Maybe I should change the name of this page from the D’aily to the Roy Hargrove Appreciation site. Not as catchy, but it might be more accurate based on the past few posts. Friday we had “Bullshit.” Today we kick start week 5 of the D’aily with another Hargrove showcase in “Spanish Joint.” Saturday we celebrated what would’ve been Roy Hargrove’s 52nd birthday, so the D’aily Random Song Generator did a nice job of allowing us to give him his due.
“Spanish Joint” is the 9th track from D’Angelo’s 2000 album Voodoo. It was written by D’Angelo and Roy Hargrove. Produced and arranged by D’Angelo. All vocals by D’Angelo. Bass and guitar by Charlie Hunter. Drums by Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson. Congas by Giovanni Midalgo. Horns by Roy Hargrove. All other instruments by D’Angelo.
When Voodoo was first released in 2000 “Spanish Joint” was my favorite track on the album. Easily. As I stated last week when I wrote about “The Root” this album continues to evolve for me and eventually “Spanish Joint” fell back to the pack, but for the first year that I had Voodoo this track was on repeat. There’s so much going on here and it’s all good. Let’s start with the title of the track. Since the song does have a Spanish feel to it, I’m sure they got used to saying, “Let’s play the Spanish one.” “Play that Spanish joint again.” Eventually they gave up on naming the track and just went with “Spanish Joint” since that’s what they were all calling it anyway even though the lyrics are completely unrelated to the title. The only thing surprising to me about it is it’s not called “Spanish Jawn” with Questlove involved.
Speaking of Questlove, he’s the darkhorse MVP of “Spanish Joint” or more specifically, his snare drum is the MVP. This track is all about the groove, and Questlove’s ever present snare drives it. Add in Charlie Hunter’s bass line and the foundation is laid. They could’ve just dropped D’s vocals on it and called it a day. Would’ve been a dope track. Then we get the icing: Roy Hargrove’s horns and Charlie Hunter’s guitar.
It’s difficult for me to summarize the contributions of Hargrove and Hunter without being redundant. Hargrove’s tone is so warm, even on a track like “Spanish Joint” which demands a lot of staccato and quick hits. He somehow manages to make each of those notes sound smooth and rounded. They don’t hit too hard. I played trumpet long enough to know how difficult that is. Hunter goes full George Benson and I mean that in a good way. I know Benson gets a lot of shit from jazz purists for supposedly selling out and being one of the forefathers of “smooth jazz” but the fact is Benson was a badass guitarist and the people who begrudge him for going the smooth jazz route still acknowledge that. Hunter’s performance on this track sounds and feels like Benson’s work on his amazing cover of “Take Five.”
Put all of those elements together – Questlove’s drums, Hunter’s guitar and bass, and Hargrove’s horns – and you get a track that finds the pocket quickly and stays there for over five minutes. D’Angelo is practically a secondary player here. What I find interesting about D’s performance here is the lyrics. It’s a surprisingly inspiring song. I wasn’t necessarily expecting that from a track called “Spanish Joint” but I find myself coming back to this track repeatedly when I’m looking for any kind of self-affirmation. “Something up in me gotta be sole controller in control of me. A link in your chain just won’t do. I don’t want nothing to do with you.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve found inspiration in those lyrics in the past 20 years.
Surprisingly, “Spanish Joint” did not find its way onto the setlist for the 2000 Voodoo Tour, at least not the many concerts I’ve heard. He was performing it frequently on his 2015 Second Coming Tour as a medley along with the track “Betray My Heart” from his 2014 album Black Messiah. I’ve written a lot here in the past several weeks about D’Angelo finding creative ways to reimagine his songs live, but his performances of “Spanish Joint” are basically note for note matches of the studio version. No need to mess with perfection. He also performed a flawless, sped up live version of the song for Spotify in 2015. Same as the version he played on tour: Speedier tempo, but same song. Same pocket.
“Spanish Joint” is the perfect song for a Monday, so I’m glad the D’aily Random Song Generator gave it to us today. We could all use a little inspiration to get our week started. I hope it pumps you up like it does me. If this wasn’t enough about “Spanish Joint” to sate your hunger, you can read more here from someone far superior and knowledgeable at this than I. Tomorrow the vibe will change a bit. Remember last week when I said I have a clear least favorite song on each of D’Angelo’s albums? Well, tomorrow we’ll get our first of those three. I have a feeling a lot of people will disagree with me on this one, but I’m ready to defend my take. In the meantime, just put “Spanish Joint” on repeat and enjoy your Monday. I’ll be back again tomorrow with more.