Starting any blog is never easy but for some reason I wanted to try my hand at writing some album reviews.
What album to begin with was something I have been contemplating for a while. Do I go with something contemporary, do I go with an obvious classic massive selling album from one of the Pop/Rock/Soul greats? Or do I go with an album I have loved for many years?
Well as this is my blog my decision to go with the latter sits a lot more comfortably.
Jamiroquai are/were a Jazz Funk / Acid Jazz group from West London who began in 1992 in Ealing fronted by singer/songwriter Jason Kay. I say “were/are” on the basis that later albums (certainly post 1997) saw a more generic Pop/Disco sound produced. This was mainly due to band members Toby Smith and Stuart Zender leaving the group.
Jamiroquai’s first album is different to anything you will hear from the group with a classic Jazz/Funk sound adopted throughout the album’s 10 tracks. Two of these tracks are instrumentals with track 5 “ Music Of the mind” (a homage on Stevie Wonder’s album title “Music of my mind”) and the final track “Digin’ Out” which is mainly a long Digeridoo solo.
The album’s theme is essentially as the title suggests that the planet is in a chaotic state with Kay commenting on different aspects of these problems such as war, damage to the environment, needless deaths, and poverty. The lyrics are damning on tracks such as “When you gonna learn” and “Too Young To Die” but both offer no answer how to prevent the issues at hand although I think the point of both songs is to draw attention to the devastation the world is seen from the point of view of the song writer.
“When You Gonna Learn” does state that
“foresight is the only key to save our childrens destiny”
whilst asking (presumably world leaders) when are they going to learn that their current stance is going to cause further problems down the line.
“Too Young to die” has a title that is immediately striking given the use of the words “young” and “die” which always seem to capture attention when listening to news broadcasts as we all seem to comment on a persons death with the phrase ” that was no age to die”.
The track doesn’t pull any punches and the most powerful line is
“Little Children, never said a world, but still they have to die, and i’m asking why”.
Track 3 “Hooked Up” as a funky tune is superbly crafted with the use of the brass sections and instantly gives you that 70’s funk feel. Lyrically its a tad self righteous essentially telling the world to stop taking drugs, stop being reckless, dance to the music and enjoy it.
So on track 4 “If I like it I do it” the lyrics contradict the previous warnings which tells us to slow down, take everything in, and do what you feel like doing. If you take the song on it’s own merit its a lovely track full of optimism whilst still covered by a bubble of world devastation yet allowing you to smile despite any horrors that may be going on.
The title track is a superbly put together song and so funky you can’t help but tap your feet. It’s lyrics encompass everything the album is about.
“I think we’re standing for injustice – white gets 2 but black gets 5 years?”
“And the little boy in hungry land is just a picture in the news, won’t see him on the tv advertising as it might put you off your food”.
The weakest track on the album is “Whatever it is I just can’t stop” which does nothing for me musically at all.
My favourite track off the entire set is “Blow Your Mind”. This track comes away from the albums theme and for me is a straight up love song. It’s simple in it’s lyrics but the bassline from Stuart Zender just transforms this simply composition to a Jazz-Funk classic able to stand up to any classic from years gone by. Kay’s voice is often compared to the style of Stevie Wonder and this is evident on the song but for me whilst I see where the comparisons come from the voice is younger and fresher sounding. It’s about a young man in love who is actually finding it difficult to articulate his feelings which come out almost child like in it’s wording.
If the first few tracks asked the questions it is track 9 which has the answers. “Revolution 1993” is exactly as the title suggests – a plan for a Revolution. Whether you as the listener will buy into the speech and continue to stick with the song as it goes on for over 10 minutes remains to be seen. The drumming on this track is relentless and has dominance over the entire song.
Overall the album is formidable listen with some great hooks, some lyrics that later Jamiroquai albums would not even associate with and the creativity in many of the songs seem such a world away from big Jamiroquai hits such as “Canned Heat” and “Little L”.
As a fan of Jamiroquai it is always this album which is used to defend support for a group which turned essentially into a solo project post 1997. The album is timeless in the fact that the lyrics are all as relevent as they were in 1993 and the sound is a fresh today given that at the time of the release this was seen as “retro” just like “Uptown Funk” or “Get Lucky” have been labelled the same in the last couple of years.