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  Zapp and Roger
 

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Click below for a Zapp and Roger sample:

I Heard It Through the Grapevine

A Touch of Jazz (Playin' Kinda Ruff Part II)



 
One of the last large ensemble funk bands, Zapp dominated the early 80s with "Dance Floor," "More Bounce to the Ounce," and "Computer Love."   Leader Roger Troutman also had a highly successful solo career that lasted well into the 90s.

Zapp had its origins in the Human Body, an Ohio funk band featuring Roger in a leading role.  After struggling with some failed local singles, Troutman called on his friend Bootsy Collins to help him get a deal.  Roger was originally to be signed to George Clinton's Uncle Jam label, but Troutman viewed P-Funk as being in a state of chaos and signed instead with Warner Brothers.  He did take a page from Clinton's business acumen, securing deals both for Zapp and as a solo act, even though the records would have the same personnel.

"More Bounce" hit the stores in late 1980 and permanently altered the face of music.  A relentless minimalist groove, "Bounce" simply rode a monster bass line and clap track to glory, without any substantial vocals, chorus or bridge.  The song presented the Zapp/Roger formula in its simplest form: cracking guitar lines, vicious beats and the prominent use of the talk box, a gimmicky vocal effect that Roger made his trademark.  The electronic sheen did not overshadow the inherent soulfulness of the band, who prided themselves on their hard work and strong vocalists.   The combination of space age technology and downhome blues sensibility proved to be irresistible.  Zapp had gone where Parliament should have gone after "Flashlight," a point not lost on Clinton as he watched their star rise while his suffered.

In early 1981 Roger got his solo career off the ground with The Many Facets of Roger, whose centerpiece was a mind-bending version of "I Heard It Through the Grapevine," the old Motown classic.  Layered in synths and stretched into an 11 minute extravaganza, it was virtually unrecognizable to people familiar with Marvin Gaye's rendering.  The album also allowed Roger to indulge his blues habit, on the closing track "Blue."

The next project, Zapp II, was fortunately more creative than its title.   Once again, the lead song was a long groovefest designed for dancing, fittingly titled "Dance Floor."  But the most popular song was "Doo Wah Ditty," the funkiest use of a harmonica since Stevie's salad days.

They relied more on tours than recording sessions in the late 80s and 90s, but a wave of sampling heightened interest in Zapp and Roger, whose sound was now credited as a precursor to the g-funk sound of west coast rappers.  Roger was called in to recreate his magic on sessions with Dr. Dre, Gerald Levert and Curtis Mayfield, proving his talent was just as relevant as it was during his peak years.

Plans for a full scale reunion were halted when Roger was the victim of a shocking murder/suicide by his brother Larry on April 25, 1999.

Zapp and Roger's Deepest Grooves

Zapp (Warner Brothers, 1980)
"Be Alright" is another highlight from this album. 

Many Facets of Roger (Warner Brothers, 1981)
Classic blast of techno funk from Troutman here.  Well rounded and tasty.  "So Ruff So Tuff" and "Do It Roger" showcase his multitude of talents nicely.

Zapp II (Warner Brothers, 1982)
The essential Zapp album.  One of the tuffest funk platters of the decade. "Playin' Kinda Ruff" shows their working class roots, and the reprise "A Touch of Jazz" shows their instrumental versatility.

Zapp III (Warner Brothers, 1983)
"I Can Make You Dance" and "Heartbreaker" set the pace here.

The Saga Continues (Warner Brothers, 1984)
Mighty Clouds of Joy provide guest vocals on "In the Midnight Hour," an attempt at getting another hit with an oddball remake.

The New Zapp IV U (Warner Brothers, 1985)
Notable for "Computer Love," the group's best ballad with vocals by Charlie Wilson and Shirley Murdock.

Vibe (Warner Brothers, 1986)

Unlimited (Reprise, 1988)
Triumphant return to the charts with "I Want to Be Your Man," where he sings in his natural voice.

Bridging the Cap (Reprise, 1991)
Roger's last album.  One of the songs was sampled by EPMD for "Crossover."

All the Greatest Hits (Warner Brothers, 1993)
First of two compilations of classic cuts from Roger and Zapp.

The Compilation: Greatest Hits Volume Two (Warner Brothers, 1996)

Tribute to Roger Troutman (Thump, 2000)
Odd but well-intentioned tribute to Roger by artists who have either sampled or worked with Troutman.

Copyright 2001 B.Graff.  All rights reserved.

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