Friday, May 1, 2015

Review of Cameo’s Debut Album Cardiac Arrest

New York-bred groove outfit Cameo brought their own original brand of funk to the music game with their impressive debut album Cardiac Arrest in 1977. The collection boasts some really strong funk grooves as well as some top-flight ballads. You can definitely hear influences of well-known funk acts of the day sprinkled throughout the album, including Parliament-Funkadelic, Kool & the Gang and the Commodores. This collection captures Cameo in the process of cultivating their own unique sound and putting their special flavor on the funk, which they dubbed “C-Funk.” And with each following album, the band continued to refine their singular “C-Funk” sound until they became influential trendsetters in their own right. The band had one of most distinctive funk styles of the ‘80s—along Prince’s famed Minneapolis sound and Roger & Zapp.

The album kicks off with the bumpin’ high-energy funk groove “Still Feels Good.” The track has a super-tight horn arrangement and some nasty guitar licks.  “Still Feels Good” is followed by “Post Mortem,” another hard-hitting funk track.  This nasty groove features some quality horn work, and bassist William Revis lays down some funky bottom.

“Smile” is a great ballad that has some soothing synth work from Gregory Johnson. And Tomi Jenkins elevates the track with his strong lead vocals.

“Funk Funk” is the centerpiece of the album. The mammoth groove is anchored by Revis’ supremely funky bass line, and the horns are on fire.  Drummer and bandleader Larry Blackmon is at the helm on this cut and gives the lowdown on the “C-Funk” concept with his trademark offbeat humor. This cut stands apart from the other tracks on the album as a truly original and potent slice of funk. You can hear the band finding their own distinct voice on this funkalicious track.

The irresistible dance-floor rump-shaker “Rigor Mortis” is almost as strong as “Funk Funk.” The powerful groove boasts a badass bass line that lured folks to the dance floor back in the day. The track also has a terrific horn-laden bridge.

“Find My Way” is a straight-forward disco cut. Jenkins serves up a superb vocal performance on this elegantly arranged dance track. And the song also contains some cool wah-wah guitar licks, which further enhances the track’s disco flavor.

The band keeps the groove momentum going with the upbeat “Good Times.” The kinetic track is driven by a Revis’ infectious bass line, and Johnson provides some stellar synth work. 

The album closes out on a mellow note with the soulful, heartfelt ballad “Stand By My Side.” The track is highlighted by some top-notch vocal work from Jenkins and vocalist Kurt Jeter.

Cardiac Arrest was produced by Blackmon, who also wrote or co-wrote seven of the album’s eight tracks. The album was released on Chocolate City Records, which was a subsidiary of Casablanca Records. The collection had an impressive showing on the charts. It peaked at #16 on the U.S. R&B album charts and #116 on the U.S. pop album charts. Also, three tracks from the collection charted on the U.S. R&B singles chart: “Funk Funk” (#20), Rigor Mortis (#33) and “Post Mortem” (#70).  And “Find My Way” shot to #3 on the U.S. dance charts.

Cameo’s full lineup during the recording of Cardiac Arrest was the following: Larry Blackmon (drums, percussions, lead and backing vocals); Eric Durham (guitar); Tomi Jenkins (lead vocals); Gregory Johnson (piano, synthesizer, electric piano, vocals); William Revis (bass); Charles Sampson (acoustic and electric guitar); Nathan Leftenant (trumpet); Kurt Jeter (vocals); Arnett Leftenant (saxophone) and John Kellogg (backing vocals).

Cardiac Arrest was an auspicious debut and put the band on the map in the R&B and funk scene. It's a definite must-have for true funk lovers. The fact that Cameo was able to create such a huge buzz right out the gate in a crowded field of great funk artists was a testament to band’s exceptional talent and singular style. With this album, the band showed that they were a funky force to be reckoned with; this LP was the first shot fired in setting off the glorious “C Funk” era.

Following Cardiac Arrest, the band went on to release a ton a great tracks in the ensuing years and became one of the most prominent funk acts of the ‘80s. And the anthemic funk classic “Word Up!” catapulted the band to superstar status worldwide in 1986.

"Funk Funk"

"Rigor Mortis"

Related blog entry: "I Just Want To Be" by Cameo

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