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!