Posted October 21, 2004
The Solution principals, Scott Morgan and Nicke Royale.
"Communicate!", the album from Euro-American soul band The Solution may just be the best release of 2004. A magical blend of soul, R & B and the slightest hint of Motor City rock and roll (via Sweden), it also marks another coming together of two prodigious talents in Hellacopters leader Nicke Royale and Michigan veteran Scott Morgan, neither of whom should need an introduction.
The pair first worked together in Nicke's Hellacopters, the Swedish band that he fronts as singer and guitarist. A dynamite single comprising two longtime Morgan staples, "Slow Down, Look Around" and "Sixteen With a Bullet", on SubPop was inspired and flowed from Scott's guest spots with the Swedes on a US tour. 'Copters fans will recognise the Royale/Morgan-penned "Hurtin' Time" on the gold record-earning "Hi-Visbility" album that followed, and the pair also worked together in the first Hydromatics line-up. A Europe-based project that celebrated the music of Sonic's Rendezvous Band, the hi-octane but well-hidden Detroit band that numbered Scott as a founding member, the Hydromatics found Nicke on drums, a role. The first Hydromatics album, "Parts Unknown", is a hard-to-find gem and the only one of two so far released that features Nicke, who had to return to the Hellacopters.
Although Nicke is back behind the traps, The Solution is altogether a different prospect to previous collaborations, taking a sharp detour into soul music. Morgan's considerable pipes were a big part of his '60s teen prodigy Michigan band The Rationals, a bunch of soulful beat music fans who took on board psych and more rocking influences as they entered the '70s. Morgan fronts The Solution on vocals and occasional guitar, with a Nicke-assembled big band line-up (including a horn section and female back-up vocalists) that's unlike anything most fans of their contemporary work have seen. This band is very a sum of its parts, however, with superb ensemble playing, all-round.
A Top 10 single in Sweden (the striking "I Have to Quit You") is the tip of the iceberg as far as the "Communicate!" album goes. A rave review in New Music Express followed its release. A second single "My Mojo Ain't Working No More" and a European tour were days away as a characteristically modest SCOTT MORGAN graciously joined us at the Bar to take us through he album, track-by-track.
1. Get On Back
Originally this was called “Goin’ Back to Soulville”. It was kind of a theme song and we did end up opening all the last tour's shows with it. Nick’s drum opening really kicks the energy into gear. The way he and Janne Hansson recorded the drums with only three overhead mikes adds to the spaciousness and excitement. I asked Hiawatha Bailey from the Cult Heroes to write some lyrics and used them (beginning with "Gentlemen, start your engines”) along with my own. We ended up changing the song title in our campaign to avoid comparisons with Ray Charles and Jackie Wilson.
2. I Have to Quit You
This is Nicke all the way. He could have written the song for me, but he says he wrote it about no one in particular. It’s got a soul-meets-pop thing that clicked instantly on Swedish radio. Personally, I think it was my harmonic chanks that added that air of mystery. As songwriting goes you can’t argue with Top 10. In the end the recording and arranging put us over the top with this one.
3. My Mojo Ain’t Workin’ No More
This became one of my very favorite tracks. It’s a lot of fun to do live. Kind of a story telling thing. The opening line gives it a Camelot mood but but it builds into full soul intensity later in the song. Nicke once again wrote it and I’m happy to say it's the new single.
4. Would You Change Your Mind
A candidate for the first single but was beaten out by “Quit”. More R & B feel than the singles but still very good work on the songwriting end. The breakdown is especially effective. Another great Nick Royale composition. Damn, that’s three in a row. I’m gonna have to do something about this.
5. Top of the Stairs
This one is very personal for me. It’s about my Dad who died in December 2003. Nicke and I had talked about using strings as I wanted to write a pretty ballad. I had been listening to The Stylistics’ “People Make the World Go ‘Round” and really liked the groove. I took it from there and added my signature jazz chords which i concoct in my laboratory. I cried through the whole thing. I went straight from the music to writing down the lyrics and it was complete in about an hour. It’s straight from the heart.
6. Widow Wemberly
I had always been a Tony Joe White fan but had never heard this song. I knew “Poke Salad Annie” and “Rainy Night in Georgia” but Nicke found this one. It could be about my Mom after my Dad died so I could connect to the story. The music is very down home which suits me fine. It takes you back to an earlier and more basic culture. The double tracked harp adds an eeriness to it.
This is one of our attempts to recreate “sweet soul music”. I had an idea to cop from Fugi’s “Red Moon Rising” and completely change the feel, but clearer heads prevailed. Another piece of solid songwriting by Nicke. The breakdown is grand theft from James Brown. We only steal from the best.
8. She Messed Up My Mind
This song was so depressing to me when we wrote it and recorded it. It felt very personal to me. In the end it became one of our best live songs. I think the story is great. Credit this to Nicke with an assist from me on lyrics. I’m trying to do Joe Simon on this.
9. Must Be Love Coming Down
This is a Major Lance single I loved from 1970. Written and produced by Curtis Mayfield and arranged by Johnny Pate. We didn’t change much. I had sung the earlier Major Lance hits and figured this one would be no problem. When I got in front of the mic, I found out different. It was actually quite tricky but Nicke saved it with his patented vocal recording formula.
This one was called No Words on the demo for obvious reasons. I was supposed to write them. In the end, Nicke did and I got another assist. It gets harder to sing after the modulation, but anything can be repaired with duct tape and Jack Daniels. I like the way the singers say: “Communicate” at the end. I feel like they should just keep repeating that and drive the message home.
11. End of the Day
I wrote this one about feeling like after you roll out of bed that everything is just routine until the end of the day. It’s the opposite of Ray Davies' “Till the End of the Day”. In my song, the poor guy can’t wait till the day is over. He really wants to just live but he doesn’t know how. I borrowed a line from the film "The Misfits”. How do you just live? You wake up, scratch yourself, see what kind of day it is. Meeting a friend, having a glass of wine, and a conversation. It’s all part of the antidote.
I wrote this one more than 20 years ago. The original single version is released on real o mind records. Soulmover was the working name for the band until Pele Almqvuist of The Hives traded us ”The Solution” for a player to be named later. I’m glad we got to record it with horns and female singers.
There were two other tracks recorded: Johnny Copeland’s “I’ll Be Around”, which was the B side of “Quit”, and my song “Snafu” which will probably end up on the EP we’re recording in November.
By the way, did anyone find the hidden track on the Hydromatics' second album “Powerglide”? Just curious.
Special thanks to The Solution, Carl Von Schewen and Patrick Fredriksson
READ THE ALBUM REVIEW
BUY THE ALBUM
CHECK THE TOUR DATES
READ A REVIEW OF THE BAND'S DEBUT PERFORMANCE
LET'S GO BACK TO THE BAR