Wednesday, September 13, 2017

MTUME/Prime Time: The Epic Anthology reviewed!


Call them R&B, Funk or Soul - it doesn’t matter.  What matters is that you still remember their name.

Best known for the hit “Juicy Fruit,” Mtume put the fun in Funk!  Their output straddled the line between Funkadelic/Parliament-inspired grooves and smooth and sexy R&B, never straying away from their soulful roots. The oft-sampled outfit achieved more success in the UK and Europe than America, it seems, but there's no doubt that Mtume should have been bigger -much bigger - than they were. You can rediscover the band via PRIME TIME: THE EPIC ANTHOLOGY, a brand new two CD collection courtesy of Soul Music Records/Cherry Red.

The tracks from 1978’s KISS THIS WORLD GOODBYE- including the funktastic “Just Funnin’” and lovely ballad “The Closer I Get To You” – reveal their early ‘70s influences. At this point, they were still a proper ‘live’ band in the studio and the arrangements and musicianship are top notch. Of course, this was to be expected from a band formed by namesake, James Mtume, who had formerly played with Miles Davis (amongst others) and was a successful songwriter. Co-vocalist Tawatha Agee takes the songs to another emotional level, full of passion and power.

On 1980’s IN SEARCH OF THE RAINBOW SEEKERS, the band’s sound was augmented by a heavier use of keyboards. “Anticipatin’ is a delectable upbeat track that serves as a bridge between the sound of the debut and what was to come. Tawatha’s vocals on “We’re Gonna Make It This Time” will break your heart. “Mrs. Sippi” and the aforementioned “Anticipatin’” mine the same musical influences – Rock and Funk - that sent Prince to the top of the charts a few years after this album was released.

By the time 1983’s JUICY FRUIT album was released, the band had embraced the Electro-Funk sound and used it to their advantage. “Green Light,” “Would You Like To (Fool Around),” and, of course, the title track are prime examples of the band’s easy transition to a then-modern sound. The album was the biggest selling full length of their career and deservedly so.  They successfully embraced the Electro revolution while letting their Funk roots show.

1984's YOU, ME AND HE continued the smooth Electro-Funk sound and was filled with even more instantly lovable Mtume gems: “C.O.D. (I’ll Deliver),” the quirky “I Simply Like” and the title track (here in it’s ‘Polygamy Mix’) are highlights featured here. 

On their final album, THEATER OF THE MIND (1986), the band served up another great selection of songs. “P.O.P. Generation” gave Prince a run for his money. “Body & Soul (Take Me)” was another fine ballad by the band.

Mtume split up after this album although each member went on to successful careers. This double disc retrospective also includes a few remixes as well as three tracks from Tawatha’s solo album, WELCOME TO MY DREAM, which was produced by James Mtume. While still fondly remembered by R&B aficionados, Mtume remain sorely overlooked by the general public here in the U.S.  Perhaps a compilation like this will lead to a full Mtume reappraisal by critics and fans?  We can only hope.

Keep on truckin',
Stephen SPAZ Schnee

No comments: