Game Changer Story, Part 3 (1-4)

1311 Jimi Kozmik w TL #2   As mentioned above, this next segment will be a song by song tour of the tunes on the Game Changer album.    The first guiding idea behind the CD was to go back to my influences and pay tribute to the music that has inspired me over the years. That would range from the traditional acoustic and electric Blues that I played when I first started performing, the Jazz I was exposed in my younger days, the Soul music I grew up with, the Latin music I heard while living in the Southwest, to the many styles that came into play after I got the band out on the road- the Funk, and Rhythm & Blues that later influenced myself and my sidemen, plus newer styles that I have investigated and copped over the years to keep my “Funk Blues from Maryland” style current.

The other absolute must-have for Game Changer is that each and every song be a DANCE song; something that will reach out immediately at the beginning of every tune and make the listener get up and MOVE!

I came out with a Blues Band in the 70’s, during Disco, when there were no Blues Societies and no Blues Festivals. The # 1 thing that got me working and got me gigs was that I arranged the music so that people who didn’t even know who Muddy Waters was, would find themselves out on the dance floor, rocking out to BB and Muddy. Smart move Yung TL, and it has kept me in bidness for 37 years.

During the course of recording and mixing the various songs, I knew we finally had “IT” when I found myself unconsciously up on my feet and dancing during playback. Yes! We nailed it!!

Song one is Side Piece, a Contemporary Rhythm & Blues/ Blues song with some funky azz bass by Jimi Kozmik Stewart. I pushed him for an ’80’s bass line, the kind that would drive the whole song and be the focal point, a Louis Johnson vibe with a lil’ James Jamerson thrown in. My man delivered!

   The Secret Weapons on Side Piece were the shakers used for percussion, giving it an irresistible beat. Originally slated for song #5, once we had it mixed down, it set the tone for the whole CD and spanked all the other tunes further on down the roster. Dance Blues! Side Piece vaulted on up to the top of the lineup, and totally deserved the # 1 slot!
   Song two, Grown Ass Man, is rough AND ready, and is a nod to my Blues Rock past. While I had originally played some well known Blues clubs back when the band first came out, they later dried up I had to make a living in the Rock Clubs. We had to come out hard, take no prisoners and justify, every time out, that we indeed belonged on stage with the Rock bands of the day.
  For example, Hammerjack’s was a legendary hard rock club in B’more in the 70’s and 80’s and I was one of only three Blues acts that ever played there. Johnny Winter and Buddy Guy were the other two. I am proud of that. We were baad enough to pull it off, with guts, talent and swagger.   Grown Ass Man has the vibe from those bare knuckle days. It is what I call Hard Blues; envision Metallica throwing down on a Blues joint. Check the lyrics- it’s my life, my family, my ‘tude.
  Secret Weapon? I copped the cool beat from the Essex’ Easier Said than Done, a 60’s teen R & B dance song. It was a cool beat when I first heard it on my transistor radio in elementary school and it’s still cool. Word.
   Song three is called Feelin’ Good, (also referred to as The Stripper Song, lol) a Trad Blues with phat harp, a tight rhythm section, butt-shakin’ bass drum, real finger snaps (Secret Weapon) and a 50’s R&B dance groove. Picture Fats Domino jammin’ wit’ Big Walter, peoples. My name is Bluesman, and it is a heads-up to the Blues Police that I can lay it down Old Skool when I choose to. Blues music was originally popular music that people listened to on the radio and danced to, and this one has it in spades.
   Song four, Clean Sweat, is pure FONK. I got the idea one hot August afternoon, showering before a gig. Before I could even get out and dry off, I was perspiring already, ugh. Says I: “Well, at least it’s Clean Sweat!” lol.
    I listened to James Brown when I was in high school and had the distinct honor to do a show with him in the 80’s. He’s part of my vibe, my style and I’m proud of it. Throw in some Parliament/Funkadelic, Stanley Clark and a lil Prince, and we got’s us some Fonk Blues. And just to be a smart ass, my slide solo is pure, vintage Muddy Waters, tone and all, lol. I be’s diverse.
   But one of the coolest, synchronicity-est parts of this song is that  my absolute first bass player, ever, Mr. Pipsie James, of Somerset County, Md. played on this cut. He and his brother Reesie, on drums, were the rhythm section that changed the course of my career when they came in to spice up my acoustic solo act and play a set of electric blues with me on the third set of my show at the legendary Talbot Street Cafe in 1978.
  I was always a solo act there, the sole Blues act in a club with a mostly folk music/acoustic vibe. I was investigating electric blues, doing my homework, woodsheddin’, and I sometimes played solo electric guitar Blues on my third set.
  One night, I decided to add bass and drums to that third set, and rock my solo act with a lil’ down-home greasy electric Blues. I had met Pipsie through my connections in Gospel music, we had done some gigs together, practiced on Pipsie’s front porch and in the back of the black barbershop in Greenwood, and we was ready!
  The story has been told many times, in many places, but when we took off the joint erupted, people knocked over tables, started to boogie and dance, and the course of both my career and the direction of the Talbot Street Cafe was altered forever. My days as a solo act were over, and the Talbot Street started booking bands. Ocean City, Md. history was made!
   Ok- back to Clean Sweat, cut four on Game Changer. I asked Pipsie to come throw down some Fonk Bass on the song. He was more than happy to oblige. In the fore-mentioned eerily wild, but weirdly normal psychic progression of the album, while Pipsie was recording his STANK bass solo on the cut, I realized that it was EXACTLY  36 years ago, TO THE WEEK!, that we had played together on that stage at the Talbot Street Cafe!   Whoa!!   Too WILD!! As the hippies would say, a circle was completed.
  Next time out will be Game Changer Part 4, stay tuned!    😉

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