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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Bar-Kays - Nightcrusing

Name: Bar-Kays
Album: Nightcrusing
Year: 1981
Style: Funky Soul, R&B
Similar Bands: Earth Wind & Fire, Average White Band, Michael Jackson, Dr Buzzard's, Kid Creole, Rick James
"One-Word" Review: Quirky Disco Synth
Based Out Of: Memphis, TN
Label: Mercury, Polygram,
Nightcrusing - Cover & Liner Notes
Nightcrusing - Back & Liner Notes
Nightcrusing - Record

Nightcrusing (1981)
  1. Nightcrusing 4:18
  2. Hit & Run 5:51
  3. Feels Like I'm Falling in Love 3:50
  4. Freaky Behavior 5:10 /
  5. Touch Tone 4:15
  6. Unforgettable Dream 4:35
  7. Traffic Jammer 5:50
  8. Backseat Driver 3:54
Album Rating (1-10): 7.0

Members & Other Bands:
James Alexander - Album Coordinator
Charles Allen
Michael Beard
Mark Bynum
Larry Dodson
Sherman Guy
Harvey Henderson
Lloyd Smith
Winston Stewart
Frank Thompson
Allen A Jones - Producer, Remix Engineer, Cover Concept
William C Brown III - Remix Engineer
Robert Jackson - Remix Engineer
Henry Bush - Remix Engineer
Bernie Grundman - Mastering Engineer
Marvel Thomas - Strings & Horns Arranged & Composed
Michael Toles - Guitar
Mike McCarthy - Art Direction
Tom Hill - Photograhy

Unknown-ness: I never heard of these guys. Just from the cover art and production date, I got the album hoping for something along the lines of Rockwell; funky fun R&B pop. The record is well worn, which is a good sign, because it appears that it was played an awful lot, which would imply that it is a good album.

Album Review: After reading a bit about the band, I learned that they were the backing band for Otis Redding & most of them were also killed on the same disastrous plane flight. Two survived, and went on to recruit & reform what we have here.

“Nightcrusing” with a funky bass beat and steady drums. I am quickly reminded of Michael Jackson, with a touch more generic disco elements (hand claps and staggered rhythm). The tempo is not as quick and fun as Jackson; I imagine this as more of a roller-disco song. The chorus is catchy enough, and features multiple vocal sets as well as a whoa-oh-whoa hook. “Hit & Run” features a funkier, slower, and slinkier synthetic rhythm. The tempo holds throughout the song’s entirety. The synthesizer is squeaky and distracts from the song…or perhaps it grips your ear in place of the song. The repetitive chorus does go on, and even without the vocals, the chorus is still a bit grating on the ears.
“Feels Like I'm Falling in Love” is the ballad on the album. It begins with smooth jazz trumpet, and breathes a little life with stronger trumpets. The tempo raises it above a simple sexy make out song to an anticipating, love-in-mind, fantasy scenario.
“Freaky Behavior” has the same backing bass beat to “Superfreak,” and thus, “Can’t Touch This.” Even the singing is like Rick James. Checking the dates, these songs came out the same year. I don’t know how these two songs were created with the same song topic, same basic beat, and same vocal style. This song just does not have the catchy change of intensity for the chorus. In that aspect, it is a one dimensional version of “Superfreak’s” verse. The instrumental break about 3:30 is interesting, as it introduces new instruments to add to the basic beat for a brief stint. The song is a little long though, as it should have ended about 4 minutes, but it is stretched out with more and more slight additions and subtractions to the main rhythm.

“Touch Tone” begins as a fun bouncy new wave song. Then brass is added and a quirky synth and it becomes a fun disco dance song. The content is basically a bathroom wall etching: “for a good time call.”
“Unforgettable Dream” is another ballad, but this song feels much more soulful. It is pretty soul, not over produced with jazzy brass or an orchestra of strings. It is classic format of the lead singer calling out his love with a backing vocal chorus echoing the singer’s sentiments.
“Traffic Jammer” is another funky synth r&b disco dance song. It kind of reminds me of Sting’s “We’ll Be Together” with Toe Jam & Earl funkatron effects.
“Backseat Driver” continues the odd effects parade with a duck/kazoo sound over the distinct 80’s squeally synth keyboard sound. The progression of the song builds nicely, and falls back to repeat the section. It is all instrumental, with the exception of some Yeaows, woo-woo-woos and other babbling banter.

Stand Out Track: Freaky Behavior (for its similarity to "Superfreak")

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