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80's Modern Soul and Funk Producers


Throughout the early 80's, Disco music would not only reincarnate into Boogie but also into other forms of dance music like Dance, Rap and even New-Wave and Pop. Bit by bit as the 80's era progressed, R&B (dance) music entered the field of Urban Contemporary music: technically advanced and sparkling USA-Soul/Funk fabricated by very sollicitated producers and production companies as Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis' Flyte Tyme Productions on Tabu records, Kashif's New Music Group Productions, Paul Lawrence Jones' Stone Jones Productions, Lonnie Simmons on his Total Experience label, Leon F. Sylvers III and his Silverspoon Productions,

Nile Rodgers, Richard Perry on his Planet label, Nick Martinelli's Watch Out Productions and The System's Science Lab Productions. Also important in the 80's was Hush/Orpheus Productions, the innovative company of the brothers Beau and Charles Huggins that was highly successful through collaborations with an impressive array of top producers (Kashif, Howard King, Keith Diamond, Barry Eastmond, Rahni Song, Paul Laurence, Morrie Brown, Gene McFadden, John Whitehead, Amir Bayyan). Especially in the second half of the 80's Hush/Orpheus Productions was largely responsible for adding the classy Soul vibe back into R&B music.

Leon F. Sylvers III

Technology in the 80's played a bigger part, synthesizers and music computer systems were getting cheaper and allowed musicians and producers to experiment with innovating ways of musical expression. Although the influence of electronic instruments was already immense at that time, early 80's Disco/Funk music still retained the warmth and charm of artists really playing the instruments. That was the period in which musicians still took the lead in actually embroidering music, as opposed to fully programming it. It was also an amazingly productive era for R&B music in general. It wasn't unusual that hot R&B acts cut two albums in the same year as did the Whispers, Fatback, Ozone, Skyy, Gene Dunlap, The Detroit Spinners, Starpoint, Con Funk Shun, Bill Summers. One Way, The Isley Brothers, Lakeside or Cameo. The abundance of quality output during this time was to a large extent the merit of a new generation of producers/songwriters who would mark the 8 0's and even the '90s sometimes. They helped constructing the matrix of sophisticated Soul, a formula whereby Soulmusic could be massive on the dancefloor while still maintaining the highest standards of composition and musicianship. The dawn of 80's R&B was all the more evident when Michael Jackson's album 'Off The Wal' peaked black album charts during the whole of 1980.

Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis
Quincy Jones

It was the perfect record to introduce the post-Disco era with an impeccable production, brilliant songs, tasteful arrangements and a captivating artist to truly give them life. The man behind this project was the legendary producer Quincy Jones who proved pivotal in connecting post-Disco to the present. But he wasn't the only figure who redefined the sound of Disco/Dance and R&B. A bunch of young, busy studiocats who surfaced in the late '70s also contributed to the new outline of Black Dance Music. The likes of Randy Muller, Dexter Wansel, Nick Martinelli, Kashif, James 'D-Train' Williams, Narada Michael Walden, Jacques Fred Petrus, Lamont Dozier or the partnership James Mtume/Reggie Lucas employed an efficient synthesis of Soul, Funk and Disco, new recording technologies and

synthesized instrumentation on top of a strong musical foundation.  Remember the luminous work of songwriter and producer Leon F. Sylvers III. His fusion of guitar, strings, tight harmonies, infectious melodies, funky bass lines, handclaps and a smattering of synthesised sparkle created the fresh Solar sound. Some long-established producers such as Michael Stokes, Arif Mardin or Allen A. Jones, who all started their careers back in the deep seventies, stayed in the game. They distinguished themselves by the soundness of their 80's output and the bright adaptation of their production patterns to a contemporary standard. Whereas most of the instrumentation on the earlier productions was live and authentic, drum programming, synthesizer arrangements, sequencing

and overdubs entered the picture in the 80's, and certainly in a big way around the mid 80's.  Soulmusic became increasingly keyboard-based and computerized. Not everyone was keen on this electronic and digital turnabout but the application of revolutionary music technology was an inevitable phase on the way to the R&B music of the next generation.

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