“Pessimisticism” is ever the classic Marcus Miller style production-with the heavy funk bottom. Interesting enough,its another of Joe Sample’s harmonically expansive compositions-setting a very probing,questioning melodic mood. Joe Zawinul’s classic “Mercy Mercy Mercy” is given the classic Crusaders slow burn groove treatment-one where Felder’s sax (as usual) really gets a chance to shine as he sustains and bends the notes of the chorus just beautifully. ” Little Things Mean A Lot” is a mid tempo bossa with a Caribbean flavor added to the rhythm. Stevie Wonder’s “Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers” receives a very progressive fusion style arrangement-ending with some very cinematic chord progressions built around Stevie’s iconic melodicism. “Shake Dance” represents one of my favorites on the album-another Miller composition with a very strong late 80’s hard funk feel-centering strongly not only around his bass but rapid fire instrumental breaks. “Maputo” is another favorite of mine,and another Miller composition and is another slow burning groove with a strong,swelling melody. Joe Sample finishes off the album with the title song and “Running Man”-two more melodically probing compositions with that ideal blend of jazz and funk rhythms the Crusaders do so well.
Music throughout the decades can be slickly produced. But slick production changes with every technological innovation in recording. And in their time together,the Crusaders had by this time already been recording entities through at least three significant recording innovations. By this time,that included the era of full digital recording. What made it all work was the renowned synergy that was not only created by the Crusaders themselves,but any other musicians who happened to be playing with them. And that also adds into another thing that makes the music the band creates so special: those small instrumental touches that almost seem like they shouldn’t be too significant. Session guitarist Michael Landau’s lowly mixed guitar riffs generally only play accents on these songs,for example. But they serve as an important building block that creates the house of rhythm. What may sound like a minor instrumental part on a Crusaders albums such as this serves as far more than mere sound coloring. They have a voice. They make a statement. Everything about a Crusaders song-instrumentally and melodically,just seems to have meaning when you listen to it. And it’s this gift of instrumental personality and strong affection for their craft that made musicians such as Joe Sample masters of the very thing they did best.
Originally Posted On September 14th,2014