Sunday, December 15, 2013

ESG - Come Away With ESG

Formed in the late 1970’s in the Bronx, ESG (which stood for “Emerald, Sapphire and Gold”) was a band made up of the four Scroggins sisters: Renee (guitar and vocals), Deborah (bass and vocals), Marie (congas and vocals), and Valerie (drums).

After a couple of EPs, including 1982’s ESG Says Dance to the Beat of Moody (from which a couple tracks here first appeared), they put out their first full-length album in 1983 entitled Come Away With ESG. Pitchfork Media, out of Chicago, ranked it as the 84th greatest album of the 1980’s. Today, we will give it a spin for its thirtieth anniversary.

Side one opens with “Come Away”. It has a rather stripped down sound, with a simple but steady drum beat, a light bass riff and a low-key vocal chant.

The tempo picks up slightly with “Dance”.

“You Make No Sense” is very similar musically to the previous track, however there is a change up in the accent percussion. In the former, it was a tambourine while here it is a wood block.

“Parking Lot Blues” sticks with the same drum/bass formula but shifts the guitar up an octave or so. There are also what sounds like synthesized car horns to tie-in to the whole parking lot theme on this instrumental track.

The instrumental “Chistelle”, the shortest track at less than two minutes, opens with a surf-rock kind of riff.

The first half of the record closes with “About You”.

Side two starts with “It’s Alright”. I cannot help but draw a connection with the lead vocalist on this one to Clare Grogan from Altered Images. They both have a quirky little inflection.

“Moody (Spaced Out)” has a lot more layers than most of the other tracks thus far.

The instrumental “Tiny Sticks” puts the spotlight on the percussion.

“The Beat” has a lot in common with “Dance” from side one.

“My Love for You” ends the record on a tune that compares a young lady’s love to a rollercoaster.

I had not heard of ESG or this record until my buddy Herc mentioned them to me. I’ve read that early hip-hop artists liked taking samples from this one, especially the instrumental tracks. There are plenty of solid beats here that are clean and concise, very easy for speeding up or slowing down or whatever.

While I enjoyed listening to Come Away With ESG, it was a bit different than the usual dance stuff I was into in the early 80’s. This one almost has a bit of a jazz-fusion thing going on in some aspects. Lyrically, the songs are simple. And while the performances are tight, they do tend to get a little bit repetitive in spots. Personally, I like albums to give me a bit more variety. The record is over on Spotify if you want to give it a listen. Those with a more musical background, especially folks who played in band at some point in their life, may find it intriguing.


HERC said...

You noted a few of the things I really like about the album - the stark sparseness, the improv jazziness and the rhythmic repetiveness.

The way the Scroggins sisters build a simple groove and then ride it brings to mind The Meters or Charles Wright and the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band for this guy.

Sorry you didn't like it as much as I thought you might but thanks so very much for featuring it.

Martin Maenza said...

Herc, no worries. You know I am always open to suggestions from you. I think I might like the ESG record more if I gave it a few more listens.