Thursday, February 18, 2016

Kiss The Sky-Millennium Skyway (1994)

ORIGINAL POSTING DATE: February 18, 2016

How about drifting off for a while into out space and let some smooth jazz smoothen out your night? That's what I did for the past hour leading up to my feature presentation of a very familiar figure in the world of electronic music. That would be the renowned British producer Paul Hardcastle, who made a big and lasting statement for himself back in the 80's when he created that memorable instrumental piece we all know and know called "Rainforest". Since that time, my listenings to Hardcastle's various other music projects, honestly, have been few and far between, so I consider my trek into the "Millennium Skyway", his second album produced under his short-lived moniker, Kiss The Sky, as my way of finally reuniting and reconnecting with him since checking out his 1997 effort some years ago called "The First Light". In fact, it's this album's instrumental title track which had led me back to "Millennium Skyway". "Millennium Skyway". The swirly electronic glitz, the snazzy keyboard accompaniment, the day-dreamy melody breathing in the background, the short sound waves bleeping in all throughout—I always love these smooth jazz pieces where there's so many musical textures to please my ears. Another fine production masterpiece is "Welcome To Japan". Had wondered if this one would have a Far eastern-inspired arrangement, given the 'Japan' in the track's title. Turns out I would be correct, of course, Besides the greetings spoken cutely by the kid at the beginning, there's a distinctive Far Eastern melody in the introductory movement, plus a Far Eastern-inspired calypso bell accompaniment all throughout, all blanketed by a nice relaxing groove that gives the music a serene, meditation air about it that's so commonly felt in Asian instrumental music. Yet there's a second passenger I reconnected with during my trip into this "Millennium Skyway". Providing the vocals to the other nine musical journeys is the lovely British r&b singer Jaki Graham, best remembered for her 80's hits "Set Me Free" and "Step Right Up", plus her sparkling 90's dance cover of Chaka Khan's "Ain't Nobody". It was so refreshing to hear her singing again after quite some time, sinking back into complete 'chill mode' upon taking in the opening cut, "Don't Walk Away". If you have an 'Easy Listening Mix' playlist of some kind, be sure to add this one to it, because it will certainly 'ease' all of those rough edges out of you. You'd agree that the delightfully sunny, breezy warmth of "Sorry" makes the follow-up track one of the most pleasant 'sorry' songs you will ever hear.....that is, until you realize there are dark clouds blocking some of that sunshine with Jaki's words of heartbreak and lost love. Take away the bitter and add some sweet by indulging in the upbeat grooves of "Got To Be Love" or the jazzed-up swings of "It's Because Of You" and, one that's a lot of fun because of the lyrics, "Do You Mean What You Say?", where Jaki and the backup ladies do it up big and bold on the vocal side. Now if you really wanna smoothen out your night, let yourself go on "Always Remember", the first slow jam in this electronic getaway, then on the emotionally haunting yet beautiful piece, "Life Will Not Be The Same", where a twinkly melody and the stripped-out beats (that is, until the very end) and Jaki's angelic, lofty voice have a way of freezing me in least for the few minutes that I'm listening. Surprising me at the end of my outer-worldly musical adventure is Jaki's updated smooth r&b rendition of the traditional holiday classic, "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas". Updated, I say, because she'd recorded her first version as a duet with soul singer David Grant back in 1985. This 1994 Paul Harcastle remake is amazing.....just s everything else on this "Millennium Skyway" that this British duo teamed up to record together:

1. Don't Walk Away
2. Sorry
3. Got To Be Love
4. Windows Of My Life
5. Millennium Skyway
6. It's Because Of You
7. Always Remember
8. Welcome To Japan
9. Life Will Not Be The Same
10. Do You Mean What You Say?
11. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

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