too much typing—since 2003

5.20.2007

you can't know what's going on if you're asleep

Local radio here in Milwaukee recently saw a major change, as long-time public radio WYMS, which had featured jazz almost exclusively for years, is being transformed to a new entity calling itself Radio Milwaukee. The format is free-form leaning a bit heavily toward World Cafe territory...but even though I miss the ability to turn on jazz whenever I want to hear it (and of course I mean jazz, not the laxative crap traded under the name "smooth jazz," which is jazz only if anything with a saxophone is jazz), any station that can play the Macromantics, Robyn Hitchcock, some hip-hop I couldn't identify, and a deep-cut Jackson 5 track in a row is alright by me. It's not going to supplant the mighty WMSE in my listening, but it is a nice alternative.

About that Jackson 5 track: turned out to be "I'll Bet You," from their second album, in 1970, which was written by George Clinton (and Pat Lindsey and Sidney Barnes). Funkadelic recorded its own version on its second album, also from 1970, so of course I had to dig up a copy of it. (Turns out it's on eMusic, too - which I didn't know, but I'd exhausted my monthly downloads anyway...). One source I ran into (and now can't find dammit) says that the Jacksons' version was released before Funkadelic's version (can't find info on the albums' respective release dates).

Comparing the two versions is useful. The Jackson 5 version is more concise (as you might expect), and while the arrangement sticks pretty close to the Funkadelic version, it's highlighted by a very nice, whining lead guitar sound, and a funky flute solo near the end, neither of which feature in the Funkadelic version.

Someone in the Jacksons' camp was wielding a red editors' pencil, because Funkadelic's version is actually titled "I Bet You." While the Jackson 5 version is dark and undeniably funky (I detect some Whitfield/Strong influence, too), the Funkadelic version is freakier and psychedelic in a way the then-teenaged Jacksons probably couldn't comprehend. That's not a slam on the Jacksons: their version is a fine track, and surprisingly funkier than I would have expected. But they didn't have Eddie Hazel to pull off a snarling, wild guitar solo, or the odd electronic touches like that high-pitched, filtered organ whine near the beginning or the low-pitched rumbling later in the track (probably not even audible if you're listening on cheapo computer speakers). Also: after that Hazel solo, about halfway through the track...do you think that's where Talking Heads got the "Psycho Killer" riff from?

The Jackson 5 "I'll Bet You" (ABC, 1970)
Funkadelic "I Bet You" (Funkadelic, 1970)

5 comments:

yellojkt said...

Our local public jazz station changed to that World Cafe NPR rock format and I liked it a lot. It's a lot of music I actually enjoy.

I hear Hall and Oates on the "Smooth Jazz" stations. I saw Haulin' Ass in concert in 1985 and I don't think anyone was there for jazz.

2fs said...

Just to clarify: the format isn't adult alternative per se; only that on occasion it's a bit too similar to it for my tastes. (It's a bit more freeform than that: notably, there's a fairly strong hip-hop flavor, every handful of tracks or so - which, last time I listened to an AA station, was definitely not in their mix.) Even that, though, is preferable to some things...but a little "tastefulness" goes a long way with me (whereas a lot of it goes only a very short way, in a demonstration of some sort of paradoxical musical physics).

James said...

The first time I ever heard the Jackson 5 version was when I bought the Soulsation J5 box set (cheap! Way out print by then! Only $15!). I thought it sounded tougher, and "different" than most of the J5 material. But it wasn't for a couple of years (and a few mix tape placements) that I read the booklet and learned George Clinton wrote it. That made sense.

The Jackson 5 version isn't as freaky, but it sounds more menacing (best term I can think of). As if, the brothers are asking you to wager with your life, or something!

Anonymous said...

I hope you know the original jazz station was not local but syndicated from Florida

2fs said...

Historically, it was locally produced: it was only in the last couple of years that its programming was syndicated. See this article for some background. Also: while I don't mind anonymous comments (not everyone needs to sign up with Blogger), it would be nice if you included some identifying info in your post (i.e., type in a name or nickname - since the other reason to post anonymously is to avoid having to stand by what one says.