Taken from their 1974 Light of Worlds album, Summer Madness is perhaps one of Kool and the Gang’s coolest tracks in a slew of well known dancefloor fillers. Who Sampled have recorded a whopping 145 entries for samples of this song, but perhaps it’s most notably known for Gang Starr’s DJ Premier In Deep Concentration, Naughty By Nature and Aaliyah’s Girl Like You and of course DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince classic Summertime.
Wikipedia describes Light of Worlds as Kool’s “most spiritual and sophisticated work” choosing “nine songs for the album to represent the nine planets in the solar system”, containing “rock-inspired funk set to jazz-informed playing with afrobeat influences and a tinge of analogue synthesizing”, which all sounds fantastic.
Summer Madness is a cool, late night jazz funk slow number based around a criminally simple two chord rhodes vamp accompanied by guitar, bass, synth and drums. Let’s have a look at recreating something similar in Logic X.
It’s a classic sound that it’s almost entered the music preset vernacular; the tremolo’d Fender Rhodes. I’m using Logic’s built in E-Piano with the Suitcase Mark 1 model, the Mark II wasn’t released until 1978, and sounds a bit brighter, containing more upper harmonics.
I’ve enabled the tremolo and set to it to 2 Hz with an intensity of 93%. I’m not using any amp simulation as this sounds like DI’d to me.
The chords themselves quite simple. You can think of the first chord as a D∆7 2nd inversion in your right hand with a B in the left, giving you an overall tonality of B-9 (B minor 9). The second chord’s nomenclature is more debatable but I’ve settled on C#-11.
The key to this loop is getting the staccato chord just right in your left hand. The dotted eighth note at the end of each bar is quite lazy and swung. Finally ensure you use your ring finger for the top F# so your little finger is free to hit the G# in bar two.
Here’s YouTuber PlaySmoothPiano showing you how it’s done:
One of the most memorable aspects of this song is the rich analog lead the sears over the groove. We can get close to it using near any subtractive synth and I’m going to use Logic’s ES2 playing an F# note rising over five octaves. It’s not perfect but it gets close enough:
The patch is built using a saw tooth and two detuned pulse waves running into a resonant low-pass filter with some drive enabled. There’s a little chorus and distortion on the output too. I’ve used ES2’s Analog and CBD (Constant Beat Detuning – giving yet more natural detune to the sound) and Glide, or Portamento.
The modulation for the sound comes from LFOs 1 and 2 further detuning the oscillators, LFO1 is a triangle wave with a delay of 8200 ms running at 4.4 Hz and LFO2 is a smooth random running at a much slower rate of 0.13 Hz.
The filter’s cutoff is being modulated by keyboard tracking and envelope 2 – using a short attack, medium decay and the rise function in the sustain section. The sound is finished off with some Channel EQ to attenuate the higher frequencies and roll off the bottom end and some Stereo Delay, just delaying the right channel.
The guitar part is a simple repeating two chord figure that slots nicely over the Rhodes. I’ve used a Fender Strat (not sure what year, sorry!) using a tweaked version of the Clean Country Reverb patch in Logic’s Amp Simulator.
Here’s someone much better than myself playing it, with the notes included:
The bass almost dictates the groove of this track, so it’s key to get the swing and feel of it right. Without a bass guitar available to me I’ve used Native Instruments’ free Kontakt Player, rolling off the Tone and turning the Noise up, also disabling the internal reverb.
The laid-back drums are courtesy of Logic’s Drummer plugin – a handy tool for quickly generating convincing(ish) acoustic drum loops and being able to tweak the drum kit used. I’ve opted for the Slow Jam Kit.
Once the Drummer region was rendered to MIDI I spent time messing with the ride and hi-hat pattern and tweaking the velocities so as to not over cook this.
The last part of the track to get in place is the strings swell. It’s hard to tell if it is in-fact a real string section or a Mellotron. I’ve two sets of stacked fourths (B, C#, E and F#) with the swell coming from the MIDI volume parameter.
The string patch is a tweaked version of the EXS24 String Ensemble, reducing the attack and decay (as our MIDI volume is controlling amplitude) and bringing down a 12dB/oct lowpass filter. I’ve added Logic’s Echo to add a pseudo tape delay, like a Roland RE-201 which was released that year and likely to feature on recordings from the time.
Putting it all Together
Balancing the tracks I’ve added Logic’s Space Designer on a send/return, using the 2.6s Vocal Plate preset with everything except the bass being sent to it.
On the master channel strip I’ve added the Tokyo Dawn Records Slick EQ, using the American algorithm, EQ Sat enabled, rolling off a bit of top end and boosting the bottom ever so slightly. After this I’ve used Logic’s basic compressor in the Classic VCA mode doing some very light gain regulation.
That’s it! It’s not a perfect replay but it should help you capture the vibe. Enjoy!