Saturday, May 14, 2016

Q-NRG (1990)


Q who? Besides that brief opening interrogative sharing the title to a memorable episode from the classic "Star Trek: Next Generation" television series, it's also an appropriate question when it comes to an obscure German synthpop group I recently discovered by pure accident. So who is Q? While they're nothing like the iconic omnipotent alien from the "Star Trek" universe whose name shared that of the seventeenth letter of the English alphabet, the quartet consisting of producers Jens Gad and Toby Gad, plus vocalists Kevin Anthony Hall and Mark L. Bond, have surely showed off some majestic omnipotence of a different kind with their respective successes in the music biz. Focus on Toby Gad, because it was some curiosity about his songwriting that led to that accidental discovery of Q in the first place. "Fame (The Game)", a favorite (and highly addicting!) dance jam of mine from the late Donna Summer's final studio album, "Crayons", was co-written with this Toby Gad. Then having been immensely impressed with that joint collaboration of the lyrics, I followed Toby's other songwriting accomplishments until I zoned in on his production work with Q. Always fun embarking on these little cross-referencing missions, because there's often a surprise awaiting at the end of the journey. Which brings me to my latest 'Surprise Of The Day': the group's covering of the MILLI VANILLI hit, "Is It Love?". Wouldn't have even thought it was cover until I recognized the funky skip to the beat and that unmistakable singing of 'whoa-oh' in the song's main hook! And that's when even deeper trekking into Toby Gad's career led me to further discover that production work for MILLI VANILLI was among the list of his professional achievements. I have to admit that this Q version of "Is It Love?" takes a moment of getting used to, considering the quirky vocal delivery of the guys fronting at the mic. And that's the same sentiment I have about the rest of this "NRG" album: quirky yet different, but catchy in its own unique way with a rather eclectic pop/rap/funk style that could only come out of the post-80's era. The very first track, "Moving Sensitive", sets the tone; it's one of those that may require a few extra spins on the CD player or the digital jukebox before it sinks into your system. Almost a punkish new-wave feel to it, accented by the 'rock breakdown' about midway through. It's a similar new-wave vibe I get on other such upbeat numbers as "Consciousness", "Supervize Me" and "The Beast In Me", the latter emerging as a personal favorite due to the catchy nature of the hook and the lofty Prince-like spoken vocals that are heard during the beat drops. Demonstrating the group's eclectic talents further is "Don't Pull Me Down", whose unusual arrangement can be compared to that of "Moving Sensitive"; it's the big band-inspired jazzing up heard at the very end that puts the accent on this little four-minute listening adventure. Funny I should mention jazz, because it was the last thing I expected heading into this album's fourth track, "Rainy Day", a delightfully smooth, easy-flowing groove that's really too short for its own good! Then there's the even more delightfully smooth and sweet ballad simply entitled "Girlfriend" that pleases my ears as well. So this is Q, and this review is showing me hooked on Q. Any questions?

1. Moving Sensitive
2. Is It Love?
3. The Beast In Me
4. Rainy Day
5. Don't Pull Me Down
6. Boy In The Tree
7. Jealousy
8. Girlfriend
9. Consciousness
10. Supervize Me

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