Our Takes


The Inspiration

by TheParsnip

Phyllis-Nelson-Move-Closer

There has been quite a gap since the last episode and that’s down to me, I’m afraid. I’ve had a total mental block with this tune. Let me take you back to 1985. Picture the scene. The family is on holiday, probably in the south west of the UK. Young Parsnip is wandering around a record shop kitted out with the latest state of the art portable music device.

A 1984 vintage Sony cassette walkman with foam padded headphones
Sony cassette walkman 1985 style

I’m drawn to a funky looking album cover.

Front cover of Night Beat double album
Night Beat – 24 Pulsating Rhythms

Buy it or not? The thinking process went thus:

Pros

  • funky cover – a pair of characters accoutred in glowing UV clothing
  • my first album purchase (“I Feel For You” by Chak-Chak-Chak-Chaka Khan) was a resounding success so what could possible go wrong
  • double cassette – cool
  • it’s got Axel F on it

Cons

  • I’m not into R&B and soul music

Axel F swayed it and I bought the double cassette. And it was a good decision. There were some belting songs on the album.

Side A

  1. Harold Faltermeyer – Axel F
  2. Five Star – All Fall Down
  3. S.O.S. Band – Just Be Good To Me
  4. Billy Ocean – Loverboy
  5. Carl Anderson – Buttercup
  6. Glenn Frey – The Heat Is On

Side B

  1. Chaka Khan – This Is My Night
  2. Chris Cameron – Is This Love
  3. George Duke – Thief In The Night
  4. Curtis Hairston – I Want Your Lovin’
  5. A Touch Of Class – Let Me Be Your Everything
  6. Pointer Sisters – Jump

Side C

  1. Rah Band – Clouds Across The Moon
  2. Philip Bailey – Walking On The Chinese Wall
  3. Skipworth And Turner – Thinking About Your Love
  4. El Chicano – Do You Want Me
  5. One Way – Let’s Talk About Shhh
  6. James Brown – Get Up I Feel Like Being A Sex Machine

Side D

  1. Teddy Pendergrass – Turn Off The Lights
  2. Phyllis Nelson – Move Closer
  3. Isley Brothers – Between The Sheets
  4. M’tume – Juicy Fruit
  5. Bill Withers – Oh Yeah
  6. Luther Vandross – Till My Baby Comes Home

Best of the bunch are:

I thought Move Closer would be a good challenge for us. A slow tempo, sensuous, sincere ballad. Everything I’m not very good at. Phyllis Nelson died in 1998, too young, but left a song that crossed the genres, dissolved R&B apathy and made an impression on me.

The Parsnip’s take

Happy and sincere. Not something that flows easily when it comes to my music. I went through six different ideas with this track and suffered mental block on all but the last. At one point it was a straight cover. Then it was a folk number. It was drum and bass at one point but after a conversation with Frosty1973 it evolved a kind of Dub/early Police feel. Vocals are always a problem and what’s left of them are the bits I was prepared to make public. Despite that, I’m quite happy with the arthritic John Lennon sound.

In the end, I’m got mixed feelings about my take, but sometimes you’ve just got to call it quits. I’m very happy about the walking on the moon guitar sound and am disproportionately excited about the chopped repeated version of that sound that appears a couple of times. It suggests all sorts of possibilities for slicing and dicing in the future.

The whole thing is just drums, bass, 2 guitar sounds and vocals. The guitar sounds are real, I played and recorded them dry and then applied effects in Reason. There are no pads or synths so I like the fact that quite a full sound results.

Anyway, on to the next episode. I’m hoping whatever it is will be easier than this one.

Frosty 1973’s take

Move Closer by Phyllis Nelson. I wasn’t expecting that! It is, however, full of nostalgia for me. 1985 was around the time that my sister and I were allowed our first music purchases.

Cleo Laine and James Galway
Cleo Laine and James Galway

My first album was Phil CollinsNo Jacket Required (bought from Woolworths in Rhyl) and my sister’s was Culture Club’s Colour By Numbers. These vied for position in the car stereo of my Dad’s Ford Cortina Mark IV and were soon followed by album’s like Genesis Live and Steve Hackett’s Voyage of the Acolyte. I’m not sure my sister’s Bros cassettes ever got a look in but I am sure my parents breathed a sigh of relief when my choice auto ejected and they were able throw in Cleo Laine and James Galway or Simon and Garfunkel’s greatest hits.

Move Closer has a soft, embracing sound. Lots of reverb on the drums, smooth analogue synth strings on the chorus and floaty effortless vocals.

I set out with a simple drum beat at around the same tempo as the original, thinking I’d play some sparse piano parts and back it up with some retro Jupiter 8 style analogue strings. I really liked the idea of writing/performing some kind of lyrics but never having made any of my vocals public (except for a semi-voluntary performance of Lord Make Me a Mountain in church as a small boy) and, with a couple of exceptions, not having written anything creative since GCSE English with Mr Nicholson I knew it was going to be a challenge so I decided I needed a concept.

My concept was to try something completely at odds with Phyllis’s warm, inviting, confident, direct, overtly sexual lyrics. I wanted to write from the point of view of a reserved, introverted teenager who’s incapable of expressing such feelings (any similarities to me at that time, later, or now being purely coincidental). ‘Sit next to me’ is about as far as he’d get. In fact he probably wouldn’t even be able to vocalise these words. It’s more likely that his words would form part of an internal monologue. Anyway, given the time scales available I didn’t get the chance to develop the words beyond a half-hearted initial stab but at least I had something to work with.

John Martyn
Wheatsheaf favourite – John Martyn

As I started improvising some ‘singing’ over a bit of fender rhodes I felt bit of a John Martyn vibe emerging. This led me to the, slightly ridiculous, conclusion that I should also play some guitars. I remember watching John Martyn play at The Wheatsheaf in Stoke and he was astonishingly good. I, on the other hand, have always wanted to learn to play guitar but have always faltered when it’s come to the F chord… I bought a guitar last year hoping to make another attempt but I can’t say I’ve been very dedicated. I decided to try anyway and thankfully the song is comprised mainly of chords I can just about play – E, G, D, C Am. Although the chords were achievable and I managed to get a nice sound out of the Reason virtual amps, including the Kuassa Vermilion my timing was terrible so the Reason time stretching functionality came in really handy. Without these I think my fingers would still be bleeding now!

The end result is a vibe that kind of works and doesn’t make me cringe too much and a heavy guitar riff towards the end that might be slightly incongruous but has a bit of energy to it. For me, an experiment that, thankfully, didn’t end in complete failure.

 

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