I was listening to Higher Ground today on the way home from work. One of the many things that overly impresses me about Stevie Wonder is his keyboard stacking abilities.
If you listen to Higher Ground or Superstition, you’re hearing multiple keyboard tracks. They’re all playing something different. We hear the amalgam of the tracks but it’s not something anyone (including Stevie) can play himself (unless cloning himself is one of his hidden skills). Also interesting is his choice of keyboards; he’s using a Clavinette, made by Hohner. It sounds suspiciously like a guitar due to its construction (hammers hitting short strings through a pickup) and played correctly, it’s one of the most dangerous keyboard rhythm devices ever used. George Duke was another Clav proponent. I probably heard it used first on Jeff Beck’s Come Dancing, played by Max Middleton, Jeff’s long-suffering keyboardist at the time.
I know Stevie also plays the drums. I have a recording of him jamming with Jimi Hendrix. Without checking the cd, I have no idea who played drums on Higher Ground.
Hang on – I forgot this is 2008 for a moment. According to Wikipedia, the multi-talented Mr. Wonder played all the instruments on this album (remember those?), including a Moog synthesizer for bass.
Ok, having established this, I’m very curious as to how the track would sound had Stevie used the proverbial different drummer. There is no question that Higher Ground (as well as Superstition) kicks some serious butt rhythmically but Stevie’s drumming doesn’t seem to support the song…. wait a minute… it’s not like I’m questioning Stevie Wonder.. it’s just that I might not have the musical vocabulary to phrase this correctly….
If my band were to cover either of the songs in question, I would turn to the drummer and ask him why he was playing like that. He would (correctly) tell me he’s playing exactly like the record. I would ask him to try something a bit more `solid’ or less busy. Make it more solidly funk, as opposed to whatever it is you call what Stevie’s doing (swing?).
Did I get that across? Am I making any sense at all? Will I have my pelvis nailed to a cake stand because someone thinks I’m making fun of Stevie Wonder?
Well, what do you think a more solid drum track would do to the song(s)?