27 February 2017, No. 240, Melba Moore, ‘You Stepped into My Life’

I have No. 240, Melba Moore’s “You Stepped into My Life,” on a compilation, in case you wonder why the mixtape doesn’t use any of the breaks from the end. My version from Hit Action is truncated rather than edited, and it fades out around the 4:15 mark, just before the breaks and chants start heating up. There are a full two minutes of introductory vamping and string section warmups before Moore ever sings a word, though, so plenty of long-mix DJ fodder at the front end. Which is not to say the twelve-inch version isn’t now on my radar. It is, because I really like this song.

The vocal phrasing in the hook, particularly the rests between stepped and into and I’m and oh so happy is what does it for me in vocals. The punchy, punctuated vocals give an otherwise soft song something of a harder edge. Also the hook’s ascendant closer, “Stepped into my life / stepped into my life / stepped into my life” adds a nice sense of climbing toward something satisfying. This is anti-trauma music at its finest, all syrup and no cynicism.

In the intro there’s an instrument I’ve heard often but have trouble identifying. When I’ve heard it here and in other songs, I’ve always thought it was some sort of talking drum or bass cuíca, but having reviewed some videos of people playing talking drums and cuícas, I know it’s not those. It’s a pitch-bendy percussion-ish sound like booweeooh, and it hits on the fourth beat of the first bar. It must be what happens when you play the low conga while pressing on the head to change the tension. Or something with the conga. Maybe just the open tone? To my ear it has a little of that cuíca-like, plastic-straw-in-a-plastic-lid timbre, which I like because of its use in “Shake Your Rump” from the Beastie Boys. As is often the case, this is a sound I like because it was featured on or is similar to something from Paul’s Boutique.

The slappy bassline in the first eight bars reminds me of Locksmith’s “Far Beyond,” which forms the basis of “Red Alert” from Basement Jaxx, a song that in 1999 I thought of as background noise if I thought of it at all but later came to enjoy. When I get on a late ’90s house anthems kick, you’ll often hear me play that one.

For now, give Melba Moore a chance to step into your life and make you oh so happy.