8 throbbing horn riffs
26th Sep 2013 | 07:42
Kenny G might have done his best to give brass instruments a bad name, but in the right hands - and in the right songs - saxophones, trumpets and trombones can make noises that hit you in the gut and make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end.
So let's celebrate the horn riffs that rip out of your speakers and threaten to tear your roof off. If you think there are any notable omissions, let us know about them.
Sam & Dave - Hold On, I'm Comin
Sam & Dave sound like the names of a couple of nice, dependable but ultimately anonymous chaps, but with the Stax songwriting dream team of Isaac Hayes and David Porter behind them, they became the most fearsome soul duo on the planet.
Hold On, I'm Comin's horn riff throbs to such an extent that it serves not only as the song's intro, but also the backbone of the chorus. What's more, the message of salvation in the lyrics is so strong that it's lessened only slightly when you learn that the encounter that inspired it involved Hayes giving Porter the hurry-up when he was using the Stax toilet.
Eddie Floyd - Knock On Wood
Another Stax gem - when Knock On Wood's supercharged horn riff kicks in, it feels like you've been hit by a soul-powered missile.
In true Catchphrase style, you'll note that this 1966 single's cover shows Eddie Floyd about to bury an axe into a tree. Say what you see.
The J.B's - Pass The Peas
A polite dinnertime request is turned into a fleet-footed funk instrumental by James Brown's backing band.
If the main riff doesn't fill you up, Fred Wesley's delicious trombone solo surely will.
Average White Band - Pick Up The Pieces
Scottish funk isn't the most widely recognised of genres - a fact acknowledged in this Dundee-based outfit's choice of name - but although these guys may have been white and in a band, they were anything but average.
Pick Up The Pieces might be structurally simple, but the horn riff is so musically nutritious that it could feed a family of four for a week.
Sly And The Family Stone - Dance To The Music
A multi-racial band that fused rock, soul, pop and funk, Sly And The Family Stone broke the mould.
With its simple, euphoric message, Dance To The Music feels almost unstoppable, and Jerry Martini and Cynthia Robinson's horn blasts are a key ingredient of this bewitching musical brew.
Kool And The King - Hollywood Swinging
Played at the start of the song before the groove kicks in, Hollywood Swinging's brassy fanfare almost begs to be sampled, and so it has been.
The riff doesn't actually appear anywhere else in the song, but it's so memorable that it doesn't need to.
The Commodores - Brick House
Although it's the bassline that underpins this taut funk masterpiece, it wouldn't have half the impact that it does if it weren't for the stabby brass licks that drop in and out throughout.
As for the lyrics, it doesn't take a genius to work out what kind of brick house is being referred to, though you'd have to be a master of seduction if you wanted to woo a woman by comparing her to that kind of building.
Stevie Wonder - Sir Duke
You might argue that Sir Duke actually has two horn riffs, though the post-chorus one skips around so much that you can barely keep up with it.
So we'll focus on that joyous opener; in the wrong context it could come off sounding a little cheesy, but in Wonder's hands it works a treat.