was guest on a shocking amount of albums in the 80s especially. That, and look at this album cover... This dude is serious about his synth!

It's not full of FM, but check out the other track off this album called "Behind the Mask". It's an energetic synthy banger for sure.

John Cafferty - Hearts on Fire (Rocky IV Soundtrack) (1985)

I am pretty sure we have Vince DiCola to once again thank for the performance of this particular FM Bass. I think I read somewhere that he did the guest synths for the soundtrack, in addition to the tracks he was credited for. The lead sounds like it fell right off the soundtrack for Transformers which is a dead giveaway.

But, man... Once again, that huge and crunchy DiCola FM Bass sounds like sweet sweet honey in my ears. It goes so well with this AOR style montage track, and these vocals by John Cafferty take it all the way home. This is another one of those tracks that can be incredibly silly while at the same time be deadly earnest. I feel like we don't get that enough anymore.

This is what it sounds like when your heart is on fire!

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Evelyne "Champagne" King - Out of Control (1986)

Wow, here is a real treat! This is a track I only found out about a couple months ago, but it became an instant hit in my car. In searching for new tracks to post for the Summer of FM, I accidentally stumbled back on to this track and realized, not only does it have a layered FM Bass + real bass sound, but it also has a fantastic music video to boot!

Evelyn "Champagne" King actually has a lot of killer tracks like this one, and I would recommend checking out her entire discography. A very underrated musician! Enjoy this gem! It's clearly out of control!

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Ryuichi Sakamoto - Fade (Wings of Honneamise soundtrack) (1987)

This track comes during the final sequence\montage from the animated movie Wings of Honneamise. It's an anime that I can't seem to get people to watch, which crushes me, because it is one of the best of all time. The conclusion to the movie hits me like a cinder block to the chest every time. It's about the first nation on a fictional world to achieve space flight, and the emotions and politics that come with it. This astronaut's version of the "One small step" speech is incredibly potent, considering the context and climax of how they got him in to space.

On to business. This track was written by Ryuichi Sakamoto who is a famous musician in Japan known for really innovating the boundaries of sound. I don't think a single two albums in his library sound even remotely similar. Being that he was such an innovate, he was an early adopter of FM sound, and even put out an FM preset cartridge like Toto did (though I am not sure if either made them themselves or whether they were recreations). he really showcases some of that FM programming knowledge here with an onslaught of dreamy glassy synth sounds (many of which are FM).

Topping everything off though is a monster FM bass, with an equally huge drum kit. Very reminiscent of Jane Child's "Don't Want to Fall in Love". This song, though, having come out a year before to give some context on how far ahead even this song may have sounded. The entire soundtrack to the film is great, but this is the most "song" like song on the album, and a killer example of FM!

Bonus Facts: Ryuichi Sakamoto is still working in composition today, and recently scored the movie The Revenant. Quite a departure from this song, wouldn't you say? That's what he's known for, heh.

Final thoughts: Please, if you are reading this, watch this movie. Watch it with an open mind and let the aesthetics wash over you. Even in the silence.

Friday, 22 July 2016

Paula Abdul - Next To You (1988)

You really have to admire an album that leaned this heavily on the concept of FM. This is literally the next track on the album, and is no less full of FM. Even though this one doesn't have a sparkly video, it's a much better song, and demonstration of how good Paula Abdul could be.

Lovely FM bass and keys, as usual, but this time all it underpins some gorgeous jazz fusion chord progressions, and a lush wall of overdubbed and at times haunting vocals. This is a great slow jam that is full of the good stuff.

Paula Abdul - Straight Up (1988)

This track might as well have just fallen directly off the Sonic the Hedgehog 2 soundtrack. I can't remember what song it is on there, but it basically has this exact beat and swing to it. And, of course, FM. You don't usually hear people in popular music with the cojones to rock the FM Brass. No fear, here.

I had to post this one first because it has a video, but there are more Paula Abdul deep track FM bangers coming.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Chaka Khan - Who's It Gonna Be (1986)

1986, the FM Bass and electric guitar playing the same note at the same time sounds amazing. This entire song uses this song to great effect. It really reminds me of the Vince DiCola sound. Maybe this is a 1986 thing?

On top of that, there is a smattering of FM Keys sprinkled throughout this beefy track. And, damn, can Chaka Khan belt out a note or what!

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Oingo Boingo - Weird Science (1985)

Great movie. Great song. FM Bass galore. How can you go wrong?

Sometimes this song just gets stuck in my head. And not the hook tag line either, it's like, the trumpet parts, and the ultra punchy ascending arpeggio part, the vocal melody right at the start, and that bassline! And yeah, of course the tagline... This is just a zany song, with lot of moving parts that absolutely pulls it all off flawlessly.

Considering how new FM synth was at the time, I have no idea how they knew what they were doing. I have a feeling a large part of the mid 80s was just a mad scramble that is kind of perfectly embodied by how damn weird, bonkers and catchy this song is.


Fun fact: the singer and song writer for Oingo Boingo is Danny Elfman, the composer who wrote the Simpson's theme, and a lot of other themes you have probably heard. But this is where he came from. He's jokingly quite embarrassed about this music video because he didn't have the time to contribute any creative aspect of it. He said he deserved the roasting he got when it ended up on an episode of Beavis and Butthead. Seems like a pretty self aware dude.

Alan Silvestri - Robot Romp (Flight of the Navigator Soundtrack) (1986)

Alan Silvestri (composer of Predator and Back to the Future) bustin' out some outrageous Synclavier FM Bass in this track. Complete with an absolutely outrageous montage from the film Flight of the Navigator. This is actually just the scene from the movie where this song plays. This is how simply outrageous the 80s were.


Roy - Destiny Time (1985)

1985... Wow, this track is exceptionally well produced for being that old. Lots of that is to do with this sizzling hot FM Bass!

I've always had this track on my playlists when I need some inspiration. Usually this track ends up on my playlists before dodgeball tournaments or any other type of competition. It wasn't until recently when a friend of mine told me this track helped him get through the final leg of a marathon that I realized that this track has another function: It has the power to give you a second wind.

When you are down and out, about to quit, just meditate on this song. Destiny Time! That energy. That FM BASS. This track has magical properties that are hard to explain. As goofy as it is, you will eventually just like this song legitimately, and not ironically.

What time is it? Destiny time! And by association, FM Bass time...

Stacy Lattisaw - The Hard Way (1986)

I wish I could say I have known about this song for years, but truthfully, I just found this song mere weeks ago, and I must have listened to it at least 2 dozen times since then. This song has done gone FM CRAZY. FM Keys and Bass are just pulsating out of this track with excess.

Can I just say it? The bass line in this track is outrageous! It's off the rails. This is a digital equivalent of a full on master in the art of slappin' da bass.

As a bonus, you get some fantastic vocals from Stacy Lattisaw, and one hell of a ripping synth solo (not sure if the solo is FM).

As a bonus bonus, turns out this so was co-written by Sue Shifrin, who wrote an earlier track in the Summer of FM: John Farnham's Break the Ice! I actually found this song because I was looking for other songs she had written, and this one came up, and was in the right time frame to be loaded with FM. it did not disappoint. I don't think this is the last we'll see of Sue Shifrin's work on this project.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Phil Collins - Only You Know and I Know (1985)

In 1985, Phil Collins was not afraid to dive right in to the world of FM. I am still trying to determine if the bass part of Sussudio is FM bass or not. Honestly, I have no idea what it is. But with this track there is no question. This is a pure FM Bass patch and it is front and center!

It's fantastic to hear Collins' unbelievably unique vocal style and production with this ever so familiar bass in the background. But aside from the bass and the vocals, it is always worth taking notice of the production of the drums in a Phil Collins track. the unusual compression techniques they utilized were pioneered by him and his Genesis (the band) cohorts. 

They did all kinds of weird stuff, like used the talk-back mic compression for communicating with the recording engineer from the performance room to layer the drums. And they would compress ambient mics from really far away from the kit and use noise gates to cut off the trail. It may sound weird now, but this is kind of the wild west of modern recording.

You can tell, because that digital as hell FM bass is sitting right there in the mix with all this weird stuff, haha.

Robbie Buchanan - The Chosen One (The Goden Child Soundtrack) (1986)

Skip to 3:20

I have some fond memories of this movie. Oddly enough, even as a youngster renting this film, I remember liking the soundtrack. It still stands out to me now. It's thick, bombastic and over the top. Kind of like Eddie Murphy was back then :)

Tons of Synclavier FM going on here. Man alive it can sound chunky, warm and digital all at the same time.

New Kids on the Block - Please Don't Go Girl (1988)

We gotta slow things down today with an Earth shattering ballad from 1988. For some reason this song (among many others from this album) still find their way in to my thoughts even though I actively disliked this band at the time. I have since come around on this song and album, but who knew the entire track was held together by FM bass and keys?!

You know, these guys were actually pretty damn good back then. I was too young to appreciate the nuance, I guess, haha. Now that I am older and wiser, I am impressed to say that this ballad stands the test of time. I'd actually recommend the entire album to people. It's hard to believe that this wasn't even the 90s yet. Ahead of it's time?

Jane Child - Don't Wanna Fall In Love (1989)

One of the most irrationally heavy pop tracks that I have ever heard. The percussion is already notably humongous, but when that FM bass first kicks in, this track tells the listener on no uncertain terms that they are about to be demolished. Then the vocals take it home. This track (and album) are really an amazing representation of the best of the 80s.

A timeless classic.

Stevie Wonder - I Love You Too Much (1985)

Who knew Stevie Wonder was such a fan of FM? This track is literally dripping with FM plinks, plonks and ploinks. It's hard to tell if the bass is FM or analog, but in any case, it's pretty rad. Lots of layering going on in any case. I think the bassline is permanently layered with an FM marimba sound, haha. Sounds so good.

Even though he was a fantastic vocalist, I think his key playing is really something else. It has so much character, and it sound so good as FM! Dude, knew how to rock a modwheel!

A-Ha - Take On Me (1986)

How many times have we all heard this brilliant track from Norwegian pop group A-ha? How many times have I personally heard it and not bothered to notice that the entire thing is LOADED with FM Bass lines from start to finish.

Perhaps it is the soaring vocals or that infinitely memorable chorus. For whatever reason, we overlook how much of this track is brought to us by the glorious sound of frequency modulation. It was only recently that I even noticed it was there, now I can't un-hear it. Nor would I ever wish to, haha.

FM can be as cold as ice, or as bouncy as a rubber ball. So damn versatile. Such a huge part of what made the 80s so good. A real work horse of the era. Time to get it's due!

Toto - Fahrenheit (1986)

Toto never seem to get the respect they deserve. Not sure if it is because of their band name, or what. But one thing is certain, they know their FM!

Around the time this album came out in 1986, the keyboard player(s) on the album actually released a commercial patch library for the FM sounds they used on the album. These patches came on a cartridge that you could jam in to a Yamaha DX-7 and access without having to create them from scratch yourself. I am not sure, but I think that might have been revolutionary... At the very least, it was right on the razor's edge of stuff that had never been done before.

Fortunately, those cartridges still exist, and are really easy to find on the internet. And those patches can be slotted in to just about any FM VST, like Dexed or FM8. I've messed around with them, and the smile on my face could not have been any bigger. It's a fun thing to relive, now, so many years later.

As for this track, it's a masterclass of meshing FM with real instruments. FM bass, real bass, synths and keys, guitars. They are all blended in there seamlessly, and this track in particular is so damn catchy, I am left scratching my head why Toto don't get no respect.

Was it the name?

Howard Jones - Human's Lib (1984 very early usage of FM)

Here is an interesting one. Digital FM Synth and Analog Subtractive Synth are being forced in to one delightful track, in the year where all things collide. My favourite year for music: 1984.

FM had become commercially available in 1983, but there were still all of these killer analog synths that already cost a ton of money still in studios. So, FM was the new toy, but it was treated just like a new instrument in the setup and was seamlessly blended in, for a while. That's why I like 1984 so much. It was a very exciting time for sound. And a song like this shows how you can just blend everything together with wide eyed wonder.

Rick Astley - Never Gonna Give Uoi Up (1987)


I know this song became internet famous as the butt of a joke, but can we even deny how unironically awesome this song is? And how far ahead of it's time it was? This was 1987. That always seems early to me when I hear how thick and full this track is.

The entire thing is held together by an FM Bass foundation that refuses to quit. If you can take your eyes off of those dance moves and have a listen to just the bass in the song, you'll notice that it is intricate, and melodic, and follows the bouncy beat of the song perfectly. The producers really new how to slot that bass in with the kick drum. It just sounds so thick!

This track also features some lush FM E.Piano sounds rocking some nice glassy chords. They usually bury these with other instruments, but not in this track. Front and center!

This track is 50% Rick Astley singing and putting on a dance moves clinic, and 50% FM.
Behold the power of frequency modulation!

John Farnham - Break The Ice (1986)

We have a real treat today. I just found out of my legit all time favourite songs has got the FM Bass! I have probably heard this song over a thousand times in my life, no jokes. It remains one of like 5 songs I can sing from start to finish. It is only for the fact that the song is so layered and well produced that I didn't immediately remember it has having such a strong Fm presence. Now it is all I can hear.

The song was written and recorded specifically for the movie "Rad" which came out in 1986, and was for a long time the number 2 rented movie of all time behind Top Gun (I can't remember where I heard that statistic, so let's just not look in to it any further...). When kids rented Rad back in the day, they didn't just rent it once, they rented it dozens of times. The sound track had a huge factor in that.
It was loaded with BMX racing and flatland action, and was one of those movies that sparked inspiration is children. You saw all these older kids and adults doing insane BMX maneuvers, while you were hearing this incredibly motivating music, all the while you watched a regular kid compete against pros.

It's basically The Karate Kid meets BMX, and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to feel what the 80s were like. This song (and another by John Farnham called Thunder in Your Heart) is to Rad, what You're the Best is to Karate Kid.

Believe it or not, there was a time in the 90s when it wasn't cool or even ironic to like 80s music. as a teenager, it was something you actually had a lot of disdain for as being wimpy or weak or not cool enough probably because you were a small child when you first heard it, and didn't yet have room for the potent nostalgia of this iconic era. It's hard to explain. But this song was *the* song that, in the midst of all that 80s teenage angst, made me realize the 80s were in fact awesome. It was the one through line that for me, brought the 80s back to the focus. It was my gateway drug back in to the glory of the 80s. I could not deny this song.

And, it was recorded in 1986... Of course it had FM! I think it might be FM Bass layered with either another synth, or a real bass. I can't quite tell. But the FM is there, proud and true.

These lyrics, too. They never fail to give me the chills. Put this song on before any moment where you have to rise above and it will always apply. Yes, get ready to break the metaphorical ice!

Journey - Suzanne (1986)

I've shared this one before, but it needs to get re-shared for the Summer Of FM. It is amazing to hear such a prolific source of song writing take control of the inherent power of FM so flawlessly. It's like they understood it immediately as a new instrument.

The treat for us is that we get to hear them subvert FM to their style. Even though this is still FM, it still sounds exactly like Journey. Check out that FM bass and FM E.Piano with vocalist Steve Perry doing his thing over top. It's a little miracle of audio in your ears.

Michael Jackson - Leave Me Alone (1987)

You could just sit Michael Jackson in front of a DX7 or some other FM keyboard, and he would belt you out a single. Sit him there for long enough and you'd have an album. The entire clan of Jackson's were synonymous with FM synth in the mid to late 80s. Every one of their albums (from Janet to Jermaine and everyone one in between) is not just featuring FM, but seem to be hinged entirely on FM as the backbone. The Jackson's were an FM Family.

I could have just picked any song off the 1987 "Bad" album, and had it work perfectly here. We've all heard these songs so many times. But how many times have we heard the FM that was the foundation to almost every hook outside of Michael's trademark vocals?

Going back over the Bad album is like playing a Sega Genesis game with impeccable production and vocals, haha. It is glorious! We have not seen the last of the Jacksons in the Summer of FM.

Michael McDonald - Sweet Freedom (1986)

I got a hot tip from FM Wizard Paul Schilling, that the Synclavier FM synth was used on this track. Who knew?!

There is something so much warmer about Synclavier FM than the Yamaha DX-7 FM. Even the glassy bamboo hits used during the intro seem to have this weight to them that is not usually something you get easily from DX-7.

Warm crunchy bass, infectiously sweet keys, and the smoothest mumbled vocals ever. Makes me want to watch the movie this is from: Running Scared (1986). Billy Crystal, Gregory Hines, FM Synth? Count me in!

Starship - We Built This City (1985)

I don't know why people poo poo on this song. This song, for me, is almost the quintessential 80s track. It has everything. From production sensibilities, to song writing, to, yes, FM BASS!

One thing that I found interesting though was how integrated the FM Bass was in this track. They seem to be mixing a real bass with the FM Bass, and alternating the verse and chorus. The verses and transitions get regular bass, and the chorus gets FM Bass with regular bass slotted behind it for fullness. The result is an iconic sound that actually always gave this song a futuristic vibe in my opinion. Half man, half machine. All rock.
Plus, this music video always kind of weirded me out. A bunch of adults singing and smiling and having fun in some weird purple alternate future city. Ultra high tech for the time, haha, I am sure.

Come on, everyone, give this song a chance again. If it's been a while, listen to it again now with fresh ears. It has something for everyone.

Paul Hertzog - Finals (Bloodsport Soundtrack) (1988)

This thing is loaded with FM. I am fairly certain this is mostly 2OP FM from the Synclavier, but it might have some Yamaha DX-7 6OP in there for some of those bamboo hit sequences, but it could very well be a pure Synclavier FM soundtrack which is rad.

Other than some samples slap bass and drums, this track (and soundtrack in general) is steeped in FM, with lots of keys and pads.

I also have no doubt that this movie and this soundtrack were the direct inspiration for Mortal Kombat 1. There are darker moments in this soundtrack that perfectly match the tone and texture of the original Mortal Kombat. At 0:45 you can practically hear the announcer from Mortal Kombat shouting, FINISH HIM!!!. It always puts a smile on my face when I hear it, and think about the developers for MK and especially the composer for MK, Dan Forden, watching this movie and just getting all pumped up.


The Jacksons - Torture (1984 - Very Early use of FM)

We keep rolling on with a fairly obscure single by The Jacksons. I had never seen the music video for this one before, and man, it's weird. Not even their weirdest, either, haha. Perfect era for 80s special effects though.

But the reason we are here is the presence of FM Bass for the entire track. There is something about FM Bass at that time that really adds to the unforgiving coldness of some of these weird artistic videos. It just felt high tech and other wordy at the same time. Especially when all this deranged dreamy stuff is happening in the video, and no one seems weirded out by it. They almost seem to be celebrating the weirdness and encouraging it in their peripheral.
That concept is distilled in FM Bass, for me.

Magic Lady - Misty Eyed (1988)

I had another track i was going to share today, but between yesterday and today it was taken off of youtube. For shame...

The backup today, instead, focuses of stacked FM keys. To get such a rich glassy sound, you need to stack upwards to 8 different E.Piano sounds, and pan and tune them all across the spectrum.

Pretty Mellow track. Pretty mellow day. Don't let those eyes get too misty. More FM to come tomorrow. Unless Youtube removes some more gems.

Vince DiCola - Autobot/Decepticon Battle (Transformers The Movie Soundtrack) (1986)

What can only be described as a heroic amount of FM Bass...

I can't how good the music was for this movie. 1986 has probably never sounded this punchy and energetic. Vince DiCola was some sort of wizard from the future or something, to reach this far ahead in terms of production, with what he had at his disposal. Listen to these drums. Listen to this FM Bass Guitar power chord combo?

Then listen to the arrangement. 1986... What else in 1986 sounded like this? Where the hell did it come from? So many hooks, one after the other, never lingering to become stale. It's like an entire album in one track, and it is so damn intense.

I revisit this soundtrack every year or so, and I continue to find more reasons to be amazed. If you have never heard it before, or haven't checked it in a while, now is the perfect time.

Teena Marie - Trick Bag (1988)

The Summer of FM rolls on with an energetic track from 1988 I only recently discovered. As is usually the case, this track is chalk full of FM Bass!

But one thing I really like about this track is how irresponsible the FM Bass riffing is. For a pop song especially, this is a pretty fiddly bass track, and it sounds so good! Give the people what they want, we can handle it! MORE FIDDLY FM BASS!

Pretty sensational vocal track as well. Teena Marie is giving the mic the straight business!

Taylor Dayne - Don't Rush Me (1987)

Amazing and unique vocals with some glorious and crunchy FM Bass. This track is a real gem, and a perfect example of some of the more metallic FM slap bass capabilities. I, love, this, sound.

1987 was a great year for FM. I feel like they were really starting to understand how to get the most of it by then. Or at least some good commercial patch libraries were making their rounds at that time.

Kenny Loggins - Danger Zone (1986)

I'm gunna be sharing FM tracks all summer, because dammit, FM got the shaft by the time the 90s synths rolled out. This is a return to form.

So much of what made the 80s sound like the 80s was the fact that no one had heard FM used in a musical and harmonic way on commercial products before then. There was a time when this sound was a legitimately new sonic experience, and cutting edge. And huge budget movies like Top Gun, and actors like Tom Cruise are subtly immortalized by one particular sound. When people say they love FM Bass, this is what they mean.

The Quintessential FM Bass Experience. Kenny Loggins - Danger Zone. 1986. Feel it.