Quincy Jones released “The Dude” in 1981 which saw the super producer and composer bring together some of the best singers, musicians and song writers of the time.
I believe this is one of the most underrated albums of all time certainly in the Soul music genre which I see many lists of great soul and funk albums but never does “The Dude” make the bill.
The opening track “Ai No Corrida” is such a brilliantly constructed piece of music. The melody is infectious even if you have no idea what Ai No Corrida means. But you don’t need to know or care as the vocals of Charles May and Patti Austin transport you to world of funkiness with some awesome musical arrangement.
Perhaps the vocals being so in the upper register can get a little wearing but the groove is on point.
The title track “The Dude” is next. Essentially the song is a rap/soul song with James Ingram providing the vocals. Written by Rod Temperton and Patti Austin the song talks about this character “The Dude” who seems to me to be almost pimp like in the description of him. It’s a little cheesy because you have that date style of early rap which in inoffensive but I love this tune because quite frankly once again it is a wonderfully put together song.
I feel like every element of the song has been carefully thought out. Every frame of it’s construction from the instrumentation, the vocals, the ability to let the song simmer in it’s instrumental and that final bridge which brings together all the elements with Ingram putting in a stellar vocal performance.
“Just Once” is the first example of a ballad on the project. Ingram again is the lead vocalist and this is another heartfelt and believable performance from a singer who doesn’t really get the credit he deserves compared to many other of his contemperies.
The song is standard in it’s set up with a piano from producer and writer David Foster playing an important role in the atmosphere the song creates. The song has a slushiness that I don’t really care for and the lyrics also are not to my particular taste as he talks about getting back together with someone but the lead lyric is “Just Once” which confuses me as I would have thought he would want things back to how they were forever and not just the once.
The mellow atmosphere is replaced by an absolute gem called “Betcha’ Wouldn’t Hurt Me”. This song was written by Stevie Wonder with Patti Austin taking over the lead vocals.
Austin’s vocal is understated and not particularly loud but the groove of the song and guitar rift more than make up for that. The title of the song is never mentioned and is important because it is really a review of the lyrics in the verses and chorus – like an ironic statement about this person who promised so much for this relationship but in the end didn’t care enough to try harder.
The second half of the album (i’m listening to it on vinyl) kicks off with “Something Special”. Written by Temperton and sung by Austin. It has a wonderful bassline and is just so seductive & soulful you can’t help but get caught up in the way the song creates a mood.
And Quincy Jones is able to arrange and compose songs to fit any sort of mood. His musical knowledge is all on display with this project.
“Razzmatazz” is the big hitter from the album. It’s the dancefloor stomper with Austin leading the vocal charge on this brilliant song. It’s a feel good song and one to play when you are getting ready for a night out. I dare you not to feel good when you hear this track.
The way the chorus will have you trying to say all the lyrics just as quickly as Austin does as this groovy disco funk gargantuan raises the level of quality on this album even further.
“One Hundred Ways” slows things down with Ingram singing a song very similar to the earlier track “Just Once”. Ingram shows different aspects to his vocal though I feel he struggles with his falsetto yet who am I to say anything when he won the Grammy for best R&B vocal performance! Don’t get me wrong I think Ingram is a world class singer, I just don’t think that this is his best performance – not even on this album!
The 8th track is “Velas” which is the only instrumental on the album. As Stevie Wonder is on this album I did have to check to see if the harmonica playing was him but it was in fact Jean “Toots” Thielemans (who died in August of 2016). It is the harmonica that acts essentially as the replacement for the vocal with the rest of the instrumentation fitting with the style we have heard on the other tracks. This mellow groove is pretty if a little long.
The final track on “The Dude” is “Turn On The Action”. This is a massive funky track to end this excellent album. Patti Austin’s mesmerising vocals are back in force on this one with the electric piano being played by Herbie Hancock.
Everything about soul and funk music seems to be included on this track. It’s big and bold and whilst there are melodic similarities to “Razzmatazz” there is something about this song that seems a little more epic in it’s scale.
Quincy Jones clearly wanted to bring together the finest musicians in the game at the time and he has composes and arranged some fantastic pieces of music. It’s fresh, fun and clever in it’s use of some of the best singers and writers about. Even as I listen to it now I can appreciate the amount of work that has gone into these 9 tracks in what is one of the most listenable albums I have heard.