Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Jamiroquai's "Rock Dust Light Star" One Year Later

Funk and disco, R&B’s progeny, aren't to be mixed according to some. In truth, these styles rub shoulders often. Those schooled enough on black music will understand the phobic lines drawn in the sand regarding these genres are man made divisions, not musical.

Jason Cheetham, or Jay Kay, led his group Jamiroquai out of the acid jazz confines of Britain by being dashing enough to mix those genre offshoots of R&B. In the last 10 years, whispers of which elements factored into their sound most abounded. At the beginning Jamiroquai was much like their acid jazz cousin The Brand New Heavies, a band. Each member played a role in shaping classics like Emergency on Planet Earth (1993) and Return of the Space Cowboy (1995). Those records drew praise for their spontaneous organics. The creamy, dreamy disco strings kept to just a dollop didn't distract.

As Jamiroquai evolved, the group were relegated to elevated session player status. It reflected Jamiroquai's sound as they began moving toward concise structures that owed more to disco than funk improvisations. Granted, closer inspection showed Jamiroquai (like Earth, Wind & Fire before them) moved on the same track black music did when funk and disco merged during the mid-to-late-‘70’s. The funk didn't vanish, it just wasn't the only thing there anymore.

Released one year ago today Rock Dust Light Star (2010), their seventh album overall and first on Mercury Records, was met with high expectations. The ingenious craft that went into A Funk Odyssey (2001) and Dynamite (2005) peered at the hybrid of funk-disco with an electronic edge that was accessorial. Both projects had commercial clout but divided Jamiroquai’s fans.

Rock Dust Light Star sought to meet both sets of fans in the middle. Far too late to reverse their evolution, Jay Kay led another savvy pack of session players to create a subdued groove. That groove, ideally, would loop the group back to the echoes of their first two records. With his beguiling pipes, Kay breathed self-contemplation into “Blue Skies” and gave finger snappin' wit to “Lifeline.” “All Good in the Hood” fingered Kay as the done-wrong lover who cheered that “a little tension makes the world go round” when it came to love. Kay later drastically shifted into a Stevie Wonder romantic apologist on “Two Completely Different Things." When the tempo reached for adrenaline, it remained mannered on the lead single “White Knuckle Ride.” “She’s a Fast Persuader” proved gratifying to the Funk and Dynamite crowds. Glowing and cheeky, it was a brash nod to the fine art of fellatio, its night-streaked fevor should have been a single.

"Blue Skies"
Directed By: Howard Greenhalgh

Rock Dust Light Star had Jamiroquai comfortable enough to switch their styles when it suited them. The peaks of their first two records can’t be compared to Rock Dust Light Star because the fact is that they've become that good. Even the low key performances here are slick and accessible, in a good sense. Jamiroquai are contemporary and retro without any of the irony. It will be up to fans to accept that they started on “Planet Home,” but they've since traveled to a galaxy of funk-disco ecstasy far, far away. We’re just along for the ride. Five out of five stars.-QH

[Editor's Note: Rock Dust Light Star is available in all music retailers, in-store or online, that specialize in import materials. For more information on Jamirquai, visit: http://www.jamiroquai.com/-QH]

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