It’s hard to start off my first (I’m sure of many more to follow) posts about George Duke. I had to take into account his whole music career that spanned nearly five decades, his almost ninety releases, (over 40 were full length albums), countless appearances with other artists, and that there really wasn’t a genre this monumental musician didn’t have an impact on. So what made me choose to review this album first as opposed to the plethora of others? The first reason is that this album isn’t really talked about all that much. The second reason is, that it is a huge genre crossing album! Almost every song on this album can be classified into a different genre all together. It really shows Duke’s mastery as a composer and musician.
The late 70’s and early 80’s were a very experimental time for a lot of musicians. Many artists started a lot of work on crossover albums into different genres, touching on the popularity of disco and taking advantage of the technology that was starting to come about in the early 80’s. Duke was no exception to this. (He was already doing experimental jazz pieces and playing with Frank Zappa in the 70’s, so enough said.) The album starts with a hit to the face of thunder funk/disco with a track called “Party Down.” The track isn’t too different than what was already coming out in the late 70’s with the exception of the break at the 2:06 second mark that is unbelievably stellar! It will have you chuggin’ right along on the dance floor. DJs take particular note of this break. It’s basically simple drum, thumping bassline, and chunky guitar at the end of each bar. Very easy to mix in and out as a transition.
The next track “Say What You Will” decides to slow the tempo down a bit for a little bit of a soulful slow jam. The opening bars are perfect for sampling and I’m trying to recall if someone has actually done anything with it. Right now, I’m thinking that it hasn’t been sampled or used in any sort of rap track ever. So producers take note of that. (That’s if there are anybody sampling tracks any more instead of producing wack ass beats.)
The third track, I believe, is the crowning achievement of this whole album! “Funkin’ For The Thrill” is a serious disco-funk burner! I mean the lyrics literally tell you to, “get down and boogie” and to “let the music touch your soul.” The slap of the bassline and the chunk of the guitar is unbelievable! You really need to pick up this album just for this track.
The album continues like this giving you a whole tour de force of ups and downs, genre benders and even takes you on a latin infused jazz trip on the track “Festival.” (The drums at the 3:00 mark are un-freakin-believable) If you find this while digging in some dusty crates in the back of a thrift store or old garage, you need to immediately add this album to your collection. No questions asked.
Label: Epic – JE 35701
Format: Vinyl, LP, Album
Genre: Jazz, Funk / Soul
Style: Jazz-Funk, Funk, Disco
A1. Party Down
A2. Say What You Will
A3. Funkin’ For The Thrill
B1. I Am For Real (May The Funk Be With You)
B2. Straight From The Heart
B5. Follow The Rainbow