My history with this trio of Lee John,John Ashley Ingram and Errol Kennedy began with hearing a song (actually from this album) on a disco compilation in the late 1990’s. Though I was reading about Imagination in music literature? Learning about their transitional music from Eurodisco into the electro/new wave funk era? Their music was next to impossible to locate. This was a group whose CD’s came into my life entirely through my earliest exposure to the internet. I ordered this hear in fact,started right from the beginning. And am still finding different things to enjoy about it all these years later.
The title song opens the album with it’s slow burning stomp built around a metallic keyboard,flowing piano and accompanying melodic synthesizer. “So Good,So Right” brings a Caribbean feeling to a similar style groove-only this time putting the focus more on the bass synthesizer. With it’s medium tempo disco beat,repeating rhythm piano and lightly psychedelic electronic effects,”Burnin’ Up” is basically straight up house 7-8 years before the music’s peak. “Tell Me Do You Want My Love” is a spare,Steely Dan like precision jazzy funk dance number while “Flashback” comes right out with the phase filtered hi hat based stop/start Rhodes piano fueled dance/funk groove.
“I’ll Always Love You (But Don’t Look Back)” is a tender piano ballad with a sad and spacious melody while “In And Out Of Love” returns to the spare Caribbean flavored groove of the opener. I’ve heard the musical style of this album referred to as many things. Post disco,Euro dance,synth funk and many other variations. With Imagination? It’s their musical personality distinctions that really make this band work so effectively with what they do. The instrumental approach is consistently stripped down,yet harmonically full. The arrangements don’t sound complex. But the playing of all three members is fluid,slick,clean and very expert. It’s again solid proof,as Miles Davis ones said in a nutshell,that the caliber and personality of the musicians were what made or broke electronically derived music.
Originally posted on June 23rd,2015
LINK TO ORIGINAL REVIEW HERE!
Filed under 1980's, Boogie Funk, elecro funk, Errol Kennedy, Fender Rhodes, Imagination, John Ashley Ingram, Leee John, post disco, synth funk, synthesizers, UK Funk
Perhaps in the US? It did seem as if the post disco backlash (and subsequent freeze out) did reduce the progress of black dance music to a slow crawl, at least commercially, during the early 80’s. Still there was boogie/electro funk,developing often rather more underground. On the UK music scene? The post punk and post disco scene were developing together,and very successful in it’s own context. There was no “death of” syndrome per se. The funky dance music scene was just allowed to evolve through the synthesizer/new wave era. Enter vocalist/keyboard player Leee John,guitarist/bassist Ashley Ingram and drummer Errol Kennedy.
The band emerged in 1981 with the album Body Talk and became a huge international success. Because John was also becoming interested in acting around this time? Their music started appearing in films-with John himself eventually appearing in the 1983 Doctor Who serial Enlightenment. A year before this in 1982? The trio of multi instrumentalists released their sophomore album In The Heat Of The Night. It continued the creative and commercial success as an album and through my personal favorite song from it “Music And Lights”.
It all begins with a round,mid toned bass synth pulse that goes into a slow,stomping rhythmic beat. Even with that? There’s also several pulsing melodic electronic keyboards each playing accompanying melodic parts. One is a straight up,bluesy melody. The other is a pulse that separates each instrumental refrain. And the final,which shows up in the first bridge of the song, is a glassy and almost otherworldly sounding jazzy piano. John’s vocals,presented both in his mid tenor and higher falsetto accompany the chorus and refrains until a complete break down of the chorus INTO the refrain near the end of the song.
To me anyway? This song represents some of the strongest musical qualities of the early 80’s electro funk sub-genre. Much in the style of the then enormously influential Minneapolis Sound pioneered by Prince,Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis? This song represents the idea of using synthesizers to replicate the horn and string parts that were still in use on some popular music even though-though for different reasons less so. While the music and lyrics have an airy space disco dressing-with it’s disco era glamour tale? The basic core of the song is a straight up blues/funk stomp-with a raw,prickly rhythm attitude. And that’s why,at least subjectively this song functions so well for me.
Filed under 1980's, Blues, Disco, Doctor Who, electro funk, Imagination, Jam & Lewis, Jazz, Leee John, Minneapolis, post disco, Prince, synth bass, synth funk, UK Funk