Thursday, March 23, 2017

SHALAMAR-Wake Up (1990)


ORIGINAL POSTING DATE: March 23, 2017

Here's an album chock full of jams that will surely 'wake up' your music senses! As I continue to pour through the first portion of the 'S' artists in my collection, I keep coming across some familiar names whose music I haven't treated myself to in ages. It was Seal and Sarah McLachaln the past couple of days (I've still got a lot more listening of them to do yet), and today, it's the classic supergroup who rose to fame with their memorable disco hits "The Second Time Around" and "A Night To Remember". Much of the popular music world fondly recalls the SHALAMAR's heydays when the trio consisted of Jeffrey Daniel, Jody Watley and Howard Hewitt. Yet what became of them once Jody and Howard embarked on solo careers? I've enjoyed many of that pair's respective solo accomplishments following their departure from the group in the mid-80's, but I didn't recall very well is the achievements of the revamped SHALAMAR lineup, particularly into the 90's. Listening to the group's final studio album, "Wake Up", therefore, was me wanting to 'wake up' my own music senses and demystify that part of SHALAMAR that I missed out on. The joyride kicks off with words of caution: "This Love Is Hot". This sizzling new jack swing-oriented jam is one of many that take me back to the good ole old-school music days of my middle school years when the beats were easy and the raps of the MC's were a fun affair. I can tell the production crew had a ball playing around with the different hip-hop elements on both the unmixed version and the extended version (which I slid down to shortly afterwards), particularly the mechanical, stuttering delivery of the guy announcing 'caution!' every few seconds or so. One of the two ladies of the revamped lineup takes lead on that one; it's the lone man of the group who leads the way on "For Sure". Beneath the groovin' and the beats is a real serious message where he asks if the lady is ready for the married life. But it's not all serious; the segment midway through is almost cartoonish in nature before the unified voices laying down the truth on just how serious the decision should be snaps everything back to reality. Some other goodies where cranking up the volume and letting the bass pound the speakers is in order: "Groove Talk", "I Want U", the title track (the street jazz element and the early 90's house era flavor attracts me) "Pink Box" (the funky arrangement is quite reminiscent of that featured in Janet Jackson's 80's hit, "Control") and my personal favorite, "Come Together". The latter is also the source of my latest 'Music Surprise Of The Day", because when I heard the familiar words of 'come together, right now...' in the last line of the chorus, I recognized it from the classic BEATLES hit of the same title (I'm more familiar with the harder-rockin' AEROSMITH version recorded some years later). Except it's not a direct cover, per se; the SHALAMAR crew sings 'come together, right now, in unity', while the rest of the song evolves into another one of those important messages for the people where they talk about bringing the world together and living in harmony, despite our differences and social issues. I sorely miss these kinds of songs—they're often overlooked yet totally still valid in this day in age—and what makes it even more of a keeper for me is the lively jazz/funk explosion that erupts, plus the inclusion of the children singing with the backup vocalists and the motivational speech delivered in both English and Spanish. Every good r&b album sets aside a few minutes for those special slow jams, and SHALAMAR shines brightly on all three of the ones presented here: "Why Lead Me On?" ('how can you love the material things and not love the man?' is just some of the words to highlight here), "All I Wanna Do" ('...is make sweet love with you'—the gentlest of words makes for one of the nicest soul groove I've heard in recent days) and my #1 favorite of the whole album, "I'll Give U Love" (this starry, soft rock radio perfect piece has just been nominated for your next 'Slow Jam Of The Night' because of the sublime tenderness and loftiness of the vocals of the frontman taking lead here). I've totally waken up and heard what I've been missing out on; have I waken you up yet?

1. Caution: This Love Is Hot
2. Wake Up
3. Why Lead Me On?
4. Groove Talk
5. All I Wanna Do
6. Come Together
7. For Sure
8. I'll Give U Love
9. I Want U
10. Pink Box
11. Caution: This Love Is Hot (Extended Version)

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