Friday 9 January 2015

My Funky (In)Disposition Make Believe MashUP Series [No.06]

This is a pairing that will either take people by surprise and not make a whole lot of sense initially, or you’ll totally hear what I’m hearing and would get really excited at the prospect of a Raphael Saadiq-produced Lenny Kravitz album.

Let’s establish each of our candidates’ credential firstly: Lenny Kravitz – certainly no introduction would be necessary though – iconic rock performer, producer, writer, multi-instrumentalist whose first album was released in 1989 and since that time has released ten studio albums, not including his work for other artists which would list collaborations with Cree Summer (for her incredible and slept on album, ‘Street Fairie’) and Madonna, having produced her hit ‘Justify My Love’.  Lenny Kravitz has long been established as one of rock’s premier artists but the world of R&B, soul, funk and hip-hop certainly isn’t something that’s alien to him or his music, already with a list of collaborations that include Mary J Blige, Jay-Z, P Diddy, The Neptunes and Swizz Beats, amongst others.  In fact, Kravitz’s 2011 album ‘Black and White America’ is very much the reason for me selecting Kravitz for this series as this album has since been considered his long-talked about ‘funk’ album, but, for me, despite the excellent title-track, I don’t think the album hit the funk and soul heights that I had been expecting.  It’s never really been Kravitz’s M.O. though so I won’t hold it against him, but it has consistently made me think of who could be the absolute best person to bring a more soul-fused approach out in his music and the best person I could possibly think of to do that… is Raphael Saadiq.

Here’s another name that should require little introduction: one of the most consistent, established and incredible producers within R&B and contemporary soul music is Raphael Saadiq.  The Tony Toni Tone’ and Lucy Pearl alumni, despite having a career with the Tony’s since 1988, only branched out as a solo artist in 2002 with his well-received debut album, ‘Instant Vintage’ and has since followed that up with a further three studio albums.  But Raphael Saadiq’s brand and reputation is also equally built upon his work for other artists including ‘Lady’ and ‘How Does It Feel’ for D’Angelo, ‘Soul Sister’ for Bilal and further production for R&B and soul acts including The Isley Brothers, Kenny Lattimore, Kelis, Total, Anthony Hamilton, Angie Stone, Jill Scott among countless others.  (Raphael Saadiq’s amazing production talents have in fact been highlighted twice within our ‘GetToKnow… The Producer’ series which you can check out here.)

Could it happen?
Well, out of all the MashUPs we’ve created, this one I’d say has the best chance of actually coming to fruition.  Sort of.  Lenny Kravitz, although he has recruited outside collaborative writers and producers for his music, has never really relinquished complete control of his music, and, in fairness, it would probably work better for them to collaborate together then for one person to completely steer the project on their own.  There is something of a common denominator between both factions that makes this that much closer a possibility, and that’s Trombone Shorty.  Horn player and vocalist, Troy ‘Trombone Shorty’ Andrews, has been a part of Lenny Kravitz’s touring and studio entourage as far back as 2005 and has even cited him as his mentor – in the time since Shorty has gone on to distinguish himself as a named artist in his own right chalking up several solo studio albums on Verve Records with his most recent 2013 effort produced by – can you guess who…? – Raphael Saadiq.  The ‘Say That To Say This’ album featured this Kravitz-esque guitar-heavy sound merged with funky New Orleans soul making for a blissful listen, and it serves as the perfect example of what a Lenny Kravitz/Raphael Saadiq collaborative album could sound like.

For our exhibits, we’ll opt for a couple of fairly obvious choices: Exhibit A is Lenny Kravitz’s funk-filled ‘Black and White America’ with the added bonus of Trombone Shorty on trombone)…

And Exhibit B will take a slice of Trombone Shorty’s ‘Say That To Say This’ record and the Saadiq-produced ‘Long Weekend’…

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