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Old 07-02-2012, 02:34 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Anteater's Muzak 101: Legitimizing Smooth Jazz For The Unwashed Masses


INTRODUCTION

Greetings to MB newcomers, anonymous browers and longstanding members alike! I am Anteater, a lurkish forumer who happens to have been here off and on for the last couple of years. I get along swimmingly with most folks, although I'm not as active as I probably should be.

Now, to preface, some of you may be familiar with some of my past journals and threads (the AOR list, modern prog. rock list, the Anthill, etc.). Furthermore, I'm a fairly busy fellow in real life, fresh out of college and working on a variety of business prospects whilst still doing new album reviews and posts over at my resident blog The Widening Eye.

All that being said, I'll be updating this journal fairly regularly, so keep your eyes peeled!


MISSION STATEMENT

Contemporary jazz, often tagged as "smooth jazz" or "muzak" by the categorization powers that be, is a genre of music that emerged officially in the early 80's in the wake of changing commercial trends, brought on in a sense by jazz-fusion artists seeking radio play in an increasingly jazz-unfriendly world.

To put it broadly, its a more melody-oriented form of jazz-fusion with that incorporates pop, funk, electronic, world music and even New Age/ambient influences. To put it another way, its a genre of jazz that has changed, evolved and like most forms of music has been watered down in the commercial spectrum since the mid 90's to the point of irrelevancy.

The format for my journal is going to be pretty straightforward. I'll be reviewing, analyzing and introducing readers to the cream of the crop in this underrated genre from the 70's through the present day, with an occasional post about some tangential subject such as the state of modern smooth jazz radio, changing trends and cultural analysis.


CONCLUSION

So yes, for better or for worse (depending on how open minded you are), this is a muzak journal for those who might want to explore the genre or pick up gems they might have overshot in their own searches. Bon apetit!
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Last edited by Anteater; 07-02-2012 at 05:50 PM.
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Old 07-02-2012, 02:39 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Welp, good luck with this. I've never been a fan of smooth jazz but I do like acid jazz, exotica and some new age so I'm right on the cusp there. You may just win me over to some artists!
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Old 07-02-2012, 04:21 PM   #3 (permalink)
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I'm with Jans on this. I like a lot of forms of jazz, but smooth jazz sounds like elevator music most of the time. But, if there is anyone that can convert me, it's you, Ant. I find more new awesome music in your journals than most of the site.

I'm hoping your first review is a doozy.
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Old 07-02-2012, 05:15 PM   #4 (permalink)
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I'm with the great unwashed who dislike jazz, but as duga and Janszoon say, if anyone can explain it and convince me to try it, it's he who eats small skittering insects for a living. Love the prog and AOR journals, and though I got a little lost over at TWE, it looks like a well put-together blog, so I may wander on by again soon. How would I go about contributing to that, should you be looking for reviews?

Even if I still end up hating jazz, it's always worth reading your stuff, as you write so well, making everything so interesting without seeming to ramble as some of us (who, me?) tend to. You have a great sense of style, that's for sure, and you know how to hook your readers. And keep them.

Best of luck with this; will be watching with your thousands of other admirers!
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Old 07-02-2012, 05:26 PM   #5 (permalink)
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I love jazz and usually shake my fist at the makers of smooth jazz for creating the stereotype that non-jazz listeners think of when they hear the word "jazz." If you can redeem this genre for me, please do so.
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Old 07-02-2012, 05:30 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Paul Hardcastle - Paul Hardcastle (1985)


ARTIST BACKGROUND
Unlike the majority of bands and artists associated with contemporary jazz, Paul Hardcastle started out as a dance-circuit DJ and keyboardist in the early 80's. Despite his growing technical prowess and a thirty some-going year career in music, he's the sort of guy who likes to stay out of the limelight and focus on what makes him happiest: crafting smooth tunes that blow most of his competition out of the water on the quality front.

THE ALBUM
Released after a couple of singles he made cracked the Top 20, this self-titled record did quite well during its time, though some reviewers criticized the overtly-electronic nature of the music, claiming it was 'monotonous' over a full length LP. The previously mentioned tracks that turned this guy into a household name, '19' and 'Rainforest', catapulted Hardcastle's career into the stratosphere and beyond.

WHY YOU WANT THIS
Smooth jazz, my friends, tends to come in one of several flavors. There's the stuff that plays it real safe, and there's the stuff that pushes the envelope within whatever established aesthetic is associated with the genre. This debut LP falls squarely into the latter camp: at the time of its release, there weren't too many people out there who were combining elements of early Chicago House, synth-pop, New Wave funk and a lot of smooth jazz elements into a cohesive, club-oriented sound.

Sonically, I consider this album to be rather underrated, as well as being ahead of its time in some respects. The production is astonishing in places even for '85, and in a weird way is reminiscent of 90's video game music as far as Hardcastle's arrangements and choice of synths are concerned. The programming is immaculate, particularly on the two big singles and some of the other hi-tech groovers such as 'Moonhopper' and 'Don't Waste My TIme'.

CLOSING REMARKS
Despite being completely synthetic on the instrumental side of things and being tied to a controversial time in dance music, this self-titled remains a big influence on the smooth jazz format, as well as jump-starting Hardcastle's career into the monstrously good thing it is today.

FINAL GRADE






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My Top 30 Albums of 2018
Quote:
Originally Posted by Frownland
You can't blame the Jews for everything...just most things.
Quote:
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Trump might be the best thing since free jazz.

Last edited by Anteater; 07-11-2012 at 09:27 PM.
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Old 07-02-2012, 07:17 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Trollheart View Post
I'm with the great unwashed who dislike jazz, but as duga and Janszoon say, if anyone can explain it and convince me to try it, it's he who eats small skittering insects for a living. Love the prog and AOR journals, and though I got a little lost over at TWE, it looks like a well put-together blog, so I may wander on by again soon. How would I go about contributing to that, should you be looking for reviews?

Even if I still end up hating jazz, it's always worth reading your stuff, as you write so well, making everything so interesting without seeming to ramble as some of us (who, me?) tend to. You have a great sense of style, that's for sure, and you know how to hook your readers. And keep them.

Best of luck with this; will be watching with your thousands of other admirers!
I'm so opposite of you! I LOOOOOVEEEEEE jazz!!!!!!!!

But smooth jazz and muzak and the like is so fake to me. This thread looks interesting and if some gems can be shared here, I might be sold on it.
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Old 07-02-2012, 07:18 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Oh, Ant! Paul bloody Hardcastle? I effing hated his music! I'm going to have to work up to clicking play on those videos, and I have to say I'm not anticipating liking them. I would never have associated him with jazz of any kind --- dammit, I remember n-n-n-n-nineteen: who of my age group doesn't? Drove us effing mad for weeks: "In Vietnam he was nineteen. In Vietnam he was nineteen." Yeah, we GET it. Shut the **** up! And as for "Don't waste my time", oh Christ no!

I head off to bed now, with nightmares already crowding around me (shudder)... (and other confused icons that don't exist...)
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Old 07-02-2012, 08:04 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Wow, Trollheart. What a very... constructive post. I didn't like the tracks either, but you don't have to blow up like that.

Anyway, onto the post.

Very, very good write-up, Anteater! I enjoyed reading. However, I enjoyed the music less... quite a bit less. I felt they were completely inoffensive in every way. Which is exactly what is so offensive to me. They are completely uninteresting, and they're so far away from pushing the envelope they're actually pulling it backwards.

That said, they were also catchy and danceable, which is more than I can say for most muzak. Keep up the good work, I'll definitely continue reading!
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Old 07-02-2012, 08:36 PM   #10 (permalink)
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haha. Yes!!! I just posted in the "unpopular music opinions" thread that I love Muzak! This is my kind of music! (well, one of them, at least) I had a good feeling about your taste from reading your AOR journal

Seriously, I think it takes a really patient, laid back kind of person to enjoy smooth jazz. You just align yourself with the overall vibe, and you're all set. I'm really going to like this thread, since I'm only starting to learn more about the genre.
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