❉ Two classic jazz funk albums on one CD, showcasing the many talents of Eumir Deadato, ripe for rediscovery.
Brazilian Eumir Deadato’s most successful period had been in the early 70’s when he made his name recording jazzy remakes of classical music peaking with Also Sprach Zarathustra. Yet his career not only rode the wave of disco’s popularity but cleverly managed to survive the backlash that followed. The CD reissue of albums Night Cruiser and Happy Hour go a long way toward explaining why.
‘Night Cruiser’, released in 1980, was Deodato’s third album during his tenure at Warner Bros. and also marked his first release since being tasked with the job of producing what was, at that time, failing soul/funk act Kool & The Gang. His approach was to strip back their sound and he now began the same process on his own work. Consisting of largely instrumental pieces built around simple grooves it’s a slick sounding album neatly straddling the line between disco and jazz-funk. The title track opens up the album in buoyant fashion. It’s a classic 4/4 dance track with a brilliantly economical use of whoohs topped off with brass which wouldn’t sound out of place on the aforementioned Kool & The Gang. Other highlight is Uncle Funk, which is effectively a remake of Brazilian funk act Banda Black Rio’s Mr Funk Samba. This is six tracks of slickly produced instrumental jazz-funk with some impressive improvisation and quality throughout. It’s not surprising to learn that many of the tracks here have enjoyed life in samples from both the dance music hip-hop world in the subsequent years.
By 1982’s ‘Happy Hour’ the dance music world had moved on considerably and, unlike many of his contemporaries, Deodato handles the change with considerable ease. Here he adds vocals and has very clearly has taken note of some of the key ingredients in his hit making with Kool & The Gang and, by this point other artists too. The opening tracks Keep On Movin’ and Happy Hour show how far he’s travelled.
Keep On Movin’ is slower and, musically reminiscent of the previous album but its simple lyrics, rolling guitar rhythms, and economic brass make for a very workable dancefloor track. The title track is the most radical departure as it’s a straight ahead dance song, complete with verse and chorus, not something usually associated with Deodato at this point. It’s a lively very radio friendly track which had me scurrying for the sleeve notes as it sounds like it could have been written for him by Kool & The Gang (it wasn’t) but it comes as no surprise to discover this was a minor hit single in the American charts.
The rest of the album is a collection of quality pop/soul songs which sound perfectly of the time. Just This One Night and Never Get Enough are mellow downtempo songs whilst Keep It In The Family is made for the dancefloor. The only misstep is a rather generic update of the Motown classic Tears Of A Clown which adds nothing of interest to the original and little to the album itself.
Put together these two albums are somewhat contrasting but there’s a quality throughout which makes a strong case for rediscovering them today. They are a testament to how it was possible to survive the vicious backlash against disco and still come out making quality music. These albums showcase the many talents of Eumir Deadato as a keyboardist, producer, songwriter, and arranger as well a providing some tracks of lasting quality which will still get you dancing.
❉ ‘Night Cruiser/Happy Hour’ (Robinsongs WROBIN14CD) was released by Cherry Red Records on 20 January 2017, RRP £16.99.