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Monday, June 22, 2009

Imagination - Bodytalk

Name: Imagination
Album: Bodytalk
Year: 1981
Style: Disco, Soul, Funk
Similar Bands: DeBarge, Stevie B, Smokey Robinson, Chromeo, Disco Bee Gees, Bronski Beat
"One-Word" Review: Falsetto-Sky-Disco
Based Out Of: London, England
Label: MCA
Bodytalk -Cover & Record
Bodytalk- Back & Record

Bodytalk (1981)
  1. Bodytalk 6:02
  2. So Good So Right 7:00
  3. Burnin' Up 4:50 /
  4. Tell Me Do You Want My love 5:25
  5. Flashback 4:20
  6. I'll Always Love You (But Don't Look Back) 4:20
  7. In And Out Of Love 5:30
Album Rating (1-10): 5.5

Members & Other Bands:
Leee John - Vox, Keys (Delfonics, Chairmen of the Board, Velvettes, Elgins, Fizzz)
Ashley Ingram - Bass, Guitar, Vox (Fizzz)
Errol Kennedy - Drums, Percussion, (Boys Brigade, Air training Corps)
Tony Swain - Keys, Producer, Arranged, Mixed Engineered (Spandau Ballet, Bananarama)
Steve Jolley - Percussion, Producer, Arranged (Spandau Ballet, Bananarama)
Orphy Robinson Vibes
Morgan Khan - Mixed, Engineer, Executive Producer
Richard Lengyel - Asst Engineer
Tony Bridge - Cutting Engineer
Ellis Elias - Executive Producer
Eliot Cohen - Executive Producer
Steve Hall - Mastering
Chess Creative Services - Design & Artwork
John Ridley - Photos
Terry Pastor - Illustration

Unknown-ness: I had never heard of these guys. But sometimes, I try to especially seek out music that consists of simple synth R&B / Rap, like Rockwell, and this album looked like it could have high potential to sound similar. It might, from their flamboyant, “Greek” dress, and “in the clouds” imagery, go to the extreme like Rick James or Cameo, but I was prepared to take the chance. Plus, 1981 might remove it far enough to sound more calculated or methodical. But this is what I hoped for, though the artwork begs to differ.

Album Review: I’ve read that these guys were one of the big r&b / Soul dance hit makers of the early 80’s time. Allmusic seemed to really like this album; at least they classified side A as near perfection.

“Bodytalk” begins with a nice synth drum beat. It is slow and methodical, some other effects and keyboard sample filter in. Then a straightforward piano picks up the calm pulsing melody. The vocals are shared, with the lead vocals wavering, and a bit like Smokey Robinson with that smooth higher pitch tone. The other vocals are deeper and a little grainy, at least in comparison. But the synth string sound and the harmonizing vocals categorize the song as a disco track, with a dark undertone. The piano plays up to the end, paralleled with a watery sounding synth keyboard in the lengthy instrumental, which gives focus to the slow hand clapping and bass beat. The chorus returns for a slew of repeats until the song ends.
“So Good So Right” a sputtering synth drum beat, faster paced, starts with a funky, but jittery keyboard sound. Tinkling chimes are added for atmospheric background. A bass/kick drum is added, followed by hand claps and the building instrumental tempo, finally including a chord playing piano gives way to vocals around the 2:45 mark. The vocal chorus makes the song sound like Chromeo (which I like a lot). But the verse vocals are again split up between the Robinson-Disco type vocals and the deeper controlled singing, which does not carry through the simple Chromeo vibe. Instead it is high pitch enough to fit along side of the Bee Gee’s More than A Woman. The song is a little long and repetitive, but it does not carry with it a pure dancing beat, where it floats along a cloud (pictured on their cover) rather than fills a dance floor.
“Burnin' Up” begins with a simple bass and clap beat. A repetitive piano fills in for the basic musical hook, and is supplemented with a “lead” piano (if you will). It is part jazzy and much more disco dancing than before. The vocals are minimal, just the song title repeated a few times to the basic rhythm. And then the instruments take back over in their repetitive loop, where the lead piano replaces any vocals in the verse and the chorus is the only place where vocals are displayed. In the last minute of the song, the music gets a little funkier with an electric current beat to changing up the music landscape a bit before the song ends in too much repetition.

“Tell Me Do You Want My Love” reminds me of a Madonna song, like “Borderline,” with a very repetitive keyboard and hand clap beat. There are a couple Michael Jackson breathes and choking coughs (like he does), but the song does not hold up to either artist even close. The chorus is a little catchy, but it is not long enough. His vocals also sound a bit like Bronski Beat. There is an instrumental section with the same backing beat, but with the synth keyboard taking center stage spotlight, but not performing very boldly. Instead it sticks to the basic beat. It fades out shortly after the vocals come back.
“Flashback” continues with the same keyboard sound, and rising electric tone, again reminding me of Madonna. The disco hypnotic chanting of the title repeats a few times and the computer sound beeping synth keeps the pulse of the listener going. The song just goes on, even though it is one of the shortest songs on the album, and repeats its sections. For a dance track, this song would work well, in a dark blinking, flashing light room; I could see people dancing away to it back in the 70’s. Unfortunately, the album came out in 1981.
“I'll Always Love You (But Don't Look Back)” begins like a ballad, with slow piano only. The vocals are still high pitch like Bronski Beat, but they are more relaxed and slow, almost sad or at least sentimental. This is the slow dance. If there was a video for this, it would be painfully cheesy, flashing back to memories of a relationship that the dude at the piano was just released from.
“In And Out Of Love” is a slow, jazzy number, which feels more like background muzak than disco dance track. The song feels like an r&b/smooth jazz template. The backing vocals repeat the title, while the falsetto lead vocals parallel with its own unique melody. Maybe a little bit of Annie Lennox too. This song adds in a xylophone too, which is unique to the song.

Stand Out Track: Burnin' Up

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