Saturday, May 18, 2013

Just Funnin' by Mtume: Joyful Funk

"Just Funnin'" is an irresistible funk nugget by R&B/funk band Mtume. The 1978 release is a rollicking, bumpin’ groove with a little P-Funk flavor thrown in for good measure. I love the little piano intro that kicks the track off and continues to percolate beneath the groove throughout the main part of the song, very cool. The track also has some sweet guitar licks, a phat bass line, and some funky horn work. Befitting its title, "Just Funnin'" has a light-hearted, goofy charm. Whenever I hear this song, I envision a funky circus rolling through town.

Mtume was formed in 1977 by songwriter, arranger, producer and multi-instrumentalist James Mtume, a Philadelphia native and son of  acclaimed jazz saxophonist Jimmy Heath. Mtume had previously worked as a percussionist for Miles Davis between 1971 and 1975.

The band Mtume had several hits, but they’re probably most remembered for their much-sampled R&B chart-topper “Juicy Fruit,” (1983).  "Just Funnin'" is a single from their album Kiss This World Goodbye, which was released in 1978. The song didn’t have a strong showing on the charts, only climbing to 93 on the R&B charts. It’s surprising that it charted so low, because it’s such a great cut.

 The lineup for Kiss This World Goodbye included Mtume (lead and backing vocals, congas, percussion), Tawatha Agee (lead vocals, percussion), Basil Fearrington (bass), Hubert Eaves III (keyboards), Howard King (drums), and guitarist Reggie Lucas, who also played in Miles Davis’ band in the ‘70s. “Just Funnin” was written by Mtume, Lucas and King.
In addition to their work with Mtume, Reggie Lucas and James Mtume were a successful and much sought-after production team. The duo formed the production company Mtume/Lucas Productions and wrote and produced tracks for notable artists such as Lou Rawls, Jennifer Holliday, Roberta Flack and Phyllis Hyman. They won a Grammy in 1981 for their composition “Never Knew Love Like This Before,” which was recorded by popular R&B artist Stephanie Mills and became her biggest hit.

Download Just Funnin' at Amazon

Friday, May 10, 2013

Singer-Songwriter Banks Impresses With Debut Single "Before I Ever Met You"

"Before I Ever Met You” is a mesmerizing track by Banks, a Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter. The song captured my imagination a few months ago while I was switching stations in my car. I stopped cold when I landed on this track and was hooked. Banks’ sultry voice meshes well with the hauntingly seductive trip-hop groove. This is one of those tracks that creeps into your consciousness and stays with you. And Banks delivers an understated yet powerful vocal performance.

“Before I Ever Met You” was Banks’ debut single released in early February of this year. She dropped her equally impressive second single, “Fall Over,” in March. Banks is a self-taught pianist, vocalist and songwriter, and she cites Fiona Apple and Lauryn Hill as influences. She had previously collaborated with UK DJ and producer Lil Silva on the club banger “Work.”  Banks is signed to LA-based independent label IAMSOUND Records. I’m keeping an eye out for this emerging new talent and looking forward to her next release.

Download track at Amazon