Jamiroquai celebrate the 20th anniversary of their commercially successful “Travelling Without Moving” this year (2016) which was their 3rd album.
This was the album that turned Jamiroquai from a Jazz Funk band to a more pop orientated hit making group which catapulted front man Jay Kay from the music press into the mainstream celebrity line of sight.
Jamiroquai had released two albums which were socially conscious as well as being impressive musically so the third album was always going to require a change of tact and depending on who you speak to this will be seen as what made them a selling act or a selling out act.
The first track “Virtual Insanity” retains the socially conscious themes that the debut album “Emergency On Planet Earth” was mainly about as Kay talks about the insanity that has become technology with cloning and other technological advances that in fact have not advanced the human race but in fact hindered it.
Melodically this is certainly a more crafted pop song than any of their previous releases and remains one of Jamiroquai’s biggest hits to date especially with a music video which topped many a list of great videos.
‘Virtual Insanity” is driven by a simple piano loop which is evident until the bridge which is extended on the album version where as this isn’t present on the single version at all.
In what I can only presume was a search for hits the song “Cosmic Girl” was crafted. It is one of the signature Jamiroquai tunes which encapsulates a lot of what is good and bad about Jamiroquai post “Return of the Space Cowboy” . It’s funky but nothing like off the first two albums. It’s catchy with a hook everyone can sing. The futuristic space sound is at home on a track talking about a girl from another planet.
There is no doubt that ‘Cosmic Girl’ is fun and still a song which sounds as fresh today as it did 20 years ago.
“Use The Force” is far more ambitious with the inclusion of some great percussion. The song has a more organic feel than most of the songs on the project. It’s big and noisy and of course very funky.
“Everyday” is a soulful bass driven ballad where the instrumentation is simple as Kay’s voice is focused on. It’s a well polished love song which is as smooth as anything you will hear. This smoothness is a stark change from the messier live feel of the previous album.
“Alright” starts off with a long introduction before it goes bang with a baseline sent from heaven. This was the last album that bassist Stuart Zender appeared on which could be seen as a point in time where Jamiroquai began to decline.
‘Alright’ is probably the best song on the album. It’s moodier, funkier and catcher than anything else on the set. A highly enjoyable track which is well produced and with more of an R&B feel.
The 6th track is “High Times”. As the title suggest the song is about drug taking though mainly all in a negative light. The song is about how life in the band has been about travelling around and touring and not much else. Night turns in day with jet lag becoming a factor.
Again the song is crafted more towards a pop market which allowed it to be a clear choice for a single release. The essence of Jamiroquai is retained but in a much more accessible way which is evident clearly on ‘High Times.
“Drifting Along” is like nothing else on the album and in fact nothing like anything Jamiroquai have ever done. It is a straight up reggae track. It isn’t particularly groundbreaking and offers nothing but a raise of an eye brown as Kay sings in a faux Jamaican accent.
“Didjerama” defies the notion that Jamiroquai have gone ‘pop’. It is an instrumental which is mainly all Didgeridoo. This instrument had been previously used on the first album on the final track ‘Digin’ Out’.
Whilst it is ambitious to put such a track on the album to me it gets boring very quickly. At 3.51 it is too long and the skip button is often in use at this point.
The next track is “Didjital Vibrations” which again is mainly Didgeridoo playing and you can be forgiven for thinking that this is going to be much the same as the previous. But then the guitar kicks in as well as the drums and bass and whilst this is is an instrumental it’s smooth, soulful and funky. One of the hidden gems.
Track 10 is the title track “Travelling Without Moving”. This is one of the best Jamiroquai tracks ever produced. Whilst the start of the song is the sound of a car revving which goes against the Eco warrior Jay Kay seemed to be on the first album the song features a quite wonderful baseline from Stuart Zender.
The song is simple in it’s lyrics but it got such a groove which brings together everything that Jamiroquai are good at.
“You Are My Love” is a bit of an ode to the Disco/Funk tracks of the 1970’s. The song is slightly derivative and lacking originality in a genre of music which often sees new artists struggle to create something that sounds fresh.
“Spend A Lifetime” is the final track on the album (not counting the bonus tracks). The problem with this track is that unlike “Everyday” is just goes no where. It is a track that whilst the inclusion of a string section makes the song fuller in it’s instrumentation lyrically and melodically does little for this listener.
The bonus track on the UK version is “Funktion”. This is what fans would have probably wanted to hear more of on “Travelling Without Moving” as it is more akin to what we have heard from Jamiroquai previously especially on the first album. It is basically a song which sounds like it was done in one take. It is a song that just flows and displays some great instrumentation. It is fun and funky.
“Travelling Without Moving” was a changing moment for Jamiroquai. Thrust into the pop scene with success in the form of record sales and Grammy awards follows yet as a Jamiroquai fan I could never get my head around that this would be seen as the bands best work. It certainly was better than the next couple of albums but nothing close to what was created on “Emergency On Planet Earth” & “The Return Of The Space Cowboy.
Regardless of my own personal favourites “Travelling Without Moving” is still a very good album. It’s diverse with songs that will stick in your head as well as some experimental tracks which allowed the band to breath.
With Stuart Zender leaving after this album and Jay Kay taking an overriding control which would be to his and the groups detriment moving forward this could be seen as the last great Jamiroquai album which they would never hit the heights of musically again.