What would Isaac Hayes sound like covering Big Love by Fleetwood Mac? Or Barry White? Or anyone who could turn this 3+ minute fast tempo’d tune into a luxurious 8 minute opus of sultriness? That’s a question I’ve always had since I first heard this song in the Spring of 1987 as the first single from Mac’s Tango In The Night LP. Underneath the cocaine jitter of the guitar licks, galloping drums and sinister vocal stylings from Lindsey Buckingham, I could hear a bluesy soul trying to bubble up even as the band repeatedly smothered it, like Mick Fleetwood bashing it down with his drum fills. Maybe that was intentional or the subconscious kicking in. After all the band began as a British blues band only to abruptly abandon their history and fully embrace to WestCoast pop.
I decided to slow the track down while trying to keep the integrity of the production (the song always sounded sped up to me anyway) and lo and behold if Lindsey doesn’t sound a bit like Issac. Stretch the song out, remove the drum fills, layer on some strings and you got some Hot Buttered WestCoast Soul.
Take a listen and tell me what you think:
Meetwood Flac – Big Love (The Soulful Spring Edit) from WestCoast Breeze on Vimeo.
In the 70s & 80s, Hawaiian musicians incorporated a lot of sounds into their music to sound contemporary but none more than West Coast music. These bands incorporated elements of funk, soul, folk and jazz and a smoothness only found on those Pacific islands. You can view a list of those groups here.
We have created a video which features musical samples from those artists. We also encourage you to visit Aloha Got Soul, which was started by Roger Bong in 2010 and his love for 70s & 80s West Coast funk, soul and jazz from Hawaii.
For our ongoing West Coast Classic album series, we will be spotlighting albums that are great representations of the genre. Today it’s the 1979 LP Knock The Walls Down by Steve Kipner.
In 1979, singer Steve Kipner got his turn to shine as a solo artist. He already had a Top 20 US hit called Toast & Marmalade For Tea produced by Maurice Gibb, but that was as a member of the duo, Tin Tin. After they split he joined the bands, Friends & Skyband, along with future Player Peter Beckett. Knock The Walls Down was Steve’s chance to show what he could do by himself and he had the fortune to hook up with guitarist Jay Graydon who produced the LP, save for one track. Steve wrote this as a concept album about a guy who lucked into the awesome job of getting to record an album, so you could say it was autobiographical.
The album features a who’s who in the world of West Coast: David Foster, Michael Omartian, Bill Champlin, Larry Carlton, Steve Lukather, Victor Feldman and others. 9 of the 10 tracks feature the rhythm section of Jeff Porcaro and David Hungate fresh off the success of Toto’s debut. Player’s JC Crowley & Peter Beckett lend their backing vocals to a few tracks. And Jay’s guitar playing is so strong that the last track, The Ending, is considered to be his one of his best performances on record.
All of this support and talent contributed to a very solid album, but very little success. The lead off single, Knock The Walls Down, was listed in Billboard’s July 21st, 1979 as a recommended track and the album was listed a Top Recommended LP. Billboard describes the album as “squarely in the pop-rock bag…” and “..a bit more Top 40 oriented that that of the recently launched groups who provide backup.” They were definitely on to something. Unfortunately 1979 was a year of heavy musical saturation as so many albums were being released, much more than anyone could play on the radio or purchase and listen to, and this one got lost in the shuffle. Eventually the Elektra Records LP and released singles never placed on any charts and the album disappeared.
But for Steve, this was the beginning of the story. Since Jay liked Steve’s songwriting he passed his material on to other folks which led to some writing gigs with other artists, such as Alan Sorrenti and Manhattan Transfer and more notably Olivia Newton-John. Although the song he co-wrote with Terry Shaddick was meant for Rod Stewart, ONJ’s management team heard it and the rest was history. Two years after Knock the Walls Down, Steve had written a #1 song – Physical – which stands today as one of the Top 10 biggest hits in the rock era. [Steve’s dad, Nat Kipner wrote Too Much, Too Little, Too Late a #1 hit in 1978 for Johnny Mathis & Deniece Williams, making Steve & Nat the rare father-son #1 hit writing duos]